AUG AUG SEP
Previous capture 28 Next capture
2007 2008 2009
16 Oct 04 – 28 Aug 08
Related Photos The Pueblo, CO to Medicine Lodge, KS Stage (via Highways 50, 96, 83, 400, 54, 183, 160) Back
August 13, 2004
The day that we had long anticipated has arrived. We will ride from Pueblo down into the plains of Kansas. It will be all down hill, right? Given that we did not expect a lot of service stops in eastern Colorado and that we might have a higher average speed, we set our sights for Eads, CO, an ambitious 110 miles away. The plan was to start out at first light. Well, that launch time was delayed slightly as we discovered that the trailer tire was flat. After taking 20 minutes to change the tube, we were on our way. After just a couple of miles, we found ourselves on busy Highway 50, competing with the morning rush hour traffic. However, the four-lane divided highway had wide shoulders and rumble strips to separate us from the traffic. We were going east and most of the motorists were headed west into Pueblo.
After a dozen miles of the rather bland four-lane highway, we were happy to turn off onto Highway 96, a quiet two lane road with a two foot shoulder. This road paralleled a railroad track. The map has us following these tracks clear into Kansas. We passed pastures of sagebrush with some occasional fields. One produce farm had two truck loads of onions sitting along the highway. Although we didn’t have the sensation that we were going down hill, we were going at a comfortable 12 to 14 mph. There were some slight inclines in places but nothing to slow us down into single digit speeds.
With an approaching train to dramatize the setting, we reached another milestone, 4000 miles. As we quickly positioned the bike for the photo documentation, the train stopped. Hmmm, what timing. Barb held up four fingers as we savored the moment. We continued on, leaving the stopped train behind. Just twenty miles into our day, we reached Boone, CO. The sign outside town stated the elevation at 4,500 ft. Divide the elevation by 14 and you have the approximate population of the town. A lot of the Colorado towns show the elevation signs at the city limits. Being above 4,000 ft must be a status symbol around here.
The surroundings became more arid and sunflowers dotted the roadside. We saw a coyote cross the road and run to a nearby hill. It ran and ran to reach the hill top. Then it stopped and just gazed back at us. After passing a pasture of dairy cattle, we crossed over the railroad tracks. The tracks were now on our right. Every setting has its points of interest. In this instance, just crossing the tracks gave our ride some diversity. Also attracting attention was the sign, “DIP – Do Not Enter When Water is Over Road.” We pictured the area as having little rainfall so we wondered how often this sign was applicable.
After biking 40 miles, we came to a large correctional faculty outside Olney Springs, CO. We didn’t want to pick up any hitchhikers here. Reaching Olney Springs, the sign informs us that we are at 4,391 ft. Hey, we are still above 4,000 ft. Because we are hoping for a big day, we stopped at a café to eat not lunch, but breakfast. When cycling, one can eat multiple breakfasts as long as the food is available. A Gulf War veteran strolled across the street to greet us. He had done some motorcycling down the Alaskan Highway so he was impressed with our adventure.
Leaving town, we saw a second correctional facility. We found it interesting that this town was sandwiched between two prisons. Those serving time in eastern Colorado certainly don’t enjoy the mountain views. These facilities provide much needed jobs to the area and the relatively treeless landscape offer escapees few places to hide. After eleven miles, we reached Ordway, CO at 4,312 ft. The small town had services but we chose to wait until the next town to stop.
East of Ordway, we saw our first cattle feed yard. It was a mile long with rows of pens and a trough along one side of the pens. A grid of roads along the pens allowed trucks to slowly drive next to the trough, distributing feed pellets. The cattle would come running whenever this happened. Of all of the traffic we saw on the highway, about half consisted of cattle trucks and feed trucks. The cattle trucks, in particular, were memorable as they brought a certain smell to the area. Fortunately we never were sprayed by waste coming out of the trucks as we heard some bikers were.
As we left Ordway, we could already see the elevator in the upcoming town, six miles away. Because it was so flat here in eastern Colorado, it was typical to be able to spot a town from miles away by sighting its grain elevator. Sugar City, CO (population 274) was listed as a service stop but nothing seemed to be open. Now, we regretted not stopping in the previous town for refreshments. We had pedaled 70 miles by 2 PM so we were having a pretty decent advance today. And then, the south wind arrived. What an untimely wind! We had 40 miles left and this wind was strong enough to hinder our eastward movement.
Just before reaching Arlington, CO, we met a custom cutter crew headed west. Because all of the area wheat had been cut several weeks ago, we assumed that this crew was heading home. We missed the wheat harvest but at least we got to see a couple of combines (loaded on trailers) heading down the road. A few houses in a river valley made up the small settlement of Arlington. Continuing on, we went by miles of pasture. The grass wasn’t very green and in some instances looked like it had been dry for a while.
The sign outside Haswell, CO showed an elevation of 4,538 ft. What is this? We have climbed 200 ft in elevation! After all of the climbing we have done in the past months, we were bemoaning a couple hundred feet. Surely, the wind was more tormenting to us then the slight climb. More importantly, we were concerned that would be no services in Haswell. We biked through the length of town before reaching a service station on the east side. It was in a Quonset hut (steel arch building) and was so dimly lit, it looked closed. We peered inside the door and found a row of refrigerator units with sandwiches and such. We purchased microwavable sandwiches, chips and drinks. We sat on the sofa and watched the early news on a TV station out of Denver for 15 minutes. As we left, the store was closing for the day at 5 PM. Boy, were we lucky on our arrival time.
Now that our tanks were filled, we had 23 miles to lodging accommodations. This 110 mile trek was starting to look awfully long. The wind continued and for the next seven miles, added another new challenge. Dust from the crop-less fields was blowing heavily onto the road. What few motorists we met had their lights on. Would we be visible in this dust cloud? For a few miles, we probably ate as much dust as we did for the entire ride on the mostly gravel Alaskan Dalton Highway. To make matters worse, we could only muster 7 to 9 mph of speed because of the strong side wind.
For the final miles, we were taking a rest every two miles as the wind persisted. As we pushed ahead, we saw scattered farm houses with barns and windmills, some of which looked abandoned. We reached Eads, CO about 7:30 PM with very little daylight left. We checked into the only motel in the area and then took long showers to remove the dusty coatings. Since the room was equipped with a microwave and refrigerator, we walked to a nearby grocery store to buy sandwiches and breakfast items. The day had been long and it was time for bed.
Miles cycled – 113.5
August 14, 2004
We started early today hoping to get some miles in before the wind would pick up. However, the wind never really subsided overnight. We thought that with the flatter terrain of eastern Colorado and western Kansas we would be covering a lot of miles each day, but the wind was really draining us. Knowing that we would reach Kansas later in the day, we were motivated to push on. Early in the morning, we were greeted with pastures filled with wild sunflowers. With the sunflower being the Kansas state flower, we figured that the state line couldn’t be far off (actually, we were 40 miles away). Within our first ten miles out of Eads, we had a flat on the rear tandem tire. This was a pretty remote area to be having a flat! We were uncertain about the cause of the flat as it did not appear to be a pinch flat and nothing foreign was found in the tire. So, we put on a new tube and continued on.
Let’s see now, we had a stubborn wind, we had to change a flat; what else could make this morning miserable? How about the threat of rain? Yes, the morning clouds in the west became a dark blue color and for a while, we looked like we might get soaked. We should have realized that it hardly ever rains in eastern Colorado so we would stay dry without issue. Given that we were biking along at 8 to 10 mph instead of our usual 10 to 12 mph, Randall began to hum “Da-da-da-da-DA-da” to the tune of the Chariots of Fire theme song. We didn’t go any faster with a humming captain but, at times, we were actually able to ignore the wind.
As like the day before, the grain elevator of each town came into view miles before we got there. In some cases, the town wasn’t much more than that elevator. Chivington, CO and Brandon, CO both had a post office, but no other services. It was very apparent that not many people live out this way. Until a farmer came down the highway with his tractor, we had not seen any motorists for at least an hour. Reaching Sheridan Lake, CO (population less than 100) was a big treat. They had a limit selection of snacks at the roadside service station. We warmed up some sandwiches in the microwave and sat outside to eat. As we were leaving, the operator asked if we needed anything else as he was closing down the service station. It was 10:30 AM on a Saturday. Services in small towns don’t operate on the same schedules as those in larger cities.
As we were finishing the last few miles in Colorado, we noted that we were still following the railroad track. Perhaps no train ever comes down this track any more. We did see hundreds of flat bed cars on the tracks. We wondered, what better place to store unused railroad cars? Finally, we reached Towner, our last town in Colorado. They had several elevators and grain bins. Big wooly sheep were seen grazing among the bins.
We were elated to have reached the “Welcome to Kansas” sign. It was a time for photos. As we ventured into our fifth state, we noticed that the road surface became a bit smoother. Our pace quickened slightly. The increased speed may have been due to less resistance or maybe it was just the thrill of being in our home state. Only one mile past the state border, we had our first tractor sighting. It was a huge tractor with three tires at the end of each axle (for a total of 12 tires). The farmers in western Kansas have long managed large acreage and this equipment typified how they farm in a big way. While he was a teenager, Randall had traveled to Greeley County with his family to visit relatives. What struck him then was the land was so flat that you could almost sense the curvature of the earth. It was interesting that on this tour, the land did not seem as flat to him as the bicycle ride was identifying a few ups and downs.
We followed 16 miles of “straight as an arrow” highway to reach Tribune, KS. Outside of town, there was a sign stating the rainfall, year to date, as 20.20 inches. We were thinking that amount was bit above their average. At 2 PM, we biked into town just as the roadside café closed for the day. A local suggested the burger shack half a block down. They had inside seating to give us some relief from the wind. Because of the wind, we had been averaging less than 10 mph in flat Kansas. What a humble venture into our home state. Having biked through the mountains of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, we never had a day where we averaged under 10 mph. In the mountains, there was always a fast downhill waiting for us after the slow climb.
Because of the persistent south wind, we decided that we would not bike the 47 miles needed to reach Scott City, KS. That left Leoti, KS which was just 22 miles away, for our overnight stop. Camping was allowed in the new and old city parks, but neither site had restrooms or showers. While in Tribune, we called the only motel in Leoti and asked about availability. They had to check to see if someone who had reserved a room was really going to use it. We called again later and they confirmed that the second floor room was available. They would save it for us with just our name, no credit card number needed.
As we advanced into western Kansas, we saw many pastures with cattle. On a couple of occasions, the cattle along the fence began running and seemingly pursuing us as we biked down the road. It was hilarious to watch but the cattle’s owner probably wouldn’t like to see the herd running (and losing weight). We theorized that perhaps the cattle thought that we were going to feed them out of our trailer. After a half mile, the herd gave up the chase. We spotted a rattlesnake on the shoulder of the road which had been run over. When Barb walked over to take a picture, it tried to coil its body and shake its rattle. Its head was smashed but the snake was not dead yet. Barb got two quick images using the telephoto setting and left. We passed a pasture with old cowboy boots placed upside down over the fence posts. There must have had been about three dozen boots in the display.
At the Wichita County line, we entered the Central Time Zone and promptly lost an hour. We had been on mountain time for so long, it was nice to have a change. On either side of the elevator in the town of Selkirk, KS, signs warned “Caution Wind Currents.” Oh really? We’ve been fighting those currents for two days now. Later, we came across a bridge in the road that was being completely rebuilt. A detour pavement running parallel to the construction was no problem to bike over. Before Leoti, we started seeing a number of corn fields. The corn was very tall and robust. Oh, for the wonders of irrigation. The obvious question was, how long will the underground water last?
As we entered Leoti, we discovered that the city was hosting the last day of the county fair. We were also told that there was an all class school reunion that night. Reunions in small towns are typically well attended. All this activity meant that the town with a population of 1,598 was packed with people and motorists. We realized then that we were very lucky to have a room with our earlier afternoon reservation. But because the motel was at the center of all this activity, we were concerned about the security of our bike. Normally, we take the bike into our motel room but our room was on the second floor. We asked in the office where would be the best place to secure our bike. They offered their motel storage garage across the street. We then showered and grabbed a bite to eat before retiring for the day.
Miles cycled – 78.7
August 15, 2004
We initially planned to start biking early in hopes of getting a break from the wind. However, once again the wind did not diminish overnight. Still tired from the last two days, we decided to sleep in until 9 AM. We were 25 miles west of Scott City. After Scott City, we would turn south and head right into the wind. The TransAmerica route continued east, but we were deviating from the route to visit Randall’s hometown, Medicine Lodge, KS and then Barb’s hometown, Manhattan, KS. We would rejoin the TransAmerica route at Chanute in southeast Kansas.
As we headed beyond Leoti, the fields of corn and sorghum were becoming more abundant. The area from Scott City through Garden City, KS and Dodge City, KS has a lot of cattle feed yards. So naturally, one needs to grow a lot of grain to support all of these operations. West of Scott City, we reached one of these feed yards. After stopping to take photographs, we noticed a touring cyclist approaching from the east. George (also known as Catfish on a bike) was from Wisconsin. He thought he was the last biker out here and was tired of talking to the cows. We compared notes on our adventures while the south wind blew the feed yard odors in our direction.
When we reached Scott City, we took a while to get oriented to the town. At nearly 4,000 in population, we hadn’t seen such a large town since we left Pueblo. We biked up and down main street and could not find a restaurant. So we ventured to the south several blocks where we found a Dairy Queen. While we ate lunch, Barb called her sister to arrange for a shipment of supplies to Medicine Lodge. Our tires did not need replacing but we needed more of our Habitat cards. After our meal, we ordered dairy treats for extra energy and made sure we had lots of fluids before we headed south on Highway 83. Having been eastbound on Highway 96 for three days, it was nice to have a change.
Heading out of town, the shoulder widened and most of the passing vehicles gave us a wide berth whenever the other lane was free. We actually would have preferred that they passed closer to us because when they did, they temporarily disrupted the headwind and we then experienced a slight surge in our speed. For the 33 miles south, we would proceed at a pace of 6 to 8 mph. What a long afternoon! There were lots of beetles and caterpillars on the shoulder as they must thrive with all of the crops and livestock waste in the area. Some of the beetles were fairly large as Randall had to weave a bit on the shoulder to avoid running over them.
Because we were getting quite a workout going into the wind, we adjusted our rest stop frequency from every five miles to every three miles. During a rest stop several miles south of Scott City, we looked back to the north and counted five separate grain elevators around the town. A variety of crops were seen along the highway, including, corn, alfalfa, wheat, sorghum and sunflowers. When we reached Shallow Water, KS, we notice some gas pumps at a convenient fuel stop for the locals. What was unusual about this station was that there was no store or service attendant. You would simply pull up to the pump, insert your credit card, and fill your tank.
Just north of the Finney County line, we passed by Friend, KS. We always knew there was a Friend in Kansas. During our breaks in this area, we paid more attention to the stickers and thorns seen among the weeds beside the shoulder. We wouldn’t want to get a flat because we walked the bike over some thorns. North of Garden City, there was a sign that promoted Liberal, KS with its Mid-America Air Museum and Dorothy’s House. We mention this as so many of our non-Kansas friends easily relate Kansas to Dorothy and the “Wizard of Oz.” Alas, our route would not take us to Liberal.
Upon reaching the north end of Garden City, we stopped at a visitor center for motel information. Since we were off the TransAmerica bicycle route, we had less information then we were accustomed to. The visitor center did offer a bicycle map for the state of Kansas. On this map, desirable routes were marked throughout the state which included three west-east options. We then proceeded through Garden city to a motel on the southeast edge of town. This motel location would position us for an early departure to Dodge City the next day. Along the way, we passed through the downtown area and biked by a very large grain elevator.
Miles cycled – 63.6
August 16, 2004
We rose early and packed the bike in preparation for a pre-dawn ride. We then rode a short block to the Red Baron, a 24 hour restaurant for a hearty breakfast. At 6:20 AM, we started biking as we headed southeast out of town on Highway 50 (same highway we rode on, east of Pueblo). It was still dark as we were on the western edge of the Central Time Zone. Highway 50 had a wide shoulder for our convenience. We used our front and rear bike lights for added visibility. As always, the reflective slow moving vehicle triangle and yellow flag on our trailer accompanied us. In addition, we wore yellow jackets with reflective material. The traffic was lighter at that time in the morning (as we had hoped) and those who were out commuting had no problem seeing us.
For all of the visibility we had, we almost didn’t see a commuting cyclist traveling towards us on our side of the highway. He was wearing dark clothing and had no lights. We were able to avoid a disastrous, bicycle to bicycle collision. We noticed our speed was better this morning as the wind was less than 10 mph. What a relief! After seven miles, we reached the Garden City regional airport. We were impressed with how far the airport was located from the city. By 7 AM, it was getting lighter. At the same time our shoulder necked down from 8 feet to 30 inches. Yikes!
A few miles later, we reached the small town of Pierceville, KS. Like most other small towns in Kansas, the most dominant structure was the grain elevator. Just beyond Pierceville, a cattle truck passed us very closely (with no oncoming traffic). We adjusted to this unexpected “close shave” but were more than startled when the driver blasted his horn once he was alongside of us. We then passed a game farm which raised game birds such as peasants or quail. The birds were held in with fencing and netting. The netting was hung high above the pens in a circus-tent like fashion. There was heavy vegetation throughout the pens to provide cover.
This portion of Highway 50 followed the path of the Santa Fe Trail which paralleled the Arkansas River. Just before the small town of Charleston, KS, a section of the road had just been resurfaced. A flagman at each end limited travel to one lane of traffic at a time, although both lanes were being used. Westbound traffic would travel through the section on their side and then east bound would travel on their side. In this setup, we did not feel rushed to get through the construction zone as when the opposing traffic came through, there was plenty of road for all.
After passing through the construction zone, things were more risky. For each group heading east, 12 to 15 vehicles (mostly trucks) were headed in our direction in mass. We could advance about one and a half miles before the next group reached us. Then we pulled off the highway completely to let them go by. A couple of truckers gave us a courtesy honk as they appreciated what we were doing. After five miles, the line was dispersed enough that we didn’t need to leave the road. West of Ingalls, KS, we encountered some considerable hills. Imagine that, hills in “flat” Kansas. In fact, when we reached the top of the first big hill, a sign noted a scenic overlook so we stopped for a rest and to enjoy the setting. We had a wonderful, panoramic view of a feed yard!
Having climbed over a couple more big hills, we reached Ingalls. In this small town, a weathered sign identified the Ingalls Bulldogs as the “1984, 8 Man, Division II, State Football Champions.” Some towns do not have enough high school kids to support the traditional eleven man football team and play with eight instead. Even as more schools consolidate, the declining populations in the small Kansas towns have forced many high schools to switch to eight man football. So many schools now field eight man teams that there are actually two different divisions. Played on a slightly smaller field and with fewer players, eight man football has an offensive advantage over the regular eleven man version. The games can be high scoring.
Just a few miles beyond Ingalls was Cimarron, KS. This city of about 2,000 had a quaint downtown. Even more striking for this setting was to see a semi truck loaded with hay turn onto main street. After getting some refreshments at the convenience store, we stopped by the drug store to get some allergy medicine. We had biked by a number of feed yards (with our windows down) and Barb found the smells to be a bit overwhelming. East of town, the shoulder widened considerably. For about a quarter of a mile, a pick-up truck followed us while driving on this shoulder. This was despite the numerous, “No driving on shoulder” signs. Finally, the driver pulled onto the highway and passed us. It was an older man and we think he just wanted to get a closer view of us and our rig.
In the west, some thundershowers were developing. We biked on, hoping to stay ahead of the rain. Later, we came across a sign that directed us to the Santa Fe Trail display. We stopped to read the interpretive signs. This historic path was used from 1822 to 1872 to move supplies and “life’s possessions” the 800 miles between Missouri and New Mexico. A short walk on a boardwalk took us by some remaining ruts of the trail. The wagons traveled about 12 to 16 miles a day. We wouldn’t do too much better on a bicycle if we had to ride in those ruts. Rain drops started falling from the sky so we scampered back to the tandem to resume our ride.
We pedaled hard as we wanted to reach Dodge City before noon and stop at the local newspaper to tell our story. We encountered some rain but didn’t get soaked. A sign outside of town urged people to “Get the heck into Dodge.” At 11:40 AM, we found the newspaper office and parked our bike outside. Walking in without an appointment, we told the receptionist we might have a story they would be interested in. Even though we were wet and appeared to be just some bums off the street, she called a reporter over. Initially, the reporter seemed to be a bit annoyed at the timing and asked us when would be a good time for us to talk. Since it was still raining outside, we said now would be a good time.
The reporter grabbed a pad and pencil and started to lead us to an open desk with extra chairs. We asked if she wanted to take a quick peek at our bike outside. After seeing our rig, she seemed to be more interested in hearing our story. We chatted for 45 minutes. She was also a Kansas State grad and knew of our relatives who lived nearby. She took our picture standing next to our bike and said the article would be in the paper the next day. We ended up on the front page. Our front page insertion made us wonder what they would have otherwise used for a story as we didn’t arrive until mid day. To see the web posted version of the story, click this link: Dodge City Globe.
After the newspaper interview, the weather was clearing so we rode to Boot Hill for a photo op and lunch. We left town to the east where we stopped at another scenic overlook. The setting was (you guessed it), another feed yard. This panoramic view also included a very large processing plant. The plants and the feed yards have changed the face of Dodge City as a large portion of the workers are Hispanic. The public schools are now reportedly 60 percent Hispanic.
We then headed northeast to the small town of Wright, KS. Randall’s Aunt Flora lives there and was expecting us to spend the night. Five of her children living in the area came over for dinner that night. With a house full of relatives and a delicious meal, it was a time to cherish. We showed some of our photos on the laptop and spent a half hour answering questions about our bike and gear. Randall’s cousins enjoyed hearing about our adventure and we welcomed the opportunity to share our stories.
Miles cycled – 59.6
August 17, 2004
The Doge City Daily Globe had already arrived when we got up. As noted earlier, our cycling story was on the front page. The photo of us standing behind our bike was very colorful. How exciting! The article played off our Kansas connections and added a plug for Habitat. Aunt Flora sent us off well with breakfast (how could we be hungry after stuffing ourselves the night before). She took us to the local post office as we thought we could buy more papers there but there was no newspaper box.
To get down to Highway 400 from Wright, we headed one mile west before veering south onto 117th Street. There were a surprising number of trucks on this road. We were biking over a high plateau and had an incredible view. When stopped to rest, we could see five different grain elevators in the area, each marking the location of a town. Upon reaching Highway 400, we turned left and headed southeast. For about ten miles, we were biking along the Arkansas River before it veered to the north. The crops in the river valley appeared robust as a number of fields were irrigated. Wheat, sorghum and alfalfa were seen for mile after mile.
With a Arkansas River crossing ahead, we reflected on our previous crossings. We first crossed the Arkansas River south of Canon City, CO. It flowed from there to feed the Pueblo Reservoir west of Pueblo. As we were going east of Pueblo, we followed the river for 30 miles until the river veered to the southeast. We then rejoined this river when we reached Garden City, KS. North of Ford, KS, we crossed over this river once again. We were aware that a number of irrigated fields draw from this river which diminishes its volume. But still, we were amazed when we saw just a couple of puddles. There was no flowing river here! The river bed was full of weeds.
In Ford, we found a vending machine for the Dodge City newspaper. We bought four copies of the paper to share with family. The only businesses that seemed to be operating in Ford were the Blue Hereford Restaurant and a liquor store. The downtown area was pretty much deserted. We seemed to be getting more honks and waves from vehicles today. Perhaps, they read about us in the paper. Continuing on southeast of Ford, we saw a sheriff deputy in a pick-up truck checking for speeding violations in this 65 mph zone. During the eight miles we overlapped, we saw him stop two vehicles.
Approaching Mullinville, KS, we noticed a lot of movement at the side of the road. As we got closer, we saw that the north side of the highway was lined with metal artwork. Some of the metal art pieces were made with stop signs or other road signs and moved like pinwheels. Others were simply scrap metal that was cut, welded and painted to look like people. Most were politically motivated and included such people as Margaret Thatcher, Jesse Helms, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. The local government officials (especially the zoning board) were also targeted. The “art” was up to three pieces deep and spanned about an eighth of a mile. We stopped to take lots of photos as there was a lot to absorb. We saw one passing vehicle that was slowly driving along and video taping the scene. The man who created all this briefly stopped in his pick-up truck to talk to us. M. T. Liggett has spent 15 years on this artwork and was busy welding new art when we biked by his shop. It was quite a sight, but we don’t think many people would like it in their neighborhood. The entire group of artwork photos that we posted can be found in the album, Pueblo to Medicine Lodge 3 of 3
Mullinville seemed like a good lunch stop so we biked over to Gables Cafe, south of town. Their highway sign said “Best Food In Town.” That was certainly the case as it was the only cafe around. As we entered, the waitress said, “You sold your house in Rochester Hills, Michigan. You quit your jobs and are riding from Alaska to Florida.” Barb replied sarcastically, “Since you know everything about us, you must know what we want to eat.” The waitress quickly looked at the newspaper and said, “No, that’s not covered in here.” For the record, we ordered two taco salads. This cafe had a wall sign which read, “Everyone brings joy to this establishment. Some when they arrive, others when they leave.” We hope we were in the first category. Another sign said, “Please remove pliers and screwdrivers before seating.”
We stopped at a service station to fill our bottles with iced water before proceeding. The afternoon was getting quite warm. As we left Mullinville, we hopped on eastbound Highway 54. It was a busy highway but we had a wide shoulder. There was a small airplane to the south that was crop dusting. The plane would fly very low to the ground to spray the crops and then bank sharply before passing just beyond the area he had just sprayed. Again, he would bank sharply and then fly low again. He covered a lot of ground and looked like he was having fun doing it.
We stayed with Highway 54 until Greenburg, KS so that we could see the World’s Largest Hand Dug Well. It was completed in 1888 and is 109 feet deep and 32 feet in diameter. Right next to the well was a water tower with “The Big Well” painted on it . A big arrow pointed downward so that any visitor in town would have no problem finding the well. We peered into the well opening through the glass top but decided not to take the tour. Our destination today was still 23 miles to the south and into that infamous, south Kansas wind.
Leaving Greensburg on Highway 183, we no longer had a shoulder to ride on. No problem. The traffic was light as Randall counted 47 vehicles that passed us during the three hours we biked to the south. We maintained a slow pace into the strong south wind as we passed fields of sorghum and alfalfa. There were also a few oil wells along the way. We were getting back into the hill country. These were not significant hills but we did go to our granny gear on a couple of occasions. Finally, we reach Coldwater, KS and checked into our motel. The showers were most refreshing as they had hot water as well as cold water. We re-hydrated with lots of iced tea at a local restaurant.
Miles cycled – 68.7
August 18, 2004
With 40 miles and a lot of hills ahead, we started before sunrise so we could do most of our climbing before the day heated up. We were now on Highway 160, headed straight east for Medicine Lodge. This highway was marked as a scenic drive, but we didn’t need the signs to inform us as this is where Randall grew up. The morning was cool so we wore our jackets and tights for a few miles until we began some moderate climbing. Just outside Coldwater, we observed a gorgeous sunrise with beautiful red and pink colors. What a treat! The first group of hills were small and bunched close enough together so that we could apply our rolling hill technique (gathering enough momentum downward for an easy climb up). We stopped to gaze at Mule Creek, as Randall recalled the times his family had picnics there. Back then, the creek was fun to play in as it had more water than any creek on their farm. It was definitely more robust than the Arkansas River we saw the day before.
As we reached the Barber County line, we did a unusual thing. We stopped on an uphill. Randall wanted his photo taken with the sign. Advancing east, we could see that the hills had more of a red color. We were now among a group of hills called the Gypsum Hills. North of us in Sun City, KS, there is a mine where gypsum rock is extracted and trucked to Medicine Lodge for processing into wallboard. Some of us may actually have wallboard in our homes that originated from this Sun City mine. Continuing through the Gypsum Hills, Randall was watching for one particular hill that he thought was tremendous as a child. He thought we might really fly down this hill. However, after biking through the Rockies, this hill didn’t seem so steep anymore as we reached a top speed of 34 mph. It is funny how things appear so differently as a child.
After coming down this hill, Randall’s mother, Lorena, met us at the intersection of Highway 160 and Lake City Road. The Angell Seed Farm (where Randall grew up) is about 5 miles south from this intersection via dirt roads. We had biked those roads in the past, but didn’t want to tackle them while in the touring mode. We visited for a while before continuing on to Medicine Lodge, stopping for lots of photos along the way. There were two turnouts for scenic overlooks where our camera was very busy. Just west of Medicine Lodge, cattle were grazing along the Medicine River. Whereas in the past, cattle have stared at us curiously or follow us, this small herd was terribly spooked. They stampeded through a gate to flee the unusual sighting.
Arriving in town, we stopped at the convenience store to by a copy of the Barber County Index. The paper had a short story which noted a couple was biking from Alaska to Florida and would be stopping in town! We washed the bike at the car wash as we wanted it clean before we put it on display. We stopped at the post office to pick up some supplies and then met Randall’s sister-in-law, Jean, during her lunch break. We would stay at Harold’s (Randall’s brother) and Jean’s house in town for two nights, giving us time to visit with the people in Medicine Lodge. In the afternoon, we went to the library as it was a cool, quiet place to work on our website. That evening we rode our loaded tandem across town to the city park where we enjoyed a delicious 4-H cookout. We got to visit with some local 4-Hers and others who were very interested in hearing our story. Randall’s family were also at this gathering, including his parents, Elmer and Lorena, his brother, Roger and his wife, Twila, and nieces, Lisa and Kimberly. Harold and Jean’s son, Scott even rode his bike to the park so we got to ride together back to their home that night.
Miles cycled – 45.6
August 19, 2004
On this day, Randall’s folks had arranged with the local bank to use their Sunflower Room to meet the people in Medicine Lodge. We had our bike and trailer set up outside the bank while inside there were maps, newspaper articles and refreshments. The bank even put on their marquee sign, “Meet Randall and Barb Angell Cycling Cross Country Alaska to Florida.” It was a cool, rainy day so it was good to have this day off. We had about 40 people stop by to visit, including Barb’s parents, John and Mildred, who drove down from Manhattan, KS, picking up her Uncle Leonard along the way. Randall’s nephew, Mitch also stopped by as well as many of Randall’s former neighbors. They wanted to learn more about our adventure and had many questions about the bike and gear. Both local papers came by to interview us.
Miles cycled – 1.1
Related Photos Back