Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thats Larned, not Lander!

Friday July 24

We’re in the Midwest for sure now. It never cooled off last night as it is 7:00 and already 70 degrees. And muggy! This is our first taste of mugginess. It is similar to nothing we have in Shelton. You can keep your mugginess Kansas. We live in Washington and want none of this!

We were packed up and ready to leave by 8:00. Cloudless hazy skies and moderate winds again out of the south greeted us. I was just a little surprised that Colton wasn’t waiting for us on his bike with his sleeping bag! We stopped at the grocery store for another half gallon of chocolate milk, some donuts, some fruit and a couple more of the larger gatorades. The Donuts we polished off while the remainder was saved for later. We’re ready for you muggy Kansas! Give us your best shot.

The first 23 miles were typical as we struggled with cross winds. While team Jackson pedaled east, the wind blew from the south. We averaged 11 mph as the temperature continued to rise. When we pulled into Rush Center, it was a quarter of 12 and since we’d had no real breakfast other than donuts, it was time for us to eat. The only dining establishment in the whole town happened to be the local bar and grill. We weren’t too fussy to turn down bar food as the alternative was a quick visit to the convenience store. I had a burger and fries while Donna chose the chicken strips and Lewis of course had the mini-corn dogs. Once we had finished we realized that the place had filled up to capacity. They all must have felt the same way about the convenience store. Or maybe it was just the fact that there was air conditioning!

When we ventured outside of the bar the effects of the air conditioning hit us. We never should have gone in there! But the damage was done. With our water bottles all topped off, we set off. The next 19 miles would be a test of our determination as we would now turn 90 degrees and go due south instead of due east, right into the 20 to 25 mph wind. The wind was far from the worst we’ve ridden into but the added effect of the insane heat made it almost unbearable. We averaged just under 7 mph so with a couple of short stops to drink some of our hot water, it took us 3 hours to cover those 19 miles. Once again, the wind took its toll on the entire group but Lewis complained the most. He grew so frustrated from the slow pace and blast furnace temperatures that he actually pedaled some. This had no net positive effect but did seem to get him angry. He just couldn’t think of who to be angry with. Fortunately, he was not endangered as his role is not propulsion but rather comic relief. But he wasn’t funny today! Donna and I had to force ourselves to drink the hot water and hot gatorade but only a sip or two at a time as it was not refreshing in the least. Lewis never seems thirsty but we force him to sip from the hot water bottles when we do.

Once we had finished the 19 mile stretch into the wind it would have been nice to have a convenience store to buy some cold beverages but we weren’t that lucky. The best we could hope for was that the wind would switch back to a crosswind. Lucky us! We turned back towards the east and rode another 12 miles before encountering a National Historic Site: Fort Larned Kansas. Realizing that a visitor center meant at least a drinking fountain, we stopped to expand our knowledge of Fort Larned just a bit. Yes! A drinking fountain inside an air conditioned building went above and beyond our expectations!

There were several buildings all full of historically correct things that would have been used by the soldiers of that era. We didn’t explore these buildings but limited our exploration to the museum that was part of the visitor center. There was a video presentation that lewis had to watch, twice. I found a coke machine so was prepared to sit here for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, the place was about to close for the day so we had to leave. However, as we were preparing to depart, one of the rangers at this place invited lewis to assist in taking down the American flag. This was no easy feat as it was one of the big ones! It measured 36 feet long. (Photo)

We pedaled away from Fort Larned towards Larned Kansas, a hop skip and a jump away (7miles). Once we arrived in town I happened to spot another bank that happened to be flashing the temperature. At 5:30, it was a sultry 104 degrees. No wonder everyone was wiped out! Since Larned is a larger city, several opportunities presented themselves as far as dinner was concerned. Donna and Lewis chose to eat at a Sonic place and have Sonic burgers. I thought this was insane as it is a drive up place only. They have no inside eating. So while they ate their burgers in the shade of the building, I crossed the street and enjoyed the air conditiioned comfort of Wendy’s. I ingested massive quantities of ice water and ice cold CocaCola.

A short while later, we left to locate the city park which we were informed, had a swimming pool! Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus! And he lives in Larned Kansas. We found our park, set up the tent, and settled down for a long winters nap! Actually, we ran into our friend Paul from the day before and decided to share some really cold beer with him. He hasn’t enjoyed a decent beer since he’s been here and almost missed out again. Kansas is very limited in what I consider beer worth drinking. They have all the Budweiser and Miller products but very few of the micro-brews that I’ve come to appreciate. Paul and I first went to the grocery store where the beer cooler was stocked with Budweiser and Miller products. One of the clerks there was kind enough to give us directions to the liquor store where a wider selection of beer is the norm. This time, almost not though. The only micro-brew was Fat Tire Amber by the New Belgium Brewing Company. Bonus of the day; Paul bought the beer!

Lewis swam from the time we pulled in until the pool closed at 9:00. Larned has free swimming and free showers for cyclists! This was a very special treat on a very tough day. I found the cold beer to be exquisite on such a hot day. I managed to get my free shower and a dip in the pool (the largest one so far on this trip) just before they closed up for the day. We retired for the day physically exhausted but emotionally uplifted from the generosity of the town of Larned. And once again, our sleep was interrupted overnight. There were no baseball games in the adjacent ball diamond but it seems that cruising through the park and hollering out of the window is some sort of passtime that some of the citizens of Larned seemed to enjoy. But no matter, Lewis slept through and Donna woke once or twice but managed to fall back asleep. I, being the protector of the family, spent more time awake than anyone. This is going to catch up with me sooner or later.

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