Tuesday, July 10. Hays, KS to Grainfield, KS. 76 miles of riding in 5:48 hrs.
Hung out in Hays just a bit longer than usual so we could get the complementary breakfast buffet in, which started at 6:30 AM. Got everything read to roll other than me putting my kit and helmet on and eating fully prepped to ride. Should have done that and I’d have gained another 10 min. But anyway, got the buffet in and on the road at 6:45. Rode out of town on asphalt for a few miles, and then I was back on track with the dirt. The first stretch was on that interesting lime stuff. It’s a fine lime dust plus lime gravel, and it kind of forms this concrete when it’s packed and rained on ad infinitum. BUT, has all these cracks and joints in it – actually worse than the worst asphalt road you could ride on. It’s just rough as hell – constant jolting on the hands, arms, shoulders. Like right now, sitting here at the computer, my shoulders feel shot, I mean sore as hell. And the other thing about that stuff is the fact that when the sun shines, this stuff reflects light like snow. So I had to put my sunglasses on at 7 AM because the road was so bright. But hey, there’s trade-offs everywhere, and with this trip, I’ll take those minor irritants instead of pavement with cars and trucks whizzing by all day long.
The “lime-crete” ended and then the road turned to sand after a bit, with some gradual rollers along the way. But gradually the terrain really began to have more and more flatter sections for longer stretches as I rode west. My gravel, lime, sand roads ended just a tad outside of Ellis, so I road a short paved section into town to meet Judy. Fueled up with just Powerade and I was off again. Now I had intended to do this road called Feedlot Rd. But the locals were telling Judy that it was on the other side of I-70, contrary to what my gazetteer displayed. I decided to go with the gazetteer and not the locals – and I was right on. So I continued on these sand and dirt roads for another section. This stuff was generally all flat, actually it’s more like the longest false flat you’d ever do, but it’s so subtle. Because in actuality riding through KS, you’re slowly gaining elevation all the way through the state and into CO all the way up to Denver where you get to 5280 ft in elevation. And I can definitely feel that sensation of always working even on the flats. You’re kind of gaining a couple of feet for every mile you’re riding.
So flats are actually false flats in a sense, at least here in KS. Met Judy at the second support stop and I downed my 2 bologna sandwiches, a coke and ice water, then off again. This was about a 15-20 mile section on nearly one road, N road. And it was fine for a bit until it veered to the north from a westerly trend, and then came a sign that read: “No Outlet”. Now I’d already gone over this route 2x, and never saw that this was not a through road, so I decided to just “investigate” the situation. Rode it for a bit and it kind of turned into what looked like a farmer’s access road – just like so many other roads I’d ridden here in KS that are public. But this one kind of turned into some dbl track that was filled with weeds and it ended at rolling gates that led right into a farm. So now the big decision: unchain the dbl gates and ride through the farmyard, or go all the way back and figure out something different. Well, I’d opened gates before, and there were no No Trespassing signs, so I went through, walked the bike past the farm house and the barns, and went right out on another gravel road. Done.
Got to my next turn and it was onto just this earthen dirt road, where the dirt was really thick and loamy in places, so much so that I could really feeling my back wheel kind of washing all the hell over the place. It was the strangest feeling with that back end just sliding around and feeling all flat and cushy. Uh Oh...something went off in my head telling me to stop and check the rear wheel. That just felt way too soft and washy. So I dismounted and felt the rear wheel. It was loosing air. So I kind of spun the wheel around and low and behold there were what looked to be a hundred of these little thumbtack sized thorns in the tire. Now I don’t know what the hell these things are, but they were prolific on my tire. I must have ridden right through them on that last stretch before the farmhouse. I mean I could pull one out and hear air leaking out of the tire. Then I could pull another, and another, and another, over and over again. The tire was a disaster and the tube was definitely trashed. Felt the front wheel and it seemed ok.
Decided to ride the damned thing as far as I could and then hope that I had cell service to call Judy for support, cuz I was in deep doo-doo. I needed to replace the tire and tube. Rode the pup for another mile before I was down to the rim. Got the cell out and thankfully I got Judy who was about 5 miles away at our designated meeting spot. Pulled over out in the middle of nowhere on this little one-lane earthen road and took off the rear wheel. I mean it was just coated with these tack sized thorns. Then I checked the front, and be damned of it wasn’t too. I pulled out about 8-10 thorns from the front and then I started to hear the air coming out. Now I needed to replace both tires and junk both tubes. Jude arrived in about 15 min, and I had the rear ready for new tread and tube. Did both wheels while Jude used tweezers to pick thorns out of my rear wheel. Her eventual count was over 100. Ditto for the front wheel. Got rolling again on new skins and decided to put the hammer down to make up for all the time I’d just lost.
With a nice northeasterly tailwind, the big ring and a pretty flat series of dirt roads I was able to slam through the next 15 miles to our 4th support stop. Did 2 more bologna sandwiches, a Powerade and ice water and we planned out one more section for the day, a 15-miler on pretty much just one road. Again, hammer time and I kept it at a pretty steady 14-17 mph on a sand gravel road. It times, and this was usually in the swales, the sand was a good 2-5 inches thick. So you’d sail down through this stuff and just let the wheels track themselves and then shift up and do these mellow climbs. All in all it was some great riding. Made our final meeting spot in under an hr, as the temp had climbed to about 89-91 degrees. Felt a bit hot, but really great compared to the previous couple wks. I wasn’t just coated in salt rings soaking wet. Felt good actually. So today I think I did about 73 miles of dirt out of the 76 total miles.Our abode tonight is this cheapie motel. It was that or camp at this cheesy little RV place with no trees, no showers, no facilities, and out in the middle of the sun. Ahh, I think I’ll pay 20 more bucks for AC and all the rest! Tomorrow should be the last full day in KS, and then we make CO on Thurs. Got to get the gazetteer and the maps out to begin to work on that one. Late……..Pete