Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Day 34: If at first you don't succeed...

Day 34

Eureka to Newton 76miles (plus another 8!)

Heres a group photo of me, Becky, her daughter (also called Becky!), her friend Coco and three of the cyclists who also stayed last night.

Up early this morning, packed, had a lovely egg, ham and cheese tortilla for breakfast cooked by Becky and got out on the road by 7am. There was a bit of cloud cover which I thought would be lovely for riding in...

As I got out on the main road, I could see that the cloud cover was actually just the advance party for the biggest, darkest cloud I had ever seen! As I climbed a bit of a hill out of Eureka I initially thought I could maybe skirt round the edge of the storm. But it quickly got very dark. Very, very, very dark. I took a photo, but I dont think it does any sort of justice to what it was like standing there.

I was also battling some fierce head winds. I have made a few bad decisions regarding the weather on this trip (cf. the ride I did from Pittsburg to Girard), but I am learning. With lightening flashing not too far away, I realised that continuing would be a really, really stupid thing to do. So after about 4miles I turned tail and headed back to Eureka as fast I could! The winds which had been buffeting me head on changed and were now coming in from the side with such force I could barely keep my bike in a straight line.

The good thing about Becky's genuine hospitality was that I didnt feel in anyway embarrassed, or like I would be imposing, when I got back there. With a jokey “I hear you take in cyclists...” I was welcomed back. I actually think she was glad to see me as it meant I had made the right decision and was safe. Just after getting my stuff inside the rains came pouring down.

So I relaxed at “home” and chatted to Becky, her daughter and a couple of her friends who had stayed the night.

By about 10am the clouds were looking much less threatening. A check of the weather radar suggested that the worst of the storm was over, so decided to get out and give it another go. And actually, it was perfect riding conditions. Not that hot, but not cold and no sun to sap my energy. The wind also seemed to be in my favour on the west bound sections too.

I made excellent time to Rosalia, and then turned north. As I did I saw another stormy looking cloud in the distance straight ahead of me. There was one cloud which look pretty spectacular – a kind of boomerang shaped one, although by the time I snapped it, it had kind of split up a little.

The wind was again getting up, right into my face making progress pretty slow. I got my rain jacket ready just in case, and soon enough the rain hit. It was heralded by a bolt of lightening which seemed to explode right above my head, the accompanying noise was deafening. At this point I was a little scared – the road I was on was very sparse with little cover. But as quickly as the storm started, it ended. Within 10 minutes I was taking off my jacket as the rain had eased to a refreshing sprinkle.

And thats pretty much how it stayed for much of the rest of the day. I reached the next small town, Cassoday, and got a drink and some food. I then had a 38mile section of road with no services available. So I took some extra gatorade with me and set off.

Riding down a dead straight road for such a long distance is quite odd. Its the sort of road that requires someone to invent the cycling equivalent of cruise control / auto pilot!

Physically it was great riding. I can certainly see how people I have met have managed 120+ miles a day in Kansas. If the hot weather didnt make afternoon riding pretty much impossible, I reckon I could have easily done yesterday and today's rides in a single day. It's really not too tiring on the flat roads to keep good speed up.
Kansas: Corn fields and pylons as far as the eye can see

Mentally, its more of a challenge. Kansas is scenic in a sparse kind of way. But heading down a straight road with no turns to look out for or service stops to break things up does leave you to entertain yourself to a certain extent. Today I invented the highly original “how fast can I do a mile in” game! My garmin records each mile and tells you the average speed for that mile, and the lap time at the end of each mile. So I tried to see if I could do a mile in under 3minutes – an average of 20mph. A couple of times I got close (3:02 twice), but eventually managed to do one in 2:53! As well as giving me something to think about, there was also a sensible reason for this. The sun was starting to break through the cloud, and the temperature was rising quickly. I wanted to get to Newton ASAP so I wasnt riding in the mid afternoon sun. The last hour or so was pretty hot, but made it to Newton about 4.30pm. Even with only a couple of hours of direct sun, the temperature was already up to near 90f.

So another pretty good longish day on the road. Tomorrow is a shorter day of around 50miles – after which there is a 58mile stretch with no services. I dont want to be doing that in any kind of heat so will get to the start of it tomorrow and then do that long stretch the day after. Which means tomorrow I can have a bit of lie in!

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