Biologist on a Bike

Day 39: Larned (sort of), KS to Nickerson, KS


Distance: 74.27 mi
Average Speed: 11.3 mph; Max Speed: 21.5 mph
Elevation gain: 210 ft
Average Temp: 90.7 F; Temp Range: 68.0-105.8 F

Despite it being every bit as hot and windy as it was yesterday, today went much more smoothly.

I knew the group was planning to wake up around 4AM, so I set my alarm for a little after. Then I turned it off when I meant to hit snooze. No worries, I have a second alarm for just that reason. Only I turned that one off, too. Oops. But there was just enough noise happening to prevent me from going back into a deep sleep, and I sat up around 4:45 to see that most of the tents had already been disassembled. When they said they wanted to get on the road early, they were serious.

The Tent City was dismantled and it was still dark out

I had considered cooking oatmeal for breakfast, but with being a bit later than planned, I opted for a cold breakfast. Granola, my primary snack food, is also an excellent breakfast food, so I had that, some room temperature instant coffee (even less appealing than hot instant coffee), and a Clif bar.

The last member of the group was on the road by 6AM, and a few minutes later, the driver had helped me stuff Erebus into the trailer and we set off. To my surprise, I remembered where I had been picked up yesterday. In reality, I didn’t remember the street, I remembered the ramshackle barn I had just passed before getting picked up, so I was able to pick up right where I had left off. On the way out, we talked about the tours he’s taken and led, how a self-supported tour tends to create a different kind of dynamic from the van-supported ones. He said that on his first coast-to-coast ride, he was the same way as me, wanting to ride every mile. Furthermore, he added that he agrees with that mentality. “You should ride every mile, at least your first time.” So between people telling me no one would know and that I should cheat, at least one person sided with my “purist” attitude.

It was a few minutes after 6:30 when I got the bike on the road and started pedaling. Yesterday, thanks to exhaustion and dehydration, I was riding 5-7 mph here. This morning wasn’t much better, at 8-9mph, but at least I was well supplied with water and it wasn’t hot yet. It wasn’t exactly cool either. When I checked the weather at 4:45 in the morning, it was already mid-70s.

Within the first few miles of my ride, I crossed paths with most of the group I had spent the night with. We all waved and said goodbye, and I told them to enjoy their tailwind. It was a good one, given how much it was slowing me down going the other way.

Blades of a wind turbine ready to be assembled

Around 8, I got back to Larned and pulled in at a Casey’s General Store for my second breakfast and to top off the water. After Larned, there would be no towns directly on the trail until Nickerson, 58 miles away. There were two water stops, but after yesterday, I wanted to be prepared. I bought an iced coffee (soooo much sugar, but easier to drink quickly than hot coffee) and an apple fritter, then asked the wonderful ladies behind the counter if there was a place I could fill up my Camelbak. One of them took it back into the kitchen area and filled it up for me, so I was all set.

Off I went into the warming day. It probably took until 9AM before it surpassed warm to hot, and 10:30 before the heat became uncomfortable. It was a little after that point when I got my second flat tire of the trip, this time the front. Thankfully, I was maybe 100 feet away from a yard with some shade, so I pulled up and sat down. My front wheel is the one with the dynamo hub, and I was prouder of myself than I should have been that I remembered to disconnect it before I accidentally yanked the wires off when removing the wheel. Removing the tire went alright, but I was having some trouble finding the puncture. I ran my hand along the inside of the tire and found a small spot that might have caused a tiny hole, but no success on the tube itself.

Two guys were cycling by headed west and they pulled over to ask if I was okay. I said I was, despite not being able to find the hole. One of them suggested I just put on a new tube and find the hole later, and I replied that I liked to keep that as a last resort, because I preferred to patch the tubes before I forgot about them. After a few minutes of talking about the road and places to stay in both directions, they asked once more if I was okay and then, wonder of wonders, they believed me and rode off. This might sound strange to some people, but it’s nice to be believed in cases like these. Too often, guys will hover watching me fight with getting the tire off or back on to the rim (I know how to do it, but I don’t have the brute strength in my hands to do it without a bit of a struggle) and offering help and advice. I’m not saying it’s wrong of them to want to be helpful and be sure that a fellow rider is safe, but I do find it much more pleasant when people trust in my own knowledge of my skills and limitations.

I gave up trying to find the leak in the old tube and pulled out one of my new ones. That one had acquired a small puncture (there might be something sharp in my tool bag, I need to check) that I found and patched, and then I got moving again. I was annoyed with the delay, since I was hoping to spend as little time in the heat as possible, but at least the actual repair got to take place in the shade.

I mentioned oil pumps yesterday, so today I figured I should take a picture.

There were a few more feedlots to pass today, but they were, to my great relief, all off the main road far enough that I didn’t get the full blast of their stench. Mostly there were small hills, a relentless crosswind once I turned east again, and fields of grain, corn, and some small plant that might have been soybeans.

Corn, corn, and more corn

I also rode based the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, which includes an inland salt marsh—possible because of subterranean salt deposits near the surface—and sand sandy prairie. On a day that wasn’t trying to boil me in my skin, I might have liked to stop and read the information boards posted. Today I contented myself with a photograph and reading about the site online from the shade of a city park later on.

Big Salt Marsh. And I’ve just noticed that there’s been a speck of dirt on my camera all day. *sigh*

I was still riding in the mid and early afternoon, otherwise known as that time of day you really don’t want to be outside in the burning hot sun. Still, I wasn’t suffering too much from the heat since I was keeping my effort level low and the wind helped cool me off a bit even as it slowed my progress. Also, I had enough water to not be overly concerned about dehydration. I even was in good enough humor to laugh when I saw this sign.

Not all heroes wear capes. The inhabitants of this home are my heroes today.

The spray from the hose felt good once it cooled down.

The town park in Nickerson is a nice place, with slides, and playground equipment, a basketball court, and, best of all, a spray park. Hit the button and water gushes forth. And yes, I hit the button and stood there in my bike kit for several minutes, just cooling off.

Splash Park

Then I got changed into street clothes and went to a local pizza place. The shop is small, but the calzone was excellent and the price was right. After my early dinner in the wonderful air conditioning, I hit the grocery store just a block up the street from the pizza place, then headed back to the park.

The spray park was now filled with people, and I was glad of two things. First, that I had already indulged and second, that such a fun thing was getting used.

I went over to the shelter where I plan to set up camp tonight, and plugged in my power bank to a wall socket. A man saw e do that and took it as an opportunity to start a conversation with me. He showed me his powerbank that he had gotten at Walmart on clearance for $7. Then told me about the one at home that he got a pawn shop for $10 but which would normally cost $99. Only an ex of his broke it, so only one of the two cells charges anymore. But he still loves it. It’s 10 years old and has outlasted several other powerbanks he has owned. Also, for the smaller one which he carries around, if he gets his phone down to 30% charge, he can plug it in, listen to music for 10 hours, and end up with a 70% charge on the phone. Yes. He told me all this while I wished for a change in topic.

Be careful what you wish for. He then complimented my tattoo and showed me his. From the distance of about 10 feet, I made out the playboy on a ragged red background with one word above and one word below which I didn’t bother to read. To my mild confusion, he got up to show it to me closer. I say confusion, because I hadn’t at any point shown him more than polite disinterest and given one or two word answers to anything he said. He didn’t start out creepy, he just wasn’t very interesting. After the explanation of his tattoo, however, I got a bit more uncomfortable. I was born and raised in New Jersey, and I’ve been what you might call a Yankee ever since I was old enough to understand that the term had a meaning beyond being the name of a baseball team. The ragged red background was actually a tattered confederate flag (yes, I know, it was actually a specific battle flag, not a flag of the confederacy itself) which he says is done not in ted but in the original “confederate orange” which he also says has been outlawed by the federal government. A quick Google search on my part hasn’t revealed anything to back that up, but feel free to let me know if he’s right. Anyway, neither a playboy bunny nor a southern cross are going to impress me; quite the opposite, in fact.

After telling me that he’s proud to be wearing a color that, he believes, is illegal (and I symbol I know to be steeped in hatred and bigotry to the point that the racism far and away outweighs the regional pride) he goes on to tell me how he’s won several major court cases through use of the constitution. Apparently, the right to travel is guaranteed by the constitution (yes) and may not be infringed upon in any way, such as by a state requiring a license for legal operation of a motor vehicle (which I think is about as likely to be true as my bike is to ride itself the rest of the length of the TransAm). He says the judge was stumped when he pointed this out, called a recess to check the law, then came back and dismissed the case. This was his fourth offense for driving without a license.

There was also a long story about how he got his friend off of illegal possession of a firearm because the friend was not registered to vote. He didn’t register because “he’s not stupid” (I did not get the story about why registering to vote is a stupid thing to do. I have a feeling I don’t want to know it) and therefore is supposed to be treated as a citizen of the original colonies. I wonder how many people are going to be surprised to learn that full US citizenship requires voter registration.

From there it went on to how he was studying law in an unspecified college in Michigan (undergraduate, so maybe pre-law) and was within a few credits of graduating when they did an internal audit and discovered that his high school diploma was a fake. And they offered to let him pick up where he left off if he came back with a GED, but he’s now failed it in several states because of a learning disorder. This I could believe, except for I know for a fact that if you have a diagnosed learning disorder, they are accommodations that can be made on timed tests.

And from there (yes, there is more) he starts talking about how his daughter died at several months old and his girlfriend committed suicide, and he has six children that he’s never met because the women just run off and don’t even allow him to try to be a dad, and his friend says that women go around getting pregnant to collect on the tax breaks of having children and these women are raking in $50-60K….

Somewhere in the middle of the sob story, I started playing with my phone. I opened messenger, saw LT online and typed “Save me from the proud confederate telling me his @#%$%^ life story and chain smoking.” She offered to call, and I jumped at the chance. He didn’t even pause when my phone started to ring, so I just waved it at him, said “I’ve got to take this” and wandered over to the swing set doing my darndest to sound like it wasn’t an arranged phone call. I moved a bit further away and told her all about my day yesterday, the rescue, the meal with the other cyclists, arranging the ride back to the start point, and so on. Eventually, he wandered out of the park, waving to me as he went. At that point, I could tell her about the whole conversation, which prompted a fair bit of laughter and commiseration.

I moved on to a few other fun stories that haven’t made it into this narrative. Like on one of the days when I was riding with Greg and we stopped at the side of the road for a moment, and the cows near the fence came running over toward us. And then the cows further out in the field came running over to see what had caught their attention. And soon the entire herd was angling toward us even as we rode off. Greg decided that since cows are generally disinterested in humans, these must be a strange breed of Wyoming carnivorous cows. Later, it evolved from simply carnivorous to carnivorous because they have been the recipients of brain transplants in the wake of alien abductions.

Or in one place where I was looking for a Warmshowers host and I see a recently widowed pastor that lets people stay in the guest room at the rectory. Only, as a pastor, he does not host any single women. Odd, since I have known several ministers, single, widowed, divorced, and married, who have managed to stay in the same home as a woman other than their wife without anything untoward happening. Giving him the benefit of the doubt means that I assume he wants to avoid small town rumors. But if that’s not the reason, than I wonder if somebody should inform him that if he is unable to spend the night the same house with a woman without contemplating or committing sexual assault, then the problem does not lie with the women.

We rang off after she told me to text her at any time (extra emphasis on the ANY time) day or night should I need another phone call rescue.

He’s probably harmless. Maybe he is just social or maybe he thought he was flirting. Either way, he completely failed to read my “I’m not interested in this conversation” body language, and I’m grateful for the rescue.

Tomorrow I have reservations for a bike tuneup and a night in a hostel in Newton. I’m going to get an early start again because it’s still supposed to be hot tomorrow and, even though it’s a short ride from here to there, I want to get there early.

Roadkill count: 12 birds, 1 deer, 1 raccoon, 1 unknown mammal, 4 snakes


Map Day 39

6 thoughts on “Day 39: Larned (sort of), KS to Nickerson, KS


    Forecast for Newton, KS on June 30, 10 PM CDT:

    A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms before 7am. Cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 88. East southeast wind 6 to 10 mph becoming west northwest in the morning.

    Sunday Night
    Mostly clear, with a low around 69. North wind around 6 mph becoming east after midnight.

    Mostly sunny, with a high near 93. East wind 5 to 9 mph.

    Monday Night
    A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 1am. Partly cloudy, with a low around 72. South southeast wind 8 to 10 mph.

    Mostly sunny, with a high near 96.

  2. Leslie Diamond

    OMG! Thank goodness for LT! I can’t imagine being stuck there listening to that for long. I remember well the smell of stockyards/feed lots! They were everywhere around us when we lived in NM and when the wind blew a certain direction, well… you get the idea. At least in a car, we used to turn off the A/C and close the vents to help while we passed them. Hope you don’t get any more crazy story people!

  3. Andrew Roth

    This guy sounds like he is still fighting in “Bleeding Kansas.” Kansas was admitted as a free state in January 1861, so he is on the losing side.

  4. Terry J

    It’s okay w me that Clueless Asshole Guy doesn’t vote or that Puritan Asshole Preacher doesn’t house women. They’re part of the adventure, but they’re too perverse. They make a great after-story, though.

    Hurrah for the spray park!

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