Ness City, KS
Camp (Larned City Park)
Hi:68 Lo:46, Windy, Overcast
This morning, Caleb was sick, so Michelle stayed home from work to take care of him. In a way, that worked out pretty well for us, because now we had access to their kitchen and bathroom, and that was great!
After breakfast, we headed to the grocery store to get our juice for the day, and we met up with Michelle and Caleb again! They were going to make cookies. Yum!
As soon as we got out of town, we were met with another very strong crosswind. O..MY..GOSH!!!
This is probably a good time to tell you about my newly formed ranking system for winds. Here is my order of disliked winds; 1 = most disliked.
1 - Gusty crosswind
2 - Strong crosswind
3 - Gusty headwind
4 - Strong headwind
5 - Moderate crosswind
6 - Moderate headwind
7 - Any kind of tailwind
At the beginning of this trip, bike touring novice that I was, I thought headwinds were the worst wind. But now that I've spent plenty of time in all different kinds of winds (and especially over the past month), I have decided that, without a doubt, crosswinds are my least favorite, and here's why:
- Crosswinds are more dangerous and have the potential to blow you into traffic
- Crosswinds make you less stable on your bike (see yesterday's blog post about what it's like to ride in a strong crosswind with traffic)
- Crosswinds are hard to breathe in, adding to their frustration
- Crosswinds are hard to bike in, slow you down, and wear you out
Headwinds, on the other hand, are just hard to bike in because they slow you down and wear you out. They are not dangerous, and they are not hard to breathe in. They don't make you unstable, and they don't create traffic gusts. If I could compare them to an animal, I'd have to say that headwinds are like a dragon, and crosswinds are like a multi-headed, fire-breathing, winged dragon that hasn't eaten for days and is looking for food.
So anyway, we had strong crosswinds this morning. And we also had lots of morning truck traffic. Boo.
After 20 miles, we stopped at a rest stop in Alexander, KS. The rest stop was just a building with a small entryway and some bathrooms. There were nice picnic spots outside, but Nathan and I decided to have our snack inside on the floor so we could get out of the wind. While we were eating, we noticed the rest stop had a very serious looking doorstop for the main doorway. It was made of three rubber bumpers on heavy-duty damper springs mounted on a quarter-inch thick angle iron bracket! It looked tornado proof. Even though we thought the wind was strong today, it apparently gets quiet a bit stronger out here.
After 30 more windy, trucky, long miles, we reached Rush Center and hid from the wind in a gas station for a little bit. We were both getting pretty fed up with the wind. I updated our trip diary while Nathan looked around. To his great delight, the gas station had pumpkin spice cappuccino..one of his great loves. :-) Nathan had been looking for pumpkin spice cappuccino for a while but hadn't found any yet, so this was a great discovery! To his dismay though, the machine was out. When he told the lady at the counter, she went over, opened the door to the coffee machine, shook the powder container, and told Nathan to try again. This time it worked! Happily he came back over to the table with his cup of pumpkin spice cappuccino. It tasted a little watered down, but he didn't care. Then we had some hot dogs and grudgingly headed back out to meet our adversary, the wind.
We happily made a right-hand turn at the edge of town and headed south (the way the wind was blowing) for 20 miles!! YYYAAAYYY!!! Now that we were going south, I had a chance to figure out how fast the wind was blowing. Nathan put some tassels on my bike's handlebars a few years ago for my birthday (what a great present!), and they've been really helpful on our trip! Looking at them, I can tell which direction the wind is blowing, and sometimes I can even tell how fast it's blowing. When we have a tailwind, I can tell how fast it's blowing by paying attention to when my tassels are hanging limp. When they are limp, it means we are riding the same speed as the wind. Back in Dubois, WY, I used this method to discover that our tailwind was blowing at 30mph!!! Today, the average seemed to be around 15mph, and the biggest gust we had was 22mph. It's not 30, but 15+mph winds are still pretty strong.
At the end of 20 fabulous miles with a tailwind, we turned to the left and headed East...and had a crosswind again. We had only gone 50 miles so far, but it felt like we'd gone 100. We were just so tired. Day after day of strong winds, trucks, and rainstorms had just drained us.
We had 13 miles to go to get to Larned, KS, and it felt like it took forever. Also, to our surprise, the flat plains started to get a little hilly. The combination of wind and hills became almost unmanageable those last 13 miles, and by the time we got to Larned, we were both starting to lose it a little bit. I yelled at a random SUV that drove by and threw a gust of wind at us, and at some point, Nathan yelled out into the hills, "I thought we were in the great PLAINS!".
We were as tired as we've ever been, as angry as we've ever been, and ready to yell at anything else that made our day difficult. Fortunately, God was watching out for all the innocent bystanders in our path, and He kindly placed a Subway in Larned. As soon as we saw it, visions of footlong subs and tall glasses of cold water started melting away our anger.
After we bought some cookie dough at the grocery store (for skillet cookies!), we locked up our bikes in the city park and ate some bananas and yogurt before heading to Subway. I noticed Nathan was starting to get some serious 'helmet hair'.
As we walked to Subway, we could feel that our tired muscles were ready to be done for the day. Our muscles usually get a little stiff at the end of the day, but all of the struggle today against the wind and the hills was an extra workout, and our legs felt a noodley as we walked through town.
We each had footlong subs at Subway, and we ordered our new favorites. Nathan's new favorite is the Subway Melt, and my new favorite is the Subway Club. After eating my first 6 inches, I went back up the counter to ask if they could put my other 6 inches in the microwave for a bit to warm it up. One of the guys looked at me and said, "Uhh..no, I don't think we can reheat subs. Right guys?" I thought he was joking, so I said, "Haha, yeah, yeah." And then he looked at me intently and muttered something that I couldn't understand. I had no idea what was going on. Another guy looked up and called across the room to a man at a far table and asked if they could reheat the sub. The man thought for a minute, and then said, "OK".
While my sub was in the microwave, he asked me if there was any mayonnaise on it. I said no, and he said, "OK, good."
Apparently he was from corporate, and one of Subway's rules is that you can't reheat subs with mayonnaise. I was sort-of surprised that he didn't ask if my sub had mayonnaise on it BEFORE he gave the OK to reheat it. What would he have done if I said 'yes', I wondered?
O well, who cares - there wasn't mayo on it anyway, and now it was out of the microwave and back into my hot little hands. We polished off our footlongs and hardly felt full, so we headed across the street to Wendy's for frosties. The lady put two small cups full of melted frosty on the counter and told me "We've done 56 frosties in the last 30 minutes", like that was supposed to make it better or something. So Nathan and I ate our frosties that were more like chocolate milk as we walked back to camp. At least we had skillet cookies to look forward to. :-)
As we walked, we noticed some small town, great plains, Halloween decorations: a skeleton riding an oil derrick.
When we got back to the park, Nathan fired up our little stove to start making skillet cookies, and another couple came over and started eating some pizza at another picnic table. As they finished up their pizza, they called over to us and asked if we wanted the last 2 pieces. We said 'yes', and I went over to talk with them. We talked a bit about our bike trip, and then I asked them why so many cars were driving around the park. Nathan and I had noticed that every few minutes, a car would drive a circle around the park and leave. This would've been less questionable if the park were a normal park, but this park was actually the city pool, and it was empty and closed up for the year, so we couldn't figure out why so many people kept driving around it. The couple laughed and explained that this was part of 'the gut' of Larned.
Apparently, the main road in town is called "the gut", and lots of people, especially high schoolers, drive it..or 'drag' it, and it's called "dragging the gut". The pool is the turnaround point in the gut, and that's why so many people have been driving around it. Well, that made a lot more sense!
We offered them some skillet cookies, but they said 'no thanks', and headed home. After finishing their delicious pizza, we tried our first skillet cookies. Unfortunately, they didn't come out very much like cookies. Nathan thinks we really need a lid, so we can create more of an oven-effect in our skillet, but without a lid, they just turn to warm mush and don't ever get crisp like cookies.
Regardless, we ate them all, and they were still delicious. :-)
After our yogurt, and bananas, and the cookies, and the pizza, and the frosties, and the footlong subs, we decided it was about time for bed, and we were full and happy.
Nathan set up our tent by a beautiful flower garden. It is a city garden, and it's mostly roses. They are all different colors, in full bloom, and very pretty!
Now we'll be lulled to sleep by the sound of cars and trucks turning the corner of 'the gut' all night. :-) O well, we'll probably fall asleep in no time after such a hard ride today, anyway!