Saturday July 25
The thunderstorms that had been predicted overnight, never materialized. However, the morning skies were certainly different from those we’ve experienced lately. The cloud cover was a welcome sight, but the direction of the wind was not. The winds previously from the south that had been more or less a cross wind, had swithced and were now blowing significantly from the northeast. This was not a good omen. Our riding today was to be almost entirely due east. We were able to pack up and get on the road before 8:00. Donna and lewis are beginning to understand the value in riding early verses late. We picked up 4 big bottles of gatorade and some fruit and a coffee cake for breakfast (and another quart of Chocolate milk). This was going to be the second day in a row where Donna and I opted to skip our normal ration of coffee in an attempt to shave off some wasted time.
A kindly old woman saw Donna and me standing in front of the grocery store and presented us with 2 croissants from her package of 6 that she’d just bought. She motioned me over to her car and said “This is for you and your friend”. Since Lewis was not present, as he was wandering around inside the grocery store, we missed out on a third pastry! I made quick work of one pastry. Donna donated hers to lewis as she is certain that she hasn’t lost enough weight while I verified that I am now at my lowest body weight in nearly 30 years. I’m tipping the scales at just over 160 pounds.
Next we devoured the coffee cake and the milk before pedaling away. The going was slow once again. The headwind would have been demoralizing had there been sunshine as well. The ride today was another one where services (food, water, restrooms) were non-existant for the first 58 miles. I decided to track todays ride by time instead of miles. So the first break of the day happened after an hour and a half. This consisted of fluids and some cherries. This is when the skies first began to show signs of erupting. We got back on the bikes and pedaled another 40 minutes before we saw the first lightning flashes fill the northern hemisphere. We pedaled on. Just 15 minutes later the rain started to fall as ominous gray clouds filled the horizon. A storage shed for tractors was spotted and we headed there to wait out the storm. We occupied ourselves with a bit of snacking while laughing at Lewis and his attempts to shepard a herd of toads that were thriving in this part of Kansas. Within 20 minutes the rain had stopped and the electrical activity seemed to have passed over us as well so we headed out. The inactivity lasted all of 20 minutes before more thunderstorms attacked us. This time we stopped and huddled underneath the overhang on a country church. An hour was spent here and I used the time to start getting caught up on my blog entries, being 2 days behind. Donna and Lewis also worked on their journals.
At this point in the day we had ridden a total of 21 miles and had about 50 miles remaining if we hoped to make our desired destination, Hutchinson Kansas. And it was already after noon. Dang those thunderstorms! However, with the occurrence of the rain, came a calming effect of the wind! We raced away from the church under threatening skies with no wind whatsoever in any direction. This would seem to be when the tornado should swoop down out of the sky and send us all to OZ! The rain soon returned and remained with us for most of the afternoon. On the positive side, however, the thunderstorms had all passed. Thank you kindly wizard of OZ! While I did grumble some about the constant drip drip drip, I was silently rejoicing. If the weather from yesterday had happened today (104degrees) and we had to ride 58 miles between towns, we would have been in serious trouble. As it was we rode all wet but at a comfortable temperature in the low to mid 70’s.
By 4:00 we finally pulled into the town of Nickerson Kansas. They were having some kind of celebration and a part of it involved mud volleyball! We pulled over to watch a bit of this insanity. Earlier there was a parade and later in the evening there would be a street dance. Since the day had been such a mild one, we were still well stocked in gatorade and other refreshments so we didn’t bother to even replenish. Imagine that. 58 miles and we still had cool water and gatorade to drink! Nothing like yesterday. The town of Hutchinson was another 12 miles distant so we hopped to it. This is when I began to really feel sluggish. In hindsight I can see now that having eaten next to nothing all day and having ridden nearly 60 miles, my meager reserves had been depleted. I was running on fumes. With another 6 miles to go, we stopped a final time and I finished off most of a 32 oz gatorade myself. That did the trick as I was instantly my old self again. Ready to pedal that bicycle up a wall if I had too. We flew the final 6 miles into Hutchinson, found the road where the Zion Lutheran Church was located and then found someone to pinpoint the exact location of the church.
We had expected to meet Paul here as he had agreed this would be a good place to stop for the day. He tends to ride 60 to 70 miles a day which is a zone we are now comfortable with. When we pulled up to the Church, there was no Paul. In fact the church seemed different. I had stayed at a Hostel that this church owned 13 years ago when I came through here. Now the building I thought I would remember was missing! How could that be? The map says that the church still operates a hostel so that hasn’t changed. The map also instructs cyclists to contact a local bike shop (Harleys Bike Shop) in order to get a key to the hostel. We failed to do this as I was assuming that Paul would get here hours before us and would be waiting for us. I tried to contact the bike shop but the number I dialed said that it had been disconnected or changed. What to do now? We were standing around outside of the church when one of the people living nearby approached me and asked if I was trying to get into the church. He has seen countless cyclists come and go from this very building and in fact even knew where the key was hidden for the cyclists to use. What a lucky break! Our alternative would have been to leave town and locate a campground nearby.
We let ourselves into the basement of the church and this is where we would spend most of the next 36 hours. Once inside I was able to figure out what happened to the “hostel” that I had previously stayed in. The church had expanded in the year 2000 and had added parking which meant the removal of one old, mostly underutilized house. Now the cyclists are closer to GOD! I am visualizing you right now Timothy! This being a Saturday, Donna and I mentally prepared ourselves to most probably attend services in the morning. And this Hutchinson being a larger community (40,000 strong), is also a good choice of where to spend a day off from the grueling routine that cycling has become lately. We did get away from the church long enough to do some shopping at the grocery store just a few blocks away. We went all out, splurged, and bought a whole watermelon. In addition, some tuna helper for dinner, some fish sticks, a half gallon of ice cream, a half gallon of regular milk, a half gallon of OJ and some more Gatorade. Upon returning to our new digs, we fixed up the tuna helper and fish sticks and polished off more than half of the watermelon. Boy did I feel full but also strangely contented after gorging to the point of bursting! Lewis continues to eat like a bird, while Donna occasionally binges like me. But I was the biggest glutton on this day!