Location: Ottowa, KS (City Park)
No super early wake-up call today. But we did rise early, eat quickly, and start riding as soon as we could to take advantage of a strong WNW wind. The wind blew hard throughout the night, waking me up on occasion. It didn’t dawn on me until I woke up that the direction meant a tailwind. If it had, I might have woken up before sunrise since we so seldom get tailwinds, especially strong and lasting tailwinds. Hurricane Ike to the east must have had something to do with the winds. Whatever may have caused them, we had them.
We knocked out thirty-five miles across the rolling landscape of eastern Kansas. Signs of the flooding could be seen all around the way, and in many areas the creeks we crossed over appeared more like large rivers of torrential violence. The muddy water had overrun the banks of the bed and stood or flowed through fields of crops and through woods. The floods had flushed a great number of animals out of the woody underbrush and ground. I saw today an exceptionally high number of road kill carcasses on the highway. Mostly raccoons and squirrels made up the mammals, but I saw more dead frogs and snakes on the road than I’ve ever seen living in all my life. Every few yards there would be smashed into the pavement the little bloody body of a frog or the twisted length of a snake. I suppose the flash floods forced these animals to the high ground of the road.
Other than the road kill, there isn’t much to report from today’s ride. The day was uneventful, as much of Kansas has been. Most of the farms, cars, and towns look the same. I’m disappointed to say that the frequency of honks and hollers remains high, but I attribute that to the fact that we have ventured to roads and towns where cyclists are not accustomed to be seen. I don’t attribute it to Kansas residents uniquely. In my state, I image the response would be the same. Most of those who yell or honk are young men, or more accurately, older boys. I’d guess most are high school students, with the occasional man in his twenties. I try to ignore each instance where someone honks or calls me a creampuff or faggot, but I’m known to have a tendency towards outburst, so seldom do I successfully demonstrate self-restraint. None of the harassing boys or men here shows any interest in backing up their comments, and most holler the last word as they speed off in a direction away from us. I’m left pedaling and fuming, but after a hill or two the fuming subsides and my mind wanders to intriguing debates and considers more important matters. I’m sure that I impede traffic as a cyclist. Cars swing out to the left to miss me. I’m not one to invade anyone’s space or infringe on anyone’s rights or liberties, and I certainly don’t want to be an aggravation to anyone. However, I told Brian the first day that if I get in every American’s way just once as I bike across the country, then I can live with that.
After a relaxing thirty five miles to start the day, Brian and I decided to take advantage of the Pizza Hut lunch buffet. For $5.99 plus tax, I gorged on salad, pepperoni pizza, and cinnamon breadsticks. I made several trips to the buffet counter, returning each time with a plate full of food. I stopped eating just shy of truly punishing my stomach. I still felt like I would explode, but I could bike. Brian and I left Osage City with the wind still blowing behind us. We biked another thirty miles to Ottawa in about two and half hours. Our average pace on bike is around eleven miles an hour. Usually, when I am thirteen miles from town, I tell myself that I have one more hour to bike.
Ottawa’s sheriff’s station has given us permission to camp in the park. We reached the park around 5:00. We had some time to kill, so we went to the grocery store and bought some hamburgers, brats, cheese, buns, and charcoal and brought them back to the park to grill dinner on one of the permanent grills beside the picnic tables where we had decided to camp.
I ate a pound of ground beef made into four hamburgers. I ate them quickly while they were hot and I loved every bit. I’d been craving beef for weeks now, and I got my fix tonight. We ate well today and I am full and tired. The temperatures have dropped into the forties and the night is clear. I’m looking forward to crawling in my sleeping bag and read myself to sleep.