Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day 30. Small town America

Day #30) July 12, 2011. Salina, KS to Wilson, KS: 56 miles in 4:51 hrs.

Gave myself a short day today cuz that 100 followed by 2-70-milers kind of took it out of my legs – that and the fact that my only other choice for the day was to string it out to about a 90-miler. In this heat and humidity, I took the lesser of two evils!

Slept late this morning…..4am! Oh yea, to get up at such a leisurely hour. Now I knew that I was just going to go a shade over 50 today, so there was no need to get going at 4:30am like the previous day. Downed three bananas and a piece of carrot cake I’d bought at the grocery yesterday, and a cup of java, and I was ready to roll at 5:30am. Problem was Mr. Map Guy….me…well ….I turned south on the darkened street instead of turning north, and the whole time I was looking for Crawford Rd. And I noticed the Subway I’d eaten at yesterday and it never even dawned on me that it was the same one I’d ridden by a day earlier. And I was thinking, “well that’s pretty stupid to put two subways within like 2 blocks of each other?” Must have ridden about 6 blocks when I just for the life of me could not figure out why I hadn’t come across Crawford – supposedly just 2 blocks away. So I stopped in a 24/7 gas mart and asked a guy pumping gas where Crawford was. And he pointed in the direction I’d just come from. So I’m totally stumped, and then ask him what direction I was riding in. And he kind of looked at me like I was a total idiot. “Your going south,” he answered.

And there it was. I was just totally “in the dark” in the dark when I started and somehow started riding in the same direction I’d come yesterday. So by the time I got to Crawford I’d just wasted like 15 min of riding. Crawford took me right through the middle of downtown Salina, and that only took like 10 min to get through. Funny too, because for as small is Salina is, it’s going to be the biggest town I’ll be rolling through for the next week. And in an instant the lights of the big city dwindled off in the distance and I was back out in the dark in the Great Plains. There was like zero transition. Once I crossed over I-135 on the west side of the city, I was in the country. Rolled down Crawford for a bit and then jcn with CR 140 W. Again, another really cool country road off the beaten path.

And amazingly enough it was just nice and flat. Like once the sun came up I could see down the road for miles and miles and miles (kind of borrowed that from the Who) - just rolling across the state of KS that way it ought to be – on the freaking flats!! The past couple of days have taught me that what I saw crossing KS on the interstate time and again, is not at all what the state is about. Those interstates just do not give you the right representation of a state or province. The true picture is out here on these backroads. And to my shock, the backroads of KS are hilly, at least until this section of CR 140. Take I-70 and you’d think KS was as flat as a pooltable. But let me tell you, that definitely not the case. Found out the same thing about ND, from last year’s ride.

So anyway, I was kind of thinking that I was finally hitting some well deserved flats. And I did …until about an hour into the ride. And baby that’s when the hills came back hard and long – just about the same kind of stuff that kicked my butt between Ottawa and Counsel Grove. Suddenly I was riding across this severely undulating terrain, where I was doing nothing but climbing and descending. Kind of made me laugh thinking that I’d have a cake-walk day ahead of me on the flats. Add a SW cross headwind and suddenly I was averaging like 9 mph – down 4 mph from my average on the flats. But honestly, I was enjoying the ride because it was just so refreshing to be riding on this totally foreign terrain early in the morning with the air fresh and clear. It was way too cool. Up on the sprawling highlands and hummocks were these big ranches with cows grazing and horses running wild.

My only concern was that the temps were supposed to skyrocket for yet another day out here, and I was a bit worried that what with my late start and now, with the climbs slowing me down bigtime, I’d end up riding later into the day. But I ended up doing ok. Got to the town of Ellsworth in 3.5 hrs, and I was ever so tempted to just bag it there instead of my intended destination – Wilson. I mean my legs are just ….well kind of on the dead side today. And stopping would have been so easy today. But part of me wanted to at least make it a 50-mile day. So I decided to stop at this closed down rest area, sit in the shade and check out a little local motel in Wilson to see if it was open. I’ve been using mapquest to look for lodging, and in some cases what was on mapquest and then what I’d find in town, those were two totally different things. Some of the places listed on mapquest were now defunct. So my decision was based on whether I could book a room in Wilson. If the Midland Motel was defunct, then I’d just bag it in Ellsworth.

Well, turned out that the Midland was still in business, and that sealed my decision to keep pushing west. Besides, I just wasn’t feeling good about bagging it at 3.5 hrs into the day. Fifteen miles to Wilson, and again the terrain kind of settled down a bit, and turned into flats and fairly long, gradual climbs. Route 140 just kind of stopped, and what replaced it was this Old US 40, which in the 40’s and 50’s was the interstate. Today it’s this little lost country road. I mean this road was like being way the hell out there. There were these huge farm vehicles driving down the roads doing from field to field. It was pretty nice. By 9am the wind machine really got going and by 9:30 the sun was up high and the temps were really starting to build.

Got to tell you though, I’m totally good with the morning starts and then riding into the 90-degree temps. I felt really good yesterday and same today. By the time I get done riding, that’s typically when the temps begin to approach 100-degrees. I really don’t even start to get thirst until like 2-3 hour into the ride. So I think this gameplan is going to be the ticket all the way to the mts of CO. Made Wilson in just under 1.5 hours and got my room at this very cool little motel – The Midland, an old 1899 limestone railroad hotel that’s been renovated - with an active rail line still just across the street. Now it’s not one of those $$$$$$ kind of places. Actually it’s really a good deal, with a cozy little room with a hardwood floor and molding.

Did the shower and cloths and then I just kind of walked around town taking in the sights and sounds of true small-town America. Not even a light here in town. It’s got one small grocery with really friendly husband/wife owners, one little bank, a gas station, a liquor store, and a cool little café called Made From Scratch. Funny, that is kind of little town, this is America. This is what the majority of this massive country is composed of – all these small little towns scattered all across the nation, from east to west. So I hit made from scratch and did their lunch buffet – salad bar and a Mexican themed cuisine for today of tacos, burritos, enchiladas and chips. It was good, not great, but definitely did the trick. I just kind of people watched and by and large everyone who came into the place knew one another. There were truck drivers, farmers, and even the local sheriff, you name them, they were there for lunch. Of course the talk of the café was the hot weather, and some of the farmers are beginning to worry about the lack of water over the past several weeks.

So back out into the heat, and by 1pm the temp had gone over 100. And as I was walking back to the motel I saw two cross country cyclist. The one had stopped to adjust his gear while the other had ridden on. So I walked up and introduced myself, told him I was cross-country too. The young men were Chinese, studying at Ohio State of all places. They started in San Fran, and had been on the road for 6 wks. So the guy asked me how far it was to Salina, and this is like at 1pm with the temp predicted to just keep going up until like 7pm. Told him it was slightly hilly and about 55 miles away. I warned him to get water in Wilson, because there’d be no water between Wilson and Ellsworth.

We took pics of each other and off he went to catch his buddy. Now I’m amazed that these guys are out there in the absolute heat of the day riding. Especially when there are all these heat advisories out right now for today. He’s said they got on the road at 9am. I mean by 9am I like to have at LEAST 3.5 to 4 hrs in for the day. That ride to Salina in this bloody heat, that’s just going to be brutal. Good luck to them!

That’s about it, other than the fact that the lady at the beer store told me of this route that’s just not even on the KS highway map. It cuts off a good bit to what I had intended to ride tomorrow. Came back and got on the computer, and once I set the resolution to like one inch = 1000 ft, there it was.

That’s about it. Late…….Pete

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