Today is going to be a long day, mileage wise, we are told about 75 miles. On one stretch there will be 40 miles without services, so when we reach Cassoday, Kansas we'll need to stock up.
So we (Jim, Bill, John, Barry, Lew & I) left early today, about 6:30 which is a huge improvement from past starts particularly because it isn't as windy or hot in the morning. Tom had left around 5:30 we think.
We expect it to be hot, in part, because last night there wasn't much of a wind, and it was warm. It was the first night I did not get into or under my sleeping bag. Not a good sign.
We are in cattle country and and the vistas of the Flint Hills, dotted with grass feeding cattle is just wonderful and beautiful. So much nicer than the massive, dirty, feedlots of Colorado. Here the cattle just roam with nothing but sky, occasional trees or ponds, and grass, grass everywhere.
The wind was still present, blowing relentlessly from the South, but at Rosalia we turned North toward Cassidy - about 18 miles away and suddenly the wind was at our backs and we were making 23 to 26 miles an hour effortlessly.
One of the strange (but in retrospect ... obvious) observations is that when we bike with the wind, there is no wind. We can see it, the grass is bent over, waving, the trees rustling, but to us going the same speed of the wind it is weirdly dead still and quiet. Usually if I am going more than 20 miles per hour I'm getting a cool down - but not this way.
After fifteen years Pat Cross and I meet up for lunch. Pat has been a strange but loyal, college friend and he is such a good character and soul. We've kept in contact with each other through Facebook, and he came driving an hour and 45 minutes up from Oklahoma to visit me on the bike trip.
Since today was a long day, I suggested lunch because in the evening we'll get in pretty wiped and tired. Pat apparently got there early enough to meet everyone in our group because he talked with Norm, Christine, Jim, Bill, etc.
Nice but simple lunch - egg salad sandwich and ham & cheese sandwich for Pat. He is the most non-linear talker I know, He still is full of jokes that only Pat can come up with. He met Barry, pronounced him a limey, and then gave Barry his own accent that does for people called British Latino, which is Pat saying, "Como esta Matey?"
Took pictures by the massive prairie chicken outside the Country Store since Cassoday is the Prairie Chicken Capitol of the World.
A long overdue visit.
This is a grueling day, Hot. Long. Windy. Trucks that displace so much air passing by or in front of us that we have to just lock down and wait for it to pass.
In addition we have 40 miles to go without many obvious water sources.
The Wind is a challenge and I am tired of it. At least with hills there was a finite amount, even with the ambiguous turns and twists, you knew eventually that the hill climb would become a hill coast. Here the wind is always and everywhere. Eventually if you climbed the hill you get the reward of the descent. With the wind you go in it's direction otherwise there is never an immediate reward.
There are moments of beauty here in the feeding hills of cattle. Beautiful animals, so Tao or Zen like. They are curious, but more standoffish compared to horses.
After 40 miles I pulled into Newton a little ahead of Lew and Barry and saw to my great delight a Braum's Ice Cream shop at the entrance of town just West of the Overpass with I-35.
These are photos of pure bliss and comfort. Sitting on something ... anything... other than a bike seat. Cooling down with water bottles filled with ice water. A Peppermint shake.
On the road, that hot strip of asphalt I could just feel the sun baking down, and reflected back up from the road, baking up upon me until I felt my body just pulse heat like an embeGetting into Baum's I felt like a speechless refugee and incredibly grateful to any establishment that actually serves ice cream and ice water.
Body sufficiently cooled, I went to the Newton Municipal Pool filled with kids and teenagers. They let cyclists shower and swim for free. Took a great shower and then floated in the pool feeling extraordinarily wealthy and rich to be cool and wet on such a hot day.
Tonight we stay at the St. Matthews Episcopal Church. It is a lovely building, cool, and dark except for the wonderful kitchen and fellowship hall. Peggy, the Church Secretary kept us company and asked us lots of questions for the city news article she will submit.
For those unwilling or unable to go to the town pool, Chris set up an outdoor shower by the building. It's cold and bracing, but as Lew said, "After a hot day like this it's wonderful."