I was able to get an early start on a cool, sunny morning. The wind was very light. Kansas is the Sunflower State, but I had not seen the sun in 4 days. I have yet to see a Sunflower. The hard part of today was going to be the first segment, a 31 miles ride to Yates Center. Luckily, there was a roadside rest stop halfway to “The Hay Capitol of the World”, where I took the opportunity to stop and rest!
While the wind wasn’t as strong as it had been the previous days, it still was coming from the wrong direction. It wasn’t as bad as yesterday, but it still wasn’t helping.
In Yates Center, I got my first act of kindness for the day. I stopped at a grocery there. Dressed in my biking clothes, I got a few looks, but very friendly questions about my trip. Since both Eureka and Yates Center are along the Transcontinental bike trail that goes from Oregon to Virginia, they are used to seeing bikers come through. I got a good sandwich, some yogurt and juice. The check out clerk was kind enough to package my purchase in a little brown bag and went out of her way to include a spoon for my yogurt and some extra napkins. It was a nice touch.
It was starting to warm up, but the wind made me keep my jacket as I continued on the 20 miles to Iola. I got my ice cream fix at a McDonalds, then doubled back to catch a bike path that went from Iola all 28 miles to Garnett.
At first, it was great being on the path. There were trees on both sides to block the wind and it was paved. I thought that I would make great time to Garnett. Unfortunately, 2 miles out, the path went from pavement to crushed stone. While it was still a beautiful ride, that material created a lot of rolling resistance.
Hidalgo is a road bike with 700 x 25 cc tires. In other words, my one inch tires were designed to give exceptional rolling ability on pavement, but were the worst possible combination for this trail. A fatter tire would have been fine, but that is not Hidalgo. I felt like I was pedaling on a sand dune. After 7 miles I found my way back to the highway. I could make better time fighting the wind than fighting the rolling resistance of the trail.
US 169 had a wide shoulder as I returned to the highway. A few miles down the road, I was checking my rear view mirror when I was shaken by the rumble strip that had seemed to come out of nowhere on the shoulder.
I got a recoil like I was firing a large caliber automatic weapon. The shoulder had narrowed and the rumble strip went right in the middle of it. I had to either ride on the white stripe or try to balance between the rumble strip and the gravel. If traffic was only coming from one direction, the people behind me had plenty of room to give me. It got a little harrier when there was traffic coming the other way. At one point, I had been keeping my head down to better work against the wind. I glanced at my mirror to check the traffic behind me and everything was clear. But when I looked up, there was a car coming right at me. He had decided to pass and was now sharing my lane head on. I got over to the side to be safe, but was shaken mercilessly by the rumble strip. There were also a few tight passes from semis on the final leg to Garnett. At times I was glad I didn’t see them coming.
Garnett finally came like a breath of fresh air. As I reached the edge of town, there was a beautiful park. Then, after I checked into my hotel, I met a group of people that were starting to BBQ some chicken breasts on a small charcoal grill. The nice man offered me a piece of some smoked bacon he had made. It was sweet and tasty. He and his crew were working a job in the area doing some specialized coatings to gas pipes that connected some of the towns.
His wife came out and we talked about my trip and they invited me for dinner. It smelled great and they had cold beer. How could I refuse?
I dumped my bags in my room, and made a quick ride to the grocery store just down the street. I wanted to at least get some dessert to bring and also get supplies for my breakfast tomorrow.
Grilled chicken, steak, skillet potatoes, pasta salad, and grilled jalapeño peppers stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon. What a meal! What great conversation! What great people! It felt like family as we traded stories about work, career, and life. I even got to share some of my better car parking experiences as a valet at a hospital. It was the kind of evening that I dreamed about when I started this journey 1600 miles ago. Thanks Jeff, Jodi, Greg, Jeremy, and Jose!
The Lone Rider