Thursday, 7 July 2011

Day 35: Hitting the wall just a little

Day 35
Newton to Hutchinson 36miles

Was hoping for a bit of a lie in today, but I think my body is now conditioned to wake at around 6am! Had a decent breakfast at the hotel and eventually got on the road around 8.30ish. I dont know if it was because I had decided to do a short day today, but I didnt seem to have the same motivation.

I had decided that I would do a short ride to the city of Hutchinson. Although not on the official TransAm route, it seemed like a better place to get to. It had a bike shop, and also a cyclists only hostel in a church. And because most of the roads now either take me north or west, it wasnt really any different in terms of distance – instead of taking one road west, I would take a different which was a few miles further south!

The last couple of days I had been having some annoying problems with my back tire and the inner tubes. A succession of niggling little punctures kept happening, and I was constantly having to swap inner tubes in and out, only for yet another stupid little hole to appear. In my hotel last night I thought I had identified the problem – some small gritty stones which had got inside the tire and were probably rubbing against the tubes. I patched up both tubes (the one on the bike and the spare) and left them overnight to see if they stayed inflated. In the morning everything seemed fine so I put one of the tubes in and set off.

Going was pretty easy – the road I was on was a freeway with reasonable levels of traffic but also a big, wide shoulder for me to ride on well away from the cars and trucks thundering past me. However, as I approached Hutchinson I got the familiar feeling of some sluggishness in my back tire, and yet again it was going a bit flat. Also by this point, despite the flat conditions, my legs were feeling a bit heavy. So I took a big decision – tomorrow I was going to have a day off! Its actually been almost 2 weeks (way back in Illinois) since my last full rest day. In that time I have travelled right across Missouri and a good way into Kansas – over 700miles. It I carried on to Pueblo, it would be around 19days of constant riding. As well as the physical effects, it can be a bit mentally draining to constantly be thinking of nothing but where I need to get to.

Arrived in Hutchinson, and headed straight for the bike shop. Got 3 brand new inner tubes and also decided to get a new tire. The back tire obviously has to shoulder the majority of my weight (not an easy task!) and for most of the trip it also had all of my kit directly on top of it, as well as of course being the wheel thats connected to the drivetrain. All of this seems to have taken its toll on the tire, which was markedly more worn that the front. The sidewalls had also lost a lot of their support and had gone rather flimsy.

The picture below shows (left to right) my front tire, the old rear one and the new one. The difference between the two original ones is clear. The new tire is obviously a new iteration of the Schwalbe Marathon, as it has those little groves cut into it!

The other reason for going to the bike shop was that they had the key to the hostel. And what a great place to have a rest day. It has a kitchen, shower, AC and beds. There's even little TVs with integrated DVD players (and a selection of films)! And it's free! It's also close to the centre of town, and very close to the local library so I can do my blog! There is a log book in the hostel, and, I guess due to not being on the 'official' route, it's not as full as some of the other places. The last visitors were Dave and Brad, the father and son I first met all the way back in Mineral, VA (god that seems like a long time ago!). Its interesting to see that despite planning to finish in 2 months (albeit on the shorter Western Express route) they arrived just 3 days before me – they are going to have some catching up to do!

Hutchinson definitely seems like a good place to take a day off. Its a good sized city (around 40,000 people) and has a number of attractions. There's a space travel museum which I will definitely be heading to tomorrow as well as a number of water parks!

Earlier I did that most American of things and went to the Mall. Except I seemed to be one of the only people there! Maybe I was a bit early as people were probably still at work, but had a look round and got a couple of things.

The guy in the bike shop recommended a good bar to me, so think I will go there later to relax for a bit. And then spend tomorrow taking some time out to recharge the batteries. Dont think I'm no longer enjoying the trip – the complete opposite is true. It will just be nice to have a day where I can think about something else other than how fast I'm pedalling, and also to see a few different and interesting things. Then on saturday I can get back in the saddle and push on to Colorado and the Rockies!

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