Day 40 – Fredonia to Newton KS

Let me just say right off the bat that I didn’t plan to do 120 miles today. That would be nuts, obviously. But that’s how far I biked today. I’ve heard touring cyclists talk about days where they could just go on an on and it was one of those. And the goddess Mariah was very good to me and gave me at least 40 miles just by her steady push at my back.

I got out early today – on my bike by 6:30 which felt great. I hit the local convenience store for a quick eggy sandwich and coffee and I was on the road. I was making such great progress I zoomed passed the turnoff for the road back to the main TransAm route. “Ah never mind, I’ll get google to re-route me.” In retrospect I’m reminded of the words of one of the serving members of the Donner party; “Remember, never take no cut-offs and hurry along as fast as you can”. Google re-routed me up a gravel road (apparently it doesn’t know what’s gravel and what isn’t) and I spent the next hour running around trying to find the best way back to the path; especially frustrating after getting up at 5:30 so I could get some quality miles in early. Next time, when you go off route, go back the way you came.

So in my caffeinated morning state, this frustration turned to a big craving to make some progresss today. I buckled down on a westbound road with the breeze at my back and a good shoulder and I was determined to make back the time I lost by going off course last night. And make time I did. I had about 15 miles when my average speed was between 15 and 20 mph – flying for a 75 lb bike. Then the route turned north on a quiet highway for a long way. I really enjoyed taking in the scenery of the plains with no one around. I stopped and took pictures of wildflowers and thistles and felt lucky to be in a place appreciated by so few. Sometimes in the city its easy to think the world is crowded but I’m glad to report there are vast stretches of prairie where you can sing at the top of your lungs and no one will here you but the red-wing blackbirds and cows.

So in these quiet times in the ride, it’s impossible to avoid ear worms. You know, those tunes that get stuck in your head and won’t turn off. Well, I’ll share mine with you – apologies if they get stuck but they aren’t too bad…

First, from the Spinners we have:

“I’ll be working my way back to you, babe, with a burning love inside”

I just looked that up and the next line is something about “… and the happiness that died” which I wasn’t aware of. Frankly I’ve just been stuck on that first line. So I’ve been missing you babe.

Then, ever since some farmer in southern MO teased me about it, I’ve also got Willie Nelson’s “On the road again”. Which, is getting a little old really.

And then the last one hit as I was struggling with just why the hell am I doing this anyway? And why ride so far? Why ride across the whole damn country? Why am I so driven anyway? I don’t know the answer to that but clearly I am, and the trouble is that I can be way more driven than it’s good for me (witness today’s ridiculous mileage). Anyway the song is an obscure one by Soul Coughing that many of you won’t know but here’s a lyrics snippet:

“I got the will to drive myself sleepless.
I got the will to drive myself sleepless.

So much time is cashed.
So much smoke is wasted.
Sudden disappearance
In the air is thick and cool.
I can’t approach myself
Skidding over this perdition
And now I’m out on the veranda
When I should have gone to school.”

These three songs do not go together well at all. Spinners are soul, Willie is sort of country pop and Soul C is kind of, well, we’ll call it skinny white-boy rap. They don’t mix, but such is the random playlist of my mind, crossing the prarie with nothing but the steady beat of the pedals for ear worms to grow on.

Leaving Fredonia, I went through the town square. So many midwester squares are on this same template – center is the courthouse, with some statue on the green, and across the streets, on 4 sides are rows of retail buildings. This one is like most, struggling, but not dead yet.
As I climb this gravel hill I’ swearing at google maps but really its my own damn fault for rushing. I have the same recurring thought when the trip gets hard; “THIS is the best way from Maine to San Francisco?”
OK, pop quiz. What’s different about this corn, compared to the other 50,000 acres of corn I’ve already passed? A: no tassels or ears! WTF? Are these going to be super huge? Or is there some use for earless corn?
Tiny roadside beauties
I want to replace the bars on my phone with these
The Fall River. I could see big bottom feeders cruising in the tail water of the pool.
Shot from the handlebars as I look into the distance and contemplate Pueblo. Not a very “in the moment” moment.
Ranches abound. I saw a lot of branded cattle too, though I think they use paint or dye these days.
The town where I chose not to stay in tonight. There’s a selfie in that door.  Starting to see more Western flair in the architecture. 
I ran into Carl (left) and Ben – father and son doing the TransAm from Oregon to Virginia. Ben just graduated high school in Boulder. What do you say, Jonah?

I got a call while on the bike today from Fredonia, where I stayed last night. Uh oh was my thought as I picked it up. Turns out I forgot my ear buds and the hotel and they will be happy to mail them if I send some money to cover postage. Later in the day I realized I lost a pair of shorts too – proabably left them on the back of my bags as I was fishing around for something. The good news is that my bags are getting lighter.

Lorrie, my Kansan friend told me that the prevailing direction for the breeze here is from the south and she knows what she’s talking about. What I’ve seen from a couple of days is that they are usually from the south, but today they turned from the East which I was greatful for. So when I stopped for lunch and had 80 miles done already, I really couldn’t just sit there and watch those eastern gusts go by. I jumped on the bike and let them more or less blow me to Newton.

7 thoughts on “Day 40 – Fredonia to Newton KS”

  1. So glad the wind was at your back today. May that be your experience for the rest if your trip. Happy cycling!
    Should start suggesting new songs to get stuck in your head?

    1. Hmmm. It’s hard to enjoy any ear worm you’ve had for more than a day. I wonder if my brain plays requests? Maybe I’ll try that tomorrow.

  2. This time of year our winds here in Arizona switch from their normal way of blowing from the north west, to always coming from the south east. I’m wondering if that pattern holds for the area you’re biking through too.

  3. When I’m stuck in traffic and Google Maps voice tell me “You are on the fastest route”, I reply “The fastest route to Hell, (expletive deleted)”. Druther be on gravel.

  4. Happy to hear about breezes behind you (no mention of the normal Irish blessing…). With your songs stuck in your head, at some point, remind me to tell you about the story of how Kathleen became known as “the singer’s wife” during our Netherlands/Belgium ride last summer. I’m feeling your pain of the very hot Midwest days while in Rome this past week – I’m not trying to think about the mileage you are doing each day!! Good luck with cooler mornings, understanding with planning for a good next stop to not to over-do, and your friend Mariah behind you.

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