July 3, 2006
I took my time getting started today, sitting around at the park. I watched some town workers dismantle a fence that they had set up for the town fair. I had a Snickers bar and a cinnamon roll left over from yesterday, so I polished those off.
After I packed up I didn’t ride very far, stopping at the McDonald’s in town for breakfast. I knew I’d have a short day today, so I was taking my time.
I didn’t actually ride out of Newton until 11 o’clock, and it was a short distance to the next town, Hesston. There I found that the library was open, so I took some time updating the journal and getting the latest pictures up. Then I had lunch in a gas station. It looks like I picked the perfect day to take it easy, because it was really HOT!
So it wasn’t until I left Hesston that my riding for the day really got underway. By then I think it was at least 2pm, or even three o’clock when I really started putting away the ol’ miles. Soon I met two eastbound riders. They were a young couple, both from California. They plan to ride north to Nova Scotia once they reach the Atlantic, because they’ve never seen any of the east coast. It’s funny how I’m from the east coast, traveling to go see the west, and they’re doing the exact opposite… and here we meet on a lonely road in Kansas!
I saw a brush fire from a distance with some fire trucks nearby, putting up a thick cloud of smoke. It was neat because I could actually spot a line of tall flames. Then for the next hour or two I saw intermittent wisps of smoke from all different locations, and I wondered if they were controlled burns or something.
There was a little of the usual wind out of the south/southwest, but it wasn’t too strong, and for some reason the heat didn’t really bother me at all today. I stopped in a town called Buhler late in the afternoon, and all the locals commented: “Hot one today, iddindit?” “Hot enough for ya out there?”
I was playing the radio again today, and heard some good songs. There’s something special about hearing Bob Seger (Turn the Page!) and classic rock standards when I’m out here in the middle of nowhere in Kansas, right on top of the Fourth of July. It was funny, I heard the Pink Floyd song “Breathe,” and it took a couple moments for me to remember why it struck a chord. Then I remembered… have you ever tried to play The Dark Side of the Moon with The Wizard of Oz?
The clouds in the west darkened this evening, and soon on the radio I heard a weather alert. It was a “significant weather bulletin,” or something like that, and not even an official watch or warning. They would cut in every ten minutes or so, and say in what exact corner of what county each individual storm cell was located, and the direction and towns it was moving toward. They sure are on top of their storms here in Kansas! My route took a turn to the south, and I was out of the path of these storms for the time being.
I made my way to Hutchinson tonight, because it’s a large town where I’m sure to see some good fireworks tomorrow. I’m due for a day off the bike, so I thought the 4th of July would be perfect, and I wanted to be here in a larger town for it. So I’m riding down the street looking for a motel that’s not a Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn, and this guy walks toward me out of a parking lot.
“Hey!” he says, “Are you doing the TransAm too?”
That’s how I met Troy and Melissa Clough, and lo and behold – they’re westbounders. I saw their names in some of the logs, and knew about them from crazyguyonabike.com, but I thought they were further ahead. They’d just taken three days off because Troy was in a wedding. Troy and Melissa are just married themselves, and this is their honeymoon. They tipped me off about an unlisted church in town that lets cyclists stay inside, so now I have a free place to stay for my day off on the holiday! Life is good.