Thursday, July 5. Clinton, MO to Paola, KS. 76 miles of riding in 5:38 hrs of riding ending in 103-degree heat.
Crazy hot again, for I think the 10th straight day over 100 degrees. Got up at 4:30 AM this morning with Judy sleeping and me just packing up for an early departure. I slammed down a couple of bologna sandwitches and that was it. I just got on the bike as soon as the sun was partially up and got rolling. Today and tomorrow are forecast to be scorchers at or above 103 degrees.
Problem about today is that I either did not bring my KS gazetteer or I had not bought one way back before this trip. So we had nothing but the digitized maps on my external hard drive for KS road material - thus, nothing for Judy to use while I was riding. We couldn’t even coordinate where to meet at that point, so on my way out I stopped at a gas station where Jude was getting coffee and I bought a KS road map. I had to leave Clinton on the highly trafficked Rt 7 due to the fact that there is a massive wetlands/lake complex to the southwest and not a single road runs in a westerly direction as through. All kind of dead-end out. So you’d have to really go way south and then west to proceed west.
Plan was to ride Rt 7 to Creighton and then take what I hoped would be gravel all the way to the KS line. The route NW on 7 was easy on a mt bike without a trailer, so I was moving at a great clip. We got to Creighton in about 1:15 hrs to move onto CR B. Turns outs that B is paved (again, nothing, not maps or gazetteers nor google nor the digitized maps spell out whether gravel or paved). But the good news was that B was a nice county road with hardly any traffic. That I was happy about. The other thing about B was that it was just this long ribbon of road that undulated up and down as far as the eye could see – that as opposed to Rt 7 which was just flat and fast. Judy was kind of for me doing Rt 7, and I was quite happy to be out on the backroads and away from that freaking traffic. B reminded me of some of the backroads that I’d done in IN, just way the hell out there.
So I was just going up and down and up and down for about an hour when Judy drove back to me to tell me that the road was closed about 6 miles up ahead – bridge out. I figured that I could easily get through, but she’d have to take the detour. We went over the MO gazetteer and figured a route for her just in case the detour was one of those mind-benders that she’s experienced back along the Katy Trail where she had to go 30-40 miles out of the way. She went for the detour and I continued on to the outted bridge where I thought I’d have no problem skirting around. So I finally got to the bridge – or I should say the lack of a bridge – and all these guys working. So I rolled in real kind of laid back, walked the bike up to the dude who looked like the boss, and I asked if I could walk the bike down this big embankment and then cross the stream and then back up the other side. Looked to be something that I could get done in like 5-8 minutes.
And the guy was apologetic but said that I could not. Said he’d catch hell if he let anyone go down the ravine and back up again. Too much of a chance that I’d slip or hit some rebar or fall or all these worst case scenarios. And I could tell that no amount of pleading or arguing would change his mind. I was screwed. Had to turn around and ride back 2 miles to the detour and then take the detour, for however long that is. Did the ride back to the detour and then got on that, and the damned thing just looked to be trending to the northeast, which kind of told me that I was in for a massively long detour. Gave Judy a buzz, and I was really surprised that the call went through way the hell out there, to find that she’d gone 20 miles around on the freaking detour. Have to say that I was just livid that I was within ½ mile of reaching Archie, the town we were to meet in, right at the outted bridge. And now to have to ride back and waste 4 miles there and then do an additional 20 just when I was within a half mile?
Judy did tell me, while looking at the gazetteer that I may be able to take this township road – 355 – to get to Rt 71 and then get into the town of Archie. Either that or she was going to have to drive 20 mile around to get me and take me back to the other side of the bridge that was out. So I took a chance on 355. This was a nice gravel road that was so hard-packed that it felt like concrete. That’s just how dry it’s been out here. I ended up flagging a guy down to ask if it was through to Rt 71 into Archie, and he indicated that it indeed was. Fabulous! So I did the road and then eventually jumped on 71 and then back to Archie. That cost me a good hr of riding westward. Once in Archie to meet up with Jude I gulped down 2 bottles of ice water and had two PBJ sandwiches.
Next road was A, and this to was paved. So my choices were just not doing too well today. Route A went due west all the way to the MO/KS state line. It didn’t’ roll as much as B had, but it was still undulating, and what with the temps getting close to 100 and the good old southwesterly winds really picking up, any kind of long efforts on the bike hurt. Got to the town of Drexel in just over an hour on Route A, and met again with Judy. Guzzled down 2 more bottles of water, for a total at that point of 6. She’d fill 2 water bottles each time I’d finish them and put them back in the ice chest.
So the tough part, without doing any prior work with Judy on route coordination, I decided that we’d do the same roads for the rest of the day, working our way to the town of Poala, KS. My hopefuls for gravel on this section were Rt 359, Sommerset Rd, and Rt 311. The first was paved, but again, as were Rts A & B, were nice backroads that rolled like hell. I get a kick on talking to people who have only driven the interstates through places like MO and KS, where they think these places are flat as a pancake. NOT. The interstates infill the valleys and tear down the hills so the grades are just negligible. Get on the county and township roads and you’ll see that it’s a whole different world. Even the state routes (SR) are much more challenging.
So I wasn’t surprised to see the roads in Western KS to be just as rolling as I’d presumed. Got to the next road, Sommerset, and hurrah – it was gravel and rolling and just great. Did 2 more ice water bottles at the jcn of 359 and Sommerset and then let Jude drive down the road a piece before I started, that because the lime dust is just crazy thick. A car or truck just leaves this billow of dust in it’s wake. Got going and be damned if a truck pulling a horse trailer didn’t go by me. I got to the side and then pulled out my sweat rag to breath through once the dude went by me. The dust got so thick that I really couldn’t even discern the road in front of me. Not kidding here. Had two massive dogs chase me and a couple of more car/trucks passing me creating that billow of lime dust. I’ll have to buy some breather masks for this. It’s just so hot and dry that you feel as though you’re inside of a cloud of hot smoke. Nonetheless I was happy on this road way back in the KS farmland.
Made it to the next turn, Rt 311, paved, and this was the final 6 miles into Paola. By this time I was pretty much toast for the day. The headwind was stronger and hotter and the temp was just brutal. I kind of staggered through that to this cemetery I’d planned for our final meeting area just outside of Paola. How fitting to end the day at the cemetery when I was beginning to feel as though I belonged in it! I downed two more bologna sandwiches, an ice cold coke, and 2 more bottles of water. Judy had talked to my sis the doc just prior to my getting off the gravel road, and Kim wanted Judy to make me get some sodium in my system. I figured that the sodium laden lunchmeat would do the trick. I just wasn’t in the mood to eat potato chips or pretzels in this heat.
Rolled into town in the van and got yet another motel room to get out of the heat. Pretty frustrating at this point to not have camped for God knows how long right now. And we’re supposed to be in the 100’s at least thru this Sunday. My hat’s off to anyone who rides in this heat all day and then sets up a camp to roast in the hottest part of the day – 3 PM to 6 PM. Most of the day’s highs occur around 5 PM out here, and I’ll tell you what, it’s just smoking hot by that time. I’m keeping the van totally opened up (front windows down and all the vent windows open) in the motel’s parking lots each and every day until 8-9 PM just so the heat won’t get crazy hot inside. We try to park next to our windows so we can keep an eye on it. But that’s the story here – getting the hell out of the heat each and every day.Enough on that. Talk to you tomorrow…….Pete