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Cross Country Challenge 2007 Journal
(Page 3)
Pueblo to St. Joseph, MO
(Tour de Plains Tour)

current date and time 2008-05-13 | 17:39:15
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Number of Journal Entries online: 9
Day 21- Rest Day in Pueblo, CO
Clearly we have become accustomed to starting our days early. Passing through the lobby at 6:15AM this morning there were already close to a dozen riders and staff milling about, sipping coffee, and making plans for the day.

Those heading home from Pueblo were saying goodbyes and finding their way to the airport or their rides; safe travels to Stephen B., David B., Jay B., Jon E., Greg M., Michael H., and Steve W. We�ll miss you as we continue east.

Those staying on spent the day working on their computers, kicking a soccer ball around the parking lot, cleaning their bikes, or picking up �must have� items at a local bike shop. Later in the afternoon Herb was spotted doing exactly what one ought to do on a rest day; stretching out on a poolside lounge chair reading!

Pueblo was hosting a regional show for Hot Rod / Street Rod classic cars on the weekend, so we were treated to seeing (and hearing) some of these without leaving the hotel.

David W. will be riding the Tour de Plains and Eastern Sections of the Cross Country Challenge and spent his day meeting with Andy and Michelle for orientation, assembling his bike, and meeting the Company of Adventurers he will be living with for the next while. Welcome David!

posted 2007-06-24 | 23:43:46 | article number: 1

Day 22- Sunday, June 24, 2007 Pueblo, CO to Lamar, CO 121 miles
This morning we began our trek across the Plains. Although we are still in Colorado, it is no longer the Colorado of the Rockies. It is now the Colorado of beef farms and cowboys. At times it seemed like we could see 200 miles in every direction as the flat land stretched out to the horizon. The adaptability of the riders was on display this morning when a glitch in our breakfast plans � the kitchen staff had lost the key to the refrigerator � resulted in a delayed launch. Fortunately a replacement key (sledge hammer) was found and we were fed and out by 0630h or so.

The first 60 miles was �fast like the wind and straight like the arrow� and gave us a chance to recover from the late start. The road seemed flat, but in fact is was a real gentle downhill, and would continue so all day. At the first SAG stop (Fowler CO) Arlene V. rendered the verdict on the new bike she had bought the day before. �I like it!� she declared when asked about her pretty blue Specialized. How many kids have a chance to go on-line and see the new bike that their Grandmother bought during her cross-country ride?

Pedaling on to the second SAG stop in Swink CO, we paralleled the route of the famous �Atcheson Topeka and the Santa Fe� railway. Back in the day it was the lifeblood of the communities it ran through. As the song says�..Folks round here get the time of day from the Atcheson, Topeka, and the Santa Fe.

As we neared the town of La Junta we had the chance to reflect on another piece of US history as we crossed the path of the Santa Fe Trail. Back in the 19th century this transportation route from Missouri to Santa Fe NM was an integral component in the military, commercial activities, and in expansion of the American West. One can only wonder how many SAG stops were set up on the trail back then?

After La Junta it was getting hot and the winds were kicking up. It was never a full-on headwind, but steady gusts from the SE buffeted riders and impeded forward motion as we headed to the third SAG in Hasty CO (mile 102). While it didn�t look like the kind of water you�d like to submerge your head in, a wading pool behind �The Village Grocery� was just right for soaking your feet in while relaxing in the shade. No one enjoyed this more than Andrew!

18 miles further east lay The Best Western Cow Palace in Lamar CO; the perfect ending to a 120 mile day.

posted 2007-06-24 | 23:47:57 | article number: 2

Day 23- Monday, June 25, 2007 Lamar, CO to Garden City, CO 104 miles
Perhaps the weather gods for Kansas have been following the various websites and blogs related to the Cross Country Challenge. Maybe they have read of our ability to ride through rain and snow, to climb and descend, and of how comfortable we are with 100+ mile days. If they have, it seems like they picked today to teach us all a lesson.

This morning continued where yesterday left off; riding along 50 east with a cross wind buffeting us. Each pedal stroke took us deeper into farm country as oncoming combines became commonplace. Had we been sailing we would have had a perfect beam reach and we would have been approaching maximum hull speed. But alas, we were cycling and the wind from the side was as challenging as a head-on wind.

I have flown over Kansas and seen the flat landscape with its checkerboard pattern of fields separated by a grid pattern of roads. I always imagined that riding here would be a snap; flat and straight. Even if there was wind, how tough could it be? I had ridden in the wind before. What made the Kansas wind so tough was the fact that it had a 100mile opportunity to build up � unobstructed � before it met up with us. To make it more challenging there were very few � natural or human made � areas that provided a wind block. This combined with an ever-warming sun made me wonder, �What is Al Gore so worked up about? All he needs to do is plaster this state with solar panels, wind turbines, and millions of miles of extension cords and the nation�s electric needs would be met!�

Our first SAG was in a beautiful highway Rest Area complete with facilities and everything at mile 33. Two miles further on we said goodbye to Colorful Colorado and crossed in to Kansas. From there it was 45 tough miles to the second SAG in Lakin, KS. The wind and sun kept up as the terrain (today was an overall descent day) began to roll and pitch. Out here you can see towns 20 miles before you get to them, and it often seems that no matter how hard you crank you just don�t get any closer. Imagine being on rollers in the middle of the prairies.

Many had run out of water by mile 78, so you would think that riders arriving at SAG two would be discouraged and downtrodden. On the contrary they were upbeat and enthusiastic as this SAG was located in a Dairy Queen parking lot. I am convinced the Dairy Queen is the patron Saint of cyclists everywhere. Robert qui viens de France a mange son premier �Blizzard� and loved every bit of it! Christine was staffing the second SAG and looked every inch the Maytag Repair Technician. No one was too interested in plain old road food today. Just as well, as this gave Christine a chance to back track and re-hydrate oncoming riders.

The final 27mile leg started off easier due to a bend in the road. However, before long the road and wind had morphed back to their earlier geometry and continued to battle riders every inch of the way in to Garden City. Had today been a boxing match the judges would have returned a split decision. The CCC riders deserved credit as they all made it into town unscathed � however � they had been humbled by the Kansas Weather Gods who taught us all a cycling truth. �Do not judge a ride by distance and climbing profile alone.�

As we inch on to tomorrow we have eaten a good dinner, and are logging a few hours of sleep. Look out Kansas! We will be coming after you again tomorrow!�

posted 2007-06-26 | 21:36:54 | article number: 3

Day 24- Tuesday, June 26, 2007 Garden City, KS to Dodge City, KS 51 miles
Breakfast this morning was at 8:30! Given our usual schedule this seemed more like brunch. This was a welcome change as it gave us all a little extra sleep to recover from yesterday�s tough day of riding. Staff offered a �short-cut� this morning that caused a little confusion. A few riders logged a couple of extra miles getting back on course. (Sorry about that)

We had three things in our favor today: (a) a short 50-some mile route, (b) overcast skies that kept things from getting to hot, and (c) a wind shift. Today�s wind was pretty much head on, but oddly enough it was easier to negotiate than the crosswind gales we endured to two previous days.

Not too far out of Garden City the highway began to resemble a rolling tour through a food factory. Huge fields of wheat, acres of corn, and feedlot after feed lot of beef cattle. Apparently Garden City is surrounded by more cattle than any other city in the USA. As we neared the SAG at mile 27 signs gave notice of an �Overlook Ahead�. Expecting a panoramic view of nature everyone pulled of, cameras poised, to see something spectacular. To our surprise we were greeted to a bird�s eye view of a HUGE feeding lot. �Beef for Life� as one rider put it. Those who were not impressed by the feedlot were able to watch an aerobatic crop duster working on a grain field across the road.

Checking in at the SAG stop we were treated to an even more bizarre sight. A longhaired dude on a mountain bike that was loaded with everything. He was headed to someplace in Arkansas from some place in Colorado. His saddle was extremely padded and held together by duct tape; his shorts were of the beach variety; and he chose flip-flops and platform pedals. Ouch, ouch, and ouch! No one could quite figure out what he was up to but Wayne, as the mystery rider rode away flashing the peace sign, may have been the closest when, he suggested this guy had the lead role in a traveling production of �Jesus Christ Superstar�. With this in mind we kept an eye out for 12 similar looking guys as we rode on.

Just off the highway, around mile 48, there was a monument to surveyors of the Santa Fe Trail. A few hundred yards beyond this was a spot to view the trail from a hilltop. Reading plaques and gazing off towards the horizon allowed us to imagine how tough trail travelers must have had it. On a good day they traveled 14-16 miles. On a lazy day like to day we travel 51 miles.

Every town we have come across has a �Welcome to� or a �You are now entering..� sign at the city limits. Dodge City has out done them all. Well above the highway, on a stony cliff, there were iron silhouettes of six or seven cowboys in full flight on their mounts. In the distance you could see a chase group of three. We were left wondering what the front six had done to prompt such a quick exit from town. Without a doubt they were trying to �Get out of Dodge!� By this time we were curious enough to hang out for a while and stay around overnight. Since we were in rather early we had the whole afternoon to tour Boot Hill, visit the historic part of town, and experience the legacy of the American West first hand. After dinner about half the group headed to Front Street to see �The Miss Kitty Show. Could Doc Holliday and Matt Dillon be far behind?

posted 2007-06-27 | 23:55:50 | article number: 4

Day 25- Wednesday, June 27, 2007 Dodge City, KS to Great Bend, KS 85 miles
An ABB morning is just not complete without a visit to the Weather Channel. Today the prospect of rain was high, not just here but across the nation. Oh well�good for the farmers I guess.

The route out of town passed Boot Hill and The Longbranch Saloon, and those riding with Eckhart report that he was still humming and whistling tunes he had heard at the Miss Kitty show the night before. A mile or so further we were relieved to have had made it �Out of Dodge� unscathed as we caught a glimpse of the giant iron cowboy silhouettes that mark the eastern edge of town in our rear view mirrors. Thousands of cattle in a neighboring feed lot were unable to share this sense of relief!

Cloud cover was welcomed by riders as we pressed on to the first SAG of our 85 miles for today. The fields of wind turbines we rode through today stood in contrast to the old school windmills that used to dot the landscape for the purpose of pumping water. Regardless of their vintage, all speed of the blades and the directions of all wind devices we saw today confirmed that we were in for another day of Kansas style headwinds.

A few days back we rode over the Continental Divide. Today we hit another milestone at our stop in Midway; equidistant to New York City and San Francisco. 1561 miles of pedaling would get you to either coast! To mark the symbolism Gerard had a slide show set up to remind us of all we have seen and accomplished in our 25 days together. This morning, upon arrival in Kinsley, we came to another mile marker as we veered of route 50 and on to route 56. Colorado 50 and Kansas 50 had brought us all the way from Grand Junction. We came to the fork in the road and we took it�.�..

Before too long the folks at the Weather Channel delivered what they had promised as a steady rain began to fall. No thunder or lightning though. Better than 100F I suppose! �I hope the hotel has rags for bike clean up�

posted 2007-06-30 | 22:42:52 | article number: 5

Day 26- Thursday, June 28, 2007 Great Bend, KS to McPherson, KS 64 miles
For those who don�t enjoy navigating, today�s cue sheet was indeed a gem. �Take a right out of the hotel, ride 64.3 miles, then turn left in to new hotel�. Anyone getting lost today best keep it to themselves. J Great Bend is named for the turn the Arkansas River takes at this point. We have been following her since Salida CO, but today we will continue east while she heads south to Wichita. Wayne has been serenading us with bits of the �Wichita Lineman� ever since we hit the Kansas line; perhaps we will get the full rendition today.

Twenty-five days ago a SAG stop without proper restroom facilities was a cause of consternation for some. This is no longer the case. When we came to a beautiful roadside park for a SAG stop today there were no plumbing fixtures to be found. Unbothered by this riders remarked on the �Cowboy Facilities� available outback. �just watch out for the mud if you�re not wearing cleat covers!!

Overcast skies today meant things were never really hot. This was a perfect set up perfectly for today�s Dairy Queen visit, which featured 25-cent coffee. OK, OK, it was not Starbucks caliber, but you could get 20 cups here for the price of a �triple vente late� at Starbucks.

A bank in McPherson lets us know they were aware of us with a �Welcome Cyclists� message on their Marquee. We arrived in town early, so there was plenty of time to catch a movie, lounge around updating blogs, or take a quick knap before dinner at Montana Mike�s.

posted 2007-06-30 | 22:45:26 | article number: 6

Day 27- Friday, June 29, 2007 McPherson, KS to Abilene, KS 64 miles
At the office, at school, or even out on the open road, there is something magical about a Friday morning. A certain �Get-to-it-iveness� if you will. Deep down riders knew they had three more riding days before a rest day, but they were in weekend mode all the same. The funny thing was: if they were at home, and if they had two days off, chances are they would go for a bike ride!

11 miles out of town our route took a hard left as we headed north to Abilene. Had it not been for the strategic placement of a support van, riders may have missed this turn altogether and ended up in Emporia. Rumor has it that Gerard did almost that with the other van. What a difference a turn can make. We were now on a nice quiet country road with minimal traffic AND very little wind. Alleluia!

Before long we were in the town of Gypsum for a SAG stop. Since we were experiencing isolated periods of misty rain, Christine commandeered the gazebo in the town park and set up shop there. Emotions were mixed since this spot marked OUR half-way point. Feeling of pride in our accomplishments thus far, relief to have survived, Atlantic anticipation, and even a sense of regret that the end of our adventure was now closer than the beginning, permeated the park. Christine ensured that all fruit and doughnuts were cut in half to symbolize the moment. Cliff had it right as he posed in a photo that showed only �half� of him. Riders can not live by donuts and fruit alone, so many of them headed over to the Country Caf� for coffee, homemade pie, and homemade ice cream. I doubt anyone asked for half servings there!

Sometimes it pays to be the last rider to arrive at a SAG stop; just ask Rocket and Greg. They were greeted by a local reporter who was regaled with their stories from the road. Hopefully we can get a copy of the newspaper to verify what they said about us!

Once in Abilene many took the opportunity to park their bikes and assume the role of general tourist at the Eisenhower Center (library and museum). Our tandem team of Leslie and Virginia spent to close to three hours there � they are in the education business after all � while others made do with a more abbreviated visit.

Dinner at La Fiesta � a Mexican restaurant � gave a chance to reload our tanks for tomorrows ride to Topeka, and to unwind with a few extra large margaritas! Gotta� keep the salt levels up �ya know

posted 2007-07-07 | 21:28:23 | article number: 7

Day 28- Saturday, June30, 2007 Abilene, KS to Topeka, KS 108 miles
Today was a tough day. Today was a humbling day. Days like today are why they call it the cross country CHALLENGE. Today was 108 miles of wind, rain, and hills. Today was the kind of day that if we were all at home we wouldn�t even dream of swinging a leg over our top tubes.

Although we thought ourselves to be crazed starting out on such a wet morning, it wasn�t long before we happened across a local out for a ride. At mile 7.1, in the town of Enterprise, we met up with a single speed rider named Jay. He must have met up with cross country riders before, since he was quick to point out that the best spot to eat was �Munchies and More�, just up the street. As we still had over 100 miles to go we deferred eating for a few more miles. However, by mile 17 some of us were fixing for a bite to eat and found some Black Forest Cake in the town of Woodbine. I�m not too sure what they were talking about, but the owner and Cook � a German guy � was bending Gene�s ear with tales of something. Heading back on the road the wind and rain continued.

Once we had whittled 35miles off the daily total we stopped for the first SAG of the day at Centennial Park in the town of White City. Those wishing to engage in a little aquatic sightseeing could choose from: the Post Office, a restored one room school house, or a restored locomotive at the Veterans Museum. As interesting as all these were, there was one other attraction that had us all wondering. It was the restrooms. Just like the ones we saw in Midway, both the Mens� and Ladies� room facilities featured single rooms with TWO toilets mounted on the floor. No cubicles, no dividers, NO PRIVACY. Still wondering what that�s all about??? Perhaps it some sort of throw back to the days of two-seater outhouses, or perhaps they are built this way to accommodate tandem teams. Heading back on the road the wind and rain continued.

Ask any staff member and they will agree that riders are forever feeling that the pavement is always smoother on the other side of the road. Somewhere along the route today Tim and Bob came across a few goats that shared similar thoughts. In an effort to find greener grass to graze on they stuck their heads so far through a page wire fence that they got stuck. If only we had video of Tim and Bob�s extraction process. Did they pry �em up with a frame pump? Were tire levers used? Was chain lube involved? Heading back on the road the wind and rain continued.

By the time riders rolled into the second SAG stop in Eskridge they were soaked to the bone and ready to enjoy the warmth and dryness of a local caf�. Some were even getting a little giddy. I wasn�t there as they passed through, but I have images of Arlene clicking her heels together saying �there�s no place like home, there�s no place like home�, and Wayne serenading the caf� staff with Bob Dylan�s �Shelter from the Storm�. Carl Spackler � groundskeeper at the local golf course � dropped by for coffee on his way to work and reassured us all when he said �Carry on�. I don�t think the heavy rain will be starting for a while� Heading back on the road the wind and rain continued.

The closer we got to Topeka the more we saw fireworks for sale a roadside stands. Good thing they had tents to keep things dry! Kids who just couldn�t wait were setting off the occasional roman candle. I wonder if the folks in Kirksville MO will have fireworks for us on the 4th of July.

We were a ragged collection of sorry looking souls as we wandered into the Holiday Inn in Topeka. Those with enough energy to eat inhaled some of the apples, bananas, and water the hotel had left out for us. Others straggled on in search of a hot shower.

Today was a tough day.

posted 2007-07-07 | 21:31:03 | article number: 8

Day 29- Sunday, July 1, 2007 Topeka, KS to St. Joseph, MO 89 miles
Things were quiet at the breakfast table this morning�.well�at least �till Christine came along. Everyone else had received automated wake-up calls from the front desk, but Christine arrived telling how she received this bubbly personal wake up call. Apparently some guy named Luke called up, welcomed her to Topeka, wished her a good morning, and proceeded to offer a weather forecast for the day. The guys at the table were a little skeptical:
�Does your husband know about Luke?� remarked Gerard,
� got Luke�my call was from Darth Vader� said Mike,
�I got you both beat�Chewbacca called me!� chimed Howie.
With a joint vow of �May the force be with you� The three of them headed for their bikes.

Christine just shook her head and said �All I�m saying is that it would be nice if all wake-up calls came with a weather forecast!�.

We started off with clouds and the potential for rain, but it never materialized. Before the day was over we were enjoying clear skies. The streets of Topeka were quiet as we took a stealth like tour of downtown, silently gliding past the Capital Buildings.

Head office had built in a test of riders� sense of direction by labeling the turn on to route 4east as a right rather than a left. The lead group passed the test with distinction as they over-rode the cue sheet and made a left. Field staff was also up to the challenge and chalked the turn for the riders yet to arrive.

27 miles beyond the first SAG we passed a landmark as we crossed the Missouri River. Once we were on the east bank we came to the �Welcome to Missouri Sign� and took a moment to get a few digital memories of the moment. Not long after our route turned to peaceful country roads, recently re-surfaced with granite-smooth pavement. Ahhhhhhh - perhaps Missouri would be a little gentler to us than Kansas had been.

As we left the second SAG stop in Dekalb MO rolling hills were becoming increasingly present as we rode along fields of wheat and corn. Before long we were taking in the sights and sounds of a sunny summer afternoon in Hyde Park (St Josephs). With little or no traffic there was no need to take the bike path that paralleled the road. Having never seen baseball or softball being played, Brian (UK) stopped off to try to make sense of it all. Fortunately Arlene was there to explain the objective, the rules, the spitting, the scratching, and the scoring. Should we cross a Cricket match or a game of Rounders before we hit the Atlantic, I trust Brian will return the favor!

Arriving for our rest day in S Joseph, the hotel seemed determined to bolster the good impression of Missouri that was cast by the quiet roads and good pavement. Who could resist FREE popcorn and a soda bar at check in. If this wasn�t enough, they hosted a complimentary cocktail a few hours later. Brian and Arlene wished they hadn�t dilly-dallied at the ball diamond so long!

The road from Pueblo has had its challenges. The whole group went to bed anticipating a well-earned rest day.

posted 2007-07-07 | 21:33:06 | article number: 9

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