Location: McPherson, KS (Lakeside City Park)
Brian and I stayed late in the locker room where the firefighters let us stay. The room was pitch black dark. Light did not even come under the door. I set an alarm for 8:00 so that we didn’t sleep in embarrassingly late, but then I reset the alarm for 9:30. Throughout the night we heard emergency tones that alerted the firemen to take actions. The tones came in different sequences and pitches. All calls coming through the dispatches were broadcast on a PA system in every room of the station. Needless to say, we had a dry sleep but not a restful one.
Brian and I got moving around 9:00. We tidied up the room where we had slept before going to meet the new shift that had come on at 8:00. There are three rotating shifts, and each is a twenty-four hour shift. The present captain was not as friendly as the former, but two of the men were courteous and outgoing. While Brian went to the dollar store to get some breakfast foods, I stayed at the station to eat my bananas and processed pastries and chat with the firemen. They helped me find a route across Kansas using several road atlases they had. They also showed me the coming weather on the radar. NOAA forecasts rain for the next several days over several hundred miles of road ahead. Hurricane Ike, a category three, has made landfall in Texas and will broadside Missouri.
About 11:00, I said goodbye to the Great Bend firemen and pushed my bike out of the garage and into the rain. I met Brian at the dollar store. He had struck up a conversation with an older man in a Kansas University ball cap. The man expressed some negative sentiments about Roy Williams when he discovered that I was a UNC basketball fan, but he said that he is much less bitter after the Final Four matchup last year between UNC and KU, where KU obliterated UNC.
The rain persisted but so did we. We headed east out of town on 10th street, which became highway 56. Just as we reached the edge of town, my rear tire exploded, sending a powerful white cloud into the air that shook the underside of my thighs. My tube was completely shredded, and the explosion had burst a long gash in my tire. I needed a new tire. My bike was totally disabled, so Brian took my tire and rim back to town to the bike shop we had visited yesterday. I waited out of the rain under the awning of the service entrance of a rundown Mexican restaurant. I called John Holmes and Joe Moore to pass the time, and I was glad to hear they are both well and that work is going smoothly. Brian returned about an hour later with my new tire, inflated and on my rim. I attached it and we were moving again.
Often we are knocked down or knocked back on this trip. Obstacles slow our progress and wear on our morale. But, each time we encounter a crisis, we overcome it. Our success is due in part to our perseverance, but also in part to the miraculous tendencies of the road to provide. Each time we need help or a bike part, a person or circumstance arises that practically solves our problem for us. We’ve been very fortunate with these things, but many other cyclists have commented on the same good fortune. I think the phenomenon can mainly be attributed to the kindness of strangers and the willingness of others to help those in need.
Rains came and went throughout the day. The clouds never poured, but the drizzle soaked us thoroughly. Brian and I pushed through the rain into the rolling hills of eastern Kansas. We had our heads down most of the day, and we knocked out 60 miles. We stopped once to change my front tire where the patched tube finally gave out, and we stopped a second time for a Frosty at Wendy’s in Lyons, KS. We arrived late in McPherson. Time had really gotten away from us with our several flat tires and our break for ice cream. I forgot to mention that Brian also had a flat.
When we came to town, we had no place to stay. As planned, though, we went to the fire station to see if we could get similar treatment as last night. I walked into the fire station and found the firefighters watching television in an upstairs lobby. I asked if we could put our tents up in the park, and that led to a series of phone calls to the parks department and the police. The firemen didn’t know the answer to my question and they didn’t have the authority to let us sleep there. I knew that they didn’t, but I asked in hopes that they would offer to let us stay indoors. They didn’t, but a police officer who got the call from the Fire Captain stopped by the station. He said that the city used to have cyclists camp in the park in the 90s, but it had been a while since anyone had asked to do so. He made a couple phone calls, and eventually the assistant sheriff consented to let us camp in the park.
We followed the policeman in his car through town to one of the many parks in the city limits. He led us to a back corner of one edge of the large park and got us situated at some picnic tables under a tin roofed shelter. He left as the rains started again to fall, leaving Brian and I dry and relieved to have a place to sleep.
The rains continue to fall as I lie here in my tent, which I put up on the concrete pad of the sheltered picnic area. I’m tired and stuffed on pasta. I think I’ll skip my book tonight.