Sterling, Kansas to Larned, Kansas

Overheard:

Britton: Christine, Let's start with the obvious truth that this is a man's world.

Christine: We like to let you think so.

Britton:  Well on the trip we men just pull over almost anywhere to pee.  The world is our bathroom.  There's very few places we won't consider when it comes to roadside urination.  But with women cyclists I would imagine you have more limited options.

Christine:  Any ample shrub or tall grasses will do.  I love cornfields.


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Mile 12 there was this lovely fun sign offering water and a little shady rest area for passing bikers.  These kinds of courtesies and gifts - we call them trail magic or trail angels - are one of the unexpected joys of traveling by bike.

Water. Water.  Water.  After that we think a little about food - energy bars or sandwiches.  But water always.

The pavement is awful.  Bumpy,  Lots of holes.  Bumps that jar the hands and behind.  It is the only blot on an otherwise perfect day.

Near Hudson, Kansas

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It's not too hot in the morning, but this pavement sucks.  The landscape is beautiful, almost like stepping into the iconic Andrew Wythe painting and of course my personal favorite - curious cows in ponds.

Nice water stop at mile 26.  If the spigot in the church yard wasn't working, Chris would have left eighteen water bottles here.  There was a nice tree and shade here so by the time I pulled up I saw Bill and Tom - our early bikers - still there.  Norm & Christine - who left last so as to reach Seward at 11 also pulled up.

Nice water break, lying in the grass, telling jokes that made me laugh so much that my belly hurt.

Seward, Kansas

Mom's Bar & Grill

The little town of Seward, Kansas has a population of 69 and other than Mom's Bar & Grill - no other services.  At Mile 36 of our 54.5 mile day it comes at a welcome time and point.  We got there at 11am just as they were opening.

The fact that they are open is a bit of a mystery because there are absolutely no signs whatsoever advertising that there is this speck of service in an otherwise empty map.  No arrows, signs or other advertisements.  To get there you have to leave the paved road, go down a gravel and sandy road and you know you are there because of all the trucks and cars parked outside.

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In fact we weren't even sure if Mom's was open, but it was only a mile detour north and on our way I saw a large Pepsi truck coming out of town and then I felt reasonably confident that something was open to merit a Pepsi delivery.

Mom keeps the grill and the bar sides a little separate but on the the grill side it was packed.  Good food and large ice filled drinks - always a welcome thing for us cyclists.

For Barry, our resident vegetarian, the menu was depressingly similar to all of the other cafes before.  Hamburger, cheeseburger, beef sandwiches etc.  The only thing he could order was a grilled cheese sandwich and mushrooms.  However the mushrooms were breaded and fried - a presentation that only baffled Barry.

Larned, Kansas

Pulled into Larned about 2PM and headed first to the recommended coffee and tea shop called Scraps in downtown Larned.  It was a lovely and friendly polyglot of a store featuring sewing supplies, Tuxedo rental, scrap booking, plus a coffee shop.  The owner is an exuberant lady who offered to make us off-the-menu milkshakes while we cooled down in her air conditioned store in complete happiness.

The ride was short - only 54 miles or so - and it was a straight shot west.  It got hot - really hot 95° - after lunch and the last ten miles were getting miserable.  But we had a mild tailwind and were able to keep up a speed that ranged from 13 MPH to 18 MPH.

There are now five things that I rank or measure each day, or each portion of the ride:  Hilly?  Heat? Humidity? Wind? Pavement?  The morning was all good except for the pavement which was awful.  It just jarred my hands and behind.  When we crossed over a state highway it got better.  After lunch it was heat and for a small while - the wind.

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We are passing a lot of east bound Transamers now and the past two days.  The TransAmerica Race started about two weeks ago in Astoria, Oregon and so they are starting to pass us here - expecting to complete the trip in less than thirty days.  They are packed light and minimal.  I don't know when they sleep or eat but I can't imagine it's at all pleasant.  We wave to them and them to us but there is no time for chats as we pass each other on this trip in opposite directions and purposes.

We also hit our first feedlot just south and east of Larned.  It's a real sad and depressing scene and smell, these large rectangular black fields filled with cattle, but no shade or grass or room to meaningfully roam - so different than the grassy hills and ponds we have passed this past week.

Tonight we are camped in the Larned City Park in Pavilion next to the Swimming Pool.  We shower and swim for free, another welcome and appreciated outreach of the city.  The pool is huge and large and filled with all the same characters and intrigues and dramas and family fun that we saw before and that we could not possibly see in the thousands of city pools dotting the Midwest.

The weather is a little worrisome.  He have black clouds to the north, and it's started to get very windy and lightening and rain so we are optimistically eating dinner while we keep an eye on the weather.


Milestones.

Riding a bike across the country is all about not thinking about the four thousand miles but rather trying to dissect it into manageable little things.  Days, Towns. Maps. Intersections.

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I wish I could say that most of biking is being rapt open-mouthed awe of the landscape we pass through, but the reality is I'm mostly watching the slightly wavering white strip of paint on the side of the road, or the back of another rider's bike.

And I let my mind wander.  I have music playing in one ear (great songs to bike to will be a topic for another day) and when it's hot, and difficult and miserable then all I can do is try to invent ways to make the day doable.  40 more miles to go - it's just two twenty mile rides.  Get me to the edge of a map, or to an intersection so I know where I am on the map.

Soon, we will pass multiple ways to carve this journey into halves - by days, by miles, and even by States.

Tonight we hit another milestone and will change maps.  We have twelve maps to get us across the country and we go from Map 8 to Map 7 so that's a small victory.

Any way to eat this whale one bite at a time.