Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 23 - La Cygne, KS to Toronto, KS - 100+ miles

yo yo, my friends. So I'm sitting at my mom's place in Parker and can finally catch up and type on a real computer. The text is gonna come flying at ya, be prepared.

If you have been looking at the 'route' section of my blog and comparing my travels to the maps, you'll notice I have strayed and changed it up a bit. If I already said this in an earlier post, I apologize...but my aunt, my dad's sister, lives just south of Wichita, KS in the small town of Belle Plaine. I hadn't seen her in nearly 3 years, so I headed down to see her. This change definitely adds some mileage to the trip, but I couldn't be more excited about it.

So here we go - Day 23:

As I packed up this morning I spotted another cyclist, solo, leaving the campground. The first traveling cyclist I had seen since leaving nyc. Panniers stacked up on the back. Handlebar bag on the front. I could tell he was a bit older from his grey beard, hence why he was getting an earlier start than me. I find I struggle getting up in the morning even if I know I have a serious distance to tackle. I'd much rather ride in the dark than wake up to an alarm. The sun is all I need, nice and natural. I mean, I have used an alarm, I just snooze that sucker until I the sun burns through my tent and into my retnas and I find myself more tired than I would have without an alarm.

The older gent and I crossed paths as I hit the only nearby gas station for coffee and breakfast and gave a brief, "howdy" to one another. I sat and chowed and listened to some old men talk about lawn mowers for about 30 minutes. They discussed blades, brands, lawn sizes, grass length and even gossipped about other men's mowers. I wonder if I'll discuss that when I'm 80 yrs? I can see it now, 80 years old, wrinkly as a new-born, walking like a toddler, holding onto my sanity for dear life, protecting my lawn from youngsters and just overall being a crotchity old bastard just because I'm old and I can. why not? that's probably better than giving kids candy, right?

I headed west. After 6 or 7 miles I saw the old traveler's bicycle parked outside of a local restaurant and thought I'd catch him in there, sit down with him and chat about traveling via bicicleta. Welp, as I stepped in, he was paying but I was sure to start chatting him up immediately. Dude's name was Bob, 64 yrs of age, retired and had just grown tired of staring at the TV so he set out on his bike. He had left St. Louis a couple weeks before and was only headed to the western border of Kansas, but still, 2 states on a bike is still a long effin way. I suggest you all give it a shot. His bike was well equipped for long distance travel and was actually made for it as opposed to my rig. He gave me a heads up that the Trans America trail was nearby, which I would find myself traveling on in only a few days. I'll be sure to discuss the Trans America trail in a later post - don't fret if you're not familiar. Bob took off and I sat down to another breakfast.

Full of carbs and calories I sat out to the backcountry of Kansas. It was hot, humid and windy, everything I knew it would be. I traveled for hours down secondary roads made of old cracked asphalt which = slow moving. Nonetheless, after sucking down all my water I found myself at another town watering hole much like the one I found in Illinois. And by this, I mean, the town vending machine. i downed a couple sodas, as there was no water, and watched all varieties of people roll in. Big people, small people, kids, adults, teenagers, but all dudes interestingly enough. I could tell they were interested in my bike and me but not enough to ask, but just enough to stare a bit at the thin man loitering.

I cruised into Iola, Kansas in the late afternoon, the sun fairly high in the sky, the temperatures sweltering. I saw an A&W and went right in. The place was so cool due to air conditioning that I was actually cold while chowing. When was the last time you went into an A&W? Anyway, here in Iola I ran into my second negative nancy while riding through town. "Sidewalk!" some dude sitting in the passenger seat of a tan truck yelled at me. I glanced for a moment and noticed two younger guys with shaved heads and sunglasses crusing down the street. I kept my mouth shut. As they got about 50 feet in front of me, the passenger threw his middle finger out at me. But this time I didn't throw one up in return. These dudes just didn't seem the type for me to mess with or insult. Thanks for the lesson sir. You really told me. Here is a heads up: if you wanna flip me off and yell in my face just stop the car and get out and go for it. Don't be a sissy and yell from a moving vehicle as if you were a sleeze ball honking at a pretty lady on the street. Dick. So yes, this was a bit unsettling to me, obviously, though. shortly after I was smiling again. I was rolling into a gas station to fill up on water when a dude in a truck looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. "Hey, Forrest. It's Forrest Gump!!" the guy yelled out. I laughed out loud.

I stopped in another town about 30 miles later for a light snack. As I stood in front of the store (as I do nearly everyday) eating, a man of about 50+ came up to me and wished me safe travels. I asked if he 'rode' to which he replied, 'i don't. but i admire anyone who does.' We ended up talking for nearly 30 minutes and he told me all about his life (the abridged version). I told him all about the ride and he couldn't have thought it cooler. I tell ya, it really makes me happy to know that people are appreciating this ride and not viewing it as just some way to screw-off and avoid 'real' life. honestly, I don't think it gets any 'realer' than this. I mean, you're out there everyday, susceptible to the elements, to other people and to your own brain, basically thinking about food and shelter most of the time. Vulnerable, you are.

A couple hours later after traveling down a pretty busy highway 54, I found myself in the town of Toronto, KS where there was a state park. I figured, 'oh, i'll just find a small market and pick up some pasta for dinner.' Well, this town was run down as it could be. Obviously at one point commerce was alive in this small town, but these days there was nuthin'. Store fronts were filled with old cars and old junk. Needless to say, I went without food that night, which I'm pretty sure my body could afford due to all the bull-shit I downed a few hours before.

The sky was amazing that night in kansas. Storms were visible in the north, while the south was clear, bright and beautiful. Fortunately clear over me as well, though it did rain a bit during the night. The contrast in the sky is one found only in the mid-west (flats) in this country. You can just see the different weather activity spread out over the land. This is really one of the high points of travling through Kansas and much easier to notice while on a bicycle. I really don't know why more people don't travel this way. All it takes is a bit of 'crazy' and a lot of 'stubborn'. That's it.

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