Saturday, September 22, 2007

Slappin' Dorothy

My instincts about where to stay last night were spot on. Just as I'd ridden into town, I noticed an access way into a grassy field beyond a massive blue water tower, the constant signature of towns across the Midwest. I spent the evening at a park where I cooked up and watched the sun set then cruised over just before dark. I glanced this way and that. The coast was clear--go! In I bounced across the grass and in behind a stand of trees--mowed grass, hidden from view on all sides, totally perfect--and free, the best of all possible camping worlds.

The vampires were out as I pitched my tent. My technique is to get everything ready then dive in, zip the screen down to foot level, rip of my sandals or shoes, and crank the zipper shut, hopefully keeping the blood suckers out. Only one got in, which I quickly dispatched with the hand of God--mine. No good Jain here: All mosquitoes and biting bugs must die.

Because of the heat, I was sleeping without the fly on the tent to maximize whatever pitiful air movement I might get. Not much help there. I just lay in a sweating coffin, waiting for things to somehow cool off. I eventually drifted off to be suddenly awakened by rain drops hitting the tent. Out! Out! Keystone cops run around and get that fly on, cover the bike, dive back in before you're soaked. Just as I settled back onto the pad, the rain began in earnest. Safe and hot, I fell back asleep...only to awaken at 3:30 with an urgent need to water the foliage. Damn, couldn't sleep, had to get up in thirty minutes anyway. Wait, debate, give up and give in. All right, all right, I'm getting up. The rain had long since stopped. I packed, rolled back to the park for gawdawfulearly breakfast and hit the road before 6am.

My escape from Clinton was along route 7 towards Kansas City. This, at first, had a superb shoulder, smooth and mega-wide. I was about to praise MODOT to the skies when the shoulder turned to shite, long sections of totally tattered, gravelly, chunky mess. C'mon, people. Y'all can do better than this. So I was often forced onto the main road where I would stay until traffic forced me back onto the shoulder, which was okay some of the time, too. Fortunately, traffic was very light during the pre-dawn hours then quite moderate for a four lane divided highway thereafter.

I've been dealing with some mildly painful tightness behind my right calf and hamstring, but I pulled through today without too much problem. I made a good point of stopping every hour for a bit of just walking and light stretching. I don't know what the problem is since my left leg is fine. Still, I had a fine day of cycling on generally smooth roads at high speeds. My average was close to 13 mph. Contrast this with my slow days when I've averaged as low as 9.7 mph. Now, to those of you riding around in cars this may sound laughable, but when the pistons are your legs, your heart and lungs and guts your engine, this is a HUGE difference and represents, for me, a fun, quick cycling day from one with a good deal of strain and strife. Tail winds and only moderate climbing really helped though today I did climb for a total of 1,300 ft.

Here's another thing: Many people, when notified I'm riding east to west, make the crack about riding against the wind. Dudes, I'm not at 40,000 ft. in the jet stream. Conditions on the ground vary a lot. Sure, there may be general trends, but don't count on tail winds if you're headed east. You will almost certainly be gravely disappointed. Steven Kraft, whom I encountered in Ohio, commented on plenty of winds out of the east. Today, I was headed north and west--with tail winds. So there you go.

So, shortly before noon, I hit Kansas. Carry on my wayward son. There were only three things to do: Take a photo, get back on the bike, and blast some Van Halen (the early stuff) to power me into town just a few miles away. Runnin' with the devil, baby, runnin' with the devil. Some jerk gave me the sign of the flying bird because I was pinching traffic a little (no shoulder). I just laughed out loud and waved happily. A new state, by gum. No sad bloke was going to tarnish this high.

I've got information on where to camp. I'll grab some grub and head for the park. This tour is going well indeed. Just three more days to Manhattan. I can't freakin' believe I'm in Kansas. What's this world coming to? Let me at that wicked witch. I'll drill her with my chain rings, the noxious wench. This is your faithful correspondent signing off from the left edge of the Great Midwest Outback.


Rob Thomson said...

Look out for twisters! Or just wear some red shoes so that you can click them together if you get in trouble.

Well done.

Scott Wayland said...

Hey, Rob: Yeah, I need some red cycling shoes. Today, with some turbo tail winds, it felt like riding a magic broom--yippee!