Posted: Tue, 6 July 2004
JULY 6 THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD
We arrived in Chillocothe, MO mid-afternoon today following a bumpy 71 mile ride from St Joseph. State Route 36 East cuts across the northern part of Missouri - AND NEEDS A LOT OF WORK! The road condition was horrible, some said "Missourible," --even dangerous for bikers-- as the shoulders were chopped up badly, rutted, pot-holed, depressed from the highway by 1.5 inches and laden with debris. We had 2 cyclists fall as a result of conditions today - neither seriously injured - both lucky.
The day began with thunder storms and severe weather warnings posted until 8:00am. AbB delayed our departure until the storm had mainly passed. While waiting we watched the red areas on the Weather Channel radar move across the state.
Andy at Route Rap
Crossing the Platte River bridge (made famous by Lewis and Clark) only 9/10 of a mile from our hotel, I had a flat tire. GREAT! While changing it the AbB van came by and shouted "rider down ahead". After repairing the flat (the first of 2 for the day), I biked to where the fallen rider was getting attention--and could see how it happened. His wheel got caught in the groove between the highway and the broken up shoulder and he went down. Sound familiar?
Brantley at Mechanics Hour
We did plow on to the 45 mile point, where some of us had lunch at The Lunch Bucket in Hamiliton, MO (JC Penny's hometown). A full house of natives were naturally inquisitive of this "biking group" in town, but we are getting good at explaining our story. Practice makes perfect.
Tim, Kathryn and Mason at the Lunch Bucket
The last 20 miles of the ride into Chillocothe (Shawnee Indian for "our big town") was fast, riding on very good newly paved shoulders. Finally.
Chillocothe, population 8800, I was told, is now famous for being the town where SLICED BREAD was first made available. The inventor of the slicer machine, after many unsucessful attempts elsewhere, was finally able to convince a bakery in Chillocothe to use his device, the rest - as they say - is history.
Red Barn in Missouri
We have 2 "new guys" with us:
Ron (IL), a civil engineer father of 2, TREK 5200 rider, has previously done the western half of the northern route across America. He is now doing the eastern half of the central route. Makes sense.
Cliff (MD) is a psychiatrist from Annapolis. He has riden segments of the Cross Country Challenge for the past 3 years. This year he will join us from St. Joe to Erie, PA...on his recumbent.
Two big pluses today: A TAILWIND, and wireless internet in the hotel. It seems the 42 insurance claim adjusters staying here last month in the aftermath of the TORNADO, insisted on it. Thanks, boys.
Tomorrow we are leaving this area that is called "The Green Hills Region" of Missouri for the "1000 Hills Region." Is that Good?
Posted: Mon, 5 July 2004
JULY 5 HOLIDAY IN ST JO
All of America proudly takes a day off today to celebrate the 4th of July. That includes 26 content cyclists in St Jo, MO. I am one of them.
Tomorrow it is back to "work".
Posted: Sun, 4 July 2004
JULY 4 "WE'RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE, TOTO"
I had no idea that AbB's suggestion that we decorate our bikes for a contest on the 4th of July would produce such an enthusiastic response. Many bikes (and their riders) were outfitted in red, white and blue...boxer shorts, face paint, flags, crepe paper, you name it. All of us wore our Cross Country Challenge "Flag" jerseys. It was quite a sight this morning at 7:00 am as we rode through the quiet streets of downtown Topeka. We were the only parade in town--at least at that hour--so we were greeted with honking horns, waves and cheers from the sidewalks. All day long people acknowledged our patriotic look. I, of course, the keeper of the great white goatee, came as Uncle Sam.
David's Award Winning Bike (Pictured with "Uncle Sam")
Today's ride was 90 miles to St Joseph, Missouri--entering our 6th state-- and a REST DAY waiting for us on July 5. I for one could sure use a day off.We have pushed hard.
Ken, Bill and Mike at the Missouri border
This morning we were concerned about the reports of severe weather near Wichita, but we saw only sunshine and felt only HEAT. It was very hot and humid this afternoon for the last 40 miles of our ride. Those miles -of course- contained most of the 2800 ft of climb on today's route. The "ribbon candy" effect was with us again. We speed up and pedal hard on the downhill, through about the mid point of the next climb, then shift several times to make it to the top. And then: REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT. Exhausting.
Sometimes we wait
We rode through Atchison, made famous by Amilia Earhardt and the railroad, i.e. Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe. We had a quick lunch there and then crossed the Missouri River into St Joseph, MO, ("Where The Pony Express Was Born and Jesse James Met His Demise"). St Jo, a city of only 72,000, is 60 miles north of Kansas City, where we thought we would go tomorrow on our day off to see the KC Royals play baseball. They are on the road, so our options now include visits to the bike shop, the Pony Express museum and the Jesse James museum, followed by a BIG steak dinner. Lewis and Clark camped here in 1804, and St Jo served as the starting point for wagon trains filled with pioneers headed west. These locations are also marked for the "tourists".
Tom Kenny and Big Dawg dressed for the Fourth
A few bikers will go down to the river tonight for the fireworks. Most of us came back to the hotel following dinner to do laundry and watch the Tour de France. We do get reports each day at route rap on the day's Tour results.
Awards were presented this evening for best bike decoration: David (NY) and "fast Frank" (IA); best dressed couple: Tim and Kathryn (ME), and a much lesser "honorable mention" was given to Mason for his body painting. He came in ahead of me as Uncle Sam. I received no recognition...rightly so.
The whole gang on the Fourth
Sue, the nurse from Grand Junction,CO, leaves the group here after completing her tour. We pick up 2 "new guys" tomorrow. We will miss Sue.
We are riding at a much faster pace now. Meg and I rode this morning for a long distance at 25-27 mph. She is a speedy gal with amazing stamina. We all stopped at a little park in De Kalb, MO for a SAG stop. The shade and gatorade provided a boost, as did the sights here. The gazebo and some town buildings were wrapped in red, white and blue bunting. Kids on bikes came out to see us. The only action was at the fireworks store near the park. America on the 4th of July!
Posted: Sat, 3 July 2004
JULY 3 SUNNY, SCENIC "CENTURY" TO TOPEKA
Today Kansas put its best impression on our memories of crossing the state by providing a warm sunny day and tranquil countryside scenery as we travelled 108 miles to Topeka ("The Capital City Of Kansas"). The ride was mainly a series of rolling hills - endlessly undulating - for most of the day. We call it "ribbon candy." The total accumulated climb was 2800 ft---on a CENTURY day---, but we did have those speedy downhills as well. Vern and Brantley (our AbB mechanics) were out riding with us today. They organized a group to sprint for a distance of 2 telephone poles, then recover for 1, repetedly---again, this on a CENTURY day. We must be getting stronger.
Farm near Abilene
We saw the greenest pasture land imaginable. Magnificent horses and the stockiest beef cattle grazed behind fences near the road. It was not "postcard Colorado" scenery, but it was rich, green American farmland that was a pleasure to ride through.
Silo dressed up for the Fourth of July
Again we rode through small towns (Enterprise, Woodbine, Dwight) with almost deserted streets. We stopped in White City, KS for a SAG stop in the city park--complete with a gazebo. One could imagine a Norman Rockwell painting of this park on a Saturday evening in the summer. The high school band would be playing in the gazebo, while town folks would be picnicing on blankets on the grass. Pure middle America!
SAG stop in White City, KS
Big Dawg feeds the horses
We stoppped in Eskridge at Auntie Mae's diner for a cheeseburger, and again in Dover at the Country Store for pie. AbB arranges every year for the "pie lady" to make special pies for our gang. Any 108 mile day will be long and tiring, but today's ride was "as good as a century gets."
Happy Fourth of July
We are staying on the outskirts of Topeka, a city of 125,000 people, near the border of Missouri. We had seen virtually nothing of the city or its citizens--until route rap. There we learned something about the compassion of Topeka.
I had previously lost or misplaced my American Cancer Society (and Audubon Cares) biking jersey and was upset about losing it. Some of my fellow biking friends knew about the loss. I was not aware that my friend "Big Dawg" from Alaska tried to get me a replacement shirt by contacting ACS in Colorado Springs and Topeka. Due to his efforts, they read this website, learned of my ride to raise funds and decided to help. A representative from the Topeka ACS came to today's route rap, was introduced by "Big Dawg", and presented me with several shirts with American Cancer Society logos to replace the one I lost. I was speechless. Little acts of kindness....
Posted: Fri, 2 July 2004
JULY 2 EISENHOWER'S ABILENE
If we were engaged in any other activity other than cross country biking we would have received a "rain check" today. For us it was a ride day to Abilene, KS, 64 miles NNE of McPherson, rain or shine. AND RAIN IT DID! We had fog early, then a misty rain, followed by several hours of soaking, steady rainfall. When you're wet, you're wet, so after a while it doesn't make a difference, it just slows you down and of course makes it more difficult to see (glasses on-glasses off). Fortunately, it was a short day. We were in Abilene ("The Wickedest Town in the West") by noon.
This is our 5th day in Kansas and we have not seen a hot, sunny day yet. Last year's riders experienced 100+ temperatures---maybe we are lucky.
Kansas Hay Field
The obvious benefit of being in Central and Eastern Kansas is the more pleasing landscape. It is much greener here, more tree lines, more softly rolling hills. Abilene and Soloman, KS could almost pass for a Connecticut town; old homes brought back to peak condition, tree lined streets, clean and prosperous neighborhoods. The farms are smaller family operations, rather than the industrial farms of Western Kansas.
We rode Kansas country backroads today. What a joy! Only an occasional famer's pick-up would be on the road--we had the freedom to ride several abreast and were able to talk.
Gerard et Monique en Gypsum
We had a SAG stop in the snall town of Gypsum, where we celebrated reaching the official HALF WAY POINT of our cross country trip. A group from Yale preceded us by a few days. They are on a cross country tour--although East to West-- to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity. Mike, a local restaurant owner, came out to greet us at the gazebo where Vern of AbB had Krispy Kreme doughnuts for our celebration. We had a REAL celebration tonight in La Fiesta Mexican restaurant, where after dinner we shared the decorated cake sent by my brother, Chuck, and Jackie. It was inscribed: Hooray, Hooray, You Are Now Halfway! Thanks!
Cake to Celebrate Half-way
The group has lightened up considerably, for example, early on some of us were seen sneaking a beer back to the room in a paper bag. NOW, several brought $9.00 margaritas to the dinner table tonight. Progress.
Cycling into Abilene, the former booming cowtown at the end of the Chisholm Trail, I could not get out of my head the song: "Abilene, Abilene, Prettiest Town I've Ever Seen." It is the prettiest town we have seen in quite some time; upscale, with first class museums--especially the Eisenhower center which includes Ike's boyhood home. Very nice.
Outside of Abilene we were chased by a pack of dogs coming across a large lawn. Confidently, we thought that being good fast bikers we could outrun them. As they got closer we saw that they were GREYHOUNDS. The outrun option vanished. We were saved by a fence. Later we learned that Abilene is home to the Greyhound Hall of Fame and has a greyhound track.
I mentioned that Dan is making a DVD movie of our trip. This has opened up new opportunities for exciting cameo roles for some of our "actors". Hilarious!
On to Topeka tomorrrow in a "century" ride.
Posted: Thu, 1 July 2004
JULY 1 TOUR de LYONS
We had a short "rap sheet" today. Put simply, it said: Leave Great Bend on route 56, travel east 64 miles to Mc Pherson, KS.
That we did, initially in gray threatening weather this morning, turning into kind of a dreary, high humidity afternoon with "prairie breezes." Not Florida beach weather. In spite of the weather we had a very interesting morning.
Grain storage silos in Lyons
In the small farming town of Lyons (pronounced "lions") we had a pre-arranged tour. First at the Ranch House cafe we were given wonderful cinnamon buns and coffee by the Chamber of Commerce. We were then met by Neil, a local farm owner who also happens to work in a support capacity on bike tours, and has worked several AbB cross country challenges. Fine man, and one who went out of his way to help us better understand the Kansas community. He set up a tour for us of the local grain silos, a co-op of the local farmers. Our tour guide discussed with us the economics of Kansas farming, harvesting techniques, storage of grain etc., and the final sale to ADM or Cargill. We all came away with a better understanding of the risks involved in farming, the capital commitment necessary and the the relatively small monetary reward available to the farmers. But it is a way of life passed on to the next generation. It is what Kansas is all about.
Touring the Silo
We also had a lesson in pronounciation, Kansas style. We have been saying the word Arkansas--pronounced ARK/an/ saw. Wrong. Here it is prounced ar/KANSAS. Truly.
John (ME) and Joe (TX) riding together today began singing all-Ameican songs, like "The Yellow Rose of Texas." They were joined by Gerard and Monique (the French couple) who then began singing French song favorites. Quite an international song fest!
Small town Kansas
We also passed a chicken farm near Chase, KS which is currently raising 2 million chickens, mainly for Mc Donalds. Unbelievable!
Back at the hotel in McPherson ("When Success Matters"), I met Katy, a reporter for the Mc Pherson Sentinel, sent to write a story about our group's visit to town. She interviewed me for some time and I introduced her to several of the bikers. I invited her to route rap this evening. She came and was treated to one of the more boisterous and fun-loving meetings. Monique was presented the "chicken award" for her ability to communicate and "get it" in English, and with being able to keep pace with Gerard on the bike. I was then presented a pair of training wheels, following a fall at the grain silo. I got caught in a metal groove at the truck scale and fell---the road rash will heal. I guess it was my night on the hot seat as I also received from Tom (IA) a cap--a farmers hat that says, National By Products--"so I can fit in in Kansas". It is a CLASSIC farm hat! I wore it to dinner.
Tomorrow it's on to Abilene.
Posted: Wed, 30 June 2004
JUNE 30 "GET OUT OF DODGE"
The gang from AbB--about 10 of us--last night took in the Old West show in a re-created Dodge City, complete with the Long Branch Saloon, hitching posts, general store and a museum filled with guns and artifacts of that era. We read the stories of Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp in the museum, and drank beer and watched the staged gunfights in front of the saloon. Each evening, the Miss Kitty Show is performed in the saloon. They include people from the audience, and you can bet our crew took center stage (literally). Very funny evening!
Faster than a speeding train!
The ride today was a favorite of many of our cyclists. It is 85 miles from Dodge City to Great Bend, KS, but we had good cooperation from the weatherman. It was cloudy all day, therefore cooler. It didn't rain, and the wind went away. These factors, plus very good road conditions, really helped our speed. The bike path on Routes 50 and 56 is on wide shoulders, newly paved and clean. We sailed. We had one 30 mile stretch between the SAG and lunch where we rode at a constant 18 mph pace. The topography is FLAT, "Florida flat," beautifully flat for me who has done enough climbing for awhile. We were home early...even with 2 stops for ice cream.
In the town of Kinsley, KS we stood under a sign depicting Midway, USA. It is exactly half way across the 3000 mile continent. BUT, it is not halfway for our bike trip---our route is 3800 miles. Oh well, in a few days we will be at our halfway point--but what's the hurry, we are enjoying it.
Joe, Mason, Meg and Bill at Midway
This is truly the part of our country that puts food on our tables. Massive farmlands on both sides of the road reach to the horizon. Meg, a fellow rider from Myrtle Beach, may yet talk us into making "crop circles" in the wheat fields. The corn here is 6 feet high. And the cattle and the grain silos--everywhere.
The small farm towns we cycled through: Wright, Spearville, Kinsley, Larned - all looked similar. Directions to anywhere in town required a turn at THE light (singular). We followed the Arkansas River and the Santa Fe Trail right into Great Bend, KS ("Heart of Kansas"), a city named for the great bend of the River here.
On the Santa Fe Trail
The AbB staff has given us the lecture on what to do in case of tornado warnings and electical storms. Good safety tips in this part of the country.
Yesterday, Brantley, one of our mechanics, replaced my chain and cleaned the cassette (back gears) on my TREK. I have 3500 miles on this 3 1/2 month old bike already. It was time for a tune-up. Today it was as smooth as new.
You learn more about your fellow riders each day. I learned that Steve (CO) has climbed 28 of Colorado's 54 "fourteeners" (14000 ft mountains). AND that he and his brother-in-law Dennis (MA), he of Mt Washington climb fame, went together to Tanzania in 2000 and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro! I also learned that Kathryn (ME) has completed 11 marathons. It is a physically fit group!
ATTENTION WEIGHT WATCHERS:
Steve also carries a computer and heart rate monitor each day. It can measure "calories consumed," by a formula of body weight, distance travelled, and heart rate over the course of the day's ride. His numbers show 5000 to 6000 calories per day consumed on one of our rides. Bike ride, anyone?
Posted: Tue, 29 June 2004
JUNE 29 WALK WHERE WYATT EARP WALKED
We all looked forward to today. The long "century" rides were over for awhile. We anticipated an "easy" ride day and some free time this afternoon, since we had only 51 miles to bike. And, we looked forward to our next destination town: DODGE CITY, KANSAS where we knew we could "walk where Wyatt Earp walked," and "drink a cold one in the Long Branch saloon with Miss Kitty."
Dodge City ("Living the legend of the Old West") offers the Boot Hill Museum, a real stage coach ride,and the opportunity to witness an Old West gunfight! It is located on the old Santa Fe Trail, which we visited to photograph the "actual" ruts made by wagon trains and stage coaches.
Long Branch Saloon
It was an overcast morning with persistant SE winds. Knowing that we had a short ride and some interesting stops along the way was a big lift to us all and made the wind seem less of a factor.
John (ME), who I really enjoy riding with, told me that he had chosen this particular cross country ride "because it is West to East--going with the prevailing winds". Of course, we have not experienced that yet. So today, following some partying last night, he said, "Bill I don't think I've got much wind fight left!" I laughed knowing he's got plenty left.
We rode route 50 East through the farms and towns of Gray County ("Helping to feed the world" is on the sign). Huge farms with hay, wheat and corn crops and CATTLE were in our sights all morning. We stopped at a cattle feed lot with a capacity of 50,000 head. The cattle are kept in large corrals where they are fed from troughs. The troughs are filled by passing trucks dumping feed into them as they drive slowly past. A complete automated process to fatten our beef before slaughter. AbB informed us we will be eating Chinese food tonight, rather than at a steakhouse. I guess we were just exposed to too much "pre-steak" today to be able to enjoy it tonight.
Kansas cattle feed lot
At the SAG stop under the tall water tower in Ingalls, KS we were all gathered drinking Gatorade, joking around, and eating left-over birthday cake from Mason's party. A young local boy rode up on his bike to see us. He saw all the bikes and all of us--- and with a big smile asked where we were going. I said "We are going to Maine, wanna go? His eyes lit up, and he said," Wait, I'll go ask my mom!" and quickly rode off. I hope he (or his mom) are not too disappointed that we left Ingalls without him.
Tonight we are going to the Long Branch Saloon to see the Miss Kitty Show. Sasparilla anyone?
Posted: Mon, 28 June 2004
JUNE 28 LET THE CORN BEGIN
The ride today took us 104 miles from Lamar, Co to Garden City, KS ("It's worth the trip"--according to the sign as you enter town).
This morning, having completed a long 125 mile ride yesterday and contemplating another "century" ride today, we were mostly concerned with the WEATHER. Arriving too early for breakfast in the motel, the manager let me watch The Weather Channel on his office TV. I didn't like what I saw. It had rained in the night and it was a miserable gray sky greeting us this morning. The forecast said rain likely, but more importantly--WINDS--NE at 7 to 10 mph. Bad News!
The wind was in our face all day, and for all 104 miles that took about 9 hours to complete.The wind drains you of energy, slows you considerably and works on your psyche.
We did pace lines again, which helped, but in the end you just have to keep pedaling. Hard work.
The good news is we completed back-to-back century rides. We crossed into Kansas--our 5th state, and are now on central time.
We are becoming very familiar with the cattle industry: its feed yards, its cattle trucks, its odors, its packing plants etc. We also saw miles and miles of corn fields, hay fields, wheat fields--some even with operating oil or gas rigs. We passed by the former Camp Amache, a retention camp for Japanese-Americans during WWII. Lunch was in the town of Syracuse, KS, filled with grain silos and a subway sandwich shop. At a pizza shop in town some of our boys were interviewed by the local newspaper about our cross country trip. They gave her information about this website, we will see what happens.
Today is Mason's 29th birthday. We arrived together at the motel in Garden City to signs, and a cake and brownies sent by his family.
After dinner we had a party with most of our gang attending in the small saloon attached to the Day's Inn. His parents had also set up a bar tab--Great Gift! After smoothing things over with the locals, he played on the juke box--over and over again-- the song, "Dust In The Wind" by Kansas. Perfect!
Posted: Sun, 27 June 2004
JUNE 27 LUGGIN' IT TO LAMAR
And on the 22nd day there was rain. LOTS OF RAIN! A totally drenching, soaking rain as we approached the town of Las Animas and crossed the Santa Fe Trail.
I asked the sheriff of Bent County, CO who had stopped at our SAG outside of Hasty, what "Las Animas" meant. He said, "city of lost souls," as it is located on the Purgatory River. (You just cannot make this stuff up).
We all looked like dripping wet lost souls as we finally found shelter (and food) at the Dairy Queen in Las Animas.
We saw the storm coming and we knew that yesterday the winds were clocked at 50/60 mph with 3 inches of rainfall. We were headed directly into it on Route 50. Approaching cars had their headlights on and were wet. Our only preparation, as we biked in totally open farm country, was to put our cameras etc. in plastic bags. We got hit hard by the rain for several miles. Only Mason seemed content. I guess Army Ranger school teaches them to love adversity. We rode into town with rooster tails flying high behind the bikes.
Up until the rain came at about 11:30, we were having a great day. We were at the 85 mile marker at what was to be a 121 mile trek to Lamar, CO. It is the L O N G E S T mileage day of our journey. We were making great time with great average speed of about 18 mph. We were in a 8 man (person) paceline almost all morning...just sailing along. The weather changed all that. The last 35 miles were against a strong wind as well as being on rough pavement.We stayed together and fought the wind, but it was a tougher, slower go.
We were never distracted by anything scenic! This Southeast section of Colorado has never been on the front of a postcard. We saw cattle feed yards, cattle trucks, and hay fields. We passed through the streets (sorry, that would be street, singular) of such towns as Manzanola, Rocky Ford, La Junta, and Hasty, which appeared almost deserted. The words: "CAUTION - Narrow Bridge" appeared 21 times on our route sheet today as we rode through this area into home base at the Cow Palace Inn in Lamar, CO.
Lamar, "an historical town on the Santa Fe Trail," population 4000, is a poor farm town with feed lots stocked with hundreds and hundreds of cattle at the edge of town. I asked the lady at the hotel desk if Lamar was famous for anything. She pondered, then said, "The trains still go through town every day." Don't you wish you were here?
The ride was officially over at the hotel--the 121 mile mark, but AbB offered a certificate if anyone continued on to reach 125 miles in a day. The 2 Johns and I did--riding through Lamar. The certificate is for "Double Metric Century." It will be my last one EVER, and it better be signed by George W. It is one heck of a long way on a bicycle!