And So It continues! We've crossed that wide river, and suddenly find ourselves in Owensboro, KY, hometown of one Wm. RUSH Jagoe V- in the pristine kitchen of his terribly kind folks. Ending up here was a bit of a surprise-- and the second batch of beds in a week, which is spoiling us rotten. We spent the patriotic evening here last night (and may I say that I've never felt more love for this country-- in all its quirks and glory- than after this experience)And a strong, wet weather pattern has kept us here an extra day. The boys are out shooting the town (with film), and I thought I'd take the second internet opportunity to add some pictures, and put in the grand sequel...
I left off in Garden City, Kansas- but forgot to add in the Wilhelm and Bill Experience. Back a few states-- We spent our last night in Utah camped in an odd forest of trees by the side of the road, edge in barbed wire. We'd left our bikes on the other side of the fence, stashed under some bushes, and were leisurely cooking pancakes over a morning campfire when I looked through the trees and saw figures with bikes. Bicycle Thiefs! I thought. BUT, really, twas another touring pair. Rush- terribly excited, almost ran out of trees to see where they were headed- and I think the two almost had simultaneous heart attacks. Here was a boy, in spandex, appearing out of thin air from wooded private property at the edge of the highway. Rush and the two exchanged brief touring info and they headed on their way. and we ate our pancakes. Rolling in that evening to grab our first Colorado six pack, who do we find crossing the street at the exact time, but the startled two? We visited for a while this time around, and learned that the two were Bill, a 60ish college math professor from Florida taking a solitary summer tour, and Wilhelm, a 70ish new zealander crossing the US for the second time- they'd met up in utah, and had decided to join forces for a bit. We parted ways again, and made it all the way to Garden City, KS, when-- on our way out of town from the grocery store, we biked into Wilhelm crossing the street... follows a bit of exclamation over the third chance meeting. The next morning, we were pulling our three bikes out of our abandoned home/camp and who crosses right in front of us but that sprightly kiwi lad. we all biked off together, into the gray and increasing drizzle, until his experienced legs took him ahead into the rain. AND rain, it did. The air was warm and the rain was wet, and it was all jolly good, with low visibility, for the next 20 miles. During which we passed many Official 'Scenic Overlooks'- which were simply views of cattle stockyards, with poor wet creatures packed in with hanging heads. Then the rain became too much, and the shoulder became too little, and Shane got (Very Lightly) sideswiped by an RV- and we made it to Red's Tavern, where we spotted Wilhelm's bike leaning against a beer sign. It turns out he'd already wooed the entire tiny town and convinced the bar owner to give him a ride through the downpour to Dodge City, the town 20 miles ahead. The owner informed us the rain wasn't going anywhere, and if we'd like to, we might as well throw our bikes in the back of his truck as well. and so we did- and waited out the rain on a coffeeshop porch in Dodge City (the last wild town of the west.)After the storms passed the day was waning, so we headed to the outskirts of town and found an long-abandoned RV park off the road, across from a huge cattle slaughterhouse. The area afforded an odd smell to the air, but also lots of photo opportunities for the boys, and a huge mulberry tree for me. I pulled a chair out of an abandoned house flanking the park and picked berries to my heart's content. Shane supplemented dinner with yucca blossoms- glowing green-white and butter-textured. The next day our route took us through Greensburg- a small town in Kansas that was almost entirely wiped out by a mileplus wide tornado a few years ago. It's being rebuilt as an wholly 'green' community (someone caught wind of the town name, and a lightbulb went off) -- it was a very odd place to check out: lots of incredibly progressive architecture that had the negative affect of booting out the town members who couldn't afford to build within green regulations. Onward to Pratt-- ending a seventy mile day. We'd realized at this point that we'd better pick up the pace post-mountains, and began pedaling further and faster. (and eating more doughnuts). Rush flew ahead a bit, and we found him at the Pratt grocery store, having made a friend and found us a bed for the night. Which was a really really really really really odd experience. For to be told to you by Shane. We abandoned post EARLY in the morning, woken by force and fleeing by unanimous choice, and treated ourselves to a 6am diner breakfast to make up for the evening. We were surrounded by wheat farmers gathering for coffee before heading out to the fields, and we were able to overhear their worries- late and heavy rains were keeping the ready wheat from drying for harvest. We started the 80plus mile ride to Wichita, and along the ride Rush broke the 5th spoke in his rear wheel- his wheel had been giving him trouble since utah, and had finally reached the point of no return. And so he headed to the roadside and stuck out his thumb for passing trucks, and S and I headed onward, knowing he'd beat us into town. Not far along the road a little green truck sped by with a waving Rush in seat, so Shane and I settled in for the remaining ride. This may have been the hottest day of the trip- it felt like biking through a furnace, and I received what was to be an awful, peeling, mottled burn. AND Shane and I were biking along the HWY which turned into a terribly freeway into the big city- when we were pulled over by THREE COPS at once in THREE COP CARS, who told us it might be unsafe so bike where we were, but could give us no alternate routes or better ideas when asked. AND THEN, sped off and left us in the freeway dust instead of escorting us to our exit, which was 1/8 of a mile away. ugh. And then Shane almost got whalloped by a big big man in a old VW van who thought Shane had flipped him a rude signal (which he hadn't). BUT we made it into town, and found a newly-wheeled rush and ran a variety of errands. Having city things to do in the morning, we decided to find a cheap motel (underthebridging is best left to small towns and and uninhabited bridges)and took showers! and warshed underthings! and watched random tv until rush fell asleep on top of the covers till I woke him up and told him he'd better get under the blankets, cause sheets are a thing not to be wasted on this sleepingbagged trek.
We took care of bizzness in the morning time- which included Rush having his thick head o hair buzzed at an african american barber training school for 6 dollars- where they scolded him for having so much sand in his hair. Getting out of the city, Shane biked right up to a guy in a truck to ask directions. The guy did a double take, thinking Shane was his buddy from Colorado, and 20 miles down the road showed up again to invite us to his home for the night. He threw our stuff in his truck and took us deep into the Kansan farmlands to his parent's home outside of Smileyburg, KS. Dave and his parents Glenda and Gary could not have been more immediately welcoming- We somehow were suddenly barefoot and eating a spicy meal and hanging out like family members in the den. We shared stories, and were given a castle of a blow up mattress to dream sweet dreams upon. In the morning, they made the most complete breakfast we'd yet had, including farm fresh eggies from their fresh farm chickens. And so gave a new face to our staying with strangers experience (post pratt, that is). We had another long ride in the heat, and ended up finding an abandoned motor shop to spend in the evening near. Shane and I pitched our tent in the long field grass, deciding to brave grass buggies in exchange for a breeze, while Rush opted to pitch his tent within the abandoned garage. He was awarded by a nightfull of rats running to and fro in the rafters and around his tent- AND a surrounding slew of coyotes howling around the building. OH! and the boys wandered into the house by the garage (seeking pictures of all things falling apart) and found a baby turkey vulture guarding the space, looking horribly ugly and raising its wings while making guttural defensive sounds. Which they described to me and then recommended a veiwing. Which I declined.
We biked outta that overpopulated place in the morning and soon Shane popped a spoke of his own, on an already wobbly wheel. We made it to a bike shop in Pittsburg, and who was standing at the corner, but Bill- of the aforementioned Wilhelm and Bill. A Small world indeed... and convening in the least pleasant place: an evil bike shop owned by the grim reaper. We were told that what we were doing was like taking a car from the 1950's on a long road trip. Our used bikes were rubbish, and much of Shane's bike parts were hopeless. Getting the sort of wheel that he wanted could be found only on 'crappy' bikes that cost as little as 300 dollars. BUT we had to fix his wheel, and so we reluctantly handed over ze money. And somehow managed to get THREE flat tires WITHIN the shop. (after a collective 5 from the past two days-- at one glorious moment I got two flats at once, on a 20 mile unshaded stretch of heat). We somehow made it out alive and biked out of the state, leaving grumpster in the dust. Just over the missouri border in the land of corn and the first slight hills for hundreds of miles, a woman in front of a farmhouse said we could sleep in her backyard. We asked her what area we were in, and she responded, 'They call this the Midwest.' This was probably one of my favorite experiences of the trip. Fred was a farmer of few words who'd grown up on the next farm, and worked the land all his life. Patty was a more talkative woman who worked during the week at the nearest walmart, and their quiet 9 year old Joy spent the days with her grandmother. Fred asked us if we'd like a beer, which the boys responded positively to, thinking there was one right inside. But then the family took off in their farm truck, and were gone for three hours. Just as we were firing up to stove to cook our ramen egg drop wonder, they pulled back up and Fred came up with a case of Busch. Joy followed with two pizza boxes, which she was too shy to hand to us. So we sat, the six of us, in the falling dusk, and ate and drank, and they didn't say very much at all, and it was the best time in the whole world. After a few beers Fred told us a story about biking through the nearby fields in the dark as a child, and all the corn turning to creatures of his imagination, and how quickly he'd made it home. Then he told us, 'you tell all those other bicycle riders, they can stay here.' And then they went in to bed and we slept better than we had in a month. The next morning we rose just after 6, and Joy was up and sitting near our bikes. She sat there quietly with her dogs and kittens while we gathered our things and biked off into the Missouri fields.
ach! How long-winded this has become... more to come? at a future date, if you'll have it.