Day 41 – Newton KS to Sterling KS

I had to adapt my riding day a bit today, and with the forecast as it is, a new norm may be called for. So far, I’ve worked out a comfortable routine where I get up, ride and snack on the bike, and get most of my miles before a late lunch around 1:30 or so. Then I can do another 15 or 30 miles and get in to my destination by 5:00ish, blog, eat and crash. That’s been a nice rhythm but doesn’t account for 100º days and building afternoon breezes. Or for rural areas where the next town could be 58 miles away (like this afternoon).

Today I’m stopping after “only” 60 miles but after yesterday’s 120 mile extravaganza, my body was beginning to rebel. Despite getting up and out early, my stomach was bothering me (truck stop Ruben? What was I thinking last night?), my kiester was sore, I’ve got some kind of heat rash here and there – all signs I’m pushing too hard. So today, it felt luxurious to quit by 1:00 and recoup a little.

In the days ahead I think I’ll need to start avoiding the afternoon heat and perhaps get some evening miles in after it cools. The heat just makes everything harder – you need more water, sunburn seems to come quicker, and it’s just plain uncomfortable. There aren’t enough quickie marts out here to keep me in ice. The forecast is for 100 degree afternoons all week, and with and the strong afternoon gusts, that makes for hell on wheels, so to speak. At least now it’s a dry heat – there’s been some break in the humidity so I think I’ll camp tonight without it becoming a sweat bath.

I met some interesting people along the way today. At breakfast I met Ralf and Maria from Germany (near Frankfurt). Then later I met their friend Heinrich (also near Frankfurt) who has toured extensively in Cuba, Asia, and Patagonia, just to name a few. They are all staying in Sterling tonight so there could be beers tonight. Apparently only Europeans and me do this trek westward bound because they gave me the skinny on who was up ahead and it’s all euros. I also met Zach, from Livermore CA who was going the other way. He did 120 yesterday too, with a backpack on no less. Somebody send that kid some panniers. The only thing worse than cooking in the Kansas sun is doing it with a big weight on your back.

Zach, from Livermore heading east.

Heinrich asked me the same question that’s been on my mind. He noted that so many of the downtowns are empty – he noticed in Newton in particular a beautiful old hotel sitting vacant. “Why are they so empty?” I don’t have a good answer but there just seems to be less basis for a community out here. So much of farming is mechanized, there’s no manufacturing, just not many jobs. Beyond agriculture, and the service jobs to serve any small town, what’s a person to do? No doubt it used to take many, many people to do the Ag work that is now done by a few. I’ve seen a handful of farmers out irrigating, tending pumps, fences, plowing, etc and I rarely see more than one person at a time working the farm (unless I go way back to the Amish).

Speaking of Ag work, I also met Ted, a self described “rancher” who I biked for a while with. He raises cattle and calves and I wish I’d gotten a picture because he’s probably not what you’d expect a Kansas rancher to look like. He was out on his Bianchi “getting in a quick 20 miles after church.” He’s a former triathlete who rides around his ranch and checks the fences on a bike with aero bars and a brooks saddle. He’ll be doing the “Escape from Alcatraz” biathlon in SF next month.

Newton’s Carnegie Library. Heaven knows how much Carnegie donated to build all these libraries. I’ve seen them from coast to coast. The google says there are 2,509 of them.
Kansas skyscrapers. I’m sure I’ll see taller ones when we get to the really flat parts.

My favorite yard art of the day. Turn that frown upside down, tin man.
My favorite moment of the day, I came upon two, enormous fields of lavender. Literally lavender as far as the eye can see. And since this one was to the south, the breeze brought the most amazingly strong lavender scented air I can imagine.
As I approached this hill I first thought; are those camels? No, Jim, you’re in Kansas, must be horses. But I got closer and its clear I’ve stumbled on the weirdest farmer in KS who grows lavender and raises camels.
The Sterling Diner. Just like my grandma used to make – fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and “marshmallow salad” (or the pink stuff as it’s known in my family). How marshmallows, sour cream, and fruit constitute a “salad” is not a question asked by polite company. I think I’m the only person in there who took a picture of their food before digging in.

9 thoughts on “Day 41 – Newton KS to Sterling KS”

  1. Always enjoy reading each day’s stories and photos. I guess the camels and lavender go together?!? Looks like it is all straight lines there, kind of like the shape of the state. Keep cool!

      1. Hmmm. Sure smelled like lavender but I see it doesn’t look quite right. I’ll get my editorial research team working on that right after we finish this climate debate thing.

        I think the purple poppy is right – I thought it looked like a poppy but the color was so different.

  2. Hi there, really enjoying reading about your adventures and research. I do have a question, though. If this is a ride about climate change, than why eat so much factory-farmed meat? Or meat at all?

    1. It’s a fair question. I have been vegetarian for periods of time but have always found it difficult, especially in this part of the country. When at home I do eat little red meat, sustainable fish, and try to minimize my impact. I don’t pretend to be a perfect climate change citizen.

  3. Still love catching up and reading your posts, Jim. You’ve gone so far…. Alex, the boys and I are visiting her Mom in France right now. It’s been quite fun reading your blog, talking ‘geography’ with Holden and Wil and trying to fathom how you’re doing this. Thanks for providing us nightly conversation and entertainment!! Keep up the good work and stay COOL…. Bob, Alex, Holden and Wilson LePauloue

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