Friday, July 19, 2013

Day 44 - July 17, 2013 - Hutchinson, KS to Larned, KS

Mileage - about 84
Total miles - 1178.1

We were more than ready to escape Hutchinson this morning, and were greeted with overcast skies and fairly cool weather for the first part of our trip.  We knew that after the small town of Nickerson, we would have a long stretch of 58 miles with no services, so we stopped at the grocery store to pick up a couple of deli sandwiches for lunch, and we headed out.

We got to Nickerson fairly early in the day, stopped at their grocery store to use the restroom facilities and pick up a couple of Powerades, then heard someone calling to us from across the street.  It was a really nice lady, telling us that she and her husband are the unofficial greeters to Nickerson for cyclists - they have hosted over 1,00 cyclists in their guest house since the inception of the TransAm in 1976.  She said if we needed a place to stay, or even a day off, we were certainly welcome to it!  Seeing as we just had a day off, we had to pass, but such an amazing offer!  She told us an accountant joke, since we both work with numbers, then left us to our ride.

Not all that long after we left Nickerson, we saw someone in an oncoming SUV waving us down - it was Trisha V. from the (Brandi Carlile forum, for the uninitiated!) message board, who we had been talking through Facebook with about trying to meet up!  She wanted to host us, but was heading out for a family vacation for a few days, but still managed to track us down and bring us a couple of ice cold Gatorades!  Thanks so much Trisha, it was great to meet you - I only wish I had thought to take a photo of the three of us together!

We pedaled on.  When they say no services for 58 miles, they aren't kidding. There was barely a house for 58 miles.  Luckily we had a lot of water, and had packed our lunch!  After Trisha tracked us down, it wasn't too long before we saw another cyclist on the road ahead.  We caught up, then spent a little time talking to him - later finding out his name is Rick.  He's with a group of people that are a traveling Christian ministry.  His friend had a dream about them being on the West Coast, so they took off on bikes from Nee York- they do have a sag wagon as well.  There were about 7 of them who took turns riding and driving, 3 women I think and 4 men.  And a larger group of about 10 more that had gone ahead to a town further west.  

We needed to stop for lunch, so we let Rick ride on, while we stopped at a simple"T" in the road, sat on the pavement, and ate our sandwiches and granola bars.  Life on the road is so very glamorous!

We passed a nature preserve after that, one side for public hunting, one side with no hunting allowed.  There are also a ton of oil derricks in the fields in Kansas - probably bringing in more money than the crops or animals that the farmers also raise on their land.

We (read: usually me (Erica)) have such an issue with the last 10 or so miles or most every day...they are the most difficult, no matter how many we have done before them.  I took a million breaks, and did my fair share of whining I'm sure furing those last 10 miles!  To be fair, it was our longest day ever, and it was pretty hot in flat ol' Kansas.  

We pulled in to Larned pretty early given all the miles we did - it was before 5:00.  We grabbed a much needed dinner at Wendy's (see - fancy and glamour abounds on this journey!), then set out to find the city park. After walking up a hill - yes, in Kansas - someone graciously gave us directions.  We found that the traveling ministry folks were already set up there, and we called the police to check in.  Little did we know that we had to actually go to the police station to fill out a form for a free camping permit to stay in the park.  We were exhausted, but rode the mile or so to the police station.  The lady at the station had given me directions that included backtracking up the hill we had just come down - luckily I am smarter than the average bear and found a way there involving no climbing.

This permit was serious business - they had a form with your name and address, including those of all people in your party, and she took my ID and ran it through some database I think.  Crazy, considering that while we had been at the park the first time, we had witnessed a man screaming obscenities on the phone in his front yard about his kids lying to him, and some police activity at a hour about 4 doors down from that where a man had assaulted his estranged wife and her mother, according to a guy we assume is the town busy-body who stopped in his truck to chat for WAY too long as soon as we pulled in to the park.  We were actually wondering about the safety of the neighborhood around the park, but at least we had the ministry folks to keep us company!

I took a lovely bathing-suit shower at the city pool in one of those big rooms with shower heads on the wall (no privacy at all!), the went to the grocery store for some drinks, and our new favorite dessert - little refrigerated cups of ruby red grapefruit.  Delicious little things!  

A short while later, one of the police officers stopped by to tell us that we might consider moving our tent - we were fairly close to the street, which was on the "cruising" path for the locals until about midnight.  He also said that the local teens and stoners play basketball until late at night at the courts nearby - last year the skate park was their hangout.  Where are we?!?  So we drug our tent back further in the park, but still managed to be close enough to another cruising road where we were yelled at by some hillbilly with nothing better to do - something about going back to hell, but the first part of his insult was unintelligible...go figure.

We relaxed by the duck pond, near the fancy park fountain, and got in our tent before dark.  We soon passed out, even though it was super hot in the tent.  The police officer knew his stuff - we were awoken around 12:30 by the sound of basketball being loudly played nearby.  Guess the police officer knew what he was talking about!  You would think that after such an in-depth camping permit process, they might actually patrol the park and make sure the teenagers and stoners actually went home at a decent hour, but they sure don't!  Rough night of sleep, but we survived.

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