The 2-inch diameter hail a few days ago was nothing compared to the heat, the humidity, the 20-30 mph cross-winds, and rolling hills of these past 3 days! The Continental Divide seems so inviting now…
Day 35 Route: From Hutchinson to El Dorado, KS
Another beautiful but long ride through the fields. Almost 80 miles in steaming heat, high humidity, and wind, followed by our 5th thunderstorm in our 5th night in Kansas. Fortunately (or unfortunately), none of the rain is coming down during the day to derail our schedule (or to cool us off).
We rode through Newton, a lovely middle-of-America-town and Alan’s hometown (I rode with Alan through Nevada to Bryce Canyon UT two weeks ago). Historically Newton is a huge Mennonite community and if Alan hadn’t already told me this I could have guessed it from the number of churches we passed. I asked Alan why a town of 4,000 people does not have a Starbucks and he said, “Because Mennonites would never pay $4 for a cup of coffee.” So smart! (I sat on some guy’s truck for this picture just for Alan!)
The wheat fields dwindled after El Dorado and were replaced with green rolling hills. So many rolling hills that we climbed 2,800 feet of elevation, clearly preparing for the upcoming Missouri Ozarks next week. On top of the elevation, we rode 90 miles in sweltering 96 degree heat and 79% humidity! An unbelievably scorching hot day today – even the cows were standing in ponds to cool off! (they clearly posed for this picture!)
We left at 7am this morning to beat the heat only to be greeted with 24-mph winds and a lot of rolling hills. For 57 miles we stair-cased our way to Pittsburg, riding South (into the wind), then East (with a cross-wind), then South again. As I was pedaling about 6 mph into the wind, I rested my arms on the handlebars to benefit from a little aerodynamics and discovered how to text while riding so slowly. Rest assured, I did not miss any of today’s 81(!) road kill… Made it to Pittsburg (pop. 17,o00) just after lunch, so I celebrated my last day in Kansas by finding the only Starbucks this side of the state.
As we rode through more farm country, we passed one farm in the process of combining its wheat field. Jan of Miller Farms was in the driver’s seat of a semi-truck waiting to be filled with grain so she could drive it to a grain elevator. She and her family have had the farm for 35 years and what she loves about being a farmer is (1) being her own boss, (2) the seasonality – there is a beginning, they work hard, it’s stressful, and then it’s over and they celebrate, and (3) working with her family. (Jan is pictured here. The combining on her farm pictured below)
(Agricultural Note: Combining is the act of cutting and gathering grain such as wheat. A “grain auger” then transports the wheat and deposits it into a truck, bin, or grain wagon, which then hauls it to a grain elevator to be weighed and then transported for processing.)
(Meteorological Note: While we think the nightly storms here are crazy, Southwest Kansas is loving the rain! They’ve been suffering from the worst drought since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s.)
Sam is married to Wendy (who I have been riding with on and off since Colorado) and he is supporting her ride across the country. I asked Sam over s’mores last night about his job. Sam retired after 28 years as a Train Engineer for Conrail (Consolidated Rail Corporation). What he loved about his job was running the trains, transporting freight from one location to another, and being great at his job. He also loved the camaraderie among the teams that made the trains run, just like a family in those days.
Day 35 miles: 79.02
Day 36 miles: 90.27
Day 37 miles: 56.92
Total mileage: 2,356.73 miles
Day 35 ascent: 1,257 ft of elevation
Day 36 ascent: 2,838 ft of elevation (the pre-Missouri rolling hills)
Total interviews: 60
Road kill count: 541
(added 37 on Sat, 64 on Sun, and 81 today (a new record!) including 9 armadillos – I didn’t know these animals existed in Kansas and now I’m afraid they’re close to extinction in this state due to so many being crushed by cars and trucks!)
Saved a Road Kill Potential: While I added 182 to the road kill count over the past 3 days, Wendy and I did save a good-sized box turtle yesterday that was walking into the middle of the highway. Yay! (This is a picture of Wendy and me behind the Moxiemobile)
New Road Kill Theory: Alan (my riding partner through Nevada) suggested that snakes love the warmth of the blacktop, and now I get it. Seems the frogs, turtles, and armadillos do too, thus attracting these animals to the roads (and to a bad dance with semi tires). While riding through California, Nevada, and Utah, however, the roads were never this hot to attract these kinds of animals.
Destination for Day 38: Missouri – state #5!