Kansas

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August 29, 1992 Scott City KS to Larned  (118 miles, 430 ft, $79)

We actually slept quite well in the gym last night.  The trains outside only woke us once.  We were up, packed and heading out by 7AM.  It was still dark out though, with the time change and autumn coming.  We had pancakes at the Homestead Café and hit the road.  It was a little chilly starting out but not too bad.  Our tailwind friend of the past few days was back so Larned looked like a possibility.

There are certain things cyclists are superstitious about – and for us tailwinds are one those things.  When we have a tailwind, we do not talk about it or refer to it by name.  You have to sort of skirt around it or it might turn on you.  For the past three days we did a lot of “did you notice anything…”, “no, not me, I didn’t notice a thing…”  Not sure it helps keep the wind going the right way but it’s worth a shot – plus it keeps you entertained.

We met a couple from Illinois heading to SF.  We stopped to exchange notes and give them a break from the wind.  The roads in Kansas all appear to be laid out on a grid.  Meaning, you are going straight, N, S, W or E.  When the wind is behind you this is great, when it’s not, it can be a long day.  Somewhere round the 80-mile mark we had to turn south.  About the same time the wind drifted to the north.  We had another 20 miles of nice winds.  But all good things must come to an end.  The last 15 miles we turned back east and the wind stayed north.  It was a bit of a struggle those last 15 miles with a cross/headwind, rough at the end of three 100+ mile days in a row.

We made it into Larned and checked out the campground.  It didn’t look all that great, plus we were going to have a rest day tomorrow, we decided to stay closer to town at the Best Western, $38 a night, not too bad.  Right next to the hotel, there was a Pizza Hut.  An all-you-eat buffet at the end of three long days.  I think the employees were shocked at how much we ate.  We should sleep well tonight!

August 30, 1992 Larned Rest Day (0 miles, 0 ft, $85)

We slept in until 7:30 with no alarm this morning.  We watched a movie in the room while we had coffee and snacks.  We had brunch across the street at a joint called Dondo.  After lunch we did laundry and walked around town.  There are lots of brick or stone homes with wide porches and swings – it looks like there are not many trees to make houses out of in Kansas. 

In the afternoon we went to the Central State Scout Museum, an interesting place with lots of scouting memorabilia and a genuine Eagle Scout manning the information booth.  For dinner we hit the all you can eat Chinese “Rice Bowl” buffet.  Seemed strange eating Chinese food in Kansas but it was good.

Tomorrow we head for Hutchinson where we hope to stay at a church that’s on the Bikecentennial list of places to stay.  We’re going to try to go back to the Dondo for breakfast in the morning and hope for an early start.  Today the wind was blowing out of the east.  Hope it turns or dies down before morning.

August 31, 1992 Larned to Hutchinson (75 miles, 90 ft, $46)

After a long night listening to Dave snore, we got up early and headed over for breakfast at the Dondo.  Had great pancakes and were on the road by 7:15.  Pretty uneventful day.  Saw lots of oil wells and a few more trees on this side of Kansas.  We had to make a detour because a bridge had gotten washed out but we found another way across the river after Dave flagged down a local and asked for help.

We had to ask at the bike shop about the church.  They were very friendly, just gave us a key and directions.  Looked like we’d have the hostel next to the church to ourselves – it doubles as the church office also.  We took showers using their towels and cooked up homemade burritos in the kitchen.  All this for free, we’ll be sure to leave a donation in the morning.

We did a little scouting round town, more big brick houses with nice front porches.  Life seems a little slower here in the Midwest.  We watched a little TV at the hostel and hit the sack.

September 1, 1992 Hutchinson to Eldorado (83 miles, 740 ft, $61)

The day started with a flat front tire.  That’s the second one we’ve had before riding a mile.  Guess it’s better that way as Dave gets to wash his hands and we just start later.  We had pancakes this morning at Jim’s Landmark Café, a short stack each.  The owner, Jim, chatted with us for quite some time and in the end gave us the cakes for free.  We are really enjoying the mornings in the small cafes.  There is always a crowd of the regulars and it doesn’t take much for a conversation to get started.  Of course, there is always someone who asks Dave if he can tell when I’m not pedaling (yes he can, the chain links the two sets of cranks together).  We always end up learning something about the route or local history that we would not have learned otherwise.  For sure a trip highlight that we’ll continue as we head east.

We made just one stop today in Newton.  We had a strong crosswind out of the south the entire day.  There were some very dark clouds in the sky when we arrived in Eldorado, so we found a hotel room.  Very tacky and not worth the $32 dollars.  The clouds blew over when we were walking to dinner – we should have camped.  We did laundry and spotted some other bikes in front of a restaurant so we headed there for dinner.  The other riders were headed west so we got some good tips.  Also heard again about the killer hill “Vesuvius” in Virginia.  Tomorrow we are thinking a longer day, shooting for Chanute.

September 2, 1992 Eldorado to Chanute (96 miles, 1440 ft, $27)

We got an early start with more pancakes in the local café and were on the road by 7:15.  We had a little tailwind starting out; but of course neither of us mentioned it!  Today’s ride took us through the eastern part of Kansas, much more rolling terrain and different looking crops.  We saw lots of armadillos (smashed!) and quite a few turtles (moving slowly, but alive). 

We rolled into Chanute about 3PM and stopped at the Chamber of Commerce, to check on camping and find out if the woman listed on our Bikecentennial maps as a local contact, “Yodeling Katy”, was still around.  She was and through a quick phone call, we found that we were welcome and there were hot showers waiting. 

Nothing can really prepare you for Katy.  She lives in a mobile home on the edge of town.  The outside was non-descript, the inside was pure Katy.  She is a collector.  Not stamps or coins or something manageable, a collector of everything.  Every square inch of the inside of the mobile home was covered or stacked with stuff.  It was not messy or disorganized and if you ask Katy about a topic, she invariably had some object that was connected to it that she could quickly retrieve from the middle of pile X on the coffee room table (or somewhere else in the room).  And stories she could tell – you did not have to ask many questions with Katy around.  All she needed was a glimmer of an idea and thousands of stories, complete with the appropriate icon, came flowing out.  We spent the afternoon showering and trading off who would listen to Katy next.

At one point Dave escaped to take a phone call.  Turns out that Chamber of Commerce had called the local radio station and they wanted to interview us.  Dave spent about 5-10 minutes talking to a reporter for an interview that they played at 5PM and again the next day on the morning show.  Katy made us a tape.

More on Katy.  Somewhere during the day when we stopped for lunch, one of Dave’s street shoes fell out of the bag.  We must not have noticed as by the time we got to Katy’s, he only had one shoe.  Not a problem with that though, Katy had numerous extra shoes that she had collected through the years.  Yes, that’s right, shoes.  Who knows where she got them, but she had a pile of left and right, non-matching shoes she pulled from a box in a pile.  Dave found a right shoe that he could use with his own left shoe long enough to walk to Wal-Mart.  Katy thought he looked good.  I walked a few yards behind the two of them on the trip to the store where Dave bought new shoes.  Katy gladly accepted Dave’s odd shoe into her collection, sliding the lot back into the box.

Katy made a wonderful beef pie for dinner.  Not sure how she cooked it as the stove was covered with stacks of collectibles.  We had a 5-minute exercise making room for three of us at her kitchen table.  She normally eats alone and only one space was not filled with more stacks.  For dessert we insisted that Katy let us buy her a sundae at the local Hardies drive in.  Of course, Katy brought home the sundae containers, stating that she only needed to collect 5 more and she would have enough to feed the Girl Scout Troop she works with.

Katy does not let people sleep in her house so we set up the tent in her yard.  I’m fairly certain you couldn’t sleep in her home if you wanted to.  There are only little paths through the rooms and there would be no place to put your sleeping bag.  She’s cooking us breakfast in the morning.  Plus, she’s promised to play us a tune on the ukulele, and of course yodel.  I can hardly wait!

September 3, 1992 Chanute to Golden City MO (94 miles, 1110 ft, $46)

We woke to a sunny morning but the tent was dripping wet from dew – it sure is humid here in the Midwest.  We listened to the radio again to hear Dave’s interview.  Katy made us homemade cinnamon roles and left over porcupine meatballs (Dave thought that they had real porcupine in them –  you never know with Katy!).  Katy got out the ukulele and played us some tunes.  Pretty good really and the yodeling was not bad.  She had written a few of the numbers herself.  Of course we got another round of fresh stories as a bonus.

We went to start riding and discovered another morning flat tire.  Dave changed it while I chatted (er, listened to!) Katy.  When we finally got going, Katy insisted on escorting us to the edge of town on her bike.  She rode next us on an old three speed, complete with basket and horn, no doubt found somewhere discarded by the original owner.  When we reached the edge of town Katy gave us a toot and we were off, not really sure if she was real or we had dreamt one of the more interesting nights of our trip. 

We had to make another detour for a bridge out, then rode through Gerard and Pittsburgh.  We saw lots of turtles and a few snakes on the road.  We stopped for lunch in Pittsburgh and from there it was only 5 miles to the Missouri state line.  We stopped for the border photo.  Soon after crossing the state line, Dave starting making comments to the affect, “Nancy, we’re not in Kansas anymore” (from the Wizard of Oz movie).  He’d been saving that one up for almost a month!  Life on the road affects your mind, or maybe that’s just Dave.

We stopped for the day in Golden City, where we camped in the city park.  After another load of laundry, we went into town to Cookies Café.  That is another place that many people who make the trip talk about.  They had great journals dating back almost 30 years.

After dinner, we stopped at a phone booth so that I could call the Oregon Bar.  Today is the day that they post results of the bar exam.  I PASSED!  I called my mom to tell her.

Back at the park, a high school baseball game had started.  We sat in the stands with the locals and watched.  They pretty quickly figured out that we weren’t local so we ended up with lots of friends to talk to during the game.  Dave asked one of them if you pronounce the state name MissourI or MissourA.  An old-timer with no teeth answered that we could say it however we wanted.  Fifteen minutes later the rest of crowd was still debating.  I don’t think we ever got an answer. 

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