Day #28) July 10, 2011. Ottowa, KS to Council Grove, KS: 71 miles in 6:25 hrs.
Man! Did I mention that there are definitively HILLS in KS? Well, let me tell you, what I rode today qualifies as a true ass kicker of a route - and that was due largely to the relentless hill climbing! Throw in a SW cross headwind and temps that were just off the charts for an Ohio guy like me and I had the makings for a ride that was just pure survival.
So last eve I did indeed do the Sonics for my din-din, and let me give a big thumbs up the the footlong chili cheese dog. Ohhh, just marvelous. So I got two of those plus a cheeseburger. Now I couldn’t find any subs for today’s breakfast, so a got some Danish and a ham sandwich at a little Quick Mart gas station and threw them in the micro frig. No Versus at this efficiency, so I just channel surfed while I worked and ate, then hit the hay at 8:30 pm again in prep for another smoker of a hard day. The forecast was predicting temps for Sun and Mon to top 103 degrees with just insidious humidity. There were even health warnings out because of the heat. So getting to sleep early and on the road early was paramount.
Woke at 3:45 again and was ready to roll before 5am. Now out here in KS, the sun really does not rise until like 5:45am, so I had brought this reflective vest with me that just lights up when hit with bright lights. Put that puppy on because I’d learned yesterday that I just had to have more reflective stuff going on that what was on my panniers. Problem was that the morning temps in Ottawa was 82 degrees! Yup, 82 at 5am. So that vest made for a bit of a steamy cloths selection. But I had to have it on. Period. Left Ottawa and got back on Rt 68. The roads were totally devoid of traffic, and with the nice little SE cross tailwind, I really was able to get it rolling quickly. Vest was hot, but really needed, and I could tell it was working well by how far back I could see any of the traffic veering to the left when they saw my vest lit up down the road. My only concern was maybe hitting a chuckhole in the dark and cashing in a very expensive wheel. So I stayed out in the lane while there was zero traffic, and snugged onto the berm when a vehicle was passing me.
Got to 6am and what with the light checked my cyclocomputer for my average speed and noticed that my trusty odometer wasn’t working. It hadn’t recorded anything for the entire hour. So I stopped several times to check the magnet. But still – no go. Figured that maybe the battery was dead, but then clicked to time and it was working. Now that concerned me, cuz I’m a true computer geek, wanting to know how fast I’m going, how far I went, my average speed, my total distance, total ride time, all that stuff. Without that I almost felt naked! Especially with today’s ride, I just had to know how fast I was cranking off those miles such that I could make a decision as to whether to stop at Council Grove or push on to Herington. So I stopped yet again and discovered that my odometer had been twisted off of the leads slightly – probably happened yesterday when I was making adjustments to my front wheel and the disk alignment in the rotors.
So got my computer back. I just decided to add 12 miles and 1 hour to the overall total for today. Pulled the vest off and got it rolling again. Now after the first hour the rolling hills began, and what with a rig that weights like 120 lbs total, these things were downright tough. I mean it was like a long ribbon, a sine wave that just rolled and rolled and rolled. I could usually see about 2-5 miles in front of me, and these things just rolled off into the distance the whole way. And once I covered those 3-5 miles, another 3-5 miles stretch of rollers unfolded again. This was just endless. Just when I’d get to the top of the steepest roller, and hope that I had a flat stretch, another series of rollers spanned the horizon. And today, I could feel the heat way earlier than yesterday. The heat was definitely ON today! So I got to the town of Osage City by about 8am and saw a sign for Subway, where I had already fantasized about getting a big 30 oz glass of ice-cold coke and water. But got there and the place was closed. All that was open at 8am on this Sunday morning was a little gas station. So I decided that I still had a bottle and a half of water, and I’d stop at the next town.
And that’s when the rollers just went on steroids. Outside of Osage City the landscape became just desolate with nothing but cattle ranch land and corn and soybean fields. Occasionally I’d pass by houses and farms and ranches, but generally it was just barren, lonely landscape – filled with roller after roller. And worse to was the fact that the wind direction had changed to a cross headwind out of the SW. So suddenly my gravy 12-13 mph average dropped to 10-11 mph. On the rollers I was just in and out of the saddle, surmount one, descend at like 14-15 mph, and then just roll right into another. No sense of rhythm with this kind of riding. By that time I had killed both water bottles and my mouth was just parched as hell. I was still dreaming of that icy coke and water stop.
Now I’d seen a sign for Council Grove, 35 miles outside of Osage City, and I’d probably covered like 11 miles when I realized that I should definitely have stopped at the little gas station in Osage. I also realized that Council Grove was my destination, because with the hills, heat, humidity, and headwind, there was just now way I was going to attempt a 90-mile day. At that pace 90 miles would take 8 hours! Which meant I’d be riding into the absolutely most heinously hot part of the day. Nope, I wasn’t going to tempt fate. And beside, I was getting to the point to where I was feeling that just making Council Grove would be one gnarly ride. Had to adjust my ETA into Council Grove like 3 times, each time adding more time to the mix because of my slowing progress. Yup, my ride had deteriorated into a survival ride.
Saw a sign for the town of Allen, 4 miles west. So I was hoping that I’d find a little grocery or gas station there where I could refill. My hills, more heat, more headwind, and the going was painfully slow. When I got to Allen, I knew I was in for a shocker. This place was basically a couple little buildings off of Rt 56 with some houses around it. No ice cold cokes here, and I was out of water. So I U-turned and decided to do a knock-knock at a house for water, but instead found this like garage where a guy was running an air-wrench. The gentleman, a 70-year old looking guy, came out after I kind of yelled to him. Asked him if I could have water, and he very politely obliged. He tamed his barking dog and directed me to the restroom where a single like tap and sink were situated. Told me the water was good – that was reassuring, and recommended that I let the tap run for a few minutes before filling the bottles. I mean my mouth was just totally parched, and when the water got cold I just downed three bottles worth of water, nearly gagging on it as it splashed down my neck and onto my top.
And he asked me a bit about my trip. When I told him how far I’d ridden, he looked at me quizzically and than asked how much weight I lose doing something like that. Told him just 6-8 lbs – ONLY because I eat like a small army after each day’s ride. That got a laugh out of him. So the heat had just skyrocketed by then, and the gentleman told my that it was supposed to go well over 100 today with really bad humidity. Said I had to get the hell out of this heat. And I concurred, telling him my intention was to stop in Council Grove, some 17 miles up the road to the west. He said I had a whole lot of “whoopty do’s” in store for me, with a couple being some pretty long hills. Just what I wanted to hear, especially seeing that my average was down in the 9-10 mph range by then. He wished me luck and on I went, just getting slammed by all those whoopty do’s. The wind was stronger and the heat was hotter and I was just beginning to feel the “wilt” coming on. About 7 miles outside of Council Grove, the whoopty’s died down a bit, and turned into flats and very, very long gradual climbs, but those climbs were just painfully long. This 17-mile section was just crazy long and barren of humanity. Nothing but cows grazing or lazing in the shade, or fields of corn, as far as you can see. It’s such an intimidating landscape when you’re out there on a bike alone chugging up hill after hill and see nothing on the horizon.
Went through both bottles again, but knew that civilization was within reach when I saw some signs along the side of the road for the city of Council Grove. Did one final long climb, went around a sharp curve and then there it was, like a magical Shangri La, my oasis in the desert, Council Grove! Rolled into town and saw a sign at an old 1880’s fronted bank that registered 104 degrees. Then saw another sign at a DQ that read 105 degrees. I mean it felt like the kind of weather I’d experienced in Phoenix AZ. Went straight to this little motel and booked a room, but the time being 11:30am, nothing was cleaned yet, so I went to a Subway about 4 blocks away. I swear I’d never gone though so much fountain coke. I mean while the guys were making my subs I was chugging ice cold coke like crazy. By the time the subs were ready I’d gone through 3 30 oz cokes!
Did 1.5 footlongs, saving a half for breakfast tomorrow, and then went through 2 more 30 oz waters. Now the AC in the Subway was so cool that I started to chill out, so I finished and went outdoors to drink yet another ice water and check my phone calls. I must of sat there in the shade outside for 40 min just savoring being done riding, belly filled, and well hydrated. Came back to my room where the AC was cranking and showered, washed my kit and then ventured out into the inferno to sight-see and to purchase some beer. I mean it was just scorching hot. I tried to walk slow and deliberately, but to no avail. I was just sweating beyond comprehension. I had to wash my “off the bike top” in the sink it was so drenched in sweat.
Been here working for a good 3 hrs with the AC cranking and while consuming 3-4 more bottles of ice water. I’ll venture outside one more time for some dinner. Now I’d wanted to go to a little café or pub, but I’m telling you, this heat makes me just want to do a carry-out and come back here and veg. I want to watch the TDF on Versus this eve, since this little place has the channel, and enjoy a couple of the beers I have chilling in the mini frig.
Tomorrow I’m hoping to make Salina, KS, but man, I’ll have to do the math and see what my options are. I just do NOT want to be on the bike past 11:30am. Heat is forecast for tomorrow just the same as it is today – scorching.