Biologist on a Bike

Day 40: Nickerson, KS to Newton, KS


Distance: 49.01 mi
Average Speed: 11.0 mph; Max speed: 17.6 mph
Elevation Gain: 408 ft
Average Temp: 81.3 F; Temp range: 71.6-104.0 F

I did not fall asleep easily yesterday, perhaps because of a lingering concern over the strange dude I met last night. The more I think about the web of improbabilities and falsehoods he spun last night, the more I think he was aiming to make an impression. He succeeded in doing that, but it likely wasn’t the kind of impression he wanted to make. It was hot enough out that I had been considering just sleeping on my camp pad under the shelter roof. My encounter with the dude made me uncomfortable being that exposed. Oh, I know a tent doesn’t often much in the way of actual physical protection, but a tent with a fly up would at least mean that people couldn’t watch me sleep easily. As a result, I went to sleep in a stuffy tent with the fly up despite it still being in the 80s outside. I can’t sleep when I’m cold, but I don’t much like trying to sleep when I’m sweating either. Perhaps that’s why I woke up grumpy.

Where I woke up, Day 40

My alarm went off a bit after 4 and I snoozed it. The second alarm went off at 4:15 and I got up, got changed, did a few things aimed toward getting ready to leave, and then went back to sleep for another 20 minutes. I got up for good around 5, though I didn’t feel any more alert, really. But today was forecast to be hot again, and I wanted to leave early. Plus, I wanted to end in Newton and get my bike tuned, and I figured it would be good to roll in sooner rather than later.

I discovered something interesting when I woke up: two other cyclists in the park. They must have rolled up after I crawled into my tent last night, which was fairly late. One of them woke up as I was just about to head out, and he asked me if I was in the race. I laughed and said that I imagined all the racers were past me by now, but he said he passed a TransAm racer only yesterday. The winner finished on the 18th, if memory serves. The people still in Kansas at this point aren’t really going all that much faster than I am, and I’m not even attempting to race.

Yellow Flowers

The morning was lovely. I left off my sun-sleeves (UPF-rated clothing is so much more comfortable and convenient than repeated sunscreen applications) to feel the breeze on my arms and watched the sun creep its way over the trees. Yes, there were trees today! There were still a lot of open fields, but for at least the first half of the ride, there were also a fair number of trees. I’ve even started seeing blue jays, which I haven’t seen all trip. There were Steller’s jays and scrub jays, but no blue jays until now.

See, I told you there were trees

And I spotted a new species of bird today, what I believe is a Mississippi kite. It caught my eye because it wasn’t that much bigger than a dove or pigeon, but held itself as proud as any eagle. The light wasn’t with me for this picture, though. And a great blue heron was kind enough to come in for a landing in a nearby pond and pause there long enough for me to snap a photo or two before it flew off.

Mississippi Kite

Great Blue Heron

I stopped about ten miles from my destination at a smallish town called Hesston. I spotted a donut shop and decided it might be a good idea to pop in since I was still feeling sleepy despite the fact that I had been riding for over 3 hours at that point. You would think the exercise would convince my brain that it was a good idea to be alert, but since that didn’t work, I was going to resort to plan B: coffee.

The donut was good, the coffee was weak but drinkable, and the conversations going on around me were interesting. There were several older gentlemen gathered around swapping stories of how to identify and get rid of specific weeds, the various names for different plants, and, eventually, a discussion of big tornadoes and tornadoes they had experienced brought on by a discussion of a smallish tornado that had passed through or by a town a few miles away. They also struck up a conversation with me. There was a sign outside the store (I didn’t see it until I was almost passed it on my way out) announcing the TransAmerica bike race, the name of the town, and the mile into the race the town sits on. Several people in Hesston asked me if I was in the race and they all got the same response: a laugh and an explanation that I’m riding the same course without the race aspect.

Over the last few weeks I’ve seen numerous share the road signs with bikes on them. Today was the first time I saw one about passing distance. They should have these signs everywhere, or at least everywhere that the law applies. I expect the average driver isn’t fully aware of how their slipstream can wobble a cyclist.

I might wear a jersey with this info on it, if I didn’t think that would make drivers more aggressive out of spite

I also saw a few signs advertising the TransAmerica Trail, another first. One was old and faded, the other newer, and had directions through Newton on it.

TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, faded

TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, New

I reached my destination before noon and, which was the whole point, before the temperature broke 90 F. The Newton Bike Shop and Pedaler’s Rest hostel are connected entities, which is convenient. Furthermore, the hostel is lovely and comfortable, and the bike shop offers same-day service. I checked in, brought my bike over to the hostel to unload, and took a shower to feel like a normal human being again.


The hostel’s comfortable common room

I’m taking full advantage of this kitchen

Then I took a walk to the grocery store. It was 6 blocks away in the heat, but worth the walk because it’s huge and well-stocked. I am set on powdered Gatorade for the next 3 weeks, and I refilled my granola store. Then I picked up things for lunch and dinner: gazpacho and cheese quesadillas. I got back to the hostel in time to meet the two other guests staying tonight (unless others show up unannounced). While giving them the tour, one of the owners said that while I was gone a TransAm racer came in and practically threw a tantrum that they weren’t ready and waiting for him and didn’t know who he was or what he was doing, i.e. doing a poor job of racing a race that was won 12 days ago. Don’t get me wrong, I respect the desire to ride the TransAm while pushing yourself to go as fast and as far as you can without breaking down. What I don’t respect is getting into a snit over not receiving instant service. Even from a shop known to offer service to the racers, it’s just a bit much to expect them to be watching the Spot trackers every second so that they can anticipate your arrival at this point. I suppose I could go online and look up who this person is, but it doesn’t matter, really. A bad attitude is a bad attitude.

When making gazpacho, I like to cook it to get the flavors to blend better, then chill it. After prepping that and setting it to cool for dinner, I walked back over to the bike shop portion of the building to talk shop. My chain was stretched, which was probably the cause of my slipping gears, so I added a new chain to the tuneup. Then I remembered something I noticed while changing my flat yesterday: there were cracks in the sidewall of my front tire. I pointed this out, which prompted a discussion of the safety of the tires and the quality of rubber. They see a lot of Bontrager tires with this issue: the tread is still fine and the tires should, by that standard, have been able to carry me the rest of the way, but the cracks had weakened the sidewall. They were ridable…sort of. Provided I didn’t hit any obstructions hard, they would likely be fine. However, if I hit something, I would run the risk of a blowout, an instant flat that would cause my bike to skid to the stop if it was on the back tire or would find me picking myself off the ground and wondering what the @#(& happened if it were on the front. This is not something I wanted to be thinking about when I hit the Ozarks and Appalachians, so new tires were added to the tab.

Erebus hanging up for the night with a new chain, new tires with reflective sidewalls, and all tuned up!

Altogether, the tune-up, the hostel, and the groceries make today the most expensive day of the tour so far, but it was all money well-spent. I’ve been in a vehicle that had a blown tire before. It had 4 wheels and ended up going off the road and flipping over three times. I have a scar on my shoulder and a recurrent knot in my calf as a direct result of that. I have no desire to repeat the experience on a loaded touring bike that my feet are clipped into.

I haven’t really planned out the next few days yet, so I’m going to have to do that before passing out for the night. Tomorrow isn’t supposed to be as hot, so I’m looking forward to it. Maybe I’ll do a bit of a longer day in celebration of not being at risk of baking alive.

Roadkill: 3 birds, 1 armadillo, 1 cat, 1 coyote, 1 deer, 1 mouse, 3 possums, 1 unknown mammal, 2 snakes, 1 turtle

Map Day 40

More pictures from The Pedaler’s Corner

Free old-school arcade games

Load and unload bikes here

A bike welcome mat as wall art.

7 thoughts on “Day 40: Nickerson, KS to Newton, KS


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

    A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly before 7am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 87. South wind 6 to 8 mph becoming west northwest in the afternoon.

    Sunday Night
    Partly cloudy, with a low around 69. East northeast wind around 6 mph.

    Mostly sunny, with a high near 90. East wind 6 to 9 mph.

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

    Mostly sunny, with a high near 94.

  2. Connie Joki

    Glad the bike is getting a full tune-up and new wheels. Safety and Health are always top priority.

    Be careful with the upcoming heat wave. Keep writing and posting

  3. Rhoda Freeman

    Glad this was a great, friendly, comfortable, fully equipped service area. Wise decision re the tires! Keep on keeping on!

  4. Leslie Diamond

    Sounds like the tires and chain were a necessity though. Better safe than stuck somewhere without help. Stay safe!

  5. Andrew Roth

    Between the heat/humidity and your metabolism being cranked up, no wonder you are sweating in the tent. I remember feeling sweat rolling down my body, middle of the night, on top of a sleeping bag, I think it was Iowa or Illinois.

    This Trans America outfit sounds pretty great. It was around in ’83 I suppose and I should have looked into it. Nowadays the cyclists are the lifeblood of these dying rural towns. Nobody else goes there!

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