Sunday, June 7, 2009

Garnett, KS to Ness City, KS: The Beauty of Kansan Skies, Meeting Kermit, and Other Stories

Miles Per Day: Day 36=REST; Day 37=50.13; Day 38=66.2; Day 39=67.51; Day 40=47.22; Day 41=45.93; Day 42=65.89

Total So Far: 1,898.64

Inspiration: Johnny Cash singing a duet with Bob Dylan on “Girl From the North Country” [current favorite song? Jury is still out]; the christe eleison on Bach's Mass in B (Karajan); the skies of Kansas; the Facebook iphone ap (amazing how quickly I can connect with people at this point); Amish/Mennonite sausage and pie; Rescue Me (just finished season 4; totally bummed there are no more Netflix disks for the series)

Spirits: excited; amazed; patient; mischievous; unstoppable.

Things Seen On the Road: frogs and toads galore; some of the most beautiful cloud formations I have seen in years; more and more bike tourist (at least since I rejoined the Transam trail); a dust cloud that covered the entire sky in South Western Kansas.

Favorite Quotes: (1) a college geography professor who started in Phoenix and is heading East after I told him I was heading West, AGAINST the Western winds: “Yeah...good luck with that;” (2) waitress after I told her I was camping at a local church [paraphrasing] “well, they are forecasting 60-70 mph winds and hail tonight. Did you know that that church is right below the flood plane?”

There is something so beautiful about Kansan skies. It is a beauty borne out of the flatness of the terrain, the openness of the horizon and the slow, deliberate march of white figures across the sky. Riding a bike Westward provides a person with an unparalleled vantage point. You get to see the first formations right over the horizon at first light. They emerge in all sorts of shapes and sizes, hugging each other tightly at first, then exploding over your head like an army of cotton candy fluff balls ready for battle.

Do check out a sampling of these formations in the photo roll section of this post. While they don't really do the experience justice, just a fistful of Kansan beauty is enough to cure even the most dreadful Monday-morning-I-can't-fucking-believe-I'm-still-working-at-this-mind-numbing-job blues.


The collection of stories continues unabated:

*It's Not Easy Being Green: While camping on the grounds of a Methodist church in Stafford, KS, I made friends with a small frog. Let's call him Kermit. This little critter sat on my Goretex rain jacket while I set up camp and did not move until I had to physically grab him and put him on the grass next to my tent. A half hour later while inside my tent I looked up and to my surprise I spotted Kermit's shadow through my rain fly. Kermit kept me company until I fell asleep that night.

*Bonds of Brotherhood: Getting into El Dorado, KS, I stopped at a McDonalds to fill up my water bottles and access the internet. I set up my laptop on a large, circular table off to the side and quickly got into a conversation with an elderly veteran who wanted to know where I was going. One by one, elderly guys came into the McDonalds and sat down at my table. Very quickly I realized that I was interrupting what was clearly a daily meeting of local veterans and their friends. They all come and sit at the same table every day at around 4pm to talk, laugh and otherwise maintain their bonds of brotherhood. I have to say that it was a real privilege to talk to these guys, even if it was just for one hour.

*Heaven: Heaven, quite simply, is Yoder, KS. Quite by accident, I had designated that small town near Witchita as a convenient stopping point. Turns out that the town has very active Amish and Mennonite communities and, by extension, establishments boasting some of the best food on earth. I spent approximately 8 hours at the Carriage Crossing restaurant where I had the best sausages I have had in years and 3 helpings of fantastic cherry pie with vanilla ice cream. In between, I took in the horse and buggy scene, dudes with some pretty developed beards and the sounds of spoken German in the air. BTW, Amish women in traditional dresses are just hot.

*Outrunning a Thunderstorm: Those of you on Facebook and Twitter might remember how I scrambled to set up camp before a pretty serious thunderstorm hit near Yates Center, Kansas. I had originally been given permission by a local Methodist church to camp on their grounds but when I sat down for dinner at a local diner I was basically told that Armageddon was coming our way. The forecast called for a series of severe thunderstorms with 60-70 mph winds, hail and flash floods. On top of everything, my waitress told me that the Methodist church was below the flood plain. At that point I rushed over to the sheriff's office where I got an emergency permit to camp in the local park. I have to admit that I got a little worried when the officer pointed out where I could go inside the park in case of a tornado. I left the sheriff's office, picked up my dinner to go and rushed down to the park ASAP. I think it took me 7 minutes to set up camp and that's when the winds started to kick in. And YES, it is true. I set up my tent right underneath a couple of big trees and a power line.


Inside my tent as a strong thunderstorm rages outside:

Biking on a highway in Kansas. You can definitely hear the strong headwinds any biker heading West has to contend with. Notice some grasslands off in the distance:

A thunderstorm approaching in the distance:


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