Day 26, Larned, KS – Ness City, KS 66 miles (1983 total)
Time on bike: 6:45:08
Daily Ascent: 1571 ft (24 ft/mi)
Max: 34 mph
Still flat, but now also HOT! I was excited about what lay ahead. Pat and I were going to cross into Rush County today. I’m from Rush County. Rush County Indiana, that is, but still it felt ‘homey’ to me. I was also excited because once we got onto route 96 we’d be on it for the next several days until we reached Pueblo, CO. No more getting out the map searching for these little out of the way roads and intersections. One road. One way. West.
Just outside of Larned we encountered Larned Fort. An old army fort built in 1868 to support the Sante Fe Trail, a wagon trail which ran from Canada to Mexico and was popular before railroad became the ‘in thing’. Just as we arrived they were hoisting a HUGE American flag and they were dressed in clothes reflecting the time period. “Can you move your bike? It can’t lean against that pole. Actually, it can’t be on the grounds at all because it’s not authentic to the period.” Said the worker there wearing Nike shoes and sporting a walkie-talkie clipped to his belt. “Sure.”
What began as a great, sunny cycling morning, soon turned sour as Pat noticed a flat tire. And it wasn’t just a flat tire. He had over 40 thorns in his tire. “Goad-head thorns” he called them which he picked up while cycling across the grounds at the fort. He got a flat on his rear tire and on both trailer tires. As we sat and fixed the tires we were passed first by a Belgian couple and then by a French Couple in their 60s. They asked if we were ok and we said that we were. Pat had trouble with his tires all day though. We replaced all the tubes (we figured that patching several holes wasn’t worth the trouble) and he still managed to get flats because we hadn’t removed all the thorns.
We reached Rush County (Wa-hoo!) and stopped at Rush Center, KS. Nothing was open because it was Sunday. It looked like a town but really it was “just an intersection” as one Kansan put it. We stopped though and hit the Pepsi vending machines. We met up with the French couple who were headed north. We also encountered a couple from Michigan who were fresh out of college in Toronto and then shortly there after an East Bound couple of older gentlemen came along and we all sat and talked up a storm about what lay ahead and what we had just passed through. It was the biggest meeting of cyclists I had been a part of and it was like talking to family in some way. We shared good restaurants and good places to sleep, swim and shower. We told them about Seward and “Mom’s Bar and Grill”. Also while we were there a Native Rushtukian (gotta be from Rushville to get that one) came by to fill up with fuel. He had a thick beard and was wearing overalls and a John Deere hat (sounds also like Rushville). He told us how Rush Center had once been the county seat and then courthouse records were stolen and the seat was moved to La Crosse, then stolen back to Rush Center, then back to La Crosse. Then gunshots were fired and the county seat remained at La Crosse. He also said that he was the 5th generation to live on his family farm and that his 2 boys were the 6th generation of his family to be there.
We continued on through the heat. It got up to 100 we were told yesterday and the temperature read 94 when we finally hit the town of Ness City by 4pm. We ate a big spaghetti lunch and put up our tents in the city park because it’s free there. Then I circled the town looking for a pay phone because I didn’t get cell reception here. After trying 3 phones and not getting a dial tone I found a hotel and went inside. The woman at the counter wasn’t at the counter. She was in one of the rooms watching TV, but she directed me to the pay phone which was working. I then noticed an indoor swimming pool and asked if we could pay something and take a swim. “You don’t have to pay anything,” she said. “Go ahead.”
“Well, how about a shower?” I asked.
“No, we can’t do that,” she said.
“Could we just use one of the rooms. Like I said, we’d be more than happy to pay,” I offered.
“Well, ok.” She sheepishly but without hesitation replied, as if she felt sorry that we had been out in the heat of the day riding our bicycles. I excitedly headed back to our camp site and got Pat and we swam, showered and checked our internet late into the evening! It was just one more oasis that we had stumbled onto during our adventure. We wanted to get the lady a $10 gift card from the gas station across the street, but they didn’t sell gas cards, so we just gave her $10. She didn’t want to accept it at first, but I insisted. The shower alone was worth it, not to mention the internet and pool!
Tomorrow I’m supposed to meet up with Mark Cain who was in St Louis this afternoon when I called him. We’ll be able to load up most of our gear in his car and have one of us drive along which will be a HUGE help. We’ll see how that all goes!