Leaving Larned in the morning. We have a 65 mile day ahead of us and a bit of detour along a gravel road because the road conditions have changed on the "official" route to be considered dangerous.
We left about 7:00 am - still not early enough, but I was able to keep up with Bill (Moab, Bike Guide, Mostly kind of true tales) which is a feat because he is such a strong biker that he easily out paces me even though he is 71 or so. (More likely Bill was just being kind and slowed down)
The alternative route took us North, gave us a tale wind, and ran through beautiful country filled with wheat awaiting the harvest, and limestone posts.
The limestone posts are an excellent example of local needs taking a different shape and form based upon what was locally available. The Homestead Act of 1862 opened the Kansas Prairies for settlement. People from all over rushed to take advantage of the relatively free land, but did not anticipate the problems that the relatively treeless Kansas would pose - particularly in marking and enforcing property boundaries. There simply was no material to make a fence.
Just under the sod, however in the area known as "Post Rock Country" the Greenhorn Formation left a uniform geologically thin layer of limestone just under the surface of the sod. It is soft enough to shape, and cut, and notch when freshly quarried, but hardens over time when exposed to air. By 1880s it was the most common form post, but these days it is quickly getting replaced with metal poles as the original limestone posts are becoming antiques.
Rush Center, Kansas
Meeting Effie Crowell née Million.
Effie has run Effie's Place for fifty two years. Her restaurant is listed in the "8 Wonders of NW Kansas Cuisine" although Effie says she has no idea how she was included in that list. Her friends say it's her hamburgers.
Although the sign said "Open" Effie keeps her place closed during the summer because it gets too hot. She'll open up in the morning for friends, coffee and cake and fortunately she welcomes all cyclists with the same.
Bill and I arrived about 9:00 AM and were greeted like old friends. Effie stood up and shuffled over with coffee for Bill and water for me, and then the rest of the table plied us with cake and cookies.
Everyone (other than ourselves) at the table was born within twenty miles of the table.
Effie is 92 years old and still lives in the house that she and her husband purchased across the street when he returned from the War in December 1945. She has lived there ever since. She is sharp and stern. "I've only had to kick two people out of my restaurant," she told me, "and they haven't been back if they didn't make things right." One man tried to play a change game on one of her waitresses by claiming to have paid with a fifty dollar bill when instead he had paid with a twenty. He never came back. The other was a regular who kept charging his meals, and she drew the line at $270.00 and wouldn't let him come to the restaurant until he paid up. Her hamburgers are that good he paid cash the next day.
Sadly she has stopped opening her doors (other than her morning friends for coffee and cake) during the summer. "It's just too hot," she says, eyeing the forty year old swamp cooler on the western wall of her restaurant. Inside the place is decorated with tins and cans from at least five decades of household products.
She'll open the first Monday of November and her famous half-pound Effie Burger will be available to her public again.
Also at the table was George who at 87 has put down day-to-day farming and has left it to his two sons. George grows wheat, milo (also known as grain sorghum) and cattle. It's wheat harvesting season so the talk is about wheat. Prices for wheat is about $3.75 a bushel leaving most farmers with only 10 cents profit per bushel. It's planted in late September or October, George tells us, and harvested between June and July once the moisture gets right.
Moisture in hay is critical and it must be about 14% otherwise it was grow fetid and rot. The trick, George says, is to wait for the head of the stalk to droop. Then it's time. The harvesting season "moves" ten miles each day from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian Border and the highways are filled with harvesters for hire.
"When I started farming," George said we didn't have combines until 1950 or so and those were only eight feet." (Meaning that a combine would harvest eight foot wide swatch of wheat.) "Now the combines are easy to drive and spread 35 to 40 feet."
Effie meanwhile came out of the kitchen, shuffling, with a massive pitcher of ice water for our water bottles until I lept to my feet to help. At 10 o'clock it was time to leave and we offered to pay or tip for our cake and water. She would have none of it.
Ness City, Kansas
As of Rush Center, Kansas we are on Highway 96 and we will be on this highway, straight and west until we reach Pueblo, Colorado. It's our next rest day and we arrive on my anniversary with Gina and she will be there and that makes every little mile even better to bike and grind away.
It's just getting hot, and so we slog on, and keep a good pace. We arrived in Ness City, Kansas a little after One PM and made an obligatory stop at the Frigid Creme for treats (small strawberry shake and large limeade).
Tonight we stay and sleep at the United Methodist Church - a large imposing brick building on the northern end of the town. All of us are in the basement fellowship hall were it's cool, air conditioned, and we have spread out air pads, and sleeping bags in between the tables.
Another city pool today, and these are becoming such joys because they are all different in various ways, but also so similar. The Ness City Pool gets my nomination for being the least safety conscious pool in middle America thus far. It is located in a park in such a way that it would be terribly challenging to drive anything (say an ambulance) up to it close.
The life guards - all pretty young lithe creatures - were blissfully unaware of what was going on in the pool. One lifeguard station by the deep end, remained unmanned during our entire time at the pool. But the water was cool - but not cold - and it was a great way to cool down and shake the dust of the day's road off of us.
Dinner tonight by John and Philip. A great pasta dish without sauce, with sautéed vegetables and Italian sausage. We're to bed early tonight - we have an 80 mile day ahead of us in hot weather so we'll try to start even earlier.