Day 39: Wichita Wind
Today we biked 93 miles. From dawn till dusk. Into a 25mph headwind. It was... Stupefying.
But check out these Kansas skies, though.
We got up early in Chanute and rolled out with the sunrise. Our goal was an almost-century: 98-ish miles all the way to Andover, a suburb of Wichita. Wichita is a bit of a diversion from the TransAm, but it has bike shops and an REI. And, as ever, we had some things we wanted to check on with the bikes, and we wanted to see if we could find more KT Tape for our knees. Again, feeling a bit old right now.
What we didn't quite realize is that there are pretty much three options for roads in Kansas: 1) Gravel and dust, 2) Smaller-to-medium paved road through local fields and such, 3) Super highway. Obviously #2 is the ideal, but after not too many miles, the ride to Andover plopped us down squarely on #3. And then it was a straight shot for the rest of the day: 80+ miles straight into the wind on a big old road. (Don't worry — it also has a huge shoulder, and it's not unheard of for bikes to use it, but it's not exactly idyllic riding.)
At one point we tried to escape for several miles, but that only landed us with Option #1. And gravel + headwinds = not sustainable, thank you.
A little under 50 miles in we managed to find a gas station (they're few and far between out here) and were groggily delighted to discover that they actually made vegetarian subs. Sitting on the pavement and eating a bunch of raw vegetables on bread felt pretty great. I remember saying to Beau, as we pulled in, "I can't talk about it... If I talk about it I won't be able to do it. We just have to keep going."
Let us pause, though, and give a hearty three cheers to the real hero of the day: friends and neighbors, CHARLES DICKENS.
We'd been talking about wanting to download some podcasts or audiobooks to help get us through the long prairies, and in Chanute, we both installed the LibraVox app on our phones and went straight for the Big Fat Novels. (Huzzah for LibraVox, too! They're basically Audible's only competition; they're free; they're public domain; and the books are read by passionate volunteers, which means that sometimes you'll get a dud, sure, but other times you'll get someone awesome who really loves this book they're reading and they're doing it because reading books is fantastic and fuck you, Amazon.)
So, as we set out on our Kansas century, Beau was listening to Our Mutual Friend (a favorite of mine that I've been banging on about to him for a while, so he's kindly taking the plunge), and I tuned into Bleak House.
And oh MAN, y'all. These books are so good. They're SO GOOD. Bleak House is fantastic from Sentence One (Dickens getting it with those opening paragraphs, tho). And, I gotta say, I don't know that either of us would have made it through this riding day sans major breakdown without these stories. So, thank you, Charlie! Here's to you.
Oh wait. I almost forgot. We did break down...
At 93 miles (ninety-three miles, y'all) into our all-day-wind-a-thon, Beau got another nail in the tire. Not as bad as the last one, but once we get the tire off we find ourselves yet agains struggling to succeed in the seemingly simple task of fixing a flat. We've got two tubes, both already patched, and neither one seems to want to hold air once we get it in the tire. We find a second hole on one and patch that, retry it, and still no dice. We're heading into our third round of unmounting the tire and trying the other tube (for a second time), when our second pick-up truck savior pulls over. His name is Tim.
"Which way are y'all headed?" Tim asks. "Cuz, um, it's getting dark."
Praise be for Tim. Though it's emotionally hard after getting so close to our goal (we're five miles from our Warm Showers host's house when this flat hits), we gratefully accept Tim's generous assistance and start loading our gear into his truck. He takes us the last five miles of a particularly arduous day. But we're thankful that yet more kindness awaits at the end of it. Our Warm Showers host, Barbara, has made us dinner and has a room made up for us even though she's in the middle of moving. And that room has a bear in it. And that helps. It really does.
Our bodies and brains are both shaky, and it doesn't take long for us to collapse into bed. (Of the tempestuous ride, Beau later said, "It was like any good trauma... We did a good job blocking it out while it was happening, but now we're feeling the effects.") Tomorrow, we're planning on a comparatively short ride to Newton, KS (where we rejoin the trail) after we hit up the bike shop. For now, good night and sweet dr—zzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Day 39: Chanute to Andover, KS, 93.1 miles (+5 in a truck), 2975 feet of climbing, 12 hours of headwind, some determination, some distress, some Dickens.