Biologist on a Bike

Day 38: Dighton, KS to Larned, KS (sorta…)


Distance: 80.62 mi
Average Speed: unavailable; Max Speed: 22.25 mph
Elevation Gain: 527 ft
Average Temp: unavailable

Today I made a mistake. A fairly big one. It all worked out okay in the end, but it might have been much more painful. But more about that later.

Where I woke up, Day 38

I set my alarm for 4:15, hit snooze a bunch of times, and eventually got up a bit before 5AM. A microwave really speeds up breakfast, and not having a tent speeds up getting ready for the day. I was on the road at 6:08, technically before sunrise but not before it was light enough to see.

I did get to see sunrise, though, which was awesome.


It was also awesome to get riding before it was hot, even though it hadn’t dropped below 75 overnight, so it was already warm. The road continued to be long, straight, flat, and with wide open fields on both sides. And pumps. Pumps in the middle of fields pumping crude oil breaking the greenery. You can even smell them as you go by, but nothing compares to the feed lots.

I pulled off at a historical marker, I like reading a bit about the local history. This one was more interesting than many, as land that was originally homesteaded by George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver’s homestead

Oh, yeah, the feed lots. I forgot to mention those yesterday because I was beat. Yesterday in the late morning and early afternoon (translation, when it was already pretty close to 100 F out) I passed a number of feed lots. Cows packed into small enclosures., Next to these are big pools of shit-stinking water. I nearly had to stop and throw up, it was so disgusting. GAH! Fortunately, there weren’t any next to the road today.

What was on the road was a small turtle. It was sitting on the center line of the highway and I couldn’t leave it there. Carefully I picked it up and placed it on the road in the direction it had been heading. Then I took a few pictures for good measure.

I believe this might be an ornate box turtle

I usually try not to put on podcasts or an audiobook until I’ve been riding at least a few hours, but I knew I was getting near the end of the book based on the pace and severity of the action, so I turned it on earlier than usual; I really wanted to know the end.

Meanwhile, it got hotter and hotter.

I rode through a construction zone that was several miles long of one lane road. I went with the traffic going my way, but before I got out of the zone, I had to duck off the road to allow the next round of traffic to pass the other way. In the middle of this, I passed another cyclist, but it wasn’t a good palce to stop, so we just waved and shouted a greeting.

Rush Center was the last town before my destination, and it was 32 miles from the destination. At 11 AM it was really heating up, but I figured I could make that distance. I even encountered 2 pairs of riders, two women and two men, who told me the road ahead wasn’t bad. I left town with my three water bottles filled and sure it would get me through the distance.

That was before I factored in the headwind, and this was the mistake I mentioned earlier. No wonder those riders thought the road was good: they had a stupendous tailwind. I had been headed east all day, but the path turned towards the south from there and into a wicked wind. I was going about as fast as I did while climbing mountains. Maybe slower. So instead of the 10-15 mph I figured would be my pace, I was doing closer to 5-8 mph. The segment that should have taken me 2 hours stretched out long before me, with the miles trickling by and my water supplies dwindling.

At one point, I spotted a patch of shade off the side of the road and headed that way. It was a row of bushes in front of a house. What I assume was the owners’ dog took mild offense at my presence, barking energetically, but not with aggressive enough body language to set me on edge. The bushes turned out to be some kind of berry bush, and my jersey is stained now, but I needed the rest in the shade, and so I stretched out and pulled out my kindle, and tried to cool off as much as the wind and shade could allow. The dog barked nearly continuously for 30 minutes before deciding I wasn’t worth it and taking a nap in the heat.

Eventually I set out, after eyeing my maps. There was a river near the turn, and the turn was only about 8 miles away. I could make it there, I was sure. I didn’t really have any choice. That’s not entirely true, I suppose. I could have waited for the home owners to come back, begged some water, and set off again much later in the day, but who knew when that would be?

The wind had not died down. If anything it had gotten worse. And I was not in good shape. The shoulder now had rumble strips, causing one pickup to honk and another, which had to wait an apparently torturous 30 seconds to pass me safely, rode away giving me the one-finger salute. If I had the energy, I might have replied with a cheery wave and a big smile, but I was too beat to do anything but slog along fighting the headwind and cursing the heat.

The wind, while mostly in my face, would also go to the side from time to time, causing my bike to sway a bit. One kind Samaritan saw me at one of those moments and slowed down to keep pace with me. “How are you doing?” he asked, and I replied that I had run out of water and was hot, although the latter part of that statement could probably have been left off since it was over 100 F out. “I have something you can have,” he replied, and pointed to a dirt road ahead where we could both get off the main drag safely. He handed me a cold Gatorade out of a cooler, which I downed, explaining that the headwind had slowed me down to the point where I ran out of water. He then offered me a ride.

It took me about 10 seconds of consideration to accept. I was still 16 miles out of town, and while the Gatorade had helped, it wouldn’t get me there without the risk of heat exhaustion. He helped me load Erebus into the back of his pickup and dropped me off at a convenience store in town. And this is the source of the unavailable numbers in the stats: I forgot to turn off the GPS when I got in the car. According to my Garmin, my max speed yesterday was over 70 mph.

I went inside and bought another, larger Gatorade and asked the two cashiers if there was any kind of ride service in town that might take me back. I do not want to accept motorized transport as a way of moving forward, and while I would ride back the 16 miles and then turn around, I would much rather not have to. The cashiers gave me a number for a bus service from a town 30 miles away, which I considered a last resort.

Then I called the police station. They wanted me to fill out a permit card before camping, mentioning another group that was already there. The dispatcher also didn’t know of a service that might give me a ride, so I headed to the campground resigned to my 32 mile detour (instead of a 16 mile detour) tomorrow morning.

The large group at the campground just happened to be a van-supported Adventure Cycling Association group heading west. They trade cooking duties and have to throw out what’s left, and since there was more than enough for everyone, they invited me to eat with them. With two vegetarians in the group as well as a few food sensitivities, they had options that I could eat. The meal was a Greek-style pasta salad with orzo, cabbage, tomatoes, olives. There was feta cheese on the side as well as tofu (which I ate) and chicken (which I didn’t). A cold dinner hit the spot.

One rider advised me to ask the driver if they could help me out, since they were headed back the way I came. He had to check in first, but he gave me the thumbs up after dinner. So that worked out unexpectedly well. I didn’t get heat exhaustion, and I only have to ride that 16-mile stretch once tomorrow. Even better, this group has been leaving obscenely early in the morning to try and beat the heat, so I should also get an early start.

It’s also kind of fun to be camped out in a little tent city with a dozen other cyclists in a city park

Tent city in the background

Adventure Cycling Association Van

I also called Mom to tell her about my day, and she relayed the story of getting a ride to town to my grandmother. She also explained how I was getting a ride back to that point so I could ride the bit I had skipped. In the background I hear my grandmother yelling at the phone for me to “Cheat! Just cheat a little!” I burst out laughing while Mom tells her that I’m not going to cheat.

“Nobody will know,” she said, echoing the guy who gave me a ride when I told him I planned to go back.

“I’ll know!” I insisted. And I wouldn’t lie about it on the blog, so you all would know, too. No cheating here.

I think I’m still a bit on the dehydrated side, so I’m going to drink a bottle of water before heading to bed early.

Roadkill count: 7 birds, 2 mice, rabbit, raccoon, 2 unknown mammals, 2 snakes

Two maps because I had to stop in Alexander to load the next map section to the GPS after forgetting to do so yesterday.

Map Day 38a

Map Day 38b. I stopped cycling somewhere near that black circle.

8 thoughts on “Day 38: Dighton, KS to Larned, KS (sorta…)

  1. Linda Schmelzer

    I love your integrity! Please be careful during this heat wave that is covering about 1/3 of the country. Loved the sunrise photo! You should get a large print made. Stay well, Cindy!

  2. Leslie Diamond

    So glad someone kind showed up to give you some rehydration and a ride! At least you won’t have to ride back to that spot tomorrow. I hope the wind direction changes overnight! Great pic of the sunrise! Stay safe!

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