Colorado Springs, CO > Pittsburg, KS
Since I wasn't yet on the Adventure Cycling route, I was following Google's cycling advice once again and as I might have guessed, I ended up on yet another unpaved dirt road. But all was fine and dandy cause it was a perfect day, not too hot, tail wind and smooth, hard-packed dirt. I could cruise at about 20mph for many, many miles. I got to Pueblo much faster than I anticipated, which was totally fine by me. Once in town, I stopped at a Little Caesar's pizza place for lunch and got one of their $5 ready-to-go pies. I had about half of it and put the other half on my bike.
The storm was in the middle of its arrival and that meant the wind was blowing like crazy by now, throwing all kinds of sand, dirt, and other debris at me, more specifically into my eyes. I didn't have any shelter at all, so I cautiously went up to the first house and knocked on the door. It didn't seem like anyone was home, so after a minute, I went to the only house that looked like there were signs of life. It was starting to rain by now, huge, heavy drops that hurt when they hit you. Fortunately there was someone home at this house and after explaining to the woman, why I knocked on her door, I was offered a seat inside. She was the grandmother of the two young kids who were staying with her for the week, Tanner and (Blake?). They were super nice and she let me heat up my left-over pizza in the microwave and weather the storm in the house. They all got super pumped when I told them I was from Nashville because they all evidently love country music. The boys especially loved Taylor Swift and asked if I could get her autograph when I got home. I told them I'd try, but I think I've now misplaced their address so I couldn't mail them anything even if I wanted to. Sadness :(
Finally after a few hours, the lightening and rain had largely passed and, not wanting to overstay my welcome, I left and went across the street to the picnic table and two trees to set up my tent for the night. It was still really windy and I was worried the tent poles might snap. It was one of the few times I tried to stake my tent down simply because I thought it was safer. The ground was extremely rocky and I think I managed to only get a few in. I piled the rest of my gear inside the tent to weigh it down. I didn't sleep very well because the storm had me worried all night.
The morning finally showed up and I found myself covered in a fine layer of dust. I never really thought about dust getting in my tent since the mesh is so fine, but I guess it was really fine dust. Continuing on and not much had changed. The wind was still blowing in every direction except from behind me which wears you down after 8+ hours. The terrain does too because there's no opportunity to coast, ever. I'd take mountains over the flatness of Kansas. The following video also does a good job of showcasing some other not great elements of the midwest:
Good thing I found some happiness there because what followed was the worse section of road in America as I referred to it. It was long, straight, flat, hot and bouncy. And there was nothing different to see in any direction. But then this happened and I amused myself for a brief moment:
The day's big push left me pretty weary and getting up in the AM was a chore. I think they were surprised how long I was there actually. I afforded myself the opportunity to get breakfast down the road at a little restuarant/cafe place and got a muffin for the road. Try as I might, I was only able to crank out 75 meager miles that day to get me to Eureka, KS via Cassoday, the "Priarie Chicken Capitol of the World."
A big part of the reason for not making it as far this day is because about 20 miles outside of Newton, I quit. I had a breakdown. I gave up riding my bike. I couldn't will myself to crank over the pedals another stroke. I just wanted to leave my bike in the ditch on the side of the road and never see it again. On the map, there was a note that said "No services next 58 miles." That meant there was going to be no food, no water, no shelter, no nothing for at least five more hours worth of riding. I had never been more miserable in my entire life. It was a new definition of low for me. I didn't actually leave my bike there of course simply because I had too much money in it and my gear to do so. So I just started walking with my bike. I walked because it was the only way anything was going to get any better. I had to get out of Kansas even if it took me one step at a time and another week. I considered hitch hiking again, but I hadn't seen a single car in hours or any signs of human life for that matter.
I walked for more than an hour before I saw another human. I had just reached an intersection of two country roads and there just so happened to be a car that pulled up at the same time. A young Mennonite girl, bonnet and all, stopped and rolled her window down to ask what I was doing and if I needed anything. Well, by this point I was pissed and annoyed at the entire world, including her and even the way the rolled her window down. I said I was fine and really just wanted her to go away. She suggested I head to the church around the corner and cool off in the sprinklers. I said ok not planning on taking her advice and wishing she would really just leave. She did finally drive off and I continued my solemn march towards Cassoday. I don't know what made me turn around, but I did, and went to that Mennonite church and did what she said. I just stood in the sprinkler until I was completely soaked, filled my bottles from the hose, ate a couple slices of left-over pizza and took a two-hour nap in the shade of the building on the concrete sidewalk. A fly buzzed my nose and finally woke me up from my respite. I hate to admit it but that girl was right. I was saved by a Mennonite girl and a Mennonite church in the middle of nowhere Kansas.
I stayed in the town park in Eureka that night and had an amazingly pleasant experience. They had a public shower building in the park which I definitely made use of. The water was completely cold, but the building itself was still very hot from baking in the sun all day. It was really refreshing to take a cold shower. I slept very soundly that night, but not before talking to a stranger who was walking his dog in the park at 10pm. He wins the award for most country-sounding individual I've ever talked to. Being from Nashville, I feel like that's saying something. "Tweein tires" = Twin Towers in his lexicon as he used that as a historical marker on his timeline which coincided with his move from small-town Missouri to smaller-town Kansas.