Day 16 Scott City to Bird City Ks
132 miles, my longest so far day on this tour, made possible by Western Kansas' strong winds from the south and made necessary by the scarcity of motels out here. I planned to stop at Atwood KS or Burlington CO, the latter if the winds weren't too strong when I got to Colby. They were quite strong (20 - 25 mph), so I continued north to Atwood, arriving there about 3 PM. In Atwood I asked about places to stay going west on US 36. I was told there were no motels till Saint Francis, 41 miles to the west. I checked out Atwood (nice town!) and had a meal before deciding to go for it. It would mean an almost 150 mile day, but the wind from the south wasn't as strong as it had been at Colby and I time enough to do 40 miles with a 10 - 15 mph crosswind. Fortunately when I got to Bird City, about 15 miles east of St. Francis, I discovered it had a motel. I rode from 8:30 AM to 7 PM and it would have been 8 PM by the time I got to St. Francis. It was a great riding day, but enough was enough. My bad knee thanks me.
This morning in Scott City I had a good breakfast at the restaurant next to my motel which was at the north end of town. I cruise through a town in the direction I'm going to see what is there, so, when I have a good tail wind, I'm likely to end up in the place most downwind in town <grin>. It was good place and I had a good breakfast listening to farmers talk (mostly) about their crops: "Them beans of yours look a bit stressed..." Then I headed north on US 83 with a good tailwind.
I found myself cruising in the low to mid twenties most of the time - my 'double half-step" gearing came in handy as I was able to use almost all the gearing combinations possible with my middle and big rings. It was cool (60s) and cloudy so I cranked along a pretty high power output an covered a lot of ground. I rather quickly came to the turn-off for the State Park (Indian ruins), but riding conditions were so good I just kept on cranking. Right after that the road headed NE, instead of north and, with a S-SE wind, riding conditions were not as good till it turned back north a few miles later. US 83 has wide shoulders and moderate (near the cities) to light (ten or more miles way from a city) traffic. There was construction (new pavement) for the last 15 miles before Oakley, but it did not cause any real delay. I made it to Oakley (45 miles north of Scott City) in a little over two and a half hours. I didn't get off my bike in between Scott City and Oakley, although I did stop to take a picture of some neat rock formations.
I found it interesting that the best part of the ride was in a broad valley carved by the Smoky Hill River where there were moderate climbs and descents and almost no wind. Then I was bicycling - hearing, seeing, smelling the world. When I was cranking along at 25 mph it was almost like being on a motorcycle - I experienced the ride rather than the environment. Fun, and practical, but not as fun!
In Oakley (another neat town with multiple motels, a fossil museum, and places to eat. etc.) I ate an early lunch at the northern most motel in town. I was the only customer, but the teenage waitress and a friend were talking about three kids they knew who were just killed in an alcohol related car accident. Two girls and a boy were killed and a second boy was paralyzed. Their discussion was both touching and reassuring - they were devastated, especially the waitress since the paralyzed boy was an ex-boyfriend of hers. From what she said, her father seemed to be doing a good job of helping her deal with her grief and learn from what had happened. I didn't interact with them except to be understanding when the waitress got mixed up taking my money, but I cried a bit as I rode out of town. Another advantage of solo touring?
When I got to I-70, about five miles north of Oakley, I would have gotten on it for the 16 miles to Colby if it had been legal. 83 was wonderful, but I-70 was direct and headed downwind. On 83, I had to ride north, which was fine, then west on US 24 which I expected would be a pain. Both 83 and 24 lived up to my expectations. The nine miles riding west on 24 were, by far, the worst riding of the day. Strong crosswinds (20+ mph), a narrow shoulder and lots of trucks made riding a real pain. I stopped about five miles from Colby to eat a powerbar and recover before finishing that section.
In Colby I stopped an A+W for a root beer float and then rode around town looking it over. Another nice town with a great park and a lot on nice residential areas as well as a pretty downtown with brick streets. I had been there before, but only as an overnight stop on my way to Colorado on I-70. It took me two long days of driving to get here from Asheville last summer and over two weeks of bicycling to get here this summer. Needless to say, the later was a lot more fun.
Because the cross wind would be so bad, I was not interested in going west paralleling I-70. I headed north on KS 25 instead. Coming over a railroad bridge on the edge of town I saw a farm with a wind generator supplying electricity. I saw three of those generators in the ten miles or so north of Colby. A good place for them!
KS 25 has fairly narrow lanes and no shoulder, but that was not a problem since the traffic was usually light enough to let folks pull over and pass me without having to slow down much. I did pull off the road when two large cattle trucks came up behind me as several other vehicles came over a hill (KS 25 crosses quite few hills and valleys in this stretch) in the other direction. The trucks were braking and were not a threat to me, but it seemed rude to make them slow down to 15 mph when I had a good way ( a farm road) to get out of thier way. Almost all large truck drivers are very polite to me, and I believe it is important to for me, and other bicyclists, to be polite to them.
When KS 25 nears Atwood, it is quite hilly and actually runs through a series of cuts in the hills. Not quite on the same scale as the cuts involved in the Glass Mountains in Oklahoma, but the same sort of effect. Pretty strange for the plains...
After looking around (motels, places to eat, a park with camping on a lake, etc - a very nice small town) and eating, I decided to head west on US 36. 36 heads SW (the wind was from the south) and climbs quite a bit (oh, I forgot that eastern Colorado is higher than western Kansas. Duh! )in the first few miles. Not a great way to start a long ride after I had already ridden over 100 miles. About five miles west of town it heads west down into a river valley ( you can see the next town which is still about 15 miles away before the descent) and then climbs back out. About ten miles out of town the shoulder becomes narrow, but it is still rideable. Just before McDonald, the road curves to the south a bit.
US 36 leaving Atwood
In McDonald I stopped at a park with public restrooms - very nice and I'm sure you could camp there. Too bad that the park, like this part of US 36, is right next to the railroad tracks. I had a coke at the service station and visited with a lady from McDonald who told me that 'the flys were biting and that was a sign that a storm was coming.' I knew they were biting, but I hope the other part isn't true!
Coming into Bird City (where does that name come from?) US 36 again heads west. I was planning to ride on to Wheeler, about ten miles west, for a second supper before finding a place to stay in St Francis, but my bad knee had started hurting and when I saw a motel I stopped. It ain't fancy, but its is inexpensive ($26 with tax) and the lady that runs it is very bicycle friendly. I had a nice visit with her abou local bicyclists - one of them is the president of the bank - before retiring to my room. She told me, quite convincingly, that the local steakhouse has great food, but I'll make do with what I have with me since I'm tired (and rather sun and wind burned from my long day) and it is too much trouble to dress for dinner...