Biologist on a Bike

Day 42: Eureka, KS to Chanute, KS


Distance: 63.74 mi
Average Speed: 10.6 mph; Max Speed: 32.6 mph
Elevation Gain: 1,246 ft
Average Temp: 91.2 F; Temp Range: 68.0-109.4 F

I slept soundly last night, for sleeping in a tent, which is to say I regained consciousness several times. During one of those times in the early morning, I realized that my tent was wet. Not from rain but from dew. My tent had been dewed. Except for the occasional drip, I wasn’t affected, but I knew I’d have to dry the tent out tonight before I could use it.

Where I woke up, Day 42

I woke up rather later than I had planned, around 6 AM, and didn’t get on my way until around 7:30. Given the heat that continues to bake me day by day, I really need to start doing better about that.

The morning was okay, though I felt a bit sluggish. Over the last few days the landscape has changed from flat with a desert-like sparseness to gently rolling hills with significantly more greenery around. It is fascinating to watch this transition unfold in slow motion when under other circumstances (such as in a car) it would take mere hours to traverse this same distance.

From nearly the beginning of the ride, I could tell today was going to be a hungry day. I had to stop only an hour into my ride, and at that stop I probably consumed three times the calories that I ate at breakfast. This isn’t really surprising, though, since I can’t generally eat a very large breakfast right after waking up. An hour later, though, that’s another thing entirely.

The first town on the route was Toronto, but most of the town was actually off the route a bit. Since I was in no need of water, I carried on, transferring water from my Camelbak to my water bottles the next time I stopped for food. I also turned on the audiobook again about that time. It’s my second time through the book, this time knowing all the twists. Granted, I had guessed most of the major “shocks” before they were revealed, but the interpersonal relationships were complex enough to make up for the fact that the surprises weren’t that surprising. Once I finish with this second listen, which should be some time tomorrow, I’ll move on to the second book of the trilogy.

Around halfway through the day, I stopped for a break and to inspect my back wheel. It had been feeling a bit funny, and I wanted to see if I could hunt down the problem. It wasn’t flat, so that wasn’t it. I set Erebus on his side and gave the back tire a spin. It came to a halt too quickly. My front wheel has a dynamo hub which offers some resistance to the spin, and that one spun nearly three times as long for a similar effort. I tried taking the wheel off and putting it back on to recenter it: no change. Then I squinted at the brakes. Yes, the back brake was too tight. I don’t know why I felt it more than heard it, usually I can hear the brake grinding a bit. Perhaps it was because this was constant rather than the intermittent sound caused by a bent rotor. Anyway, I loosened up the brake cable and the problem was solved.

During this break two cars stopped. One stopped when I was eating and reapplying sunscreen, and they went on their way again with a cheery wish for good luck. The second car stopped when I was fussing with the back wheel. I told them I was okay, that it was a minor issue—it was minor, even though I didn’t know for certain what the problem was at that point—and they then asked if I was okay on water. I said I thought so, and they offered me a bottle. That was an offer that was too good to refuse, even before I saw that the proffered bottle was so cold it still had ice in it. Heaven. I had to assure them two more times that I had the bike issue in hand, and they eventually continued on their way. I sipped on the water as I completed the brake tweaking.

There are more trees and more hills

Benedict lies adjacent to the route, and I wanted to refresh my water there, so I pulled off into town. The store isn’t where my phone said it should be, but I did spot the post office, so I went in there to ask if they knew where I could refill my water bottles. The gentleman did know, and sent me over to Pastor Joe’s community store. Pastor Joe likes to help out cyclists, and offered me an ice cream bar and something to eat from the store. He also took my two water bottles, cleaned them out in his sink, and filled them with ice-cold bottled water. Mmmm. I sat in the air-conditioned store for maybe half an hour listening to his tales, and he’s got a lot of them. He knows some interesting people from his time in the armed forces. He ran a homeless shelter for several years, suffered through numerous health issues (strokes, heart attacks, yes, both in the plural). He spoke of the hatred that is or has been in the area: a first-responder who said “let him burn” about a Jewish man trapped in a car, members of the KKK who had a lot of pull in the town, but spoke of how their influence has been reduced.

There were also some other stories of the personal kind that I’m not going to repeat. It sometimes surprises me that people are willing to tell such things to complete strangers. And then I think, here I am doing much the same thing. Sure, people I know are reading this, but it’s also out there for everyone. Is that so much different?

Pastor Joe spoke several times on The Master (God, though he never spoke that specific name). Being a church-goer myself, that didn’t put me off. What did put me off was his insistence that natural disasters (fires, tornadoes, and the like) were God punishing the unrepentant. That smacks too much of the “you deserve your misfortunes because of something you did” philosophy that used to be common in a lot of the world, and makes my skin itch. There are maybe half a dozen things I could have said to him, all of which came to me after I had left. Perhaps that is for the best.

From Benedict, it was 18 miles to Chanute. Eighteen hot, slow miles. I stopped when I got to town, grateful for the powerful air conditioning of the gas station at the intersection. I could feel how much I needed to eat, and I bought myself some snacks and a cold drink and just sat for a while. It was only 63 miles into my day, with my intended destination over 20 miles further down the road. It was also nearly 4 PM and still wickedly hot out at 91 F with a “real feel” of 99 F. After a few minutes consideration, I decided to stop outside of Chanute in the park where camping is allowed. Between the intersection and the park was a 24-hour Walmart, so I stopped in to pick up some food for the evening, and then made my way to the park. There are signs that say tents can only be put up in specific places, but I have yet to see any signs indicating where these places are. Anyway, it’s hot enough that I don’t think I’m going to put up a tent tonight.

Relaxing on the grass before dinner

The park does have a restroom with hot showers, though the shower has no door, so you’re only closed off on three sides. Still, it was nice to be clean after such a sweaty day. And there are RV hookups for electricity, always a bonus.

The goal tonight, or rather tomorrow, is to wake up early enough to get in a decent day’s ride before the heat becomes stifling. Again.

Roadkill: 3 birds (including one heron), 3 armadillos, 1 coyote, 4 possums, 1 raccoon, 3 unknown mammals, 3 snakes, 1 frog, 2 turtles

Map Day 42

3 thoughts on “Day 42: Eureka, KS to Chanute, KS

  1. Terry J

    I feel that I should apologize for Bible Belt logic and the muggy hotness that we call summer, but I chose this part of the country to live in, so no excuses.

    I’m struck by the human attitudes that reflect our country’s terrain. Godspeed.


    “It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent.” – Dave Barry

  3. Leslie Diamond

    I bet that bottle of icy water was heaven sent! I feel that way in an air conditioned spin class when it’s no where near as hot! Stay hydrated!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *