Wednesday, June 07, 2017

DK My Way: Westward Alone

Pre-dawn tire pressure check. Tony airs up the tires on his Fargo.
4:00am, Saturday, June 3rd:

I hear Tony's phone alarm and we are both rolling within minutes, getting our duds on to go get the early breakfast at the cafeteria down the street a bit. I hadn't told Tony, but my plan was not to hang out at the start till the gun went off. I did that last year and I just felt so out of place, and people were all thinking I was doing the race. That led to a lot of explaining and confused looks. So, I figured I could just ride down with Tony, say "Good Luck", and be off on my adventure. That was the plan.

Breakfast went well and there were a lot of serious faces, but honestly, the tension wasn't as high as it was last year when the winds were forecast to be strong out of the North. This time the weather looked to be tranquil and that led to a more relaxed atmosphere, I believe. Tony and I went back to the room, donned our kits, grabbed the bikes, and we were off to check tires at his truck. Then we cruised down to the starting area.

We arrived just as the MC started barking on the PA system. It was loud and unnatural to me. The peaceful morning wasn't meant for amped up voices and music. But that didn't matter to me as I knew I was leaving that all behind in minutes. As I stood there briefly and spoke to a few riders that caught me down there, I noticed Sveta Vold. She had been one of my volunteers at Trans Iowa and we had seen her the day before downtown in Emporia. Tony and I went over to wish her the best on her ride. I saw that she was anxious and doubting. It was her first try at the DK 200. I felt she was underestimating her abilities, and it pained me to see the look on her face. She is such a talented and strong person. So, I decided to say goodbye before I stuck my foot in my mouth trying to encourage her with some stupid line. I said good luck to Tony, and I pedaled off North and West through Emporia's residential area to get out of town.

This street would soon be choked with riders, but I didn't stick around long enough to see that.

I suddenly was aware of a couple taking shots in front of a house for remembrance of the morning of the race by their camera's flash. I saw a few random riders headed down to the start line. They all looked at me like I was headed the wrong way, but no one said anything but a kind "hello" and if they didn't speak they waved. It only made me feel more awkward and I wanted to escape town as soon as possible.

By the time I crossed I-35, the sky had lit up.

It's the Real Thing.
This morning was going to be spectacular. The air was cool, the wind was non-existent, and there were few clouds in the sky, but just enough to paint the sky with reds, oranges, and erotic pinks. I was out of town to the West, on gravel, and cruising along by the time the riders started their 200 mile quest in Emporia behind me. There probably were loud pronouncements on the PA, clanging cow bells, and cheers. I had the song of birds in the prairie grasses to serenade me along my way and the soft crunch of gravel under my tires. I said a prayer out loud for the riders and then I turned my attention to my task at hand.

The proverbial "crack of dawn". Looking back Eastward.
A bit of dog bother was encountered.
As I neared a farm, I heard the howl of a hound and I sat up, alert and ready for an attack from my left side. However; what I heard and saw next was far worse than I imagined. A big, burly looking Great Pyrenees was running full throttle to cut me off. I anticipated his line and suddenly stopped up short. Disc brakes on the Fargo were working quite well, thank you very much! This put the big furry dog off a bit. It also gave me the split second I needed to get dismounted and put the bike between me and the growling, angry beast.

I immediately started to talk calmly to the dog and he was trying to get around the bike, but he also wasn't close in enough. He was about ten yards away from me and I kept rolling the bike back and forth as he swung side to side trying to figure out what to do. Realizing that his maneuvering was not making gains, he stood his ground and continued barking, but I could tell he was coming down some. Then the hound, who had hidden since I first heard it, came out trotting and went right around the bike and sniffed me. I did not feel threatened by this dog, it's tail was waging slightly, and I spoke softly to it. Then it sauntered away as if there were nothing more to be interested in and stood in the road with its back to me.

The big white dog took notice and quit barking. Then it too turned its back, at which point I got the photo. Then I slowly made my way down the road walking, always keeping an eye behind me. The Great Pyrenees turned and barked half heartedly at me, but I knew I was free to go. Whew! Close call, but I was back on my way again!

A windmill for Paul
Then I went out of farming territory and into cattle grazing country. My course was toward Cottonwood Falls, where I had dnf'ed during the first Dirty Kanza in 2006. From there I was going to make my way down some of the very same roads I had ridden back in 2006, and then on to Council Grove. But first, I had to get to Cottonwood Falls and there was a Minimum Maintenance Road in between me and that small city.

When the pioneers came through, there weren't any trees out here, so they made do with what the land provided them with.
Looks like an invitation to adventure to me!
The ironic thing is that I did not have the level of detail on my maps which would have indicated any minimum maintenance roads. So, when I came upon one, I was actually excited about it, because with these roads it has been my experience that anything is possible as far as what you might see and experience. So, I wasn't disappointed in that way with this road, despite being a bit spooked!

I crested the big hill and dropped in the other side to a scree filled, rocky road with ruts and grass growing up the middle, making it a two-track. As I calmly controlled the Fargo with the brakes, scanning for anything I needed to avoid or make a move over, I heard the hair raising sound of some animal. It sounded half like a wild pig and half like some demonic lost soul. It reverberated in the ravine I was in like some amplified voice of a disembodied ghost. Tony suggested later that it probably was a buck deer that was not pleased with my presence. I suppose I probably was quiet enough that I was able to make a surprise appearance in that vale. But at that time, I only was wondering how quickly I could scale the opposite side and get out of there!

Something back there didn't like me being there, and I wasn't about to stick around to find out what it was!
Well, I was back on gravel proper and was now not far from my first goal, Cottonwood Falls. I would need to hit up a convenience store for water and I planned on stopping by their famous court house to take in the view, then I would move on to hit roads from the first DK200.

Strong City
The road widened as I approached Strong City, a railroad town just two miles North of Cottonwood Falls. The gravel dumped me out just shy of the old depot and from there I was able to take a bike path to Cottonwood Falls proper.

The first order of business was to hit the Casey's convenience store I saw up the road. I went in and said hello to some early morning risers, mostly men, and went about my business. The cashier was a bit taken back by my presence, probably wondering what in the world I was doing so far off the DK200 course.

I took my water outside and started to refill my bottles as an older gentleman looked my way curiously. I said, "hello!" and he conversed with me a bit which led up to the following question from him:

"Say, my nephew did that dirty thing once, are you doing that dirty thing too?"

I didn't know whether to laugh, be very afraid, or to take him to mean "was I doing the Dirty Kanza 200 race?"  

Well, I said, "No, I am doing my own ride....", and that turned out to be the correct response.


Next: Route Modification 


OkieBrian said...

Growing up in a farming community in NW Pennsylvania and riding what we all called "dirt roads", dogs were a common issue. Reading about your adventures and seeing the places you ride, I have always wondered how often you run into situations like the one you wrote about today.

Guitar Ted said...

@OkieBrian: Oh, I would say that maybe this happens once a year on average. Sometimes I can go a whole year without any encounters and then have three the next. I'd say that it isn't all that often though.

blooddoc23 said...

That was one of the most perfect mornings to be on a bike that I can ever remember! Comfortable temps, glorious sunrise, beautiful flowers, good gravelly roads. Riding a bike just doesn't get any better than it was around Emporia that morning.