Day 17 Bird City KS to Yuma CO
Today started with the wind (15 mph from the south) and ended with a big boom (severe thunderstorms heard from inside my motel room). In between I rode though parts of KS, NE, and CO and remarkable changes in terrain and culture. I experienced a fortunate flat tire, a redneck stare, some tedious crosswinds, and a lot of nice riding.
I left my motel in Bird at 7:30 central time. The flag was standing straight out pointing north and I was riding due west. It was windier than it had been the night before, but not as windy as it was when I was riding into Colby. The shoulder was narrow, but traffic was light and (almost all) the drivers were polite. It wasn't hard riding, but it was slow riding: I spent an hour and a half covering the fifteen miles to St Francis. I stopped in St Francis for a real breakfast and then headed north on KS 27 - ahhhhhhh.
KS 27 is narrow, hilly, and has no shoulders, but it heads north for about five miles before turning west for another five miles and then heading north again to Haigler Nebraska. Those first five miles were great, the next five were a lot harder, and then life was good again as I rode north into Nebraska for the first time. It is mighty hilly in extreme NW KS and still pretty windy, but the wind was noticably weakening as I got farther north.
I had lunch in Haigler (not too much there for bicyclist other than an OK diner) and then rode NW on US 36 - nice, pretty flat, road with a good shoulder. I had figured that the south wind wouldn't be as big a problem riding NW as it was riding W. It turned out that it wasn't a problem at all since the wind pretty well went away before I got to Colorado, about eight miles down the road. The rest of the day I experienced only light winds, usually from the south, but sometimes from the east.
In Colorado I stopped in Wray at an ATM and then at a Dairy Queen that was part of an Ag CO-OP store. I had a good milkshake for desert and nasty stares from a young redneck (to be fair, my neck is more tanned than his!) when I went into and out of the bathroom which was in the CO-OP part. I don't think he approved of the way I was dressed. I realized that I had had no redneck problems in Kansas (or, to be fair, Arkansas) and that I was now back in an intolerant state. Disturbing. Wray has all services except a bicycle shop - Dodge City and Garden City are the only places I've been recently that have bicycle shops.
I headed out from Wray to Yuma on a quite bumpy shoulder, but a wide one. It finally got better about ten miles west. It was wide open spaces time and nice riding. I stopped at a rest stop near Eckley, ate a powerbar and rested on a picnic table in the shade. There was a gentle wind out of the east and it was very comfortable on that table.
On the was west towards Yuma I passed the biggest (miles long) feedlot I've ever seen. Lots of cattle trucks were on US 36 (you could tell by the smell even if you didn't know what they looked like) and I'm guessing most of them were headed to/from these yards. Several places near the yards offered truckwashing services, but none of the ones that passed me smelled like they used those services!
In Yuma I stopped at a Subway for a meal and the headed west towrds Akron. I'd come over 90 miles to Yuma, and it is another 25 miles to Akron, so I wasn't too enthusiastic about it, but I had time to make it. Leaving the Subway I had to ride down over a curb in order to get through the traffic. I had only ridden a few block when I noticed that my front tire was soft. $##%%^! TT2000s! I stopped and couldn't find any object penetrating the tire, but it was definitely leaking. I rode to a restaurant that had a curb service area that included picnic tables under a shelter and asked if it was OK to fix my bike in the shade. It was a hot and sunny afternoon.
I finally replaced the tube with my spare because I couldn't find the leak and then, going to thank the folks at the restaurant, I saw that the sky was black to the west. A storm was coming in fast. I rode back to a nice motel. They were full. I rode on further back to a basic motel and took a room. About half an hour later BOOM! and hard rain was falling. If I hadn't had the flat tire I would have had to flee that storm front back to Yuma and it was moving mighty fast. There is 'nothing' for 14 miles west of here - no shelter from a storm.
Now the storm has passed and I guess I could have waited it out at the restaurant and still had time to get to Akron, but I'm happy not to have ridden into it and content with my 'short' day. My flat tire turned out to be a leak in one of the patches I had installed in Nashville. I guess coming off that curb started the leak. Serendipity.