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Day 43: A Taste of Tailwind

A flat, pleasant, funny ride on the way to one of the TransAm's newest cities, Great Bend.

Are we lost? No! — it's definitely this way.

We set out from Hutchinson this morning a little before 7, with the moon out front, leading us along, and another pretty morning. It wasn't long (well, about 18 miles) before we turned toward the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Also, we saw miniature donkeys and… antelope?

Once we've turned towards the refuge, we're pretty much nowhere. Just fields, as far as we can see. Sometimes a building. Sometimes a car passes. It's not a long day, and we got an early start, so we take it leisurely, dawdle about, chat. It's maybe desolate out here, but it's also invigorating: there's a whole landscape, as far as you can see in every direction (which, you can see for miles) and it's just us.

Us and the birds — Quivira, we came to find out, is a preserved piece of Kansas wetland (yes, Kansas wetland), where all kinds of birds, from whooping cranes to woodpeckers, either stay or stop over on their ways to other places. And we stopped over, too — near the entrance to the refuge is a pull-off for a birding hike, and we spread out the tarp and ate our lunch there.

And Sara warmed up her toes!

From Quivira we continued west till we hit 281, and this is where the day got even more fun. Because this whole time we've been in Kansas, the wind has either been coming from the side or hitting us right in our red little faces. But today, for the last 14 miles north towards Great Bend, we finally had the wind at our fucking backs.

Ya'll, it was nice. No wonder people do Kansas centuries when they see a good forecast — it's not that you're not pedaling, but that each stroke goes farther. It's getting pedal-assist from nature, which is especially nice when you're used to getting pedal-afflicted. It was a completely different sport.

When at last we arrived victorious in Great Bend (after passing an oil-derrick sales center), we pulled into a coffee shop (they have two?!) to decide whether to push on. We decided against it — there wasn't an obvious place to push on to, and GB seemed like a decent town. Instead, we booked a motel room and then visited the bike shop, Golden Belt, where the guy told us how the TransAm route used to keep south, missing this place. But now there's a local church organizing to help host cyclists (they're not on the map yet), and there's plenty worth stopping for — we both agreed that we it would've been a great place to land for a rest day, only we'd just taken a rest day. So instead we just enjoyed the rest of our evening, which included sushi, ice cream, and a pair of gnarly shower beers.

Day 43 Stats: Hutchinson to Great Bend, KS, 67 miles, 1150' elevation, a detour in a field, and 14 glorious miles of that sweet, sweet tailwind.

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