Day #33) July 15, 2011. Colby, KS to St. Francis, KS: 72 miles in 5:33 hrs.
Again, what a difference a day makes!
To bed last night at 8pm and up at 3:15am. Went through the whole “Groundhog Day” routine I talked about in yesterday’s blog, and then, at about 4:15am I consumed a whole footlong Sub I’d bought at Subway last evening. Didn’t believe I could do it, but be damned if I didn’t get that whole sub down the hatch. Out the door and on on the road at 4:50am. The temp was pretty cool from the cloud cover and the intense rain from last evening. Because of the cloud cover I didn’t have the moon for a bit of light. So I was totally dependent on my headlamp. No worries though, as it worked just fine.
Got on Rt 25 N to Atwood. And like I said yesterday, it just feels so different when you’re riding in the dark. You just kind of “feel” the climbs and descents. In a way it’s easier to ride in the dark because you cannot see the climbing, which is mentally pretty cool. The only way you know how long or steep it is is when a vehicle is coming from the opposite direction. Then you can kind of gage it by the headlights. So just like yesterday, this was probably the best part of the ride. It’s just so nice and refreshing at that time of the morning, and again, out here in Kansas, you really feel like you’re the only person on earth as you ride along in the dark with the vastness of the Great Plains surrounding you. I watched in my rearview mirror as the city of Colby just disappeared and then it was just me out there cruising along. Now I did see some lightning strikes WAY to the east. They were clear, but so far away that I couldn’t even hear any thunder. But it was pretty cool to look off to the right and see occasional flashes and bolts lighting up the eastern sky.
No problems whatsoever with the tiny amount of traffic at that morning. Everyone who passed gave me a whole lane’s worth of room. In no time I’d ridden into the dawn hours with the morning light allowing me to turn the headlamp off. I’d done a bit of rollers, but nothing bad. And suddenly I was 1.5 hrs into the ride. Took the vest off and continued on to Atwood which took another hour. I had a sweet little NE tailwind at my back so I was able to really get comfortable. Bingo bango I was in Atwood. Snagged a coke at the local mini mart and then back on the road, this time going W on Rt 36. Now 36 started out as a series of really long, gradual climbs, long enough to really put the brakes on my hasty pace. But today there was no sense of urgency since my estimated distance was 71 miles instead of the 91 I had to get down yesterday. So I was totally cool with just noodling up the hills.
And got to say that the legs were really on the dead side today. I mean no real problems other than the fact that they were generally lethargic and heavy. That’s just part and parcel of riding X-country. You just learn to keep it rolling on dead legs. Some days they’re deader than others. And some days they’re just on fire, and you can blast up and over everything. That’s why today, I was very cool with an easy day. Now had there been something closer, say 55-60 miles from Colby, I’d have probably bagged it there. But between Colby and St. Francis, there was only Atwood, 30 miles away. And I certainly couldn’t feel good about a 30-mile day, so I had to go with St. Francis. The next choice would have put me at 130+ miles for the day, that being Wray, CO.
So I had called ahead yesterday in Colby to book a room at this little mom and pop motel called the Homesteader in St. Francis, since it’s the only game in town. So anyway, on 36W I went through a session of these massive rollers, and then the road just kind of flattened out and it was totally smooth sailing. Only real problem today was that my butt was just killing me! Some days it’s no problem, others it’s just really rough. Now I know for sure that the problem has been that I’ve been sweating so profusely that my shorts are just soaked through by 2 hours into each day’s ride, so I’m beginning to chafe from the shorts being wet for the majority of each ride. At the end of each ride I totally wash and dry the shorts, and then two hours into the next day I’m just totally soaked – and that includes my socks!
So it’s a battle of the rump right now! And at the moment I’m loosing the battle despite having “seasoned” my arse from months of cycling pre-trip. Now today was the absolute driest I’ve been in nearly two weeks of riding. I mean the temps was such that my top was pretty wet, but my shorts were not soaked even at 4 hours into the ride. The biggest help was the thick cloud cover left over from last night’s storms. So even by 9 am I was still feeling relatively cool with Mr. Sun being hidden.
Most of the rest of Rt 36 felt like a very very gradual false flat (it was as St. Francis is 500 feet higher in ele than Atwood). But with the wind more out of the NE, I had a good little bump to the west and didn’t feel the climbing as bad as I had yesterday. In and out, in and out of the saddle like every five min to adjust my aching arse. I mean sometimes I’d just shift into a super big gear and almost “bike walk” on the pedals for about 5 min at a crack just to give the arse a longer break!
Made it into St. Francis in 5.5 hours. Now this is a very small little place. And actually it has 2 motels. The newer one hadn’t even arrived on mapquest yet. Pulled into the Homesteader and there is the owner, Kathy, with her mom getting my room ready. Pulled in and headed right over to the two women, and Kathy and her mom were yucking it up. And that’s when Kathy said, “I bet my mom that there was just no way you’d get here from Colby on a bike by 11 O’clock. And it looks like I just lost that bet!” She had, because I’d arrived at 10:40am. We all laughed at my speedy ride west. Actually it was a tad slow, averaging at 12.8 mph.
Kathy and her mom were super friendly and very accommodating, making sure to have a room ready for me at 11 am. This is a small little 10-room place. But the rooms are cozy and there’s cable, AC, a frig, and a microwave. There’s even a little desk and a couple of recliners in the room – all for 38 bucks!! Now the wifi is just barely able to pull up the net so I’m not sure I can put up pictures today. I even plugged in my air card to the computer, but I’m getting a whopping one bar. So it’s tough in that dept.
Did the shower and kit wash and then to the Dairy Shack for lunch. I was totally surprised at how good the burger and foot long chili dog was, plus I got some of their famous “Lewis Fries”. Totally satiated! Met a trucker who stops at the shack on occasion and we talked for about 30 min. Me asking him questions about trucking and him asking me questions about riding across the country. We had a good time sharing stories of being on the road.
Back here in the AC with the temp outside inching ever closer to 100. Think I’m going to take a nap and just relax for a change. Just getting too hot to go outside right now. And din-din – at the truck stop next door!
Tomorrow I’ll hit Colorado. I’m just 20 or so miles from the border here in St. Francis. I’m going to go north into Nebraska for a short stint to get on Rt 34 and then take that west. I’ll have spent 7 whole days in KS, and I can’t say it’s been bad. The heat has been bad, but the people of KS have been very friendly and the terrain is very awesome to ride through. It’s beautiful, intimidating and in places just downright tough! Never again will I think of Kansas as a flat place.