Monday, 28 June 2010

Kansas - Chanute to Eureka to Sterling

We left Chanute Kansas early passing through the small deserted streets, heading into fields dotted with oil wells. Our route passed beautiful green pastures and the cross wind momentarily becomes tailwind and we actually overtake Kath, Dennis and Jerry - Luc hitting a respectable 24 mph. Steadily Kansas becomes emptier but the roads just keep on going, straight.

We passed through Toronto, a small typical ghost town - aside from the post office and a struggling grocery, the only motion on main street is dust blowing up at the weatherbeatern empty shop fronts as the cracked flaking paint gives a clue of a former baker and barber. Many of the more beautiful old houses looked abandoned - what must it be like to grow up here - isolation or traquility? - what will the future hold?

We continued to Lizard Lips Cafe - the shack in the middle of nowhere appeared like a mirage in the hazy heat. We escaped the 93 F heat, had pie and picked up the obligatory little plastic lizard souvenir.

We entered the Flint Hills region, open prarie grassland, apparently the largest unploughed grassland in the world dotted with cows fattening up in the summer as part of a cycle rotation (they spend winter in Western Kansas eating all the corn grown there). The road swept off into the horizon and open vistas fell away either side. And then we encountered the cyclist arch-enemy - HEADWIND. This basically is like riding uphill but never reaching the down. Just a little prelude for tomorrow.

Eureka's town park was an oasis, neat and green. After much discussion (on the path of the sun/shade), we set up our tent under a tree and cooled off in the town pool. To escape the heat, we went over to the bar to watch USA get beaten by Ghana (we were the only ones watching!). We lay in our tent and tried in vain not to melt away in the heat.

The next day the wind had shifted - a stiff headwind and it was hard enough to stand still. We struggled along the almost dead flat roads of the Blue Stem pastures, passing all the cattle farms - herds packed tightly around watering holes - You had to "mooo" every-so-often to prompt a mass of blank stares (and once a stampede). Cycling here is strange. One stretch of 38 miles of "nothing" was particularly memorable for being unmemorable, if you see what I mean. Telegraph poles, mounds of gravel, an oil well, a cow all become features of interest. Initially I counted down the miles (79 of them) but then I found Luc had two skills I never knew - playing I-spy (I know, aren't we...!) and singing in the style of a Munchkin. It was a long day.

Whenever you think you have it bad, something makes you realise someone has it twice as bad. We met a guy who is WALKING the route. Started in April, sleeps wherever and hopes to finish in October. His kit bag is the same size as our day sack. Mad.

Today, powered by last-night's delicious stir fry (if I do say so myself) we reached Sterling and tomorrow our 58 miles is completely without services - the largest stretch of "nothing" we have. We're almost halfway across the USA and halftime. As we were fighting with our tent in 90 degree heat and screaming at the mosquitoes taking advantage of our vulnerability today, Kath said to Luc..."half way through the race is always the toughest and then the champions come in at the end". That made us feel better. Lets hope they do.

For your viewing pleasure, we've got a little map of our progress...

View Bike America Coast2Coast - TransAm - the story in a larger map

and our rough route...

View Bike America Coast2Coast - TransAm - the plan in a larger map

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