Monday, July 7, 2008

Day 27, Strong headwinds and a new rider

Day 27, Ness City, KS – Leoti, KS 81 miles (2064 total)

Time on bike: 7:16:55

Avg: 11.1

Daily Ascent: 2257 ft (28 ft/mi)

Max: 22.5 mph

“Brian? Is it almost 5 am yet?” “…mmmggghhh… close… enough,” I murmured as I tried to pry my eyelids open. Pat and I wanted an early start to beat the heat and the wind. But more importantly, we both wanted to be cleared out of camp and on the road before any of our fellow riders had even stirred. We hit the road at 5:30 just as the sun was painting a glimmer of light in the sky. I knew I was in a bit of trouble when, just as we were to begin, I noticed that my back tire was totally flat. Pat had spent the evening before picking out thorns that he had run over the previous day. So I put some air in the tire and hoped for the best.

The winds were relatively calm for the morning ride but about an hour later it was proving to be a day of head winds. In case you’re new to cycling, head winds are a bad thing. We averaged about 9 mph as we cycled through flat, golden fields of freshly harvested wheat. Upon reaching our morning break stop I decided to buy some fix-a-flat and put it in my tires as well as change my front tire and tube to my Kevlar lined tire, just in case. I hadn’t changed my front tire since the inception of the trip and I figured that it was time to do so.

So we left the town of Dighton and headed west on a road that had neither a bend nor crook in the road. Just straight west and flat with a very slight incline. Ten minutes out of town my front tire made a hiss and let out air. We pulled off. There were no shade trees, fences or anything around. Just grass. I tried putting a cheap-o Wal-Mart tire patch which was essentially just a sticker to put on the hole. I put on two. Didn’t do jack. Had to change the tube.

We pulled into the next town after cycling about 55 miles for the morning and I had my first Buffalo Burger. I asked the waitress if it was buffalo meat and she looked at me as if I had just arrived from Mars, “Of course.”

While there Mark Cain caught up with us. He’s going to bike with me for the next several days. We unloaded his bike and put Pat’s bike and all our gear in Mark’s car and Mark and I headed west. The plan is for 2 of us to bike and 1 person to drive up ahead. It'll certainly make our load lighter. About 10 minutes out of town it started to sprinkle. You could see the rain up ahead. In fact, you could see where it was raining all around. It was raining up ahead, off to the right and way off up ahead to the left, but it looked like we could skirt through and not get very wet. Clearly I don’t know how the weather works here in Kansas. The clouds seemed to just gather up and open the flood gates because it started to come down in buckets. “Hey! Over here! Come on in,” someone yelled from a gas extracting plant. I yelled at Mark that maybe we should pull in. We wanted to just ride through the rain but it looked like it had the potential to get nasty especially considering the heat and humidity.

We pulled in and the guys were so nice. We talked about what they did there and how they extracted natural gas, butane and helium from the raw stuff that was brought in. It was really interesting. They offered us free cookies and Cokes and were very interested in where we had come from. We waited there for about 90 minutes and watched the Doppler radar on their computer. It looked like a pocket had opened up to where we could reach the next town so Mark and I headed out. Pat was to meet us up ahead.

We started out OK but 15 minutes in the rains returned. It poured on us for about 10 minutes. “Little bitty stingy rain” as Forest Gump put it. But it let up and wasn’t too bad after we were soaken wet. We stopped at the Hi-Plains Motel and got a room. We then went to “Charlie’s Mexican Restaurant” next door where we ran into Colin and Halley who had come in after us. They said they were camping in the city park and we insisted that they share a room with us. If nothing else a hot shower had to be too enticing to pass up, so there are 5 of us in here with our bikes. We’ll make it work somehow. Tomorrow we’ll be in Colorado! Wa-hoo!

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