Sunday, July 6, 2008

Day 25, Good Idea, Bad Idea

Day 25, Hutchinson, KS – Larned, KS 75 miles (1917 total)

Time on bike: 6:45:08

Avg: 11.4

Daily Ascent: 1371 ft (18 ft/mi)

Max: 24.5 mph

It’s time for another Good Idea, Bad Idea. Good Idea: camping in a bigger city to watch fireworks on July 4th. Bad Idea: camping in a bigger city on July 4th because EVERYONE lights off their fireworks until the wee hours of the morning!!

We left the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson around 6:30am and headed to Burger King for breakfast and Wi-Fi. There was a gentle breeze from south by south east. We soon found ourselves on a very lonely stretch of highway biking through the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. There was nary a house to be found, not to mention a convenience store. Pat and I stopped for our 10:30 break among a rare patch of shade trees along the road. As we cycled we passed the normal scenes of Kansas: wheat fields, corn fields, bean fields, oil pumps and cows. I don’t mind boring drives, as long we’re not cycling into head winds. The winds today were cross winds, which made the trip tolerable. The temperatures were into the 90s today and shade trees were out of the questions.

At 11:30 I noticed on my GPS that there was a symbol for a restaurant some 10 miles ahead. We had been told by a number of people that there was nothing for 50+ miles along our route. We turned off our road and peddled a mile towards the town of Seward. We were fairly certain that there would be something there. There was a once nicely painted sign directing people towards Seward and a ‘reduced speed ahead’ sign seemed to indicate a town where children might be at play. Surely there would be a convenience store or restaurant. We came around the turn and our paved road turned into a dirt/sand road. I tried to continue but my bike does terrible on dirt, gravel, and especially sand. To make matters worse I semi-wrecked the bike and bloodied up my knee. Pat went on ahead to see if there were any life forms. He returned to tell me that any restaurants that had been there had closed 20 years ago. The town looked to be decent sized with maybe 150 people living there, but all the roads in town were dirt/sand roads. We pulled the bikes over under some trees . Pat cycled over to some large grain bins to see if they had some water. He met a man there who directed him to “Mom’s Bar and Diner” down the street. Intrigued and hungry we set out for this supposed oasis. Upon arriving we found a nice little bar and restaurant with about ½ the town inside eating lunch. We ordered and were served large and delicious portions of food (I had the double cheeseburger) and it was all reasonably priced. Not only that they had wireless internet as well! The last part shocked me the most, but why not? We finished our meals and lingered another hour not wanting to go back into the scorching sun.

I’ve discovered that in land this flat, cars don’t disappear over the horizon. They just keep going until they are so small you can’t see them anymore.

I love the feeling of being totally self sufficient. I can be in the middle of nowhere and I have no worries. If I get a flat or have a minor mechanical problem I have my tools and equipment and can manage. I can’t run out of gas or something equivalent. I have water and food and a tent. I feel ready to conquer any challenge thrown my way.

We pulled into Larned to see that the temperature was 98 degrees! I wanted to keep going for another 2 hours but after looking at the map (and Pat) and seeing barren nothingness for the next 35 miles, I figured that this was the best place to stop for the night. So we swam in the city pool (for free, cause we’re cross-country cyclists) and a good meal we’re camping in the city park. Free camping is always good. The prime free camp spots include: water, electricity, restrooms and a good shade tree. Showers are also greatly appreciated but not necessary.

My friend Mark Cain is loading his bike on his Prius (sp) and driving out to meet up and cycle with us for a week or more. It’ll be great to have him along. I’ll have to whip him into shape to get him ready for some 100 mile days. We’ve discussed Pat and Mark trading off and driving his car up ahead to the next rest stops and carrying all of our gear. That would prevent him from having to get back to his car, plus we wouldn’t have to haul as much stuff. We’ll see what becomes of that.

OK, I’m outside now and the gnats are eating me alive. Gotta turn in and get some shut eye!

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