Lonely Trees

I bet that tree gets lonely. This part (west of Lubbock, just to north) of the Texas panhandle is so flat you can see the curvature of the Earth. Most of it isn’t as green as the photo. Most of it is brown. And baron, and windswept and desolate.

Caprock Canyons

I stayed at Caprock Canyons State Park in the Texas Panhandle for a couple of days.

The first day I didn’t do much of anything but lay in the tent to keep it from blowing away. Gusts of 50. It’s always windy in the panhandle, and it’s always from the west or southwest. I’ll get to that later.

The park was the most hospitable place I’d come across in 1300 miles. The redrock canyons were very nice to look at, there were a few trees to block the wind, hiking and mountain biking trails, and a town with a grocery store (but not much else) 5 miles from my campsite.

It was nice to have a cool place to stay for a few days, and do some things besides pedal all day. I met more nice people too.

Maximum Overdrive

On a a very rural county road in Oklahoma, about 60 miles east of the Texas state line, I ran into a rancher. We talked for a good twenty minutes.

He thought what I was doing was pretty cool. Towards the end of the conversation, he did say that I’d be hitting a lot of truck traffic because I was headed right into a very active oil field.

I didn’t really know what he meant by “a lot of truck traffic.” Holy fuck. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s pretty remote country. There are towns every so often, but many of them are unincorporated, and don’t have a gas station/convenience, much less a grocery store. I went 120 miles between towns that had grocery stores. Don’t think you could do that in Minnesota or Iowa if you tried. I have to start being pretty strategic with the food/water I carry, and the route I take.

So it’s kind of remote, but the roads are SWARMING with trucks of every imaginable size and configuration. Lots of 18 wheelers carrying all kinds of industrial looking shit, dually F350’s with all kinds of compressed gas tanks and welding equipment, midsized industrial trucks with liquid tanks hauling god knows what. They usually come in packs of 3-7. Convoys of serious looking industrial equipment hauling ass on the way to some oil rig or another. Even what would be small time county roads are carrying interstate loads of truck traffic.

They’re all hauling ass, and it is a swarm of them. It all has a very frenzied feel about it. The kind of frenzy that only astronomical amounts of money, and the ambitious greed to grab it fast can produce. The general atmosphere is that there a shit-ton of money to be made, but it’s not going to be there forever, and if they don’t jump on that shit, someone else is going to eat their lunch.

The trucks give me the least amount of room, and they’re the worst to get buzzed by. On some of the really bad roads, hilly county road, no shoulder, shitloads of truck traffic in both directions, I had to pull off the road every five minutes of so, because 2 big trucks were going to pass right where I was, or one was going to pass on a hill where he wouldn’t be able to see oncoming traffic. I’d rather be aquiescent and alive, than stubborn and dead. These truckers slow for nothing. And they will pass blind, or nearly knock me off the road, or both. I’ve never seen anything like this.

I totally felt like I was in that Stephen King movie, Maximum Overdrive, where all the machines and trucks had taken on minds of their own and started to menace general society.

Hopefully I’m through the worst of it. I’m not sure though. I made it through a good 60 mile section of it anyway. It might be active a little west of here, but I’ll talk to people and find the best roads to take.

Kansas Anti-Bike Stance

Sign encountered smack dab in the middle of nowhere, for seemingly no godamm reason at all.

I encountered this sign on a county road in Kansas. I can’t remember exactly where it was now. I think somewhere between Marysville and Green. But it was in the middle of nowhere. Probably thrity miles in any direction from any kind of town. (I did pass a “town” a few miles away from this that consisted of two buildings, neither of them had roofs, but one said “Bank” in the concrete above the doorway. And it was on the map, so it must be a town.)

It was on a small time county road. I don’t think I saw any cars for thirty miles. I’m riding along, looking at blue sky, and empty fields, and countless dilapidated abandoned farm and ranch¬†buildings, and all of the sudden there is this sign. I might be the only person for which this sign was intended to have actually seen the sign. I was confused. No bikes? Huh? For what reason?

Five hundred feet or so farther down thge road this sign appeared:

Thank's for looking out for me Kansas.

 

Oh! OK, I get it now. That bridge wasn’t much of an obstacle for bikes by the way. Most five year olds could ride accross it, but whatever. I was relieved to learn that Kansas hadn’t taken some crazy irrational anti-bike stance for no reason.

For the record, Kansas has been real nice to bike accross, except for the wind. The people have been great. I’ve been approached by quite a few unlikely looking people asking where I’m going and telling me their touring accross Kansas stories. Plus I got one of those Kansas DOT bicycle maps which has made picking my route very easy, and has kept me on mostly pleasant roads to bike.

The Award For Most Discarded Beer Cans…..

Goes to…………

BUD LIGHT!!!!!!

There is about a case worth of beer cans every five miles or so of county road. For some unknown reason, the vast majority of them are Bud Light cans. This fact has not changed by city, county, state or region. Bud Light is always on top. And it’s not even a close competition. Bud Light bests the runner up (Busch Light) by AT LEAST a 10 to 1 margin. I’m not making this shit up. I’ve had about 1000 miles to examine roadway trash. I am an expert.

Also, 99.97% of roadway trash beer cans/bottles are light beer. Bud light, Busch Light, Natural Light, Miller Lite. This is fact, and that is a is scientific figure I made up to illustrate my point. So take me seriously.

Tumble Weeds Three Times Faster Than Me

Left the tiny town of Green, Kansas yesterday morning. Had about 50 miles to get to a state park. I knew it was going to be a slog. Predicted winds were out of the south 10 to 20 with gusts of 30. I was headed south. And if I’m going south at 10 mph, actual winds for me were 20 to 30 with 40 mph gusts.

A couple of days ago I was sailing south to Marysville, Kansas on north winds like that. Every time I stopped I wondered how horrible it would be to have to ride into that kind of wind. I got to find out yesterday.

All I could hear all day long was the WHOOOOSH of the wind creating turbulence in my ears. I spent a lot of time doing 5 to 6 mph as I watched bits of straw and hay and tumble weeds going three times faster than me in the other direction.

Unfortunately, I’ll have those south winds for the next three days of riding. On the brighter side, the south winds are carrying warmth. Lows in the high 40’s and highs in the 70’s next few days.

Two pre-conceived notions dispelled. #1: Kansas is not flat. #2: Kansas is full of mostly really nice and helpful people, not angry hicks.

Minneapolis, Kansas

A couple of days ago I met up with Farmer Mike. He lives, and farms in Modale, Iowa, thirty or forty miles outside of Omaha. He’d replied to a post I made on crazyguyonabike.com.

He’s a farmer/cyclist, probably a pretty rare combination. In his shop, he’s got six bikes, a carbon fiber Look, carbon fiber Felt, a couple of Long Haul Truckers, and a couple of Marin hybrids. He’s done a bunch of touring all over Iowa. I stayed at his farm and he rode with me through Omaha the next day. We stopped at a bike shop and they gave me a route to a state park I wanted to camp in between Omaha and Lincoln.

I was glad for the warm place to stay and farmer Mike is a real nice guy, but the route they told me to take was a nightmare. Worst riding I’ve ever done. On the shoulder of US 50 south of Omaha. Super busy, lots and lots of truck traffic. Big ass tandem semis blowing by me at 70 mph. It sucked.

Iowa was real nice to bike through. I found one of those Iowa DOT bike maps, which shows all the bike trails, and lists roads by whether or not they have a shoulder, and how much average daily traffic they carry. The maps are free, tax dollars well spent, in my opinion. That map made picking my route easy. Plus, pretty much all the drivers I encountered in Iowa gave me as much room as possible. I didn’t get buzzed once. Lots of people waved at me too.

They didn’t give me as much room in Nebraska. They seem to give me enough room so that they probably won’t scratch their cars, but not enough room considering they’ve got another persons life on the line.

A couple of days ago I passed a farm house and a dog came running out. He ran up to me, smelled my heel as I kept riding, then got in the grass off the shoulder and just started to run out in front of me. Every now and then he’d look back to make sure I was still coming along. I had a couple of real long downhills, almost a mile, and this dog ran over 20 mph for a long time.

I only managed to lose him on a steep downhill that got me up to 35 mph, but he caught me on the next climb. For the first couple of miles, I thought it was funny, and I’d call out to the dog and encourage him. As the miles went on, I wondered how he’d find his way back. Then I got within a mile or so of the state park and I realized this dog wasn’t going home, he thought he was mine.

I got to the park, went inside and told the staff about the stray dog. Meanwhile, he had parked himself next to my bike, panting like mad. Frickin’ dog had just run 6 miles at an average of 16 mph or so. I got a number off the tag on the collar, park staff called it, and half an hour later it’s owner picked him up at my camp site. I was starting to wonder how I’d feed this dog if he decided to follow me all the way to Mexico. He probably would have too. That dog just loved to run.

I’m in Marysville, Kansas. Heading towards Minneapolis, Kansas. Most states have those bicycle maps, I’ve discovered, and will send them out for free. I’ve got KS, NM, and AZ bicycle maps waiting for me at the Minneapolis post office. Got about 100 miles to get there.

I’m 645 miles in now, and the terrain is just starting to look different. Up until this morning, it looked pretty much exactly to same between there and Hutchinson, MN. I started to notice a drawl when in peoples speech around Omaha though.

I may try to hook up with Adventure Cyclists southern tier route in Texas or New Mexico. I have some time to think about it.

I really want to get to warmer weather. I may head straight south after Minneapolis.