I rode from Ulysses to Cimarron today, and the last day my tour was pretty much a repeat of the next to last day as far as the riding was concerned. It was a fast (16 mph average) 75 mile day with a good bit of help from the wind. Yesterday the wind helped the most in the early part of the ride and today the wind helped the most at the end of the ride because yesterday's route had a northerly component in its first half while today's route had a northernly component in its second half. Going north is the key to fast riding in the summer in Kansas. Both days had an overall gentle down hill as well, dropping about 1000 feet over 75 miles.
The most exciting part of yesterdays ride was riding on the plains again. For most bicyclists, the plains are something to be endured, but for me they are great riding - you just gotta be riding in the right direction <grin > - and have great beauty. The appreciation of that beauty comes as a result of having lived out here for a decade and learning to appreciate this area's subtle beauty, rather than missing the 'in your face' beauty of the mountains where I lived before moving to Kansas. That took a while, but it happened.
The most exciting part of todays riding was discovering the large wind farm that was built two years ago just north of Montezuma, a small town about 20 miles south west of Dodge City. Montezuma, like Dodge City is a windy place where the winds are consistently in the 10 to 40 mph range usable by wind machines. Dodge has an average wind speed of 14.7 mph and very rarely has high winds or no wind.
I know these statistics because, over 20 years ago, I wrote a successful grant application that funded the building of the first wind farm (that I know of) in western Kansas. There were only three machines in that farm, and their total output was about 1/10 the output of one of the 170 machines (!) in the Gray County Wind Farm, but it was a viable source of energy for the college were I taught. That college is closed and that wind farm is gone, but I'm still excited by wind machines and, especially, by big wind farms!
I got up early and managed to get on the road half an hour earlier, sun time, than yesterday. There was no wind when I started which was OK since my initial route actually headed southeast for a short while before heading east for the rest of the morning. 160 is moderately hilly just east of Ulysses, but flat - and slightly downhill - from there to where it heads south (!) near Sublette. I left it and continued east on KS 144. 160 took me through the Hugoton gas field, the biggest natural gas source in the US and the major source of helium for the US. There are several big gas compression/pumping stations on 160 and a huge gas extraction plant where, among other things, helium is extracted.
A feedlot on US 160
And a gas extraction plant not far away
Those highvoltage power lines on the right go to that plant
There are also many cattle feedlots along this route and very large (they measure them in square miles) wheat and corn fields. Most of the traffic on the road with me today was cattle trucks and wheat trucks. I got off the road twice today because of trucks. The first time was shortly after I left Ulysses when I was overtaken by an oversized load truck when there was oncoming traffic. He was slowing down to my speed when I pulled off the road, stopped, and waved him by. The second time was more exciting.
Unlike most of US 160, KS 144 is a narrow road with no shoulder. The traffic was light. It was mostly cattle trucks going to and from a large feedlot on 160. Those trucks passed me in the other lane when, as usual, there was no oncoming traffic. One of them was overtaking me - with a 50 mph plus speed differential - in a slightly hilly section when, out of a dip in the road ahead, a car appeared in the other lane. I bailed out onto the dirt about two feet from the edge of the road and the truck passed me in my lane. No big deal for me, but I was glad I was paying attention to traffic in both directions. I don't think the truck would have hit me, but there wasn't room on that narrow pavement for all three of us and there wasn't any way the truck could have slowed down enough to pass me after the car had passed me. If I hadn't gotten out of the way, the car would have been forced off the other side of the road. It was a lot easier, and a lot safer, for me to go off my side of the road.
It was getting near lunch time as I approached Montezuma. I had ridden about 55 miles, only stopping once, at about 45 miles, to eat some dried fruit. I was hungry, I knew there was a good restaurant in Montezuma, and I was now riding on US 56 which goes north east, so I had a tailwind. As I got near Montezuma, I saw wind machines in the distance, stretching for miles along the horizon!
The Kiosk at the wind farm, with bicycle
Some info on the wind machines
For a real clue to the size of these machines, check out the man standing by the blades in the picture
I'm also in this image, as a reflection
When I got to Montezuma, I spotted the Gray County Wind Farm Office and, despite my hunger <grin>, stopped to ask about the wind farm. Then I rode on to the Mennonite restaurant and had a good lunch before riding two more miles to the center of the wind farm and stopping at their informational Kiosk.
A crop duster climbing out of a field next to KS 28, the road going north to Cimarron
A Water Tower and a Grain Elevator
Symbols of life on the plains
Once I turned on to KS 28 - toward Cimarron - just after the wind farm, I was heading north with a good (close to 20 mph) tailwind. There are a few hills on that road, but I figure that 12 miles took about 40 minutes. I 'wasted' a bit of time getting pictures of a crop duster who was spraying a field west of the road as I rode up. He made half a dozen passes, each times coming up over the road and turning back to swoop down over the power lines to the field. It was fun to watch and tricky to take the pictures as I rode.
When I got to Cimarron, I rode to my friend Bernie's house. Bernie's house, where I have stopped on several other tours, became the official end point for this tour. My wife came over that evening to visit and to take me to Dodge City.