Friday, June 09, 2017

DK My Way: Unwelcome Stranger

Downtown Council Grove
Second Goal Achieved:

Breaking up the route in to three segments helped me to keep my focus on shorter mileage accomplishments. The second segment ended in Council Grove and was the segment that contained all the old DK200 roads I could remember. Plus the one or two I accidentally ended up on. However; the third and final segment was going to be on roads that I (mostly) had never been on before. I just didn't know which ones they might be.

So, I had to take some time to consult a map that I had printed out which showed the roads of Lyon County and a DK Promotions route,which was highlighted in red on the map. I had originally thought that I might only be around 50-ish miles when I reached Council Grove, but much to my surprise, I reached the town showing 68 and with my surveying the town for the best convenience store option, I ended up with very close to 70 by the time I was looking at the maps.

This was only about 5 miles shy of what I had ridden down there last year and my goal was to bump up to the century mark. So, the original hopes of getting back to Waubaunsee County were scrapped and a more direct route, roughly following the DK Promotions line, was considered instead. By my calculations, I should have about 100 miles on the dot with the route I was working out there on the picnic table outside the convenience store.

While I was sitting there a Harley Davidson rider pulled up in his motorcycle gear and he complimented my "ride" and I his. When he returned to his bike, he gave off a rather staged "Have a good ride!", swung his leg over the white machine, hit the start button and the engine sputtered once then the machine died. The rider looked confused, muttered something unintelligible, and he seemed a bit embarrassed after putting on the airs that he did when he came out to triumphantly mount his mighty machine. I spared him further embarrassment and stayed quiet. He tried the key and starter button several times with zero response, not even a noise, from the stubborn white bike. Then, after fumbling around in three different bags for, what it was I never could tell, he stabbed the key and button in desperation and......bam! It started.

A throwback to days gone by. Taken from my perch on the picnic table in Council Grove
The relieved rider looked at me finally and said, "Your machine is probably a lot more reliable than mine is!"

I told him that depended upon how the "motor was doing", and he smiled and roared off.

So, I decided it was high time for me to do similar, only much more quietly. I packed up everything and headed up the road Eastward looking for the exit I should take out of town. Now, that road on the DK Promotions map wasn't identified by a name and the resolution on the map was too coarse to see street names. I was guessing by where the route left Council Grove and the map's city limits outline. I turned where my best guess led me in to a gravel parking lot. Ahead of me there looked to be what was an abandoned railway. There was no signage at all. Not that I noticed, at any rate.

At this point a voice came up from behind me. By the volume, I determined that it was approaching at a very high rate of speed. I turned to see a white Trek 29"er with what appeared to me to be a middle aged man onboard. He was asking me where I was going in a very excited tone. Catching me at unawares, I blurted out, "I don't know.", to which the man, now ahead of me and heading toward the abandoned railway says, "Why don't you follow me on the trail?". He didn't stop, but beckoned me with a vigorous wave. I asked, "Where does it go?", to which he replied, "It's the trail to Bushong! C'mon!".

Okay, number one- I was not ready for such an enthusiastic stranger and two- I did not want to go to Bushong. I'd been through there the year previous and it was out of my way anyway. I politely asked how many miles the trail was, out of curiosity, as I trailed the guy. He didn't get what I was asking about until the fourth time I asked because he wouldn't stop. I was a bit frustrated with this fellow at this point and when he finally said "17 miles", I waved him off and said I was going off to another route. Then the guy turns around and starts following me! He wanted to know "What do you want?" By this time, I had a creepy feeling about this fellow, and I wasn't about to tell him anything about my course or desires for it. I said I would figure it out, thank you, and goodbye. He didn't listen.

"You won't find much for gravel roads out that way!" Yeah..........right.
He was hot on my tail and asking me where I was going, and why I didn't want to go with him (!!), to which I replied something to the effect that I didn't want to ride a rail trail. He shouted at me, Well, what are you looking for then?!!" Clearly, he was getting frustrated with my stonewalling him. I wasn't in a frame of mind to make friends with this fellow by this point, and I bade him farewell in a sterner voice, and I pedaled off. As I did I said that I was going off to find some gravel roads. I was wearing my Riding Gravel jersey, so you'd think he might have gotten a clue.  He swung around, said I wouldn't find much for gravel roads the way I was going and that I should follow him, and he pedaled off.  I assumed he took his planned bike path route to Bushong. There was no way I was going anywhere near this guy at this point.

Of course, I was on a spectacular gravel road within five minutes of leaving the persistent stranger and I was on my way. I had a map of all the gravel roads in Lyon County, so I knew the guy was fishing to get me to believe his story for other purposes. Maybe he was a lonely cyclist and saw an opportunity to ride with another guy. Maybe he was something else..... I don't know, and it doesn't matter now. However; I can say that the guy has a strange way of making new acquaintances. My suggestion would be to be a bit less amped up and aggressive next time.

I figured out that the red DK Promotions line was actually on that rail bed for about seven miles. (!) I wasn't wanting anything to do with a rail trail now and I took the gravel which zig-zagged across the diagonal line the rail bed took. This meant that I would cross the rail trail at least five times before the trail took a Northeastward bent and headed off to Bushong. I saw the guy once more from a distance as the rail trail came near to my route, but I don't think he ever noticed me. That was the end of that!

Next: Tall Boy In Americus


Phillip Cowan said...

You meet some strange ones on the road sometimes. I met a guy one time who was insistent on shaking my hand. This might not have been so bad except we were whizzing down a twisty paved trail at the time. He seemed genuinely hurt when I wouldn't take my hands off the bars. Your 29'er guy may have just been some harmless coot. On the other hand maybe he was a guy with 20 bodies buried in the basement and was looking for number 21.

Guitar Ted said...

@phillip Cowan: There are strange folks all over, to be sure. (I count myself in that number, by the way.) As for my encounter, I'd like to think this guy was just socially inept and super stoked to have found a potential riding buddy.

More than anything, that encounter just got off on the wrong foot and went downhill after that. Maybe he was harboring something sinister, but I never got that vibe. I was just turned off by the way the encounter was going and wanted nothing to do with the gent.

I'm voting "harmless old coot" in this case. ;>)

Tim said...

Reminds me of the song by Queen, "I'm Going Slightly Mad." I especially resonate to the lyrics of "knitting with only one needle." I'm glad you had a memorable adventure in Kansas. And I won't argue that you too are a bit strange. That's part of your charm!