Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 31: Ride with the wind

Day #31) July 13, 2011. Wilson, KS to Wakeeney, KS: 82 miles in 5:41 hrs.

Hit the little pub last night in the downstairs of the Midland Hotel, the Sample Room Tavern, and it was just way too cool – cozy little bar and great atmosphere. Ending up having a burger and fries and a couple of beers. The young lady at the bar was telling me about the hotel and pub, which her parents own and have totally renovated. The burger was just super good and the beers tasted wonderful. But I had to hit it early so I could be on the road early again. So I was back in my room before 7pm. Got to tell you that this little hotel and pub is a real keeper. I rank it right up there with my stay at the cabin in Augusta, MO. Would have to love to hang for another day, but got to keep it rolling.

The hotel folks had made it a point to set out a fruit platter, Danish platter and hot coffee for me out in the lobby in the morning since I was going to be leaving 1.5 hours before the breakfast hour at 7am. That was very nice, and it really was great to wander out into the lobby at 4:30am to get some hot coffee and breakfast. The forecast was for a fairly cool day today – 100 degrees – with winds out of the SE, so I’d almost made it my total focus to get to Wakeeney instead of just settle for Hays. Now of course if I was feeling like *&^&$^# then it was Hays. If I had the gas and the situation was right I’d go for broke and do Wakeeney. So I got on the road at just before 5:30am. This morning I added my trusty headlamp to the nightriding menu.

Got going and on the way out of town I saw that the bank’s digital sign that had a temp reading of 74 degrees, very nice compared to the previous couple of days. My ride to the next town of Dorrance was just tremendous – cool morning, great super flat road, and good road conditions. I think there was like 2 cars who passed me the whole time. With the headlamp I could look down and watch my nighriding mph, which I noticed just kept going up as I warmed into the ride. By the time I’d gotten to Dorrance I was rolling at a very comfortable 13 mph. Knocked Dorrance off in about 30 min, and then the road kind of turned into a real country road out in the middle of nowhere – Old US 40. In another 30 min the sun had risen, so I removed the light and vest and really started to put some push into the pedal strokes. By then the road snuggled right up to I-70, paralleling the interstate by as close as 200 feet. By damn, it was flat, flat, flat. THIS was the Kansas that I had been expecting the whole time. And it was crazy – me riding like hell on this county road, and to my right was traffic just slamming down I-70.

Now I continued on Old Rt 40 paralleling the interstate for another hour, then went under I-70 and continued to parallel it albeit the I-state was much further away. Took this into the city of Russell. During that time the wind continued to pick up, giving me this wonderful little SE cross tailwind. That just fanned the flames, and I was able to get the speed up to the 14-18mph range, probably my fastest pace thus far. God it felt amazing to be able to ride that fast with such a monstrous rig. So I think I made Russell by 7am, which was making me think that Wakeeney was a very good possibility. Got through Russell, and again, flat, flat, flat coupled with a super nice little 10mph SE cross tailwind. I was just flying! So you go into a city, ride for like 10 min, exit the city and then you’re right back there out in the middle of no man’s land. It’s crazy how fast the transition is.

Between Russell and Hays I was doing sections that just blew me away. I mean I was doing 18-20 mph. Wind aided – you bet!! And by gosh, going east to west, that’s a gift to savor. And it was then and there that I decided that I had to ride that train all the way to Wakeeney. Can’t waste a good tailwind like that. Add to that that as I rolled through Russell I saw a few time and temp signs that gave a temp of just 82 degrees: Pretty damned cool compared to the past days. Got to Hays before 9am, and at this point I’d done 50+ miles in under 3.5 hours. Wakeeney here I come!

The ride to Hays was just a screamer, as the wind picked up ever so slightly and I applied more pressure to the pedals ever so slightly. By then I was doing a solid Z3. Made it to Ellis in like one hour, and that was covering about 16 miles. In Ellis I stopped at a grocery for a coke and a couple of nectarines. Just pounded them asap because I was afraid that the wind would change direction. Hell, out here, you just never know. One minute the wind is out of the east. The next minute it’s out of the west. Had to roll. So I got going down Old 40 and ran into a road closed sign, and my heart kind of sank a bit anticipating a detour which would cost me more time and distance. Pulled up to the workers and asked if I could proceed, and the guy tells me, “ yea go ahead, but it turns to sand about two miles down the road!” Say what? “It’s sand down the road,” he added, “no one uses that road anymore other than the farmers.”

Ok time to get into the American Dirt mode! Asked how far the sand road went, and the guys told me that they though that it went 12-13 miles all the way to Wakeeney. Got it rolling and yep, after a couple miles the asphalt abruptly ended and I was in this sandy gravel. I had to pick a good line because a lot of the road was just loose, unconsolidated sand, and the wheels would wash very easily. Rode in the middle of the road for a while, off to the left, off to the right, the whole time just trying to stay out of the loose stuff. Kiss that fast speed behind, but actually it was really kind of cool riding that road. I mean there was zero traffic and I was way the hell out in the middle of nowhere. Now in the distance, say 2 miles or so to my right. So I ended up finding this really hard pack section on the left hand side of the road. It was like the equivalent of desert concrete – super hard sand/gravel that was graded by a grader and then hardened with the rain and sun. Hell, it was like riding on concrete, and I was able to keep it going at like 13-14 mph. I’d worried about being about to do 8-10 mph when I first started, so jamming that fast was just crazy.

I think the whole time I was on that section of sand/gravel two trucks pasted me, leaving this giant plume of dust in their wake. Kind of had to close my eyes and hold my breath for 20 sec as they passed. Passed right under I-70 to have it on my left side and then I started looking at the interstate and the signs, hoping that as I saw more signs that signified me getting closer to the Wakeeney exit. Got a very short reprieve with an asphalt section for about a half mile, and then back to gravel/sand again. Lost my little left hand side hardpack, so I had to move from middle to left to right, with the occasional washboard to shake things up. Then the sand/gravel changed to crushed lime – not trail type limestone, but actual chunks of limestone. Luckily it was so packed and hardened that it was again, just like desert concrete. But it was so white that I was nearly snow blind from looking down at the white road with the sun shining on it. Had to look off to the left or right and not stare down at the road.

The signs on I-70 got more numerous and then I began to see the Mickey D’s sign high in the sky and a Super 8 sign high in the sky. Within another 20 min I was there at the exit of on Rt 283. Got a little place for a pittance and let me tell you, it’s a loooooong way off of the Midland Hotel from last night! But there’s AC and Wifi here so I’m ok.

Did the pizza hut buffet, which is right across the street, then went out and got a few beers and some AAA batteries for my headlamp. Temps tomorrow is supposed to go to 103, and then by Saturday it’s predicted to go 111! So I have to do early starts from here on in.

Now the Kansas DOT is right next door to the motel I’m at, so I ambled over there and talked to a couple of the guys in the garage. They told me that Old US 40 was another 20 miles of sand/gravel going west. They said it was pretty loose and unconsolidated. So I’m going to shoot for 283 N and then go 24 W. Need another big day tomorrow, but I’m making sure to have a bail-out point just in case the heat/wind is less than accommodating.

Time for din-din. Tomorrow……….Pete

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