Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Photos Part II

Sebree, KY First Baptist Church - great stop for the night.

Bridge crossing the Ohio from KY into IL.  That is not a shoulder - I had to ride on the road across.  Not fun, but I pulled over to take these shots.

My first new state - Illinois.  Not the prettiest place I've ever been too....

Murphysboro, IL.  
My one night in St. Louis - still managed to get a good shot by the arch.

Starting point of the Katy Trail.

Shots along the Katy.  Followed the Missouri River for a ways and gave me lots of wooded cover most of the way.  Hardly saw a soul as well - it was great!

Me in Clinton, MO, final stop on the Katy.

Finally made it into Kansas.  Road would look pretty similar to this the rest of the way.

Crossing the lower end of I-35, which I've ridden many a time up in MN to the Twin Cities.

Needed a break, and had to show off my new sunglasses.

More Kansas road and a look at the big sky around me.

Was a big fan of the clouds in Kansas.

That's it for the bike portion - didn't take a final shot in Garden City since I never reached my real final destination.  But in Garden City I was able to go check out these Bison really up close.  Pretty cool.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Photos Part I

Well I was able to upload the photos here in colorado, so I'm going to go ahead and put them out there.  Not that there will be many great photos - I wasn't really stopping to often to take great shots, but it'll at least give you a taste of what I was seeing.

Me in Kentucky after first morning ride.  

The first water tower I came across.  Until later in Kansas, water towers were always the light at the end of the tunnel as I was biking along.

Me at the big fort  in Harrodsburg, KY. 

Giant Orange Tree outside of Fort in Harrodsburg.  Pretty sweet.

Here's what my ride looked like - it's a little back-heavy, probably wasn't helping that tire out very much, as I'll find out later...

Some energetic dogs next to the convenience store I stopped at.  Luckily in cages.

First shot of me in my biking shorts.  I think I would wear this combo for about 17 of the 20 days on trail.

Homestead of the Lincoln family (Abraham), although relocated to this state park.

Me scarfing an ice cream sandwich I resourcefully found at the golf pro shop at the state park I camped at on the 3rd night.

What a road looks like.

Kentucky countryside.  

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 19: Garden City, KS

Well got on the road early on Wed. ready to get in my short (comparitively) 70 miles day to Tribune, which would be my last day in Kansas. Buuut, just about 4 miles outside of town I first felt a little bump, which seemed like trouble so I stopped my iPod and rode a little slower listening closely to my bike to see if anything felt off. About 30 seconds later a felt a hiss of air on my leg and I could only cringe - knowing that my back tire had just gone flat and not in a good way. Flat tires are inevitable on a long trip like this -and I have already changed a few - but I knew this was different. Before looking I knew that it was actually a hole in my tire, not just a punture in the tube. I pulled in the grass, flipped the bike and sure enough saw what I feared. Problem for several reasons - the biggest being that I don't have a spare tire along with me. I did have several tubes, but that's not the problem, and I had just bought these tires new before the trip began, so I figured I could at least ride them out for the trip. Guess not.

Changing the tire at the point was useless until I could get a new tire (although I learned from some bikers coming through I could try and put a boot on the tire - use something like a dollar bill to cover the hole and could temporarily hold for a few miles - I knew I'd have to get to town. Scott City was 20 miles down the road, but was three times the size of Dighton so I wanted to got there instead of back into town. After about an hour of waiting on the road, a couple guys pulled over and offered me a ride into Scott City which I took (Joe and I forget the other name). They were from Texas, and passing through town on business - they are in the feedlot business and I heard a bit about that, although understood mostly none of it. Nice fellas though. They dropped me off at the library in town as I needed to search for a bike shop - it's harder than you may think to find the kind of bike tires i need, Wal-Mart/Target/whatever doesn't carry them. I did find a store in Garden City, about 40 miles south of Scott City, also one in Colby about 70 miles north of Scott City, but outside of that the next bike shop is in Pueblo - my final destination about 220 miles away at that point. So back to the side of the road I went, looking for a hitch down to Garden City.

I went south of the business district a ways - just down from a gas station - to try and hitch and was there for about 15 minutes before a police officer pulled over and told me I couldn't hitch in town. I told him why I needed a hitch and the obvious problem of not having a way to get to where I needed to go. This officer was driving a pickup truck - so I was actually hoping he'd pull a "you shouldn't do this, but you're in a tough spot and I can just give you a ride down there - not like I'm doing anything here anyway". Instead he pulled the "Sucks for you. I need you to go past all the buildings, out of Scott City to ask for a hitch and even then I bet if a state trooper sees you he'll tell you to stop. And even though you need to just go another mile down the road, I won't offer to at least drop you off there, but instead walk your bike and gear that mile next to this busy highway with no sidewalk or shoulder." routine. So I walked out of town and set up shop just south of the "Welcome to Scott City sign". Was there for probably an hour (by the way, roughly 99 degrees at this point, 2 p.m.) before got someone to pull over. Fellow by the name of Chris. Mid 20s, from the area but had been living in Texas recently, had in dog in the truck with him, chewing tobacco along the way as we talked. What really got him talking was hunting - he probably talked about that for 15-20 minutes - hunting big wild boar in the area (he had a skull in the back of his truck). Can't say as though I contributed to the conversation much but still kinda cool to hear about some of the stories and honestly was surprised he talked to me like I would know exactly what he's talking about - guess I figured I wouldn't be coming off as the hunting type in my biking shorts and little bicycle, but hey I'll take it as a compliment.

Anyway, he dropped me in town and I got my new tire but I was now at decision time. I had a few options:

A) Bike the 40 miles back to Scott City, get back on route but now be another day and a half behind schedule, so either push the miles more and arrive in Pueblo more like Monday night or Tuesday.

B) Bike along Highway 50 out of Garden City, which runs to Pueblo as well. A couple century rides and I'd still be there on time. But even though it has a wide shoulder, it's next to much more busy traffic and scenery is pretty poor, plus at this point the wind is blowing in my face so it would end up being a grind of a final 200 miles.

C) F it. Chill and find another way to get to Colorado at this point. Likely ride the Amtrak to Lamar, CO then Greyhound to Colorado Springs or Denver - really only public transportation option out of there. Have to pack my bike and send it back from here though, since Amtrak/Greyhound doesn't allow it.

So I've ended up choosing C, though maybe with a twist. Yes, my bike tour is done and ended in an anti-climactic way, not really as I would have pictured or wanted but not really in a bad way either. I was close to my goal and certainly could have done it physically, it was more the cost-benefit analysis of the situation said hey, you're on vacation, costs exceed benefit of finishing trail, relax. Course the train was booked for Friday (only 1 train a day, leaving at 6:45 a.m.) so I booked a Sat. morning train.

So I've got a free day here in Garden City today (day 20). It actually has been pretty great so far. Slept in a bit, went to a bookstore and picked out some good reading material for travel tomorrow and for Hawaii (I Can Die In Peace Now: Bill Simmons, Sex,Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: Chuck Klosterman, and Wilderness: Robert Shaw) read a little in a coffee shop and then took a tour of the Wildlife Preserve south of town - really cool. About 6 square miles of preserve which hold like 150 Bison - one of the bigger herds in the US. Got a private tour where we went ride out next to the herd in a Suburban and just got to watch them up close for like 45 minutes or so. My tour guide -Jamie - knew her stuff and was a good guide, and was pretty impressed by my bike tour. AND on top of that, apparently her family is headed out to Colorado to go camping tomorrow and offered to give me a lift to Pueblo. Jackpot! No early morning Amtrak or 7 hour wait for the Greyhound, so I think I'm going to take her up on that.

Anyway, I have a few things I still need to do today, but I guess the blog aspect is just about over. I may post another summary conclusion thing soon, and I will definitely post my pictures on here when I can, but that won't be for another couple weeks.

But for now I'll sign off. Thanks for reading!

Day 18: Dighton, KS

Started out from Larned feeling pretty good about my legs and pace and whole situation in general. I was going to try and push it to Dighton for the night - about 100 miles away, but after that ride I'd be done with big riding days and be able to do days of 70,80,70 and then a morning 20 in Pueblo to finish out the trip - looking pretty good after I had just finished my fifth day of riding 95-100 miles and was going to do my 6th in a row. First stop was Rush Center about 35 miles away - traffic was not great for the first half, way too many cow trucks and man those things are carrying a lot of momentum - you get pushed or pulled away every time one of them passes you on either side, you basically just stop pedaling, put your head down and turn a little into the gust so that you don't get blown over each time this happen. Oh, and my rear view mirror is useless b/c of my panniers in back, so while I can usually hear the trucks coming up behind me, sometimes it's an upleasant surprise.

At Rush Center, which is a bit of an ironic name...not much going on there, I stopped to grab a bite, only to find there was no bite to be had - not even a gas station, but did find a vending machine with a Snickers and got some water. Only had another 12 miles to go to reach Alexander, the end of map 3 for my trip, and they were supposed to have a diner there. Did that, but of course they didn't have a diner, or at least it wasn't open. But pulled into the nearby rest stop and ran into another bike tour-er who was also going Westbound - my first one of the trip! Of course he was probably 50 years old and had a bunch of crap with him, so he went a little slower than me, but I sat and chatted with him for bit at the rest stop and went a little slower on my route to Ness City so we sat and had lunch together there too. He ended up staying there for the night, but I wanted to punch out another 30 miles so I said goodbye and pushed on to Dighton.

That was a tough 30 miles. Wind was in my face, must have been going 12-15 mph so I felt like I was going really really slow and working really hard. Ended up taking breaks at 9, 17, 23, and 27 miles along the way - something I don't usually like to do, but I had the time so I figured better to be patient than exhaust myself. Also went by George Washington Carver's homestead on the way- one of the few historical landmarks I've seen in Kansas where I knew what they were talking about. Rolled into Dighton and just in time - a big storm hit that night with lots of lighting and the power even went out at the place I was staying - glad I didn't camp that night.

Was happy to get in that last century ride of the trip and feeling pretty good about being able to finish on time without any trouble....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 16: Larned, KS

So woke up this morning to find out the Rockies have taken over the top spot in the NL wild card race! Didn't expect that this year, and it's happening in the week I will actually be in Colorado - but their last home game for the week is next Sunday morning, which I may possibly be able to catch if I don't hit any snags along the way in the next few days.

Anyway, started on the late side today, since there were supposed to be chances of T-storms up till 9 a.m., and it felt like I was moving pretty slow to start off with the wind blowing in from the North as I traveled West. I've been lucky not to have any strong headwinds I've had to battle off yet, but the side ones are still painfully annoying. Got cruising eventually though and made it to Nickerson (about 40 miles away) a little after noon. Grabbed some lunch at a cafe there - and ran across another Eastbound biker, female computer science professor from Florida, before I headed out. There is a 58 miles stretch from Nickerson to Larned with absolutely nothing in the way of conviences, and I was assuming it would take 5 hours or so to do the stretch. Ended up lucking out that nothing bad went wrong - no flat tires or storms - more wind, but nothing unbearable. The road was generally deserted which was nice and along the way I passed by about a 10 mile stretch of wildlife refuge which was kinda cool to see. Funny though that I saw signs along the route for cars saying things like "Scenic Byway: Play audio section number 7"...and of course saw absolutely no cars along the way -- gotta love that booming eco-tourism business in Kansas.

Anyway, it was quite a long haul to get here to Larned - and I went through my whole Camelback and 2 water bottles, a 1 lb. box of raisins, 1/2 lb. of peanuts, 2 candy bars, a banana, and an orange in the process, depleting my food reserves, but I'll stock up here before moving on. By lunch tomorrow I should be completing map 3 of 4 for the trip, taking me roughly 3 1/2 days to do the 332 mile map - I'm afraid biking in Kansas has spoiled me and I'll be huffing and puffing soon enough when I reach Colorado.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Day 15: Hesston

Woke up this morning too lots of clouds overhead - a big change from the miles of clear skies the day before. I wanted to get in my first ride (35 miles, break possibility at 18) before the rain hit, but of course 2 miles in it started to rain. Pretty unpleasant hour and a half ride and I arrived into Rosalia to find their store didn't open until 11. Ugh. It was pouring out, so I took refuge at the high school - where I had to chill for 2 hours before the skies cleared up.

Booked it up to Cassoday and grabbed some lunch, but wanted to get back on the road again since I was already behind and it looked like the weather would hold for a little. The next stretch was 38 miles without anything in between, so I wanted to at least get a good portion in before bad weather hit. Ended up getting 35 miles in - 3 short of Newton before it started drizzling, but I made it here and found the library. I'm planning on making the 10 mile trip over to Hesston shortly and then possibly pushing 22 more to Buhler, although we'll see. If I don't make it to Buhler, I'll either have to do a real long, or real short day tomorrow since there is a 58 miles gap with nothing before I hit Larned, KS.

Day 14: Eureka, KS

So couple things happened before the day was out on Sat. After posting, I hopped back on my bike for a final 12 mile ride to Immanuel Lutheran Church to stay for the night, and right before I got there I ran into a couple trekkers heading the opposite way. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes - John and Jess from Greenville, SC both seemed really cool, and the funny part was when I told them I was from Johnson City, TN they got really excited. I mean I saw John's eyes light up like no one I've ever seen when I've told them where I was from. Apparently they have friends that go/went to ETSU and journey over to JC occasionally and absolutely love it. No idea why but they do.

Then the church I stayed at was pretty great. Real small, rural church but the pastor lives next door and I sat and chatted with him for a while. Seemed real nice - let me use their shower and laundry and offered up some food, and is apparently a former band director - didn't go into seminary until he was 40. Anyway, nice to sleep inside as well.

Started out the next morning and was able to pound out 75 miles to Toronto (pop 310) before stopping for lunch right before 2. The only place open in town closed at 2:00 and I got there at 1:55 so I lucked out and devoured their Sunday special. Good stuff. The owner came out and sat with me for a little too as apparently she (guessing 40-50 years old, not exactly the most fit person I've met on the trip) and her husband are planning on biking cross country next summer and wanted to ask me all sorts of questions about equipment and whatnot. Happy to do it, and hope they make it alright, but I have my doubts...

Everything is closed on Sundays, which is a pain, but makes traveling go a bit quicker. Biked on over to Eureka to end up right under 100 miles for the day, and at just past 4 p.m. I really wanted to get in a few more too, since there was plenty of daylight left, but the next place I could stay was 35 miles away and I thought that was just too far to leave to chance. Mistake, I should have gone.