The road I chose to traverse Westward on was to take me several miles to the county border and on into Morris County and hopefully on to Council Grove. I had been to that city once during a previous Dirty Kanza 200 attempt. That was the year I was sick and took the start anyway, I believe. Well, whatever, this wasn't a race. This was a fun ride so far, and the scenery was starting to change. No longer was I in a flatter, river plain, but now I was up into rolling hills and bigger scenery. It was starting to look more like the Kansas I was accustomed to down here.
|Looking West toward Morris County. This was where it started looking more like what I had remembered from the past. |
|Approaching Dunlap, Kansas. |
I neared Dunlap, a small village on the border of Morris County, and at the cemetery on the East edge of the village, high above on a hill top, I made a brief visit to check my maps to plot my next move. It all had to be carefully considered, since if I missed a turn, I may not get another chance to fix my mistake. Some of the area I was traveling through was "on the grid', meaning it was plotted in square mile sections and roads were put through on all four sides of each section. However, much of this area is not on that grid system, and roads are sparse, or they are truncated, or they wind along in odd directions with no crossing roads for miles. It could be easy, or it could be very confusing. I had my work cut out for me in navigational terms. But that's how I like it.
I figured on making a Northward turn and going a couple of miles to a forced left, then a mile West, and then a mile North to another left which should have me on the way to Council Grove. I set off and the land suddenly changed to steeply pitched rollers with rocky outcroppings and loose, shalely flint and limestone to traverse in spots. In other words, classic Flint Hills topography.
|Fewer trees, steeper hills, and less farming here. This is a classic Flint Hills look. |
I was finally "warmed up", which meant climbing didn't feel as laborious as before. I've always been slow to get up to proper operating temperature and functioning. That's why I like longer events and rides. Short bursts of speed are not in my wheelhouse. Things were clicking off well, and I decided to stop for a bit to take a nature break and eat. Then I headed North to my left turn which would take me very close to Council Grove. The thing was, the turn wasn't there.
Well, the map did show it, but I'll be darned if I could find it where the map said that I should. Okay, so there was one more chance a mile North of that. Hmm......I got there and the same deal. I looked really hard for this turn, and it wasn't there. The next right was though. Okay, maybe a case of the DOT maps being wrong then? I've seen that before in Iowa. But now I had to consider my options. Gravel to Council Grove wasn't an option now, and the thought of going into town several miles on U.S. Highway 56 wasn't very appealing. Oh, I should probably mention that there were two other mitigating factors here forcing my hand.
One was that I had a limited view via paper map. If it was off my maps, it was off limits. That kind of put going South and West out of the question. Secondly, I have an unwritten rule which is that I never backtrack.
Always move forward. So, I had only one good option. Straight ahead. It was on my maps, didn't require running any pavement, and fit my rule. Okay then.... Just about at this time an old Ford Taurus passes me by which was being driven by a young man. I waved. He waved. I figured that was it. However; he stopped, backed up, and asked if I was okay. I said that I was, but "....thanks for checking up on me!
" That was really a nice gesture on his part.
|Barns For Jason|
|A rarely used road|
I crossed State Highway 56, and then I saw a historical sign that pointed to my right stating there were ruts from the Santa Fe Trail there. Well, there probably were at one time, but since no one maintained the prairie by burning it regularly, it had turned into a strip of land featuring a riotous wood. Sad......
I climbed up and up and the road got more and more rustic until I came upon a warning sign for a Minimum Maintenance Road. We call these "Level B Roads" in Iowa, but the rest of the country seems to have fallen on "MMR" as the designation for these old, little used roads in remote areas.
|More grass than gravel!|
|The gravel returns, but where does the road go?!!|
The two track returned to a full on gravel road, but with large chunky bits 0f flinty limestone. Then I pulled up short, because it looked as though the road dove down at a very steep pitch ahead of me, and I couldn't see any run out ahead, as though the road disappeared into a sea of green leaves. I stopped and got out the map to confirm that it was a through road. The map said there was a right hander immediately ahead. Okay then. Here we go!
|A low water crossing and turkeys up on the road ahead.|
The pitch was so steep downward that I had to get off the back of the saddle as if I were descending a steep single track on a mountain bike. Really, this was mountain biking!
The rocks were loose, the traction was sketchy, and I had to use some good braking technique to keep it all under control, because right at the bottom there was a 90° right hand turn into a low water crossing. When I got there, I discovered a group of turkeys on the road ahead. I think they were as surprised to see me as I was to see them. They hesitated for a moment, not knowing what to do, then they trotted up the road away from me and eventually off into a field beyond.
I followed them through the wooded area out into an open meadow where I stopped once again to set new goals. I needed to assess where I was at with water supplies and food so I could figure out how much further I could push on. I wanted to get into Wabaunsee County if I could. The county named after a Potawatomi Chief. The name, Wah-bon-seh,
means "Dawn Of Day", and I had a great "dawn to my day" already, so I figured it was only fitting, but I needed to know I could get there safely. I also had to figure out where I could get into and out of that county, as the grid didn't exist up there. Choices were few and it was critical to make the right move.
|Flowers for Kristi. (She likes living ones, I hear)|
|At the border of Wabaunsee County. Gotta love the name of this road!|
I finally made it up to Wabaunsee County, and I had a certain corner picked out where I had to make a decision to add a bunch of miles or to start traversing over Eastward to get back on track to go South to Emporia. The North wind was blasting by this time, and climbing up hills was a tough slog, but I was holding my own. Three counties in one ride, and now I had more unknown territory to cover. This was turning out to be an awesome ride.
Next: Chalk District 3
So much fun following along on Google earth!!
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