Archive for July, 2011

Week Six Stats

Week 6 Stats:

Starting city: Concordia, KS

Ending city: Denver, CO

Total distance traveled: 445 miles

Total distance to date: 1847 miles

Days on the bike: 6

Days in Lebanon: 1

Average per day of riding: 74 miles

Shortest day: 67 miles

Longest day: 78 miles

Total money spent: $47

Average per day: $6.60

Hungover + biking + heat = no fun

Bike computer battery death: 1

Toffee peanuts: Delicious

Town fairs: 1, in Norton

Cotton candy: 0

Disappointment: Extreme (evidently it was the first day and they were still setting up)

Atwood, KS grocery perks: 70 cent soft serve and free wi fi!

Colorado’s Hwy 36: Barren

Flats: 1

Same as last time: Yep (patched, popped again, second time worked)

Biting flies on Kansas side of the border: 0

Biting flies as soon as my back wheel crossed into Colorado: Lots

Headwind in Colorado: yep

Tailwind in Colorado: Yep!

Population of Last Chance, CO: 9 (2 grandparents, son and wife, 4 grandchildren, and pastor)

Property allowed to use by Last Chance grandparents: backyard and bathroom!

New bike computer batteries: 1

Fellow Wahoo and Manhattan Beach resident met outside the RadioShack: 1 (what are the odds??)

Cross-country cyclists residing at my friend Aaron’s place in Denver: 2

Beverage greeted with at Aaron’s: Mickey’s 40 oz. malt liquor

Fire-roasted corn cobs consumed: 5

First impression of Denver: Beautiful, park-filled, cool evenings, fantastic people

Pics through MO, KS, and CO

So close...

Joined me for lunch

Smallest roadkill

Road dividing Missouri and Kansas

Teepees

Chillin

Morning riding

Kansas has the most colorful state road numbers

First cathedral west of the Missouri at St. Mary's College, St. Marys, KS

Lunch

Proper construction

Tiny town downtown

It seems...

Kansas...

was meant...

for panoramas.

Largest

Ball of Twine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In all its glory

The grid

Best aisle

Park sunset

Dinner given to me by a volunteer church group in Atwood, KS

Atwood Lake

5 minutes later

It'll do

Welcome to Colorado?

Given to me by a family in Idalia, CO

Colorado hay

Fixing a flat behind a hay stack

Breakfast and breakdowns

Eastern Colorado

Eastern Colorado approaching Denver

Ghost town on Hwy 36

 

Sunset from a backyard in Last Chance, CO

 

Pop pop

My grandfather passed away Monday morning. An amazing man, he will be missed dearly.  In addition to my dad, I am dedicating the rest of this ride to his memory. If interested, his obituary can be found here: http://www.herald-mail.com/obituaries/hm-robert-w-cline-sr-82-20110726,0,1222121.story.

Words: Kansas

Not flat, I repeat, NOT flat – when Eward and I drove across Kansas on I-70, we thought it was the longest, flattest, most boring state we crossed. Not so on a bike; off the interstate, much more rolling, many more towns, many more interesting people met.

The Kansas Wave – whether it’s just a few fingers lifted off the steering wheel or a whole hand out the window, nearly everyone waved as I passed

Native American-influenced

Lack of roadkill – probably due to the low road/land ratio

Smooth roads, wide shoulders

Prairies

Cows

Windy (thankfully from the south, not headlong)

Of course, corn n’ soybeans

Week Five Stats

Week 5 Stats:

Starting city: Gerald, MO

Ending city: Concordia, KS

Total distance traveled: 412 miles

Total distance to date: 1402 miles

Days on the bike: 6

Days in Lee’s Summit: 1

Average per day of riding: 69 miles

Shortest day: 65 miles

Longest day: 78 miles

Total money spent: $63

Average per day: $9

Number of water bottle sprays it takes to wake me up at 6am: 1

Name of ice cream flavor in Jefferson City: Caramel Chunk Gooiness Explosion in your Mouth (actually, I forget, but that’s what I would name it)

Flats: 1

Miles before first flat: 1200!

Hotel lobbies whose internet I used: 1 Hampton Inn

Free food consumed in hotel lobby: 2 Apple Cinnamon oatmeal packets and cup of hot chocolate (not that I needed warming up, but the sugar alone was worth it)

Reaction to Allison telling me about southern California’s “Carmaggedon”: Laughter (shutting down the 405 for 10 miles?! Crazy!)

Amount of taco salad consumed: More taco than salad, but enormous quantities of both

Knowledge accumulated about bike racing: Immeasurable

Convinced by Greg and Allison to get out on the road early to avoid the heat: Yes, despite loving to sleep in, I love avoiding heat stress more.

Grocerbrary’s parking lot wireless signal: 4 bars

Tire tubes bought at the Manhattan bike shop: 4, two for my wheels, two spare

Longest stretch between towns of nothing but farmland and prairie: 40 miles
Shot to start off Peggy’s mother’s birthdaycelebration: something licorice-tasting and delicious.
Blue Moon: Imbibed
Pizza: Demolished
Farmland stars: Beautiful

Midwestern Hospitality: A Series of Awesome Hosts

Written on Sunday, 7/24/11

On a desk chair in Russ’s house in Lebanon, KS.

1)      Ryan in Manhattan, KS

Walking out of the bike shop, I crossed paths with a guy around my age heading in. He looked at my bike and the usual conversation took place.

“Biking across the country, huh? Where do you sleep? Camping?…I can probably provide a couch.”

Called the people with whom he was living, got the confirmation that it was okay, and that was it. Literally three minutes into our conversation and I had a roof over my head for the night. Amazing.

Ryan recently moved to Manhattan from Irvine, CA to attend seminary school and to be the youth minister for the Kansas State Intervarsity chapter. He lives with an old couple who were involved with KSU Intervarsity when they were students. The reason we ran into each other at the bike shop was because he is organizing a charity bike repair where people can bring in their bikes to be fixed-up, as well as building bikes to give to community members.

“I just want to get more bikes out there,” Ryan explained as we chatted in a local café. “Biking’s really a win-win-win; it’s healthy, it reduces traffic, and emits zero emissions. Most environmental damage from cars comes from the short trips like going to the grocery or the bank. If we can get people to bike to those places, I think we can really make a difference.”

I whole-heartedly agree. I also chatted with the café employees, who revealed the any-pastry-is-$1-after-8pm secret. Bonus!

When we arrived at Ryan’s house, I met the couple with whom he was living (whose names I regrettably forget), and despite it being past 9pm, they insisted on making me dinner. Two and a half ham and turkey sandwiches, several bowls of fruit, and a mountain of rainbow sherbet later, I was stuffed and happy. To go above and beyond hospitable, Ryan insisted on giving me his bed and slept on the air mattress.

Thanks Ryan and housemates for your immediate willingness and kindness to offer me your home!

2)      Peggy and Josiah near Concordia, KS.

Getting directions from my CouchSurfing host Peggy to her home was interesting.

“Keep going north on the highway ‘til you see a gravel road on your left called Milo. Follow that, and we’re the first house on the left. Our house number? Don’t worry about that, just keep a look out on your left. There’ll be animals in the yard…”

Sure enough, as I pulled into their lot, I was greeted by chickens, geese, and goats rummaging around. Peggy greeted me with a huge grin, followed quickly by being jumped on by her two pit bulls, tails wagging furiously.

“It’s so nice to meet you! We live so far out in the country, we hardly get any CouchSurfers, so it’s always a treat when one comes through!”

She offered me cold water and leftover pizza, exactly what I was craving after a long day in the heat. As we chatted, I learned that this was once her grandparents’ house, and she took over the property after graduating with her husband from Kansas University. Although she enjoys the freedom of living in the countryside, she doesn’t have much in common with her neighbors.

“They grow corn and keep to themselves. I just met you, but being a Couch Surfer, I already know you’re sociable, trusting, and open to new experiences. That already puts us more in common than with any of my neighbors.”

When her husband Josiah got home, I helped them move the cows from one pasture to another…then fed grain to the goats and chickens…and then I was invited to Peggy’s mother’s birthday party. All in a CouchSurfing day.

While we were getting ready to head out, Josiah explained his view on farming.

“It’s bizarre to me that so much corn is grown in Kansas. I mean, it didn’t happen overnight; government subsidies, massive amounts of fertilizer, and a need to cheaply feed the nation all contributed. Still, Kansas isn’t meant for this kind of farming. It doesn’t get enough rain and the wind blows all the top soil away. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next 100 years. It just doesn’t seem sustainable.”

He and Peggy are in the process of building a new home with more land, and once that’s completed he wants to design their farm similar to Polyface Farms, right in Charlottesville’s backyard. In a very basic sense, it’s a synergistic farm model where cows eat grass, rotate to a different pasture, chickens follow, scratch through the cow dung to get to the fly larvae, spreading the nutrient-filled manure back to the soil, which grows more grass, which the cows eat, and so on. A very cool idea, I hope they’re successful.

Anyway, a quick summary of the night: I hopped in a Jeep that contained Peggy, Josiah, Peggy’s mother, father, two brothers, one brother’s girlfriend, and the other brother’s son – a big, gregarious family. We arrived at a pizza place, and Josiah immediately ordered a round of shots…Peggy’s mother does birthdays right. The rest of the night consisted of pizza, Blue Moon pitchers, and much laughter and merriment.

Thanks Peggy, Josiah, and family for welcoming me with open arms and letting me join in the celebrations!

3)      Russ in Lebanon, KS

First, riding hungover in sun-baked Kansas may be one of the most unenjoyable (and probably not all that safe) activities around. Still, I somehow rode the 75 miles to my CouchSurfing host Russ’s doorstep, thankful I would have an air-conditioned place to rest for the next couple days.

Russ lives in the tiny town of Lebanon, similar to the many tiny towns scattered around Kansas – mostly gravel roads, no stoplights, one grocery, all in the shadow of a giant grain elevator. He moved here from Albuquerque, NM to be closer to his mother, who lives in a neighboring town across the Nebraska border and has some health issues. He actually bought the house from his mother, and despite have back problems of his own, has been working tirelessly to fix it up.

“I’m a computer guy – I know nothing about construction, plumbing, electrical, pretty much everything needed to fix a house. But the internet is an amazing thing. I can go on and find step-by-step instructions for installing a shower, putting in wire, anything.”

I actually helped Russ with the shower, and even after only doing a little bit of work, I was amazed that he was fixing his house mostly unassisted. His more grandiose plans are to install a hot tub and movie projector in the barn out back…that is, after he replaces the walls that have shifted to more resemble the Tower of Pisa.

Highlights with Russ include being treated to delicious BBQ brisket, onion rings, and extra-thick malts at the diner next to the hardware store and going to…wait for it…what put Lebanon on the map…the Geographic Center of the Contiguous United States! The Coast and Geodetic Survey discovered it in 1918 by balancing on a point a cardboard cutout shaped like the U.S! Crazy!

Thanks Russ for the couple days of relaxation and taking me to be “centered.” Good luck with the house repairs!

High-Low’s Over the Past Week

High: Received a personal police escort to a park to spend the night in Gerald, MO.

Low: Got woken up by a guy with a spray bottle shaking my tent yelling, “It’s 6am, wake up!”, then running to his car.

High: Ate some tasty tasty ice cream in Jefferson City, MO.

Low: Got a flat in Sedalia, MO.

High: Got my first flat after 1,000+ miles!

Low: Patched the tube, then popped it again trying to get the tire back on.

High: Second try worked!

Low: Tried to find a bike shop in Warrensburg, MO…turns out WarrensburgCycle stands for Motorcycle.

High: Nice man (Ron) let me camp in his courtyard in Sedalia, and gave me milk, banana, and granola bar for the road!

Low: The library in Perry, KS is located inside the grocery store…and is closed on Wednesdays.

High: Picked up the grocerbrary’s wireless signal in the parking lot!

Low: Neighbors in Perry called the police because I had spooked them by camping behind an empty house.

High: Police let me spend the night anyway (and apologized for waking me)!

High: Guys in the bike shop in Manhattan, KS helped me switch my front and rear tires (the rear wears down faster than the front).

High: Might win $100 from my bank! Smarty Pig Bank is pretty nifty.

High: Moose still works.

High: I still work.

High: Pedalin’ on!

Always more highs than lows.