Location: Tribune, KS (Shed at the city park)
The wind blew hard last night, and a misty rain soaked my tent and gear. At some point in the night, the winds switched from southeast to north, and the temperatures dropped substantially. I woke up around 6:00, just as it was getting light. The wind and rain rattled my tent. The rain fly snapped in the wind, and occasionally mist would sneak under the rain fly and I could feel the cold dampness collecting on my face. As I lay in my tent, staring at the flapping fabric, I had the thought that the gusts could be strong enough to pull my tent stakes out of the ground. Suddenly my tent was smashed on my face, and I could feel the rain falling on my cheeks. I could see the gray sky through the open mesh, and the cold jolted me awake. I braced my tent against the wind with my arm and back. The rain soaked my shoulders and hair. I worked my bike shorts onto my legs and hips. They were inside out, backwards, and already wet. The interior blue padding of the bike shorts looked like a big blue diaper on me as I rushed into the freezing rain. I buried my tent stakes again in new ground. I was out and back in sixty seconds, and my heart raced as I dried myself with my small camp towel. I put on some clothes and zipped back into my warm sleeping bag. Shortly after I did, the tent collapsed on me again. I felt the cold rain on my face and could see the gray sky once more. I rushed outside again and stomped the stake into the grass with the force of sledge hammer. Angry and awake, I dove back into my tent. I calmed enough to read a bit and eventually fell back asleep. The wind still howling.
Hours later I heard Brian say that he was going to the library to get warm. I dozed off again and woke up later, so well rested that I couldn’t possibly think of falling back asleep. I put on a bundle of clothes and went into the windy morning. The mist had ceased, but everything was wet.
We had taken preparations the night before to store our gear in bags and to cover our panniers because we through the sprinkler systems might turn on. The lush green grass of the small park had us worried. We hadn’t thought that it would rain, but it did when a cold front from the north arrived in the night. We just underestimated Midwest weather.
I packed my gear and nearly froze during the process. I was bundled in clothing from head to toe, with three jackets over my jersey and my knee warmers pulled over my legs. Brian returned and was packing, and we secured our gear and went to the market. I bought a couple days of food. I have a large fold of cash now that Brian loaned me. I left my debit card in an ATM in Canon City and have ordered a new one. Brian will keep me afloat until I get the new card. So we stocked up on a couple days of food and headed to the library for more warmth and comfort. Brian worked on the website and I read my book for a couple hours. Around 1:00 pm, we decided it was time to leave.
I kept on two jackets, my knee warmers, and my beanie for the ride. The wind blew hard across the plains out of the north. The gray sky and green fields stretched for miles until they finally met in a clean line at the horizon. An occasional building or silo interrupted the usually unbroken horizon. Soon the winds ushered in a cold mist, fine soaking mist that stung my cheeks and fingers. For forty miles, to the Kansas border, the rain and wind blew hard across the road from our left. Semi trucks would pass us both ways and send waves of road grit spray to add to our misery. I was drenched by the time I reached the border, but I smiled happily for a picture at the border sign, glad to be through my fifth state.
Through the high plains of eastern Colorado, I thought that I was looking at the flattest ground on this round earth, and then I saw Kansas. I’ve never seen the land so flat. It stretches for miles in every direction in a sea of brown and green. It appears that the grain has already been harvested this year, and far away in the distance I can see the exhaust stacks of tractors, their engines chugging as they till the soil. The sunflowers haven’t been reaped, and the fields of the fat yellow flowers are tall and endless. I can easily imagine that pioneers and explorers who came to the plains saw them as an ocean. Beneath the cloudy skies, without roads or landmarks, skilled navigation would be required to find one’s way out, just like a ship at sea.
Somewhere near the Colorado Kansas border, the mist stopped, and Brian and I finished the last fifteen miles to Tribune, KS in a strong wind that helped dry our clothes. We biked 58 miles without a break, and that is as far as I’d ever like to bike without rest. When we reached the town, we visited the sheriff’s office and asked if we could stay in the city park. The woman there said that we were more than welcomed to do so, and she even suggested that we stay in the metal shed erected there. We accepted her suggestions and have found a dry space in this vacant shed, which I’m more inclined to call a warehouse. I’m sleeping on a pile of saw dust on the dirt floor, and I couldn’t be happier since I don’t have to pitch my tent in the wet park. Obviously we didn’t make 110 miles today, but we did well considering the weather. We kept pace for our deadline. Tomorrow, we’ll do it again. As always, we keep moving forward, even when everything else wants to hold us back.