Day 44 to 52 of Mitch's Trans America
Ness City, KS
On Day 44, I had a big 70 mile day from Canon City to Boone, Colorado. I started late because too many people wanting to talk to me in front of Subway. I had a car, with a couple that had biked Kansas before, really complaining to me about Kansas. They didn't like the smells or the wind. I had a angry veteran, in a wheelchair, really irritated by the place where I was parking my bicycle. Later, I had a bald headed, Harley biker showed interested in what I was doing, and just as I was trying to get out of town, a retired guy, who owns five bikes, was telling me about a 29 mile loop he likes to bike all the time.
I took my bike to a car wash for $1.25 nice. Good idea. I saw my first cactus today on this trip and lots of prisons in Canon and Florence City.
My first 20 miles were slow, windy, and uphill. Then, the rain started. When it started to rain, I decided to sit on the dry steps of a church before continuing.
Again, later in Day 44, the heavy rain storm arrived at 5:00 PM. Everything got wet but I was still warm, so no problem. I used my lights and continued in the minor rain.
The last six miles of my day to Boone City, were on new, black, smooth, perfect highway. I loved this surface. I arrived just before dark after 9:00 PM. I camped in city park. The restroom was open. No shower. No cooking. Ate cold sandwich. No stores. Population 339. Two more days to Kansas. Pretty flatish land for now.
Day 45, would be my long, 90+ mile day, from Boone City to Eads, CO to make the official half-way point of the Trans America Trail.
I had a nice, quiet, break in Arlington, CO where they had a simple picnic table and outdoor toilet. The outhouse toilet had a guest book inside of it for visitors to fill out. I wish I had photos of this. It was so cute!
I continued along the highway which had a significant flatter elevation than normal. Wide open space. Desert like. Lots of farm cows in feeding lots, manure/fertilizer business. Saw many dead rattlesnakes, dead skunk, dead raccoon. First locust grasshoppers jumping today.
The weather was hot going to Eads, CO, but not unbearable. No wind until 5:00 PM. I stopped at Eads, CO. It is official half-way point for entire trip. 2,115 miles in 45 days. I now have 40 days remaining to do 2,115. You can do the math. (Note: I eventually finished on Day 81).
I will cross into Kansas tomorrow. I just met three bikers a few mins ago going the opposite direction. They are on Day 40. I ate a patty melt and three A&W root beers for dinner at JJ's Restaurant in Eads. I camped in the city park tonight with bathroom across the road. No shower. No camp fee needed. Yaay!
On Day 46, I ate at JJ's restaurant in Eads, CO before departing. Today, I will cross the Kansas border and stay at Leoti, KS.
I met three other bikers the night before which also slept at the city park. The entire 80 mile day was side/med head winds, just as everyone said. The winds started in East Colorado and continued. Not strong enough to defeat you but enough pressure to make you work. Many 1sts today such as: full day wind, lady bug during break, over ten tortoises dead/alive near highway, wheat fields, oil wells, corn fields, deputy sheriff checking on me during my break, "Do you have enough water?" horse fly biting me at Kansas welcome sign, saw massive 20,000 lb semi truck have blowout and watched him pull over,
I drink anything liquid: orange juice, apple juice, milk, energy, water, ice tea, coffee, tomato juice, cream soda, cherry coke, Gatorade. Seems like my stomach is bottomless in drinking anything.
Kansas is serious about farming: silos, truck after truck carrying seeds, feed, cattle. Corn fields, wheat, sunflower, mowing, plowing, irrigation, equipment. Love it! Oil wells digging, pumping. Cattle feed lots, piles of manure by the ton. Ditch grasses: many varieties, good hwy, good shoulder. Saw girl at gas station with cowgirl boots on-first time since Oregon.
Back in Eads, again, I watched a young kid today, near a cashier, checking cell phone with dirty boots from chores. Waitress knew everyone's name. She even asked to fill my water bottles! Many Mexicans, I noticed, working on these farms. I stopped to see the smallest jail. Cities with 21 pop, 40 pop, 68 pop. More Kansas and wind tomorrow.
Day 47: Today was a 13 hour, 80 mile day to get to Ness City, KS from Leoti, KS. Long, unending highways bordered by endless fields of grain, corn, and oil pumps/wells. Multiple cattle feeding lots filled with hundreds, sometimes thousands of cattle. I see no poultry, or pigs. Cattle only and wheat, and hay fields. Saw some tortoises again, and dozens of cattle and feeding grain trucks. Good hwy and good shoulder. Saw dead skunks, snakes, and one live non poisonous.
I found memorial of biker who died on highway from run-over. This Kansas hwy has reputation of biker deaths. That is why they maybe have good shoulder now.
Many grasshoppers towards end. Most are young and small still. Met another biker today going opposite way. Met two young guys in store. Many questions. They were farm boys/workers. Saw young 14 yr old mowing lawn. Hard working farmers around here. Everything is farm, machinery, equipment, cattle, related. Huge silos, grain mills, hay. Go Kansas!
Day 48, A storm and quick rain last night in tent but slept right through it. I love my tent. It was in Ness City, KS, at the city park. Bathrooms, no showers. Another biker in park named Aaron. Former 8 yr Navy. Now nurse. He is traveling opposite direction.
Woke up not cold finally. It's been a long time. Taking forever for summer to arrive. I wore biker shorts once in 48 days in Oregon. Long biker pants for 47 days and maybe 40 days with inside base layer also!
I removed, cleaned chain today. Will need to replace my freewheel soon. The teeth getting too large/warn. Counted nine other bikers today going opposite direction. One older couple in their 70's for sure.
Ate breakfast in grocery/gas/gun shop. Three Australian bikers amazed at gun sales on such open display. Kansas is an "open carry" state also. Yaay Kansas? "Arrest the Idiot, Not the Gun," a sign said today.
All farm lands here and cattle. I rode behind a tractor hay bailer today until he turned off road. That was nice. No wind. It's called drafting. Got good closeup video of bunch of cows.
Talked to lady at store about my videos. Another store worker and I were chit chatting about wildlife. Kansas is really really big. Was reading about their history with dust and locusts/grasshoppers eating everything in sight for over four years during hard years before. I am saving my bear repellent for future dogs and possible defense. Chasing dogs are guaranteed in Kentucky says all. Staying in city park in Larned, KS tonight. I went to bed early. Earlier, I nearly fell asleep typing outside a SUBWAY sandwich place.
Day 49 would turn out to be a great day of 110 miles going from Larned, KS to Newton, KS. There were thunderstorms last night which left my tent wet this morning when I packed it away. Two other biker believers stayed in city park with me. They were traveling the opposite way. They left before me earlier. I ate a breakfast omelet, toast, and hash browns. Slight rain at start for minutes only. Great highway all day. Great wind direction or no wind. Met nearly seven other bikers going opposite way. One old couple in their 70's no day off for 31 days. I have 37 days remaining. I can do it.
I started seeing lots of little frogs by the thousands. There was flooding in many fields from too much rain lately. I rode through some water also in one flooded city.
I get lots of power from apple juice, orange juice. That explains my 110 mile day. I combine with banana bread or energy bars. I love Kansas more. Many varieties of grasses and so many oil wells pumping. I love it when oil pump is in middle of corn field. No effect on environment. They can go hand in hand. Found new FM Christian radio station. New habit. Energizing. Also, YouTube "Christian Traveling Songs" is cool to play, also.
The corn and wheat fields is unending. Silos, mills, trains, trucks. Some corn/wheat is aligned in perfect rows and edges. I hope the corn is not GMO corn, please!
I encountered "Road Closed" sign because of earlier flooding across road. I went through the barrier, anyhow, since the detour would require me to take gravel. The closed road was a quick two miles. All water was subsided now. Still not dry enough for cars but the bicycle was fine.
At one of my stops, a father approached me with his son as if I am celebrity. Also, two Harley dudes wanted to talk as well.
Some cities are 56 miles apart from each other with no services between. What was life like out here before roads??? Your nearest city is 56 miles??? Your nearest neighbor might be 2-3 miles!! Kansas is unique. I'm glad they are part of USA. They have important contribution to the whole.
At the end of my day, I had Mennonite farmer help me find cheapest motel in whole city of Newton, KS. I got a bigger room since I would be joined by another friend later tonight who will join me for the full day tomorrow.
Note: Newton has two motels and a truck stop that has rooms, I heard after the fact. There are not many options for overnight in Newton, but they have probably the best bike shop on the whole route!
Day 50. Today was a very different day in most every way. I was joined by Jim Gilles, who drove three hours, to join me with his truck. We spent 1/2 day running around looking for new rear cassette. The bike shop in Newton, KS is totally 5 Stars! I replaced my chain and cassette and got much advice from shop owner about many things. He was a bike genius.
Jim and I stocked up on drinks, snacks, and ice and I removed ALL my luggage and gear and stripped it down to basics and "drafted" for all the tough windy parts of the 74 mile day to Eureka, KS.
We got late start at 12:30 PM but finished in less than five hours! "Drafting" is when you will follow closely behind a moving vehicle to break all the wind resistance greatly enhancing performance. Maybe 1/2 the day was drafting behind Him at speeds excess 20 mph averaging maybe 23 mph +/- My normal average is 8 to 13 mph with full gear. Even when I was not drafting behind Jim, I had very strong day of 23 mph with nearly 3X normal power output! It was a strong day. Amazing what dropping 70 lbs can do! Ha
Our waitress at the end of the day in Eureka was fun to talk to. We gave her nice tip and a Bible with simple advice how to read it. I doubt if I will have any more intentional, organized, drafting and on this trip but today was "honeymoon taste" of what it's like going 74 miles with no gear or extra weight.
The hills are starting to roll. I can tell we are approaching Missouri soon. Missouri is only about 100 miles away. If I have a great day tomorrow, I can make it is less than two days. Amazing!
I slept in Eureka City Park tonight with bathroom and showers, but no light inside. Thanks so much Jim. Great day. Great memory. Great added Trans Am experience: the day Mitch drafted behind Jim's truck crossing decent section of Kansas! Amen! More adventure tomorrow.
After trip entry: Can you imagine I went through two chains on this trip, 1 bottom bracket, two pedals, 3 spokes, 2 tire changes but no flats.
36 more days to go and four States: Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Virginia.
Day 51 feels like a "workout hangover" from yesterday's fast and strong 74 miler. Traveled at a moderate pace today for 62 miles and stopped in Chanute, KS, pop. 8,700. I am only 44 miles from Missouri border tomorrow. The trees are increasing and vast, open, massive fields of grain and corn are decreasing. It's starting to look like Missouri.
I started seeing some "tiger lily looking" flowers beside the road. I reinstalled my kickstand this morning. It's the third time. It keeps breaking off.
Passed through a town named Coyville. It was famous for many "first's" in the county including the 1st white marriage, and first public hanging. I will start Map 9 of 12 tomorrow. No Rush Limbaugh on radio today?
This morning I found $40 on the highway and a bank ATM card. I did a Facebook search on the name and sent some messages to the possible same name person. 30 minutes later I passed some electrical pole installers. I stopped and asked them if they knew who "such and such" was? One of the workers said, "Yes. He is a farmer in Eureka, KS. I passed on the $ and the bank card and my business card to give to the owner. Maybe he'll send me $5,000 for my honesty!! Hahaha.
Later, I had a scare today on the highway when I noticed my GoPro camera missing. I freaked out and realized I had taken it off at my last break and layed it on my bags in the back. It was STILL there and did not slide off! Amazing! Thank God.
Some guy at gas station told me just now, "Hats off to you guys. I don't know how you can do it." I answered "One day at a time." Biking across America truly is not a normal feat
It is amazing indeed. I'm so thankful.
Day 52: the storm last night took away 90 mins of my sleep. In the morning, I packed and went to Walmart to get my groceries/breakfast. It's the first time I went to Walmart in 50 days. I went back to campsite to pay the $10.
It's been slow going first few hours. Looking for Rush radio show. An ice cream vendor knew it was on AM. Saw lots of daisies, lilies, corn, dead armadillos, raccoons, and dead tortoises on road. I met a farmer, and sister, who had 526 cattle to feed. They do it everyday.
The rolling hills is starting with lots of trees. I stopped in Pittsburg, KS, four miles from Missouri border. Slight rain at end of day. Found campsite, with shower/bathrooms, electric plugs, for $10. Haven't seen any other bikers in few days. Beside my campsite is empty tent. It belongs to bf/gf. Parents were just here looking for gf and son. The bf/son is drug addict and is in hospital now. Tomorrow, he goes in for rehab. I am supposed to watch in case gf returns. She had bf/son's wallet. Messed up family problems.
The Kansas highways have been nicer and smoother than Colorado. I have 33 days remaining (Note: I finished in 28 days from here).
Next is Day 53...