Heart of the Country Tour 2003 - week 1

Tue Apr 22, 07:30:59 AM:

Since I ended my posts last year with a poem, let me start this year's with a Haiku:
    The road calls to me
    Aim my bike for Chicago
    Catch me at the schools
Thu Apr 24, 03:49:01 PM:

The timing of any spring ride is, due to the season, a matter of luck. I wondered if mine had turned bad as I watched the news last night talking about snow in Elizabeth, CO (enough to cancel schools for today). Elizabeth is where I am heading tomorrow! At least the forecast was for the storm to move on, leaving temperatures in the high 60s for my first day on the road.

I'll be on my way with the thoughts of many friends riding with me. A sample of emailed comments wishing me luck:

Cindy W: "May your road be smooth and level. Filled with flowers and good people. And take your vitamins. Best of Luck!!!"

Jose F: "I can just admire your passion and commitment to follow your dreams...Good luck my friend."

Mary E: "Happy, happy trails and know that we are all thinking of you as you "pump the pedals" across the asphalt!"

Scott L: "May the wind be at your back! ...(Be sure to take spare tubes.)"
Fri, Apr 25: Broomfield - Elizabeth CO -- 61.7 miles, 9:05-4:15. Foggy to sunny, 68 degrees.

I'm starting to see a pattern here - after my first day of these bike tours, I get a hotel room with 'bathtub issues'. Last year it was no drain plug; this year, we couldn't figure out how to turn on the shower. Why would anyone design a shower fixture that is so non-intuitive you need instructions to use it?

The trip had anything but an auspicious start. All the comments I heard about, "It's all downhill!", ignored the fact that it's UPHILL the first day as I climb out of the South Platte basin. My speed dropped throughout the day as I pedalled into a growing breeze. When I began struggling to even hit 10 mph, I checked the bike and discovered a broken spoke. Follow that with several miles on busy 2-lane Hwy 83 with no shoulder in order to reach a bike shop, and I was ready to pack it in. Luckily the bike shop knew me from my books, and did a quick overhaul on the wheel and chain to get me ready for the road again.
Sat, Apr 26: Elizabeth - Flagler CO -- 87.4 miles, 9:20-5:00. Sunny, 74.

Some days are punishments, some are rewards. Thankfully, today falls into the latter category. My refurbished bike rode like a dream, the cloudless sky promised a beautiful day, and I lost the elevation I struggled to gain yesterday. From Kiowa it was 40 miles of a roller-coaster ride, 19 mph average, through the terrain for which eastern Colorado is known: nothingness.
Sun, Apr 27: Flagler CO - Goodland KS -- 50.2 miles, 8:40-2:35. Headwind, 61.

As I pulled up to Sue, waiting for me with her car (she provided sag support for me these first three days), we noticed a car speed by on the old highway then turn around. "Do you need help?" they asked. We thanked them for stopping, gratified again at the warmth of the people out here. It's too easy to forget as we race around in our hectic lives: Little kindnesses can make big differences.

Best comment of the day: As we finished lunch, the waitress noticed my banner ("Chi-town bound") and asked, "Are you talking about Chicago?" Yes, I agreed, I'm bicycling that far. The other waitress, standing nearby, quipped, "Have you considered seeing a doctor about that?"

Maybe she was referring to the wind, incessant and in my face. I struggled all day to maintain 12 mph -- so much for 'downhill all the way'. It's the type of day that saps your energy and your enthusiasm.

After postponing our farewell for three days, Sue finally had to head back home today, for a doctor's appointment tomorrow. After getting me checked into the motel, we had a teary parting, and she left me to face the road -- and the Kansas winds -- alone.
Mon, Apr 28: Goodland - Hoxie KS -- 76.8 miles, 10:40 MST - 7:00 CST. Overcast to cloudy, mid 60s.

Finally, a day of pure, unadulterated bicycle touring - just myself, the road, and the elements. Of course, there was a lot of the wind element, 45 degrees into my face. Thus, I relegated myself to a leisurely (if not relaxing) ride. My speed stayed near 12 mph until I tired near the end.Six miles from 'home', I had nearly cleared a farm house before the resident dogs noticed me. They immediately took off to greet me with their brand of Kansas hospitality. From somewhere I found an ounce of reserve, enough to momentarily boost my speed to 19 mph and convince the dogs I wasn't worth it.

It was a long, barren, flat-as-a-pancake ride with only two real towns to pass through. I stopped and chatted with locals in both Brewster and Colby. My school talks that started the day in Goodland were refreshing: the kids received me well, asking many questions. They sure make my effort seem worthwhile!
Tues, Apr 29: Hoxie - Plainville KS -- 72.4 miles, 9:05-6:50. Cloudy, mid 60s.

Yesterday I went from the Mountain Time Zone to the Central. Today I entered Vacation Time Zone.

The breeze, though lighter, started out direct in my face. So? You can't beat it, so ignore it. I also ignored my watch, stopping twice at historic parks for extended breaks. (Did you know people painted the ceilings above their patios 'sky blue' because it repels flies?) The lunch break was leisurely also, ending with a short nap while waiting for an interview with the local paper. The day was made even better by re-discovering how friendly Kansans are.
Wed, Apr 30: Plainville - Lincoln KS -- appr 71 miles (odometer temp out-of-order), 8:10-4:50. Foggy then overcast, high 60s.

What a difference a day makes. Once I finished my midday talk at Luray Grade School, the wind had died, with the little remaining breeze coming from the north -- beside or behind me as the road angled just south of east. Days of struggling to hit 12 mph were quickly forgotten as I cruised the long flat stretches at nearly twice that. Had time for a tourist stop, too, at the "Garden of Eden" in Lucas. Another eccentric soul (yeah, it takes one to know one) had decorated his property with dozens of self-made concrete statues: Adam and Even and the serpent; Cain's wife and dog finding his body; the all-seeing eye of the devil; and more. Most of the figures were displayed, not at ground level, but on posts dozens of feet in the air.

The Luray School received me well, even though I was an hour late arriving. They treated me to a school lunch, then asked endless questions of the walk and the bike ride. Talk about good timing - the third grade class project is to clean up the city park, and they had just written letters to the mayor asking permission which they wanted me to read.
Thurs, May 1: Lincoln - Junction City KS -- 79.9 miles, 11:15-5:30. Cloudy with a chilly breeze, mid 60s.

After speaking at Lincoln High, where I started the morning, I feared another long, barren day -- 74 miles to Junction City. Only three towns provided any variety to the route, with two barely large enough for a store. That left four segments of 16-23 miles with nothing but green fields and rolling hills. It was a challenge to keep the mind occupied with nothing to concentrate on. Also, the overcast skies that keep hiding the sun until 5:00 are becoming tedious, and a breeze out of the north kept the day chilly.
Fri, May 2: Junction City - Topeka KS -- 63.6 miles, 9:00-4:20. Mostly sunny, maybe 70.

Today had a bit of everything: weather custom-made for bicycling; picture-postcards towns to cycle through; well-maintained roads; two flats; a ten-mile detour; a lift past I-70; a mile riding on another interstate.

The morning was regrettable. A piece of glass or sharp stone sliced my rear tire, ruining it. Unlike last year, I carried a spare tire (and many tubes), so it didn't strand me, but it wasn't a good omen. One mile later, the road I'd picked entered Fort Riley, and the Army wasn't letting anyone through. My only alternative: backtrack to where I started and get on the interstate.

At the freeway, I asked at a convenience store whether I could catch a frontage road. "No way to avoid I-70," one customer said. "Unless you want a lift into Manhattan?" The offer came from the chef for the Kansas State U. football team, so we talked Big 12 football on the ride.

The ride Manhattan-to-Topeka was gorgeous -- hilly for the first dozen miles, then a flat cruise through the Kansas River bottomlands, wheeling through towns lifted from Chamber of Commerce publicity brochures -- St. Mary's, Rossville, Silver Lake. If not for the goathead thorn that gave me a second rear flat, 'twould have been a perfect ride.
Click here for the entries from the 2nd week of Glen's Heart of the Country Tour.
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