Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Revenge of the Killer Thorns

Wednesday, July 11. Grainfield, KS to Goodland, KS. 96 miles of riding and bike-hike in 7:23 hrs.

What a killer bloody day indeed. And I have to say from the get-go, if it weren’t for Judy I just could never had done this day. She was amazing in helping me out.
So…Up at 4:30 AM for coffee, microwaved chicken noodle soup and two yogurts and we were out the door and driving back to Grainland where I finished yesterday. Got on the bike before the sun crested up over the eastern horizon. We were shooting for me getting a big day in today with the CO border so close, plus the weather was on the good side with my starting temp at 58 degrees – a bit chilly to start but pretty awesome after the previous weeks. Got rolling on Rd Z and slowly worked my way back to Oakley on a series of 3 more gravel and sand roads. The 27-mile ride was just great, I was making great time and I met up with Judy in Oakley after about 1:45 hrs of riding. Wonderful start to the day.
Now the next section was the one that just gave us fits. I had trouble finding Rd 30. Eventually, after a few blunders I got that one right and then turned on to a nice gravel road by the name of F. Now this is where the fun started. I was looking for Rd 28 within the first several miles of riding F, but I never saw a sign. Then I came upon Rd 27, and it was this primitive thing that looked like a dbl track into corn fields. So I turned around and went to hunt down Rd 28. Turns out it had no sign and it was the same primitive road like Rd 27, just drifting off into cornfields like Fields Of Dreams for God’s sake. So I took it, got about a mile down and it hit a swale and was just swamped with water. I mean it was like a pond that spread out to cover corn field and the primitive road. Tried to go around it but the field was just a massive mud-pit, so I was forced to turn around and ride back to Rd 27 and give that one a try. This one had no swale and no pond, but it was rough as hell, and a couple miles in be damned if I didn’t begin to see those freaking thumbtack thorns in my tires – AGAIN!!!!! Man, I was just bummed big time. So I used my hand to run over the tires and knock off all the thorns as I rode. It felt as though I was riding on borrowed time.
         I was just dreading another session of tire changing like yesterday. So I kept a vigil on the tires kind of looking down and back constantly and then holding my hands lightly on the tires to knock off the thorns while riding. Eventually the road just turned to dbl track through weeds – right where all these freaking thorns seemed to be coming from. So I had no choice but to shoulder the bike and bike-a-hike for 1.5-2 miles to the next road junction. Seemed as though all the earthen roads had the best chance of the thorns and the gravel and sand were safe. So I was hoping to jcn with a gravel road in my next set of directions and get the hell off of the earthen stuff with the thorns. Well, that strategy went to hell quickly. When I finally came to a jcn that was sand I remounted and rode for a few miles until that road deteriorated into another section of dbl track earthen road with grasses on it. I just ended up jumping from road to road trying to get on something that was gravel or sand – the whole time cleaning my tires with my hands as I rode. That was a solid 30 miles of madness.
         Now I did end up getting several thorns in my fingers as I cleaned and my fingers were getting rubbed raw, but I just didn’t want Judy driving down those roads that were barely passable on a bike to rescue me. Gave her a call and we talked, with her looking at the gazetteer in the van and kind of telling me what went where and what looked like the best route to meet up with her seeing that my route choices were just turning into “Thorn Roads From Hell”. I used one of the roads that she gave me, and winged it with a few others. Seemed as though this particular area in Western Kansas was just nothing but these primitive farm access roads. The whole while I was doing the thorn vigil as I was riding and constantly dropping my hands down to knock off the thorns as I saw them on the tires. It was maddening for sure. Many of the roads in this area were not even signed, so I’d just guess where I was at based on the signs I did see.
         After what seemed like forever I got on the final road – Rd K – and followed that to meet Judy at the jcn of K and 24. Man was I glad I’d made it with no flats, but both Judy and I were picking the thorns out of the tires as I downed a Powerade and ate 2 sandwiches. Seems that I didn’t run over the whole plant – which I still don’t know what it looks like – but that I ran over stray thorns that had blown on the dirt roads or had been transported via tractors and trucks. So I was safe for the moment. We did a skull session in the van with the KS gazetteer to find alternative routes to get up west towards the town of Brewster, that rather than use the collections of F-ed up roads that I had chosen the night before after a ton of recon work!. We decided for me to just take K west since it was paved for about 2 miles and then it looked to be a good gravel road for another 20+ miles. Judy took off and would take the interstate and then drive south to meet me where I was about 12-15 miles in.
         Got it rolling and once K turned gravel it was a good sandy gravel. But about 5 miles in it just got narrower and narrower and the surface turned to earthen – and again I encountered more of the thorns. This thorn crap was just turning into a total nightmare. Got the hands going again as thorn scrapers as I rode. I did my best to ride in the very middle of the road right on this crown where I was hoping would be the area of the road least likely to have those thorns. Made it to the next meeting spot and this time I had Judy just drive ahead on K all the way to an intersection where we’d hit some pavement just about 3-4 miles outside of Brewster. And that she did, driving nice and slow on this earthen road to the paved jcn.
         Again, I was still ok with the tires not flatting. We took the paved road to Brewster only because there was nothing left to ride on but a couple of those primitive earthen roads which were the same freaking dbl track through cornfields. By Brewster I had a good 70-some miles in, and the temp was up in the 90-degree range. But still, it really didn’t feel too bad. Jude made me 2 pbj sandwiches and I downed an ice cold coke and another quart of Powerade. We had 20 miles or so to Goodland, and I wasn’t quite sure if I could pull it off, so I had Judy go back on the interstate and then meet me at a town called Edson, about 9 miles west of Brewster. I’d take a chance on another gravel or whatever road by the name of Rd 64. Man, I was just praying that I’d get gravel and not earthen.
         I was in luck, 64 was sandy gravel, and I was able to just put it down. Got to Edson and did a quart of ice water and sent Judy into Goodland while I finished the day by riding the final 12 or so miles. Hammered it the whole way. We got a 50-dollar motel in town – a quite nice little place – and I feel relieved that I was able to get this day in the bag. I’m still checking my tires every 15 min to see if they’re slowly leaking. So that’s the scoop on today. Managed to do about 85 or so miles all gravel, sand or earth and 5-10 miles of pavement. We’re now in MT time, and we’re about 13 miles from the CO border. Now CO looks to be a real toughie for the dirt and gravel – a lot of jibbing and jabbing up and down to go west – so I think we have our work cut out for us. Well, that’s it. Time to chill for a bit with a cold beer!

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