Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Kanza Ride: Sailing To Americus

Going with the wind and eventually getting to flatter terrain sustained me to Americus
Leaving the Chalk area, I found more steep hills and although the road going South was aided by a mighty tailwind, the steepness of the gradients was such that I was working really hard to crest each hill. It was that or maybe I wasn't eating enough. Well.....yeah. I wasn't eating enough, actually! It finally caught up to me and I stopped twice in the space of two miles before realizing I just needed to eat something and get caught up on nutrition before carrying onward. So, I sat under a small outcropping of trees on the roadside and ate a substantial amount of food, then gave it about 15 minutes or so to get into my blood and get my motor running like it should be. That worked out well. I felt like a million bucks once I got back on the bike. Lesson learned, (again!), that I must eat continually. I guess I was too distracted and forgot for a while.

My route descended Southward until I crossed Highway 56 again, and once I did, at a village called Bushong, I found that the hills immediately stopped and the terrain went very flat again. That was okay, as I was running low on supplies and big hills would have made stretching them to the next resupply rather difficult. It also reinforced my decision to not try and reach for Eskridge, but I really want to come back sometime with a better plan and do a ride there in that area.

Small villages like Bushong have water towers that look more like weird missles than water towers.
Ruins, empty streets, and few buildings. This was nearly a ghost town.
This structure looked to be in great shape, but obviously it wasn't in use.
The village of Bushong was an odd place. There were lots of empty lots, and I found what probably was the main street of commerce there at one time, but now there were only a couple restored buildings and some ruins of what looked like a former bank. Later on, I found out that it was a bit more odd than one might think. Bushong took its name from the catcher of the St. Loius Browns baseball club, A.J. "Doc" Bushong, who played on the winning team in the 1886 World Series. The Missouri Pacific Railroad, which established the town, renamed several of their towns after the names of players from the Browns' club in honor of the World Championship win. Bushong is the only town left which has kept the name given by the railroad after the '86 series win. It was also the site of the location of one of the first generations of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.So........maybe that water tower thingie is really..........naw! Couldn't be!

There were ten miles straight South of this after Bushong.
I left Bushong via a dirt road, which somehow seemed appropriate, and then went straight South for ten miles. The terrain was so flat, and the wind so strong, that I coasted for a mile. At one point a dog came tearing around a building with a full head of steam after me, but with this wind, it had no chance. I'll give the mutt credit though, he chased me for half a mile. Dog sprints after nearly bonking earlier. What a ride!

The water tower of Americus breaks the horizon line amongst a few trees.
Shade, a tall cool one, and a crate to sit on. Heavenly!
I reached Americus and the familiar confines of a Casey's General Store. I purchased some "real food" and drink, went outside, and found a nice little setting to consume my goods. A colorful transplant to the area from SoCal pulled up and chatted with me for a bit. Seems he is starting a new chapter in life in Americus. Americus? The city named after Amerigo Vespucci wasn't anything to write home about, but seeing as it is only a handful of miles to Emporia from there, perhaps it serves as a bedroom community these days. Anyway, That was an interesting stop, but I needed to get back to Emporia soon. The ride was coming to an end, since I figured that I might get back and showered up in time to see the winner of the Dirty Kanza cross the finish line.

Flanked by corn fields Southeast of Americus.
The last several miles looked like this for the most part before I returned to Emporia.
I reached the city a bit after two in the afternoon. There were riders all over from the finish of the "Half Pint" race, which was a 100 miles. I did darn near 75 miles, just falling a few tenths short, but I would wager that I had more fun.

It was an outstanding ride, and I would really like to do more exploring around there, see more tiny villages, and discover more things rarely seen by anyone but a few locals. To my mind, this is gravel grinding, riding for the adventure and the fun of it. Not that placing yourself into a big challenge to see if you can figure out how to overcome it and stretch your limits isn't a good thing too. It is. Things like the Dirty Kanza 200 and Trans Iowa are the stuff that has changed lives and spurred folks on to bigger things that they maybe didn't ever think they could try. That goes for more than just cycling, by the way.

However; I think, and have always thought, that bicycle riding was about fun, adventure, and seeing what is over the next hill. Discovery, if you will, on a machine that is so efficient, simple, and capable, that not using a bicycle to explore the countryside with is just a damn foolish notion. Not only that, but the speed you end up going at is perfect. Not so slow that you don't cover a lot of ground, but not so fast that you miss 90% of what you are driving by either. I covered just shy of 75 miles, had most of the day left over to hang out at the DK200 finish line, and saw so much that I count it as the best day of the year so far.

So, did I find what I was missing during all those Dirty Kanza rides I tried? Yeah......I think I did. I found a different side to the Flint Hills area that is hard to soak in unless you slow down and take notice of it. Let it sink in, instead of racing it. Both things are good- the challenge and the adventure, the chasing after a goal and the discovery of new things. But after doing this little adventure, I want more of that too. I'll be back to this area again. Maybe to try another Dirty Kanza, but for sure to try another adventure.


youcancallmeAl said...

Now THAT is a gravel story worth following! Descriptions of countryside and towns, gorgeous pictures of farms and buildings, close ups of bikes. Compared to endless photos of hundreds of contestants riding by the same boring corner with their heads down and mud on their faces it is the stuff of REAL gravel riding! So enjoyable!! Thank-you for a great few days!!

youcancallmeAl said...

Wow! Looking on Google earth, there is the flint hills nature trail on the old rail grade right there that goes 117 miles from Osawatomie to Herington!!

Tim said...

Thank you, Ted for the wonderful writing! I concur that gravel biking is about the adventure, scenery, and serenity. Let those who race, race. But there are plenty of other reasons to ride, at least for myself.

Guitar Ted said...

@youcancallmeAl: I noticed that I crossed the Flint Hills Nature Trail, and I had heard of it before, but always referenced to counties to the East. I was quite surprised to have crossed it on my little adventure. Marked it as another reason to go back and explore.

@Tim: Thank you for reading!

Daniel said...

The lasts few posts about this ride have been great. I don't have much interest in bike racing (sounds stressful and I get enough of that through my job) so I ride my bike to relax and go on adventures and this ride sounded perfect.