Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 29: Riding in the abyss

Day #29) July 11, 2011. Council Grove, KS to Salina, KS: 72 miles in 5:34 hrs.

Whoo…what a difference a day makes…and starting mega early!

Woke up at like 3:15am. Now if there are any of you who typically get up this early….you’re amazing!! It’s like the “Dawn of the Dead.” And really, for a garbage gut like me, eating is the absolutely last thing I want to do at that hour of the morning. I mean I’m still in the hibernation mode, let alone in the chow-hound mode. But, I had this sneaking suspicion that I’d need to get going even earlier than yesterday. So I think this morning is my new PR for departure. So I was ready to roll at 4:15, and out the door at 4:25. Left the room key on the desk, pulled the door shut and just as I did I saw a flash and half a minute later I heard the rumblings of thunder. So there I was locked out of my room, totally psyched on getting a super early start and I heard thunder and saw lightning. While watching the morning weather as I was getting ready I remembers seeing a line of storms passing north of my intended route, so I presumed that what I was seeing and hearing was way off in the distance. Well, that’s what I told myself anyway, and it was somewhat reassuring ……for about 2 minutes!

Now it was dark out. I mean DARK. The town was just totally deserted and I saw the temp on the bank across from the motel. It read 86 degrees. Felt like 90! And that’s at 4:30am. So I got rolling, and be damned if a crack of lightning to the south didn’t just totally light up the sky. Then a crack from the north. And I counted the time between the bolt and the thunder, and it was like 20-30 sec. “Ok, dude,” I mumbled to myself, “this is either going to a great move to proceed, or a total debacle if I get caught in a severe storm. But I kept thinking back to that Doppler radar I’d watched not more than 40 min previous, and it just didn’t show a dang thing coming into Council Grove or Salina. So I moved on. And there would be these spectacular bolts that went horizontal to the ground, and honestly they just lit up the whole countryside. It was just amazing. An had I not been on a metal bike riding down the road in the dark, it probably would have been pretty cool.

Problem was that it was just so dark out that I couldn’t tell if it was moving away, coming in, right on top of me. Just couldn’t see. And the further away from the town I rode, the darker it got, and the more intense the thunder and lightning got. It was it I was riding into this massive blackness. I could only make out the road in front of me, and then in my rear view mirror I could see the lights of the town getting smaller and smaller until I was like out in the middle of outer space, in total blackness. The road surface was great. I had my reflective vest on. And I had reflector stuff on my panniers. So I felt good there. But hell, traffic was the furthest thing from my mind. I was wondering if I was riding into the heart of darkness and some kind of super storm. More bolts, vertical and horizontal, and more thunder, which was taking at least 20 seconds to sound after the bolts. So I felt justified in continuing. But by then I was miles from town and only on occasion would I pass a farmhouse. Most of the time I was just immersed in inky blackness. Then I stated to feel drops of rain, at first light, then moderate, and then it really started to come down hard. All the while the countryside was lighting up from lightning. Sounded like a war zone. So when the rain really started coming down I saw a little trailer with a barn, and I did a U and headed into the yard and over by the 3-sided barn, ready to dismount the bike and head for the barn.

But just as fast the rain quite, so I didn’t even have time to get off of the bike. Did another U and was back on the road again, still amidst all the lightning and thunder. Must have been like that for 45 more min – riding in blackness with thunder and lightning. The rain would come and go with light little bursts, but never a downpour. Now I have to say that I wasn’t like geeked about the whole thing, but I was in this kind of very aware state of mind – senses just totally on fast forward. It was quite a humbling experience to be this little nothing out in the middle of the plains in total darkness with the sky just exploding all over the place. And the maddening thing was that it was so dark that I just had no idea where this storm was coming or going or high or low.

Once in a blue moon a car would come by. Probably in the 1.5 hrs of night riding I was passes by like 5 cars. Most of the time I just rode in the middle of my lane to make sure I was not going to hit any gravel or rocks or anything close to the white edge line. I was totally relieved to find that the rollercoaster roads from yesterday, those pups were replaced by these long straights and very gentle false flat stretch of highway. I mean I could see cell towers lit up with the red lights, and these things must have been 10+ miles off in the distance. It was just super flat. That was about all that I had going for me what with the heavens looking and sounding like it was going to burst into anarchy. Kept a great rhythm on the bike, but I made it a point to not go too fast - just in the remote case that I’d come across a chuckhole. Slowly, gradually the thunder and lightning dissipated and I was left with just these little drizzle sessions. And by the time it was light enough for me to take the vest off the storm stuff was going. But man, that was quite an surrealistic experience.

Got to within 10 miles of Herington when the sun came up – actually it did not come up due to the thick cloud cover. Once it was light I could see some big storm clouds off to the north. I must have gotten the tail end of the front with the quick rain burst, but it was definitely a good sized storm to the north. Made it to Herington by 6:30am, 24 miles in the books, and it was still rather cool this morning compared to yesterday. That remnant cover of clouds really helped to keep the sun at bay for quite a while. At that time the wind was at 0 mph. But having done the Great Plains on a bike for the third time, I know that usually by 9am it can really get whipping, especially as the sun goes higher in the sky. You weather people can explain that one to me! But that’s generally how it works out here. Went a short spell north out of Herington and then got on CR 4, which is this awesome little country road.

Bad news was the rollers. Yep, they were back, but they were basically the “little children” of those monsters I was climbing yesterday. The rollers on 4 were small and for the most part, gradual. It was just a fantastic little country road way the heck out in the middle of KS. I stopped in this tiny little town by the name of Hope, at a grocery at about 3 hours into the ride. Got a coke and then the lady let me fill the coke bottle up with cold water from the back room. “It’s going to be another hot one,” she told me as I left. I nodded and got back on the rig to keep the ball rolling. Countryside, cows, corn, soybeans, mile after mile after mile. The rollers would stretch out for 2-3 miles, and then, just like yesterday, I’d get to the top of the most distant roller only to see another set of rollers going off into the distance. By 9am, that wind began to kick in, and be darned if it wasn’t out of the SE, giving me a healthy little bump from the back. And it was funny, but at 9am I was already 4.5 hours into the ride.

That CR 4 was just great, and I really enjoyed being out there, beating the heat, and getting some enjoyable riding in. Made it to Gypsum in 4.5 hours into the ride. Now I was going to get a little something to eat there but it was just so small that there was nothing really there. So I just kept rolling, this time turning north on CR 104 towards Salina. By that time I was paralleling I-135. And suddenly everything changed, from lonely and lost, to fast and frenzied. I was nearing Salina! Made it into town at about 10:15am. I mean my ride was 5.5 hrs long and I was done before 11am! Stopped at a Subway and got a super meat seafood sensation and just guzzled fountain cokes. Felt so awesome today compared to yesterday. And wouldn’t you know it but the heat just started going through the roof again. Round about 9:30 or so it totally broke through all the remnant cloud cover and just started roasting again. Just sat in Subway catching up on emails and waiting for the motes to get through their typical 11am check-out time. Then got a little place just south of the city, right next to a Chinese buffet!!.

Once I got checked in, I got going on with my work, and was listening to a local Wichita late morning news station, and the weather guy was talking about yesterday, saying it was 3 degrees off of the all time 130-year-old record high of 114 degrees. Yup, it was 111 in Wichita yesterday. I counted 106 in Council Grove. Today is only supposed to top out at 103. Did the buffet and now it’s super hot again. I’d say the hottest part of the day is like 4-6pm around here. By noon, forget about it. And from noon to 8pm it’s just smoking hot. The low for this morning was 7am, at 83 degrees. But really, in the early morning it just feels so cool, despite the fact that it’s hot. Go figure?

Well, I’m going to sign out. I think I’ve got an easier day tomorrow – like 50-60 miles, so I’m really thinking of getting on the road at like 5:30 or 6 pm, just so I can not get up at like 3am. That hurts! So I’m going to do the numbers and see how it shakes out.

All the best……..Pete

1 comment:

  1. Good pictures. It cooled down here in Akron only 75 degree today. Was 90 degrees past 3 days.