Days 44, 45, and 46, Escape from Kansas!
Updated: Aug 31, 2022
In the morning, I packed up and ate what was left of the baked goods from the Amish restaurant. Given their portion sizes, it was a calorie packed breakfast! As I began getting ready to go, Kathy said they had a friend who moved to Kansas from Oakland, and as I got packed and ready to head out, I got to meet him, as well as Kathy's friend who made the sign for me the previous day! She gave me a little angel pin, which I attached to my top tube bag. She said it was my little guardian angel, and I am writing this currently, so so far it has worked! I am looking at it now, as it sits on my desk. With me, it's probably best to keep it close at hand... I said my goodbyes to everyone and I hope I will see Kathy and Scott again before too long as I had such a short stay with them, and yet, such a fantastic time! As I write this, I am soon approaching the day when I will leave for Japan to teach English. Because of this, I have reached out to several other English teachers and a number of them are from the Hutchinson area and went to space camp at the space center we drove by, so it was really fun for me to have that connection to them as a random person from California!
While I detoured slightly from the Transamerica bike route to reach Hutchinson, in less than 10 miles I was back on it again. The forecast was all clear for the next several days and I was looking forward to the flat riding. My joke I still use regularity, is that there is only so many days of riding past cornfields that someone can take, so I was excited for some long days with good progress to finally have a change in scenery.
One nice thing about Kansas is it's flat and straight, so the riding is easy and safe in theory. However, I was still contending with the wind, which is never fun, and quickly saps your energy. Luckily, I had my phone and chargers all ready to go and spent the day alternating between books on tape and music. Audiobooks to relax and then music to get myself pumped up later in the day as I needed the mental boost.
These blogs will begin to combine more days into single posts as days, like this one through Kansas, become less unique with few changes between them. It's Kansas, and while it isn't as dreadful as many made it out to be beforehand (especially with fun visits to family), it is still Kansas... You would quickly grow tired of my repeated descriptions of cornfields if I didn't start combining days. That was why I chose to do my 200 mile day in Kansas, despite the headwind. There's not much else to do or see, so I got my entertainment from that day by challenging myself physically.
115 miles later, it was beginning to get dark due to a late start. I was still dealing with 20 miles between towns, so I decided I didn't want to push it for the next town and stopped in Eureka, KS. In Eureka, there was a public park and as it became dark, I was the only one left. I considered setting up my tent, but not only is that more obvious for an observer, but it also takes a long time to setup and take down. I have enough issues with efficient departures in the morning, so I decided not to bother. I did make a leaf-bug friend during this time though. I also decided not to use my sleeping bag since it was warm and humid, but that was a mistake.
Before too long, the temperature dropped off significantly. I was also in my damp clothes that I had been sweating in for much of the day. I lay my ultralight pad on the park picnic table I was on, but that really wasn't comfortable enough. I was afraid to set out my inflatable pad because the wooden table might have splinters that would puncture it. I lay awake, flopping and turning on the table until about 2 AM, but then things just got worse... Despite the forecast calling for no rain, it started raining, and my feet kept getting rained on as it blew in, despite me having a sunshade over my bench.
There was a similar bench in the park, and I moved over there hoping it would be less wet and it was, but now I was truly cold and still uncomfortable. The good thing about the situation is I was so tired at this point, it didn't matter that I was wet and cold. After an hour of thunder and lightning, I managed to fall asleep despite everything else. Here is a photo of my bug friend lit by some lightning!
I was happy to see the sunrise, as even though I managed to sleep some, it was definitely not great. It was probably for the best as I didn't want to be asleep in the park as the farmers started waking up and checking out why someone was camped out in their area. He's a better photo of where I ended up staying for the night. If it wasn't for the rain, I'm sure it would have been a pretty sweet spot!
The issue with getting little sleep is I somehow forgot to start my ride tracking for this day, which is a little unfortunate as it was somewhat eventful...
I got off to an early start of course. If I could put in some serious miles today, I could make it out of Kansas. The weather forecast said I should be good all day! Awesome! A nice change from the night!
I made it about 20 miles before it started raining.
And it didn't just rain, it absolutely dumped. I could see it approaching about 10 minutes before it hit. I checked the weather again and it still said clear skies, but it was obvious that was not going to be the case. I got soaked, but after only another 5 miles of riding in the dumping rain I made it to a gas station and hid out under the roof over the pumps for 15 minutes. The rain letup slightly and I kept moving only for it to come back redoubled. At that point, I felt committed to leaving the gas station and I just decided to book it. The next anything was 12 miles away, and I figured I could make it.
Before too long, I saw two other cyclists in front of me. They were also booking it and they were on E-bikes. Man, there are few feelings better than passing E-Bikes on a normal bike, especially on a small hill. So despite the rain, I was pretty juiced on that. Before too long, I did make it to the next town, Coyville, KS. There was an empty building with a very small porch and overhang. I went under it to hide from the rain. Before too long, the other cyclists rolled into town, but my overhang barely fit me, and I couldn't sit because of the rain and water. They ended up across the street a little ways from me, so I didn't get to talk to them unfortunately.
I stood under that cover for about an hour as the rain continued to pound down. However, then a pickup truck came into town and pulled up in front of my little porch. Two guys were in it, one of them sporting an NRA since 1871 hat. They asked me where I was going and I explained what my plan had been earlier that day before being dumped on. The forecast now said it was going to rain all day 90-100%, so I was just hoping it would let up enough to let me get to a town that had a hotel and stay the night there. The closest one being about 14 miles away, so it was doable. However, they said that with the rain that had been falling, the roads in the area might be flooding if not already flooded. Their friend had been trapped in another town for several days due to flooding a few days before they found me, so despite me really not wanting to make progress forward not under my own power, I just couldn't risk the roads flooding and me being trapped unable to progress at all. When they offered me a ride to avoid the flooding, I agreed.
Here is my view from the porch...
The couple on E-Bikes weren't able to fit in the truck with all of us, but they had better shelter than me and said they were going to wait a little longer for the rain. As I got my bike loaded in the rain, I was happy to be escaping it. Of course, about 5 minutes after we started driving, the rain let up entirely and it became sunny... I still have never recovered my previous trust in Apple's weather app... I should have known after my experience with weather in Colorado...
We had lunch in the sun at a favorite burger place of the two guys in Fredonia, the larger town with a hotel. But I was done for the day. I was soaked still and needed to shower and dry my clothes. They dropped me off at a hotel. One of my aunt's friends, Stu, had previously offered to pay for a night in a hotel for me. I decided this was as good a time as any to use that gift. Thank you, Stu! So ultimately I only made it about 30 miles that day under my own power, but about 45 miles total. I figure I did enough detouring earlier in the ride to make up for cheating that 14 miles to Fredonia...
The next morning, I waited out some early morning rain that never actually came, but I was well rested and more determined than ever to make it out of Kansas today! The issue I experienced all throughout Kansas and the rest of my trip from Eastern Colorado on, was that the roads on the map were often not roads at all, but rather just gravel tracks. I now spent every night looking over my planned route for the next day on google earth to see if my roads were actually roads on not. My route for the day looked good and I was off!
Happily, despite looking a little threatening in the morning, the weather held up and I was once again making good progress. Maybe it was all the rain, but I would find several turtles on the side of the road. Some alive, other not. What people don't tell you about cycle touring is just how much road kill you encounter almost every day. But that's the price you pay for not being able to drive past without a second glance at 75 miles an hour. If I saw an alive turtle, I would try to take them at least a little ways off the road.
But as you can see, besides the occasional turtle, there is NOTHING out there to write about. Here are some photos instead...
I made it! On the way I stopped a several bakeries of course...
I was just so happy to make it to Missouri!
I had heard mixed things about the people in Missouri. My host in Gunnison, CO said they were his least favorite people in the US and not very welcoming. About five miles before the state line, a car going past me flipped me off as they went by. So not a great sign. However, within 10 minutes of crossing the state line I also got a celebratory honk and a thumbs up from another car. So I was getting mixed messages from Missouri already.
One thing to note about the conditions east of the Rockies is that it was now incredibly humid. Having just spent the night in a hotel and not having endless numbers of Stus to finance my hotel stays, I was beginning to plan my route with Warmshower hosts in mind. T a Warmshowers I would be able to dry my clothes and shower. When I was in the West, I could trick myself into thinking I wasn't disgusting because at the end of the day I could get into my tent, hang my clothes, and the next day they would be dry. However, now I would hang my clothes and I would go to put them on the next morning and they're still dripping in my sweat. It was disgusting, and I was desperate to wash and dry them. Tonight there was no way I was going to be able to do that, but I decided I would make it as far as I could so I stood a chance of being able to wash them the next day.
Towards the end of the day I continued making progress, but I kept an eye out for anywhere like the public park in Kansas where I would be able to camp out for a night. While I didn't find a park, I was able to find a church. Given that it was about sunset, I just went around the back of it and set up my tent as out of sight as possible. I also lucked out and there was a spigot I used for water and to brush my teeth.
I set my stuff up and went to bed. In the middle of the night I was woken up by something shuffling and snuffling outside my tent. I hit the tent wall and yelled and scared it off temporarily, only for it to come back a little later. I also heard a bunch of coyotes not too far away yipping and yowling. But my second attempt at scaring the critter away was successful and I got back to sleep. I think it was likely an armadillo as I was seeing many of them on the shoulders of the road...
Tomorrow I was planning to make one of the biggest days of my whole trip...