May 11 - 19: Kansas

5/15 - Newton (74 miles 1593 total)
when we got up & around this morning at our motel in eureka, we could see that the sky was very cloudy. it wasn't as cold as yesterday. most everyone was gone by 6:15. as sari & i were about to ride off, the sprinkles started, so sari put on her rainpants...hoping that would keep the rains at bay. as we rode by a time&temp sign, it was 6:28 & 59 degrees.
highway 54 was very busy early on a monday morning. the rains quickly escalated to a pretty good shower. it was real messy when the cars went by. & when we saw a truck approaching or coming up behind us, we'd hold tight onto our handlebars, gird our feet firmly against our pedals, & close our eyes to protect us from the strong blast of highway spray & accompanying jolt of wind as the trucks swooshed past us. it was an uncomfortable 20 miles to the turn north at rosalia onto a country road. it was especially uncomfortable for anne, who had a flat tire only a couple of miles out of eureka.
by rosalia, a couple of riders had decided to sag. the subaru stopped to mark the turn into rosalia. i was hoping for a rest stop, & lo & behold, there stood a school. a phy ed teacher was escorting a lineup of kids onto a school bus, so we asked him if we could go in & use the bathroom. he said sure & directed us to the right spot. what a joy to find a warm, dry rest stop on a miserable day.
even tho' it was only 8:30, sari & i were already hungry & decided we'd make the most of these unexpected, comfy surroundings, so each had one of our sandwiches.
you'll see sari, looking a little soaked, starting on her sandwich, with the Flint Hills Mustangs bulletin board in the background & the door to the gymnasium in the back left.
tonight at supper we heard that another group of riders asked to use this school's facilities a little earlier this morning & were told to go elsewhere. i'm so glad they decided to soften thei r stance by the time we showed up. maybe we looked particularly needy.
sari & i hated to leave the coziness of the school, but we had over 50 miles yet to go after all, & i imagine that sooner or later someone would notice that we didn't fit in. the country road that we now traversed had a rough surface, but the absence of traffic made the surface seem smoother. winds were pretty strong but mostly at our left rear, so for the most part they pushed us right along. however, it was chilly & we were soaked, so we were very glad to ride into the tiny town of cassoday at about 35 miles, the day's only town with a restaurant. a sign on the town's edge proclaims it the prairie chicken capital of the world; i'm pretty sure there are lots more prairie chickens than people in cassoday.
several bikers were already at the restaurant at various stages of eating & ordering. sari & i split a kansas omelete & each had some hot chocolate. marcia was there; we hardly ever see her at a restaurant during the day because she rides fast & doesn't stop. but today she'd had a flat tire just 5 miles before cassoday & got chilled clear through during the time it took her to fix it. she was at the restaurant eating a couple of breakfasts in hopes of fueling her furnace & heating up enough to get back on the road.
after we left cassoday the showers dissipated & soon quit. it was still cool, so we had to keep riding to stay warm. about every 10-15 miles we'd get off our bikes for a few minutes to drink some water &/or eat a snack & rest our aching seat muscles. once we stopped to utilize the large evergreen trees behind a mennonite church for a potty al fresco. we were thrilled that the winds continued giving us a boost up the deserted country road toward newton.
the landscape today was predominantly flat & grassy. the lime green grasses of early spring stretched beautifully & often unimpeded clear to the horizon. i saw more cattle today...sometimes colored dots way off in those vast pastures, sometimes lined up along the fence looking curiously at those wheeled passersby. there were a few more of those oil-well drilling arms pumping away. when we'd see clumps of trees up ahead, it usually meant we were approaching a farmstead, but those, too, were few & far between. this is really wide open country!
lin had the 3rd flat tire of the she pulled into the parking lot of our best western lodging here in newton. rainy days like this engender more flats. pattty the chef fixed a super meal tonight....chili--both meat & vegetarian versions, corn bread, 2 big green salads, & sliced fresh strawberries.
in the photo you'll see how patty bakes cornbread in a motel parking lot.
she's a marvel with her heavy cast-iron pots, some foil, & some charcoal briquets. that's how she bakes cakes, too.
at tonight's map meeting we learned that the 111 miles we'd originally thot we'd have to ride tomorrow are now reduced to only 108. what a relief! we'll start out as early as it's light enough to bike safely. we'll hope for no rain & more tailwinds. by this time tomorrow evening we'll all be relieved at getting this dreaded century day behind us.
Higher quality versions of the pictures from my trip are available here. If you would like copies of the original, full-size photos, or if you would like text-only versions of these daily reports e-mailed to you, feel free to e-mail my son Mark with your request. Stay tuned....

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