Saturday, July 7. Osage City, KS to Hope, KS. 74 miles of riding in 6:09 hrs of riding ending in 104-degree heat.
Day 12 straight of the heat-fest – days over 100. Today was just a total pain in the arse with respect to getting started. Since I need to get on the bike at the crack of dawn, we had to get up in Topeka at 4 AM, and then make coffee, eat, and drive back down the 30 miles to Osage City for me to ride at 6 AM. It was a ton harder on Judy than me. Heck, I’m already getting up at 4:30 as it is, so that half hr earlier was easy. But we got it done - much to the credit of Judy going with the flow right now of all these early riding starts.
Now before I get started on the day’s events, let me digress a bit and discuss my eating. And I go into this only because Judy thinks it’s freaking crazy the amounts of food I’m eating. Ok, so like the day before yesterday she said that I ate 12 sandwiches throughout the entire day, and is predicated on her counting 6-inch Subway subs as one sandwich each. I’d count a footlong sub as one sandwich, but hey, who am I to argue. So I had 2 bologna sandwiches for breakfast, four more for lunch breaks during the ride, three 6-inch subs for dinner, and 3 hotdogs microwaved in the evening. Yup, that = 12 sandwiches for the day. Damn, this talk is making me hungry already!
So yea, I’m still eating up a storm here. And for some odd reason this damned bologna is just the ticket for me. I have not eaten that crap in 20 years - at least - so I don’t know why all of a sudden this stuff is just tasting great. I have a hunch it’s all the salt in the meat (and I use that term quite loosely cuz I’m sure there’s tongue, feet, lips, various anatomical parts that I won’t mention, and organ tissue in this bologna stuff). But man, I’m like addicted to this junk right now. We’re getting me the thick cut stuff, which is perfect on good old Wonder-type white bread. Yea, it’s a hillbilly sandwich for sure! Yet I’m just jamming down the road on it.
Anyway, not more than a mile out of Osage City, I was on gravel, and I stayed on gravel for the next 4+ hrs of riding. Only got off course once, due to no signage, but that was a short blip that I was able to figure out. Riding the gravel in the morning was just fantastic, with the temps around 75 degrees, and the sun super low on the horizon. The crickets were still chirping, the birds were beginning to do their thing with the bird calls, and there was not a sole vehicle on the roads. It was just one of those otherworldly experiences where you feel your senses heightened. Having such a new and expansive landscape unfolding in front of you minute after minute, when you’re all alone, that is just something you have to experience on your own to really appreciate.
And I had that going on for a good 2 hrs straight. I mean I didn’t have a vehicle pass me until 2:15 hrs into the ride – and that was the only car that went by me that whole time on gravel in those 4 hrs! Now the surfaces ran the gamut on this stretch, from a fine white lime gravel, to dirt and dust, to heavy lime gravel, to primitive dbl track with weeds, cow shit and ….cows in the middle of the track. Now there was still just a boat load of climbing today just as yesterday, but when the temp is nice and cool, it doesn’t take that much out of you. Only when the temps creep up in the 90’s do I really begin to feel the climbing efforts, and then on the flats when the sun is blazing, it just feels like you’re riding in the middle of a frying pan. I’ve been calling the riding that occurs after 10 AM – Hell’s Kitchen. Those 2-3 hrs of riding are just tough as hell when the temp is 100+.
I could really only maintain like an average of 10 mph max due to the hilly terrain and the thick layering of gravel on certain tracks. I mean I good downhill gave me no more than 18 mph, but a steep climb knocked me back sometimes to a wimpy 3 mph. And I’ll tell you what, having gone 3x now across North America pulling a 75-pound trailer – this is WAY tougher than dragging a trailer down asphalt roads. I’m trying to match some of my rides out here from last year and I’m just not getting in that kind of mileage due to the gravel. I’m toast on a 60-80 mile day right now, and last year coming through here I was able to knock down some 80-100 mile rides.
So I’m on this one long, long stretch of gravel called Road 330, and slowly over the course of like 10 miles this thing just kept deteriorating into a more primitive road. Finally, it turned to dirt double track with a freaking cow gate on it. Now there were no “No Trespassing” signs, so I kind of figured it was the honor system to open and close the gate to keep cows in. So I opened up and closed and started riding. Rode down over a rocky stream bed, and then on up to road that I could only term 4-wheel drive material. And You could kind of see it go off into the horizon, so I just stayed with it figuring it would lead me to a cross road escape route if need be. About a mile down the road I’m riding amidst cows – in the road, or track or whatever you want to call it. And I’m like scaring the hell out of them. They’re freaking a bit and running in front of me as if I was herding them. They finally took a left back into the open range and I was ok. Made me wonder if I was on someone’s property, and then when I saw activity up ahead, some farmers working on some equipment, I was readying myself to getting chewed out for trespassing. But nope, I just said “howdy” with them giving me a wave, and I came to another gate, pulled the chain through, opened it and let myself out, closed it, and then just rode on. It was crazy.
So then I got on another road and stumbled onto this old RR grade that was the Flint Hills Nature Trail – and it trended west towards the town of Council Grove where I was to meet with Judy. So I took it. It was primitive for sure, with ruts and all sorts of gravel for the crown, but it was actually faster than the roads due to the fact that it was old RR grade. Done. Rode this pup for a few min and then I get a call from Judy telling me about this nature trail that she just found in Council Grove – bingo! She told me that she’d been told this thing is like 20 miles long, and I had to be about 10 miles into it. So we had her get on her bike and ride towards me. Now my section was just pretty low maintenance for sure, while her section closer to town was better maintained. Hell, I even passed a farmer on a ATV who was looking for 2 lost head of cattle, tracking them by checking out the poop on the trail. Then I had to go over two barbed-wire cattle barricades, massive rutted sections, an old RR bridge with no railing whatsoever, plus some pretty thick sections of gravel. But hell, it was flat and still much easier than the roads.
Met Judy with about 6 miles to go and we had a great ride back together to Council Grove. By the time I got there those 46 miles of gravel, hills and the heat had sucked some serious energy out of me. Got to the van and did 2 sandwiches, a coke, 2 bottles of ice water, a bottle of Powerade and just sat there in a bloody food coma for 20 min. Decided to do the next section to Herrington on pavement what with the temp at nearly 100 and an opp. for me to get liquids on a very regular basis from Judy. Tell you what, the temptation to stop right there in Council Grove definitely crossed my mind several times. I mean I felt smoked. Started out just creeping at like 9 mph on asphalt, but over time I was gradually able to pick it up, just a bit at a time.
Met Judy about 15 miles down the road for more water and coke, and then back on the bike for the final push to Herrington. Ended up stopping in Herrington to call various motels, which around here is harder and harder to find, to snag a place to crash for the night. All we could come up with were places in Albilene, another 30 miles northwest, or this place in Herrington which was a bit pricey. Decided on Herrington just because it was the most convenient. Got it together enough for me going another 10 miles down the road just to get in the needed mileage for the day. Finished in this little hamlet called Hope, 74 miles in for the day – a bit more than half of that gravel – in 104 degrees.Chilling in the AC right now. Now I’ve heard that the temps are to go down into the low 90’s for the next 4 days, but I’ll believe that when I see it. If that is indeed the case my life – and Judy’s – will be much easier. Until tomorrow……….Pete