Day 31: 57.3
Day 32: 82.6
Day 33: 70.3
Total miles: 1,866
Kansas has been one of a kind, let me tell you.
We traded the relentless hills of the Appalachians, Knobbs, and the Ozarks for flat roads, wind, and heat.
Rather than going into detail about each day that I have missed, I will just give an overview!All the days run together and sometimes I can’t remember what happened on what day. Sometimes I can’t even remember the names of the towns we have stayed in.
A few nights ago, we stayed in Eureka. We rolled into the city park and I got to meet my Instagram bike tourist friend, Tony. We have been keeping up with each other’s journeys via Instagram, and will occasionally comment on pictures, discuss gear, etc. it was awesome to meet him in person! He had been camping in the city park for a couple of nights because a friend he was biking with wrecked while drafting and broke a rib. Tony told us that Eureka was the last town for a while, and we heard that the bike camping spot in the next town was ran by a man who had pigs running around his back yard……so yeah. We stayed in Eureka.
Storms had been blowing up around us all day, and we knew there was a chance it was going to storm that night. We put our tents in the grass and staked them down. Our bikes got to be under the pavilion.
SO, I think that’s where my last blog post left off…
Around 2 am that morning, I woke up and I just had weird vibes. The wind was blowing and dogs were barking in the distance. I checked the radar and there was a squall line headed right towards us. I’m a weather nerd (I used to want to be a meteorologist and still kind of want to 🤓), and when I saw the storm cells bowing out forward, I knew there was going to be strong winds.
So, I sat my alarm every hour to check and see where the storm was, while still trying to get some sleep. It was moving slow and it was hard to tell when it was going to hit.
Every hour, my alarm would go off. It was getting closer and closer. I checked weather pages from nearby towns and saw pictures of hail and read about 60 mph winds.
Eventually, I got so tired I couldn’t care anymore and figured if it got bad enough, I would wake up and could run to the bathroom close by.
When it reached us, it had lost strength…but it was still a strong storm. My tent was shaking and was being battered by huge raindrops. Every few seconds, my tent would light up from the lightning and then go completely pitch black again. All I could do was wait for it to pass. It was oddly comforting knowing that Mash, Dex, and Tony were all there too, hunkered down in their tents like I was. Tony sent me this text and it made me feel better:
When the storm died down and the rain stopped, I got out of my tent and packed up my gear. I noticed my tent looked a little funny. I took my rain fly off, and sure enough one of my tent poles was broken. I’ve been having to rig it up with tape until I can get some new ones. But hey, it works!
Little did we know, Eureka would take a direct hit from a tornado the very next night. As much as I would love to see a tornado (from a distance), I’m so thankful we weren’t there when it hit. If we would have taken a rest day or just fell a little bit behind, we would have been there. In fact, we rode alongside the storm that produced the tornado all day. It was just to the south of us.
I have really enjoyed seeing the landscape change over this trip. It has been really neat. I have driven across Kansas before and never really appreciated the landscape because I thought it was so boring; nothing to look at for miles and miles. But when you’re biking across Kansas, you have time to notice the details and really appreciate its beauty. I’ll never complain about it being boring ever again.
We have met a lot of really great people in Kansas. A couple of people have commented on my voice, so you know we are getting further from home 😂. One man thought I was Australian!? We have also seen a ton of bikers. We have passed lots of TransAm racers, although I think all of them are past us now. We have seen a lot of bike tourists, some going east to west…many going west to east. It’s comforting knowing that there are other bikers out here doing the same thing. It’s honestly like a secret society or club. We all get each other.
Today, we came across a female bike tourist!!! We have only seen one other female tourist this whole trip! We chatted for a few minutes and talked about the whole “girl power” thing…then she continued east and I continued west.
We ran into this guy:
And he knew my name! We follow each other on Instagram!! It was cool to meet Brian!
Tonight, two bikers passed where we are staying, and they caught a glimpse of our bikes. They yelled out, “Are you a biker?”
Why yes. Yes I am.
Then one of the guys said, “Wait, are you the two girls?!”
I said, “Ummm…..yeah?”
“You two are legends! We’ve heard stories about you two!”
It’s been a rough couple of days battling the wind and the heat, so I definitely felt better about myself after talking to these two guys!
We had met them a few days ago at Newton’s bike shop, but we didn’t get to talk to them. It was cool to finally get to visit Newton’s, “The Oasis in the Grass Desert”. They cleaned my brake pads and cleaned out my drive train and made sure all else was good to go. I got to finally sign the wall!!
So, let’s get into why I have missed so many blog posts. Kansas has been something else. The towns are very spread out, usually 30 miles apart. Some of the towns don’t even have a gas station. We have had to ride at night to avoid he heat and the high winds.
One night we rode until 2 a.m. and then slept in a baseball dugout.
The night we rode until 2 a.m. was fun for a while, but there was a scary part…I have to admit. We were riding through the Flint Hills area (there are hills in Kansas), and it was pitch black. You can see the silhouettes of the hills all around you, but can’t really make anything out.
But we could hear something in the distance.
At first I thought it was Masherra’s music playing…she thought it was my music.
It sounded like a Native American flute coming from somewhere close by…in the hills…….at midnight.
It was a slow, repeated, two-pitched melody. If you’re a music person, the notes were a minor third apart…and it sounded eerie. It seriously sounded like some kind of cult meeting was taking place somewhere nearby in the hills.
We rode steadily, trying to get out of the area, but the sound wasn’t really getting any further away. In fact, it was getting closer. It. Was. Spooky.
We finally got away from it. I still have no idea what it was, and I never will know.
We have been in a heat advisory the past couple of days….temperatures over 100 degrees…and who knows how hot it is on the asphalt! It’s been extremely hard riding in these temperatures. We have to take lots of breaks; we are usually desperately searching for shade.
But people have been there for us…people that I call TransAm trail angels!
Tim and Pamela had been out mountain biking in Colorado, and decided to drive the TransAm back to their home in Indiana–just to help the bikers they came across!! How amazing is that?? They stopped and let us use their big pump to top off our tires. Tim even lived up our chains for us! We exchanged numbers and have been keeping in contact with them.
Pamela told me a story about how they helped one of the TransAm racers from Holland when they were in Colorado. He needed water. Right after they helped us- they came across a racer who needed help again—it was the same guy!! How cool!!
Today, this farmer passed me and I saw him stop ahead and wave me on. I rode up to him and he asked if I wanted Gatorade. I desperately needed it. He gave me not 1, not 2, but 3 bottles!!!
When you see a car pass by you, turn around, pass by you again, and stop ahead, you know something good is about to happen!
This lady gave us cold water! She was driving a support vehicle for another group of bikers.
Kansas has not been the walk in the park like I wanted it to be. It’s been hard. Every state is hard in its own special way 😂.
Today, we started riding at 5 am, and got almost all of our miles before noon!! At noon, we stopped at a truck repair shop to get some water. The lady in the shop was in the documentary Inspired to Ride– a documentary about the TranAm bike race!
The last 6 miles spit us up and chewed us out— and I realize I said that totally backwards but that just goes to show you the state my brain is in…so I’m leaving it for the full effect. 🤓
It was 101 degrees, and who knows how hot on the road. We had a 35 mph crosswind/headwind wannabe, and it was so strong that I couldn’t keep my bike on the road. I had to ride close to the shoulder with all the huge semis hauling farm equipment and the cattle trucks that generate so much wind, it feels like a slap in the face when they go by. When you hear one coming, you literally have to grip your handlebars tight and hold it steady, or you get blown all over the road. It’s scary.
My bike would get hit with a gust of wind and blow me off the shoulder and into the grass…over and over and over again. It was scorching hot and no shade. I tried pushing my bike and could hardly even push it. There were several times that I had to hold onto my top tube and lean my body backwards to prevent it from falling over.
I started to panic.
I couldn’t get anywhere. There was zero shade. It was over 100 degrees. I tried to move forward and was making hardly any progress. And in the middle of all the heat and wind and sun, I had a panic attack (and that is not like me at all). By the time I caught up with Masherra, I was upset and felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was scared because it was dangerous to be out in the sun, pushing your body to the limits. I was able to get a grip and then we pulled out my rain fly and tried attaching it to a sign to create some shade, but the wind was too strong. We headed on up the road and found an old abandoned house. We crawled under the fence to get to it. Shade.
Masherra’s friend, who was coming to visit us anyway, came to the house and loaded up our panniers in her 4Runner.
We rode the last 4 miles without our gear, and even that was extremely difficult to do in the wind and heat.
So, after a really rough afternoon, I’m looking back to a few days ago at the Lizard Lips Cafe. It was a hole in the wall place- the only place with food and water for miles. Oh! And they had kittens!
While we were eating inside, a man made small talk with us.
“I’m proud of you two.”
And that’s all I needed to hear.
Although this is a trip of a lifetime, it’s been very hard…mentally just as much as physically. I thrive off of words of affirmation, and those 5 words are keeping me going. Sometimes you’re trying so hard and it feels like you’re not accomplishing anything. It’s easy to be hard on yourself, so I’m thankful for the people who see what we are doing through another lens.
Last night we slept inside a small rest area. It wasn’t busy, but people did walk in and out. We totally looked like homeless people…but it was an air conditioned, nice place to sleep! The mayor came and talked to us for a bit. I had no idea he was the mayor because he looked my age!
Today, we got up and rode 20 miles to the next town, and we are going to rest up during the day and ride all night…and if the city pool opens up, I’m definitely going to be jumping in!
I’m already preparing for weird looks over my tan lines. 😂