Sorry, it’s been a while since I last updated the blog!
My last post went on about all of the wonderful Kansas hospitality. Over the last few days I encountered even more generous people!
The next day I rode to Newton KS. I found the first organic food store since Knoxville. (That’s over 1000 miles!) I was fortunate enough to have arrived 15 minutes before they closed. All I really wanted was some produce! Especially oranges. I really crave citrus sometimes. I must need more vitamin C in my diet. Anyway, I didn’t really have a plan in terms of finding a place to sleep that night and decided to try my luck with the fire department. I’ve heard from a lot of different people that fire men (and women) are very open to letting cyclists and travelers camp on their lawn for an evening. So after I bought my produce I headed for the nearest fire station. They welcomed me to their station and were more than willing to let me sleep in their air conditioned training room. It just so happened that there was also another cyclists staying there. He was traveling east bound. I was just in time for dinner and I’ve come to find out that firemen know how to meals for large amounts of hungry people. The fireman cook on duty made some really awesome baked enchiladas for the whole crew, plus me and the other cyclist. They let me use the fire captain’s private shower so that I wouldn’t have to use the communal dude shower. (Why wouldn’t they have a lady’s shower if there were a firewoman? Perhaps they aren’t very common and it’s more economical to just have a dude shower???) Best of all, the training room that we stayed in was so cold that I was actually wearing layers. I slept pretty well and left at a reasonably early time – the heat has been pretty tame for the last few days.
From Newton I rode north to Lindsborg, where I stayed with the Untzs, a friend from Knoxville’s parents. Lindsborg was such a neat little town . It’s also called Little Sweden USA. There is a very strong Swedish presence that gives the town so much character. My favorite feature of the town are the Dala Horses. They are little wooden/firer glass horses and each are painted to fit a particular theme of the artists choosing. You’ve probably seen similar sculptures around larger cities… usually an animal or something or mascot that the town identifies with. Anyway, there are photos of them on the Flickr site. You know what I’m talking about once you see them. Gerry and Sue were very enthusiastic about showing me around the town and I was glad they were! I really enjoyed all of the little art galleries, we took a little trip to coronado heights – a little fort on top of the only hill in Kansas – and later we got a beer at Ol Stuga, the pub in town. I slept well, had a lovely breakfast of waffles and juice, and then hit the road. I would have loved to have stayed another day, but I was on schedule to meet friends a little further down the road for RAGBRAI.
I got kind of a late start. It was another very hot day and I was parched. I carried liters of extra water just in case the towns between Lindsborg and Hoisington didn’t have any accommodations. There was also a killer head winds. It was blowing from the south at around 20mph. I think I would take a head wind over a side wind any day. I got blown off the road several times by the semi trucks and it was, overall, pretty miserable. It might have been the “worst” day on tour (at least in terms of riding conditions). I was only averaging about 9 mph and it was taking forever. I stopped in Claflin, the last town before Hoisington, at a cafe in search of water. Well, the cafe closed at 3pm and it was nearly 5:30. I stood in the shade cooling off for a while, bought a root beer from the vending machine outside, and was trying to muster up the strength to keep pedaling. Then, a lady drove up in a minivan and her son in his power wheels John Deer tractor. It was kind of precious, the little boy driving the little tractor in Kansas. Well, this lady, who’s name is Charlotte, had the keys to the cafe and opened it up to me for the use of restrooms and sinks. After chatting with her for a few minutes about the tour, she invited me to stay with her and the kids for the evening! I was pretty excited. Even though I still had another 15 miles before reaching Hoisington, I was so hot, so tired, and so thirsty that I decided to accept her offer.
It turns out that Charlotte and her two kids were such a cool family. She got her degree in marine mammal ecology and furthered her education and got a master in ecology and evolutionary biology! It was so refreshing to be able to talk science with another person. It had certainly been a long time since I’ve had that type of intellectual stimulation. Meanwhile, through broken conversations, I played with Sadi and Montey, the kids. They were a lot of fun! There was even a litter of kittens with enough for each one of us to play with! We were having so much fun that when it was time to go to bed, nobody wanted to go! Once again, I wish I could have stayed an extra day, but I was on a time line.
I left around 5am that morning to ride as far as I could before it got too hot. Mid-morning I passed by a field of bison – Kansas has a bunch of cattle and they seem to be pretty happy and free range, hormone and antibiotic free? Not likely. (I’m not sure if they are for dairy or meat or both.) Usually, when I pass the cows I moo at them and try to get them to run. Once you get one going, there’s no stopping the rest of the herd! They typically run away from you, especially if there young cows. I have a fun time with it :). The bison herd was kind of unique in that they seemed less fearful, and perhaps more aggressive. They actually ran with me for about a quarter of a mile! They kind of jumped and pranced too. They seemed kind of small for bison, so maybe the were young and playful?
I finally made it to my final town in mid afternoon, but only after fixing my first flat. Here’s a tip: when chatting with a touring cyclists, NEVER ask them if they have had any flats. Because there is the possibly that they have cycled nearly 2000 miles with out a single mechanical problem, but the second you ask that question, they’re bound to have issues! So I fixed the flat and finished riding the last 5 miles to town. I also passed a beef jerky manufacturing shop in the middle of nowhere. I was pretty exciting because jerky is a great way to get protein and iron on the road with out having to deal with rancid perishables. And it’s especially hard to find jerky with out MSG in conventional stores. I thought that was a pretty good find.
Now I’m in well into day two of riding on RAGBRAI! I got picked up in Kansas don Friday evening, drove through the night and before I knew it I was on the eastern side of Iowa! It felt kind of weird to undo a couple of weeks worth of riding in a matter of hours. We met up with the rest of the Team Fly bus crew and drove to the start city. It’s been really fun far. Lots of cycling (with out the extra weight!), pie, beer, and good company. Today I demoed a carbon fiber bike with the brand new electrode shifting. It was pretty awesome. I flew through the route at, at least, 20 mph.
Well, I’ll be sure to write a RAGBRAI post at the end of this week! The library is closing and I need to get out!