So the time has come when instead of taking you through my life day by day, I’ve just decided to combine a whole state into a blog entry. I wish that I didn’t have to do this but I’m so tired at the end of the day that all I want to do is kick back and have fun instead of spending time on my computer. Excuses, excuses.
Anyways, I love Kansas. It’s so brutal to us, but I love it. Here is a photo montage of my experiences in the state. I’ve totally lost track of what day it is or what towns I’ve stayed in. I couldn’t tell you where I am now without thinking about it for awhile.
First thing’s first. They only have Pepsi in the Midwest. Can someone tell me why? All I want is a Coke and it’s impossible to get out out here.
Some of the girls on a the front of an old train. There is a good picture of the whole group on the train, but it wasn’t taken with my camera so I don’t have it. This was Chanute, Kansas. The MS Society there cooked us burgers and tacos in the park right next to our campsite. They hung out there all day talking to us and making sure we had enough to eat and drink. We felt really spoiled after our reception in Pittsburg; to get free food two days in a row was much appreciated. We could see some storm clouds far off but they weren’t that cool looking and we didn’t get rained on. I am still waiting to see a real cool Kansas storm. Clouds as black as night with lightning and tornadoes. I’d like to see this from afar, of course. Safely. You can see for so far here, it just seems like a shame if we don’t get to see a huge Plains thunderstorm in action. When in Rome?
Remember how angry I was when I found out the Ozarks existed? Well you can only imagine how thrilled I was when I was informed that there is a ‘range’ of hills in Kansas called the Flint Hills. No, I did not want to experience the Flint Hills. There was way more climbing in eastern Kansas than I had ever cared to do. Most of the rolling hills were native prairie that had never been plowed, so that was sort of cool to look at.
The boys with their patented triple push. All four of them linked together to push me into a town yesterday. It really works. I get by with a little help from my friends.
One afternoon there were probably about ten of us all riding together down the road. I think that the cows thought that we were also cows moving very fast and they would start to stampede along with us. It was so cool to be riding your bike right next to hundreds of running cows. They’re so dumb, ha. They ran over ditches and through water to try to keep up with us., but alas, we eventually lost the stampede. So I can ride my bike faster than a cow. Barely.
Not that y’all understand or care, but here’s Pepper being a dirty cheater and riding Joe’s bike :) He can fly when he’s not hampered by all that weight.
It’s hard to capture in pictures, but they are endless fields of sunflowers in Kansas. It’s really neat and I just want to frolic in them. All the fields in this state make me want to frolic. Contrary to popular belief, all of Kansas is not the same. I don’t think I would have noticed the changing landscape if I had not been moving so slowly. Eastern Kansas are the Flint Hills and the prairie. Then comes the huge grazing fields with giant herds of cattle. Then it flattens out but you still see trees. Followed by sunflower fields. After that it gets more flat and arid; this is where you see golden, blowing wheat fields for miles in every direction. As you go farther west, you start to see some more crops again, but this time they are huge operations and not small family farms. Kansas has fascinated me. I love it.
We have been staying in playgrounds for most of the state. Fun, old playgrounds like we had when we were kids. When the jungle gyms were dangerous and made out of lead paint. Something I didn’t know: in some parts of the country (where they are bored and live in towns of 200 people?) July 4th is a week long celebration where people personally take it upon themselves to sit in their front lawns, get drunk, and light off fireworks. Every night with the fireworks. At this campground we were kept up until midnight by fireworks so big that I could feel them while I was laying in my tent. America, hell yeah.
“Hey guys, let’s just take this road until it intersects with the horizon.”
Any town, Kansas. Actually this is Larned, but it might as well be anywhere. Towns here are at least twenty miles apart and between them there is literally nothing. No houses, gas stations, bathrooms, food. Just fields and grain silos. I might have said this before, but the cool thing about these downtowns is that, unlike back east, they aren’t deserted and dying. Every storefront is occupied by a farm supplier or surprisingly good cafe. You can tell that the towns are really gearing up for the holiday weekend. I get the feeling that the fourth is one of the few times a year that whole communities gather and party.
A gigantic pile of grain that I’m sure has blown away by now.
The scary thing about Kansas: semi-trucks. I never would have thought that I would have to spend so much time in my life figuring out the wind patterns of passing vehicles. The deal is that there are these trucks that fly past you on the road going 70mph carrying giant combines like the one pictured above. Just look at how big the wheels are on that thing compared to the wheels of the tractor trailer. It’s like a huge child’s toy. When the trucks pass going the same direction as you, the wind they create sucks you towards them. My strategy is to 1) not fly into the side of the truck and 2) pedal as hard and as fast as I can right when it passes so I can get that speed boost. It’s like getting a mushroom in Mario Kart and it totally works as long as you aren’t scared to get sort of ridiculously close. Trucks coming towards you are another story. They are like getting hit by a red shell. You just have to tuck and hold on for dear life as the wall of wind they create slams into you. If you aren’t paying attention and concentrating, you can definitely get thrown right off the road. Thank god I have my heavy steel bicycle to keep me grounded. The point being that taking this picture for the blog was a carefully orchestrated and planned operation that I risked my life to do. You’re welcome.
Ok, I swear I’m not trying to show you the same picture over and over. Everything is just so much more interesting and different when you’re out on a bike going relatively slowly. Can you see that grain silo way off in the distance? It’s actually about ten miles away. Towns seem to have been built up around the silos, so we’re essentially riding from grain silo to grain silo. I see them in the distance and they remind me of Oz. And hey, I’m in Kansas, so why not make a Wizard of Oz reference.
We are flying through Kansas. The other day I completed my first century ride, 100 miles. Then the very next day we rode 90 miles. So almost 200 miles in 2 days. The day after that we only went 60, then the following day we rode a whopping 125. By far the most miles I’ve ever done in my whole life. We didn’t even have a tailwind. We just sucked it up and rode. While I am amazed at what we are accomplishing, I’m also amazed at how much I can physically be hurt and tired and still go on. This morning I woke up (yesterday was the 125-miler) and I didn’t think I could physically get out of my tent. Complete exhaustion. But I did, and I got back on my bike, and I rode. Today was a battle of epic proportions. Tara vs. Wind 2k10. Wind won. It was blowing out of the south (we are headed straight west, so it was a true crosswind) at a constant 28mph and gusting to 40mph. I can’t describe how difficult it is to ride fighting a wind like today. You have to ride leaning at an angle so you don’t get blown off the side of the road (which I was, twice) and on top of that the truck-wind situation becomes a lot more stressful. Many people with lighter carbon bikes had to actually dismount and wait for trucks to pass so they wouldn’t be blown over. You can’t hear, rocks and wheat particles are flying in your face, you can’t let go of the handlebars for even a second to take a sip of water or change gears. It was intense. It took me three hours to go 25 miles. Thankfully that was all we did today; by far our shortest day of the whole trip so far. We were so weak from the 125 yesterday that the wind was winning the battle. I don’t know how people live here in Kansas if it’s like this all the time. While taking a break from writing this blog, I asked the librarian if it was always this windy here in Leoti, Kansas. “No,” she said. “Sometimes it’s windier.” If it’s this windy tomorrow I have no idea how I am going to be able to ride 80 miles. I’m tiny and my bike is so heavy! It’s so bad I can’t even set up my tent, ha. Please don’t feel bad for me, I love this. At least it’s beautiful being in nowhere, Kansas, on a bike.