Riding across the plains - big sky, flat road, railroad, grain elevator, birds, and telephone/power poles
I started very early this morning because I knew both the temperature and the wind would make riding harder later in the day. As I write this, about 4 PM. the temperature is 97 F and the winds are gusting from 20 to 30 mph out of the south. Just after 7 AM this morning, as I rode out of Springfield, the temperature was 70 F and the winds were out of the south-southwest at 10 to 20 mph. US 160 runs due east (and somewhat downhill) to Walsh, CO which is 20 miles away and then E-NE to Johnson City, KS which is 50 miles away, I had good winds and comfortable temperatures for the first 50 miles. I had averaged 16.8 mph for the first 45 miles when I stopped for my first break at Manter, KS which is eight miles before Johnson City!
After Johnson City, US 160 goes straight east to Ulysses. The wind had come around to the south and was getting stronger and gustier. The temperature was in the 90s. My average speed for the entire trip was 16.1 mph (!), which means my average speed after Johnson City was about 1.5 mph lower than before Johnson City. More importantly, riding wasn't as much fun with more wind and higher temperatures. And, of course, I was getting tired after pedalling for four and a half hours <grin>.
I did consider riding beyond Ulysses, but that would have meant trading riding in good condition - early morning - for riding in poor conditions - afternoon. Without a heroic effort, I wasn't going to make Cimarron today, so it would have been silly to ride beyond the half way point. The forecast calls for hotter temperatures - over 100 F - tomorrow, but gentler winds. If I get another early start, I should have good riding conditions most of the way to Cimarron. Certainly I'll have better conditions than I would have had this afternoon.
My day started at 6 AM and I had ridden the two miles through town to the truck stop at the intersection of US 160 and US 256. I ordered a stack of pancakes. The waitress said that was too much. She was right. The three pancakes were so big that the hung off the sides of an oval dinner plate. I couldn't put syrup on them without it running off onto the table! I managed to eat more than two of the cakes, but I should have saved fifty cents by just getting two cakes. My breakfast, with a generous tip, was less than $5. My room was $40. That wasn't as good a value as the 1899 Inn, but it was a considerably better value than anywhere else I've been on this tour. Lodging and food is cheaper out here on the plains. Drivers are more considerate and people in general are more friendly and helpful. Gee, you'd think I like it out here...
Manter, Kansas where I stopped at the Coop elevator to get a Coke
That is a bird flying across the road in the lower middle of the picture
Heading east at Johnson City
Note the flag in the wind and the shoulder
As I rode today, I was reminded of riding across the Canadian prairie a few years ago. The same big sky and the same organization of the little towns with grain elevators and the railroad tracks - I'm listening to the a train, probably carrying grain, pass near my motel room as I write this - on one side of the highway and the bulk of the town on the other side. I didn't make that connection when I rode across Canada, but I did feel at home on the prairie just as I feel at home on the plains.
When I got into Kansas, the road lost its shoulder for a while - till Johnson City, but that was not a problem because the traffic was light and the drivers were polite. Most of the smaller vehicles were pickup trucks and most of the larger vehicles were grain trucks. Yesterday, in Springfield, Al and I stopped at a custom auto show. One of the customized 'cars' was a grain truck. Several of the others were pickup trucks.
The day before yesterday, as I ate lunch in Cucharas, I listened to three wealthy middle aged men spend ten minutes seriously discussing the gold plating one on them had had done on his fancy new pickup truck. I thought that was one of the silliest conversations I'd every heard. Yesterday, looking at that customized grain truck, I thought it was neat that a fellow who drives a truck for a living would put all that time and effort into making it special. I feel that the difference between the nature those two "customizations" reflects the difference between life in Cucharas and life out here on the plains.
Custom Grain Truck
Al in front of a hot rod pickup truck we both enjoyed
When I got to Ulysses, I stopped at the first motel I saw, "The Peddlers Inn." I know I'm not the kind of "peddler" they meant, but its close enough for me. Its a good place with an attached restaurant and serves my needs well. The restaurant opens at 6 AM, and I expect I'll be there shortly afterwards. I just - Kansas border - crossed into the Central time zone so 6 AM tomorrow will feel like 7 AM to my body which has been in the Mountain time zone for two weeks. I want to be on the road as early as possible on the last day (sniff, sniff) of this tour.