November 9, 2013

Something's in the water...(A Flint Hills tale)

Update:  Videos corrected!

Bout time, eh...  ehhhhhhhhh    /Arthur Fonzerelli

     September and October, for me, represent one of my busier times of the year regarding family activities - and 2013 has been the busiest ever.  I purposefully placed the October ride, therefore, at the back end of all the hectic activities to serve as a big stress reliever and personal vacation opportunity.  I looked forward to the Flint Hills route in a big way for those reasons - yet, no matter when I'd have scheduled this ride, the scenery, history, and absolute marvel of the Flint Hills region of Kansas is always worth the drive.  Nestled comfortably at the crossroads of the Santa Fe Trail (mostly overlayed by US-56) and the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway (K-177) sits Council Grove, KS., which once represented the last major resupply station for pioneers headed southwest across the great open prairie in the mid 1800's.  Beyond the city limits, the landscape hasn't changed much in 150 years - I like that.  Lots.  This was going to be a great trip - awesome weather on tap, if not a little windy... but, as I recall reading, and experiencing, several times along many Kansas routes:  "it's Kansas... it's AL-ways windy."

Cool temps, Kansas breezes, and no rain ... wow!  Compared to last year's edition, that last element alone proved most exciting, but, with the new bags and plenty of room for extra layers, the wool cap, and more - who cares?  I like being in this particular place in my cycling evolution:  the weather can do whatever it will:  Especially after this spring's brevet series, I am prepared for, and comfortable in, whatever comes.  Just get on, and ride!  First, however...a close second to a long bike ride... road trip!  I like a good, long car-ride.  

Weird scheduling, but it'd have to do; Glen and Terry came along for this month's ride - and Glen brings along the RAAM-wagen... complete, stocked, ready... sleeps 3 comfortably, with all their bikes and gear.  It's paradise on wheels - no lie.  Yeah, I like my routine, I like my space, I like having things laid out "just-so"... but, that kind of anxiety is becoming less and less of a personal issue as time passes, especially in the face of a 3-way gas-money split that comes in far less than a hotel room - a sleeping space far more comfortable than my reclined driver's seat - and the ability to get ready for a ride with a lot of extra time in the bank.  Heck, this place even has a shower and restroom inside... what's NOT to like??  It's new, different, and it takes someone like me a few trials to get comfortable... but, yeah:  the idea of an RV in my future is sorta making sense.  Maybe a VW Eurovan, with the camper pop-up.... THAT has popped into my head a LOT recently.  It's like the Astro van I used to have... but better.  (Unless Chevy made an Astro conversion that I don't remember?)

The RAAMwagen heads west as sunset approaches

The only concern with the RV (which is a smaller, Dual-wheel van-chassis) is finding adequate (and free) parking somewhere in town, which Glen knows all the angles:  easy.  We rolled into Council Grove with sunlight to spare, parked, secured everything, and picked a place to eat dinner.  Now, I'm a bit of a mess, personally, sometimes.  I've got a pretty narrow margin for error when it comes to food, being a vegetarian since '97.  That alone produces plenty of challenges while riding -- but, I really didn't start riding longer distances until 2002 - so, it's not like things USED to be easy, and now I've made them more difficult.  I don't like making MY issues and choices a difficulty for anyone else:  which is why a lot of people are consistently surprised when they learn about this and other things about me.  I try not to wear these things like an arm-band:  they are my choices, and I don't get weird or stand-uppity when other people make their choices in front of me.  On that note, I learned a long time ago that I don't have to limit WHERE I eat... just "what"...and it seems that even in small-town America, the term "vegetarian" doesn't make somebody sound like they're from Mars, like it used to.

As an example, we elected to try out the famous Hayes House restaurant on main street - famous for being the oldest continuously operated restaurant west of the Mississippi River - originally opened to serve it's first meal in 1857.  Now, this isn't a restaurant review - but, the food, service, atmosphere all proved great.  Good smells, clean, stocked salad bar, quick service.  All good stuff, but, the dinner menu is probably "$$ - $$$", as most charts would read for dinner.  I was excited and pleased to see "vegetarian platter" on the menu, too - which, for a state and region founded on cattle and good beef... well, I was impressed they'd even considered it.  Of course, with the ride coming up, I gave the vegetarian platter the usual pass-by, (and it PROBABLY would have fueled me just perfect... I need to get out of some old habits here.) and I chose instead the pasta-based meal, with 4-cheese sauce and breadcrumb topping...baked... yummy.  Now, this may have been an issue, but in most places it seldom is:  on the menu, the description included bacon mixed in with the breadcrumbs... but, that's an easy deletion.  Waiter asked, request affirmed, and delivered - no issues that I could see or taste, so no biggie.  I can eat anywhere, with a few tweaks.  Tasted like magic, good salad, tasty bread.  Desert?  Mmmmm, pie..... fuel!  

One of the old brick buildings along main street, Council Grove, KS.  Typical of the period, these brick faces serve well as advertising space, and more recently for interesting town murals depending on where one finds themselves.  This one, also typical, shows decades of building occupancy changes and progress.  It's hard to see under the layers, but an old GM/Delco parts logo on top of "something-Block", on top of something else occupies the top half, and a hand-painted rendition of the famous Coca-Cola logo on the bottom half.  Old-school Americana at its finest line both sides of main-street Council Grove, a great town!

Sun setting, Glen's camera looks further down main street, 19th century flat-front brick and stone with ornate touches dominate.  Long paved-over brickwork still peeks through holes left by hunks of missing asphalt - and, aside from the modern roadsigns, occasional neon, and abundance of late-20th century sheet-metal parked up and down the way, anything taller than 20 feet or so looks the way it did when horsepower was counted on one hand.

   The sun dipped as we crawled back into the RV and headed out of town toward the Corp of Engineers lake north of town, and their well-maintained campsites.  We had the place to ourselves - with cold air on the move and only a week until the gates would be shut for the winter, the place was literally deserted.  Only one vehicle came through while we were awake, and the highway was quiet and far enough away that we couldn't really hear it at all.  Camping perfection... and, another plus, the walls of an RV are much thicker than those of a tent.  Yeah, I know that's not really the point - but, it was nice to bed down without shivering... which really speaks about my inability to build a good fire, and is not really a bash against tent camping.  
Seems like, however, in either case - camping takes some time and set-up.  You can't ever really just "park" an RV.  Glen skillfully went through the checklist of leveling the camper, hooking up the water and electricity, and converting the tables and benches into beds and producing sheets and blankets from various cabinets.  I'm pretty sure that, if it came to a race, setting up a tent would take about the same amount of time.  So, yeah -- it's just another way of doing things - but, it's a far cry more comfortable inside Glen's RV compared to the last time I unrolled my sleeping pad onto a random patch of ground.

The night's sleep was restful, nearly perfect -- and accompanied by lots of yawning and post-meal lethargy, timely, as well.  Each of us settled-in, the lights went out, and it took mere minutes for me to drift off.  I woke up once, barely remembering where I'd been, and peered out the side window - which faced east - at the rising moon, a lonely, orange-ish disc slowly crawling up the trees surrounding the campground.  Pulling the shade down a bit, I drifted off once more - and that was it until my alarm sounded at 5:00am.  

We rose right at the alarm, and instantly the action began.  Bags appeared, Terry took off for the shower-house up the hill, and Glen slipped into the RV's bathroom for his shower.  I unpacked and laid out my assorted gear.  The wind was nearly non-existent, and the temps... not too bad... both items arriving as good news compared to the way forecasts had read the night before.  We'd all been quietly dreading the results of a promised tailwind on the way out of town, which would, by consequence, make for a long, tiresome slog back north into it.  Maybe this won't be so bad?  

Eventually, it was my turn for a shower - and it was an interesting experience showering in an RV... maybe hotel rooms are worth the cost after all?  I dunno... I can't really call it a make-or-break deal, because the water was clean and hot and it definitely woke me up, and I only had to move about 10 feet to get to it.  Combine with the notion that not all small towns have hotels, well, you get the idea.  All considered, yeah -- it's a REALLY small shower, as showers go... but, it worked fine.  I got out, and dried off, and got into the leg warmers and shorts.  That's when a coughing fit ensued.  I've never had this experience - nothing had been eaten yet.  I downed some bottled water at wake-up, but that was all.  Still, thick mucus began to boil up from below - feeling a little like heartburn - and, ultimately, things progressed enough to activate "the button."  The details will be held back - but, clearly something wasn't happy in Stomachville, and I still can't figure out exactly what it'd been.  Maybe something was in the water.... or the pie?  A lot of things are possible... maybe some bacon sneaked past my sonar nets, maybe it was a temporary bug, maybe it was just the phlegm triggering an involuntary reaction -- but, the damage was done.  The other unfortunate item about an RV; you certainly can't be shy or want for privacy.  I'm not sure if either of my RV companions heard the ruckus - but I'm sure it didn't sound all that good from the other side of the door.  Everything cleaned and sanitized, I emerged after a REALLY long interval, and proceeded to continue dressing for the day's event.  

Sometimes, if a short-term bug IS to blame, clearing the upper GI system provides almost instant relief.  In this case, I did feel a little bit more awake - but queasy, and like I'd been punched in the gut.  More bottled water, please, to hopefully negate any fluid losses.  I finished dressing - feeling cold and weary and not even underway yet... not a good sign.  

Strangely, I felt good enough to feel hungry -- maybe that was a good sign?  Getting in enough water, the smell of hot coffee and breakfast food filled the air and met with positive vibes -- back once again at the Hayes House.  Ok.... so, logic dictates that if one seems to think a certain restaurant may have been partly responsible for stomach distress, that one wouldn't intentionally return within a short timeframe to the same establishment.  The chances of my issues truly being the fault of the restaurant, however -- especially with a full meal-genre change -- seemed pretty slim.  So... breakfast, something hot, something OTHER than c-store food, still spoke louder than whatever had popped up in the previous hour.  

We met up with Del G. from central KS., chatted for a few minutes, and found our way to a table.  Del had ridden with us (er, me) back in April, as he'd come into town for the Oak Grove 300k... otherwise known as the "headwind of doom ride", and before that I'd met him on the "Snowpocalypse 200k" only a few weeks earlier.  His normal mode of cycling is long-distance self-supported touring, so there isn't much you can toss his way that he can't handle, readily.  

Hot coffee tasted great, water chaser, and a short stack of basic pancakes and maple syrup... can't go wrong.  Excellent food, and the breakfast prices are super-cheap ... great value.  With breakfast accounted for, we relocated to the start-area, and started to unpack the gear and bikes for the ride.  Waivers and checks handled quickly, and final layers chosen, it was only a matter of minutes before we'd be off, on the road to the Flint Hills!

Uh oh... this time, a definite gurgle from below after swallowing my usual morning vitamins and such with another small bottle of water from the fridge.  At this point, I was starting to get frustrated - but, the thought of NOT riding (at least starting) never really took hold in my mind.  I, instead, stepped back into the RV restroom - and the "evil from within" proceeded to "smack the button" once more.  

Uuuuffff..... more cleanup in aisle "B", I emerged again, this time feeling a bit more shredded - a  bit less easy.  Glen may have mistaken my groans and cumbersome for hesitation about the weather or the promise of the headwind... hard to tell...but, words of encouragement came my way.  He's a good "voice of reason" sometimes... and I continued my start-up routine, ultimately rolling out for the c-store only a half-block away.

Here's where I stop remembering things.

Now, clearly I know I was there -- I know I was riding a bike; but, my usual eidetic memory (with regards to rides - unless it involves skunks) seemed to go offline here.  I don't really remember the long climb out of town, the sunrise, or what/when/where we passed anything notable visually, audibly, or otherwise.  Things like the big barn on top of the ridge, a few photos down, were explained to me by my constant companion, Del, but the information came in transcendental waves, between jaw-dropping stares at the vastness and the clarity of dawn, and the heavy exhales of a man not quite at ease, physically, with whatever it was he'd eaten.

Here, the photo log is dominated by Glen's shots, as I often thought about snapping a photo or two - but found myself once again frustrated by compromised equipment... this time, wool gloves vs. the slide-to-take-a-picture touchscreen of my "smarter-than-YOU, silly rider"-phone.  I know there are "silver thread", touch-screen friendly gloves for phone users, but I file that under "really?  we can't stop for a second to take off our gloves?".... and since that's compounded further by being on a bicycle, I find it safer to simply wait until later for pictures --- unless I want to stop.   ANYhow.... The pics will speak for a little bit:

First, I need to give Glen a hard time for not setting the time/date on his phone after his last battery swap.  He,he... this isn't a glimpse into the 2007 New Year's Day ride, no.. this is indeed October 22nd, 2013.  :)
As the sun lightens the sky to our east, the flash captures the effectiveness of our reflective gear.  Here, Terry and Del sit only a moment behind me as we make our way into the vast Flint Hills region, only having left Council Grove an hour earlier.  I'm still amazed at the reflective power of the French-made L2S, Randonnuers-USA logo'd reflective wind vests.  The European safety standard is a little further ahead than our DOT and CPSC standards, and I remember prior to P-B-P in 2007 there was a mad scramble to get the Euro-spec reflective vests (a P-B-P night AND day-time requirement for all entrants - an event first that year), because the USA ANSI-Class2 and such wasn't up to the requirements.  Granted, I'm not sure the human eye of the common motorist can even tell the difference, as both the ANSI and EU reflective material is VERY bright, but shots like these seem to show that - wet or dry - the European reflective tape is just a smidge more intense.  I'm not saying YOU need to spend $$$$ on a fancy imported vest (but if you do, visit the RUSA store) - but, I am suggesting that ANY true 2"-reflective tape ANSI-certified vest is a good purchase for any touring or commuting cyclist.

I love the majesty and defiance represented by the occasional lone tree out on the big Kansas Prairie.  Today would prove no exception, as I'd mentioned before:  it's always windy, there is no shelter from biting and harsh north winds in the winter, and brutal, blazing sunshine in the summer.  I find it remarkable for ANYTHING other than native grasses and scrub to take root, and a testament to the tenacity of nature at the edges of survivable climates.  We randonneurs - me especially - often wax poetic how we can appear to stand out in the same way on these long, open stretches of highway.  Just as I view the lone tree's majestic standoff against its surroundings, I wonder how many motorists see us - if only for a moment - as representatives of the potential of the human spirit.  Just as I occasionally happen upon a long-distance runner miles from nothing on the occasional bike ride, am am fascinated... "how did she get out HERE???"  Wow.  If I might be so bold - yes, the shot above has yours truly as its subject - the image of a lone cyclist against the backdrop of a road extending to infinity, and a stark landscape beneath an endless sky... this is rando.  

More awesomeness, we approach "the barn" at the top of a ridge - which, if I recall, separates the rolling Flint Hills from the high plains to the north.  It's the highest point for miles, and looms like a monolith against an endless blue sky as we approach.  Del here would stay close-by as I continue to struggle with something resembling dehydration, exhaustion... whatever it was, I know I felt like I'd been shoving through the last 20 miles of a 200k... not the FIRST 20 miles.  I also, however, knew that it would pass.  Unfortunately, this is the time I crawl inside my own head... try to fill it with positive, simple thoughts:  pedal.  breathe.  pedal.  look around.  repeat.  Other than the situation that placed me in that particular mode, I had no complaints:  Temperatures?  Perfect.  Company?  The best.  Scenery?  Please.  What magnificence lay ahead!

The old stone schoolhouse (Lower Fox Creek School?), atop another hill - timeless guardian of the memory of a time gone by.

Whomever lived here had lived well - a proud property, now safeguarded within the confines of the Flint Hill's Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.  An awesome spectacle, and a reminder that all of this... ALL of our surroundings as far as our vision could stretch, up to 13,000 acres at one point, had been held by one family.

The massive, all stone barn and adjacent silo on the NTP property.  The three-story stone mansion (above) is out of frame at right.  Both were constructed of stone quarried near Cottonwood Falls, to the south, including (not certain if all or most or any of it is still in place) the once 30-mile long, 5-foot high stone fence encircling the 7,000+ acres of the original ranch.

The Santa Fe railroad depot just on the edge of Strong City, KS., near where Highway 50 and K-177 cross.  We were treated to a couple train fly-bys here as we cycled through.

The bicycle and the tree, near Matfield Green, KS.

At this point, my situation had begun to improve, the gloves had come off, and the camera is out.  Terry and Glen are "miles ahead" (really, they were only minutes ahead, just around the corner), and Del and I become engrossed in conversation and sightseeing.  Above, a BNSF freighter cuts across the prairie, as the railroad has since the mid 1800's.  Change the motive power to steam, the process to black & white, this scene remains unchanged by time.  Note the nearly-full moon directly above locomotive #3, edging closer to the western horizon.  The depth and clarity of the Kansas sky can't be captured by something as "human" as a digital photo.  I highly recommend making this trip for yourself, and taking a moment to stop and stare up into the infinite.  Agoraphobes need not apply.

As K-177 winds and dips around the landscape, the railroad must do its best to stay level and minimize gradients - the railroad's engineers and builders often faced the improbable task of moving massive amounts of earth, or simply following the landscape's highest line.  Here, many feet above us, another freight train waits for it's southbound companion to pass, as each must negotiate the same single mainline beyond.  The signalman, semaphore and lantern have long-since been replaced with radio, telemetry and digital control - but, the waiting game is the same.  Giant iron hulks thumping and pulsing with energy, spitting bursts of air and ticks of unbridled electricity, resting ready until their taskmasters shout permission to let loose the strength of 16,000 horses upon patient steel rails:  the soundtrack of 150 years of American commerce.
Friendly competition:  Union Pacific automobile cars on a BNSF train and line, crossing a modern concrete and steel trestle.  The railroad was here first, the bridge only necessitated by the coming age of the automobile as engineers learn to undercut and shore-up old hillsides to make way for the new "concrete railroad" - a misnomer to be sure, but an oft-heard moniker for the new network of highways zig-zagging the prairie, as the 20th century took hold.  Once nearly silent as the age of the motorcar ran rampant, the 21st century has seen a railroad renaissance in the face of rising energy costs aside ever-higher demand for goods.  The railroad will never die.

Built in 1936 - the railroad proved resilient, even during the Great Depression, with nearly constant right-of-way improvements taking place steadily and providing American jobs for decades to a lucky few, comparative to the scores of unemployed across the nation.  A railroad or highwayman's job was a proud badge - and still is today, in my book.  It would have been neat to see the original wooden plank bridge which this concrete and steel had replaced - but, such is the case across nearly all of the original bridges and trestles, which had already been approaching 100-years of service when this plaque was set into it's concrete.  This bridge, though iron oxide seeps to the surface amid scattered surface patchings, likely won't need replacement until 2036 - which is the railroad's design standard to this day.  Built-to-last.

Zoom to full-screen on this shot, and see another scene cut from another time:  Honest-to-goodness horse-mounted cowboys, at work on the range corralling cattle.  Only the power-cables in the far background lend a time-stamp to an otherwise classic vista.

The sign-posts are the tallest thing for miles, as Del and I pedal onward to Cassoday, KS.

Aged barnwood, some shade, and a place to rest - the Cassoday Country Store is a welcome stop.  Terry swaps layers and takes in calories for the next leg of our journey.

I greet the other half of our riding party with a hearty thumbs-up and a grunt as I waltz into the Cassoday Country store.  The previous hours have given way to an improved state, my speed had begun to improve, and the calories taken in back at Cottonwood Falls (which I barely remember having passed through), proved priceless.  Hydrated, feeling fresh, the day became suddenly as bright as the skies above had been.  Perfect weather for wool, camera pointing everywhere, and a spring in the pedal stroke -- it took far longer than the usual "just give it 15-minutes" mantra... but, things finally had passed.  Regrouped at Cassoday, Glen, Terry, Del and I enjoyed the comfort of the benches inside as we crunched and slurped up the needed grub for the next leg of our ride to the halfway point at El Dorado, KS.  The wind from the north, however helpful at that moment, would begin to occupy our minds the closer we came to heading back north.  Confident, and determined to not let anything get to me after having endured a tough 45 miles or so, I placed the thoughts of headwinds and struggles in my saddlebag under lock and key, and saddled up for the highway once more.  

All smiles finally - rockin' the full-sleeve RUSA jersey, and enjoying a weird cross/tailwind of increasing strength, the fuel on-boarded at Cassoday proves perfect as we eat up road on the way to El Dorado.  It's still very scenic here, but we're slowly slipping out of the actual "scenic byway" region.  No complaints -- it's a far-bit more scenic than where I spend my weekdays.  A little concerning are the criss-crossing rubber marks we occasionally see -- but, traffic is extremely light, almost all the time.  Strikes me this would be a "sleepy" highway at night, however - so maybe that's the case here.  

After turning north and climbing over another set of railroad tracks, we get the full force of the tailwind and begin zipping along at 27MPH.  In the process we zip across one of the arms of El Dorado Lake.  Last time Glen and I came out this way, a full-on thunderstorm raged nearby!  This time, full sunshine!  Never know what October will bring!

 A taste of high-speed tailwind-driven pleasure along K-177, heading due south toward our halfway control.  Good times!

After enjoying a nice sit-down at the halfway control, the headwind makes itself known, and the cameras hide back in their bags for a while.  After fighting for a bit to make up the former tailwind section, we ultimately turn back east and get something of a break.  Paralleling the railroad again, I'm treated to a coal-train fly-by while I try to chase (unsuccessfully) the tiny figure of Glen on the road ahead.

A reminder that wind-power is nothing new.  Nearing Cassoday, I grabbed this shot of gorgeous sky and puffy clouds, and then encountered a couple of long-distance cyclotourists, fully loaded, making their way west along our previous route.  Waves exchanged and such, I'm left wondering where they were ultimately headed... and couldn't help dreaming of a time where I, too, could load up and discover what else is out there in western KS.  A neat moment on the road.

Del and I, together again after Cassoday, we do battle with unchecked headwinds from the north as we (sometimes almost literally) crawl and claw our way back toward Council Grove, KS.  Here, we approach the same railroad bridge as earlier, this time quite a bit slower going - but even more gorgeous of a day all around.

Good news on the road sign - but the wind had been taking a toll.  We would arrive at Cottonwood Falls a full 2 hours later.  For some reason, spirits remained high -- but forward progress became real work.

Another shot of full sunshine, and a passing train.  Never gets old!

Passing Bazaar, KS., and the cemetery there.

Horse and Donkey.

Silver horse.

While I drop back a bit to get this shot, I'm reminded how much more difficult battling a headwind alone can be - but, after the trials of the morning behind me, I'm finding very little to frown about.  It's a great, great day in the country!  Ahead, Terry is FINALLY caught, after hours of seeing him just ahead on the road to Cottonwood Falls.  Glen is only a memory, obviously the strong-man of the day and time-trialing his way home, literally miles ahead this time.  By the time we'd reach Cottonwood Falls, Glen (according to the c-store employee) was perhaps 45-minutes gone.  Amazing in that wind!    

Here, after catching back up from taking the shot above, Del and Terry climb out a particularly long and windy grade, as we finally get Cottonwood Falls into our sights.  The shadows are growing longer, however, and soon we'd be resorting ourselves to finishing under nightfall.  (no complaints from me!)  The microphone noise and flapping reflective vests here only hint at the windy battle -- still nothing to compare to what we'd all endured back in April on the Oak Grove route, but still a challenge.

The Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse, at dusk.  Taillights on, Terry on the march ahead of us, Del and I settle in for the night shift.  I love this shot... almost want a poster-size version for my desk at work.  With nothing to block the horizon, twilight would linger for a long while, and it began to feel a lot like riding in the desert -- something I hadn't experienced since crewing RAAM last year, while we crossed Arizona.

I'm very glad this turned out - an over-the-shoulder shot that should have been all crookedy and wobbly ends up as another personal favorite:  that same schoolhouse, shadowed by the dipping sun, and its companion, lone tree.

After clearing Cottonwood Falls, Terry, Del and I started the last 20 mile leg back to Council Grove under growing shadows, and - graciously - calming winds.  Calm is relative, but we'd take any improvement!  Just as it tends to do in the desert, very little exists in the Flint Hills to hold in heat after the sun dips this time of year, so out came the layers from the morning to help us home.  The headwind battles of the hours from El Dorado had certainly taken their toll, and while I knew Glen was likely enjoying a cold beer and waiting for our return, I wasn't - and couldn't really be - in any kind of hurry.  The stars came out, and so did the MP3 player for a little inspiration on the final leg.  Low traffic, but some of the larger cattle trucks - resplendent in modern LED lighting, and representative of owner-operator pride - came out of the darkness like spacecraft.  Professional, courteous - traffic remained forgiving as we plunged further into the blackness of a moonless fall prairie night.

The Big Dipper, passing planes, and the twinkling lights of the far-off radio towers marked the horizon line, and Del and I pedaled the last few miles into town, enjoying the last, long downhill into Council Grove immensely, as the last gasp of gusty wind finally faded into memory, and the chills of the Flint Hills valleys gave way to warm streetlights and the smells of hot food.  Ahhhh, the finish!  Glen had retired to the RV, while Terry was found inside the last control - we wandered in, smiles of relief across our faces -- another epic journey in the books!

Take aways.... not many, aside from perhaps trading variety for more predictable restaurant fare.  Boring... but, it beats blowing choad the morning of a long ride.  The thought crossed my mind only for a fleeting second that venturing out after such an eventful restroom experience that morning would be a bad idea... but, heck, what was I gonna do?  A repeat of Iowa, day 2?  Maybe I'll wander over to Pizza Ranch... again.   No.  No way... even if it'd only been a 40 mile out and back to Cottonwood, I was GOING to ride.  I'm so glad I stuck it out... it was worth it!
What a great trip!  

Man... thinking back, it seems, already, as if this ride happened MONTHS ago, not weeks.  I long for the open skies out west... but, I've traded those thoughts, recently, for the satisfying crunch of fallen leaves under my tires, and the cool, inviting fall rains.  

Still, I can hardly wait to return.

Glen, Terry, Del... thanks, again... it's always a pleasure riding with you guys!

Songs of note:
This is What it Became - Kutiman (from ThruYou)
Feel So Good - Mase
Start Me Up - Toots and the Maytals (live)

Stay tuned for the November ride.... already running out of month, it won't be long! 

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Sounds like a great ride. Del had invited me to join you, but I had a conference that I had registered to attend. Sorry I had to miss this.