Now that I’ve crossed the border into Colorado, I feel that not another day may go by without writing about the magic of Kansas.
I realize the sentence fragment “magic of Kansas” is one not oft used. Understandably. I personally was not prepared for any magic whatsoever. What, with 400+ miles of absolutely straight, slightly uphill asphalt with blistering headwinds and stifling heat bordered with endless fields of monoculture and punctuated with of towns full of… Nothing…. What else could I expect?
And indeed it IS largely just that: endless fields of wheat and corn as far as the eye can see. Arrow-straight highway 96 we stayed on nearly the entire state sloping gently upward as we began our ascent to the Rockies. Ever-present winds from the south buffeting us around, drying our skin, aggravating our Vata, and slowing us down. Heat that didn’t die down until well after dark.
This, AND magic.
” Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it” -Charles R Swindoll.
What happened to our group in the face of this adversarial monotony is that we got stronger than ever before. We took this time of few variables each day in our ride (compared with the wildly erratic days in the Appalachians where you never knew how long you’d be out there) and came together to DIAL our systems IN.
Because each day’s weather was predictable, we could strategize: The wind and heat would pick up around 10am, and not let up until evening.
Our solution was to move our start time to dawn, which meant getting up at 4am.
It was rough at first. A little bumpy. But quickly we realized how beneficial this new routine could be. We appointed our earliest riser as “Commander of Coffee”, to have a pot ready for us by 4:15 each day. We dismissed with the ardor or cooking oats, and cleaning pots– opting instead for granola yogurt and fruit. Soon each day like clockwork: we were up, eating, packing our lunches and bikes, and out the door to the bird’s glorious first-light cacophony and the sweet pink cheeks of dawn.
Maybe none of this sounds remarkable to my readers. Certainly a few of the riders were nonplussed by all this early morning stuff. But ME? I think it’s magic.
For me to wake each morning without an alarm at 4am– awake and refreshed and ready to go– that is something close to a miracle. I have wrestled with sleep and waking, and mornings, and the Ayurvedic Clock for most of my adult life. It has been one of the primary demons I have aimed to slay for some time now.
And here, on the windswept prairies of Kansas. Here I make Peace with my Demon. We shake hands over granola in the dark.
My own personal triumphs aside, our plan worked FABULOUSLY. Out the door before sunrise most mornings ( especially as we crept to the edge of the time zone), we would have a glorious morning of flat windless asphalt, devoid of traffic yet, and encouraged by the waving arms of millions of sheaves of golden peachy wheat.
And it seems Kansas rewarded our efforts by being as sweet and kind as she can be known to be. While hot (99 degrees some days), the wind was blessedly minimal. We had one day of 20mph headwinds–but just one. The rest of the time it was a gentle breeze, occasionally even a slight tailwind that guided our bikes down the road for the 55-75 miles we travelled each of the 11 days within the state.
With certainty that wind would be right on schedule, beginning at 10 and escalating to its notorious speeds; but by then we would be safely ensconced in the basement of a church or swimming in a city park pool, free to enjoy the day however we wished.
Churches and pools by the way are excellent in Kansas. I’ve never seen so much love poured into each city’s parks and pools, in town after town after town. These parks are bright beacons of community amongst the shade trees and playgrounds, havens for children to gather and play, sheltered from the winds of endless prairies. And the churches were unwaveringly hospitable– bidding us to use all their facilities, store our bikes indoors, and rest our bodies, ALSO protected from the endless winds of the prairies.
And even though I began this post proclaiming Kansas as bereft of interest… I could go on. I could go on about the rough men in overalls who will explain the economics of wheat and cattle using quantities in the tens of thousands of acres and head as you slurp ice cream at the Frigid Creme. I could go on about the bike shops that cater to those traveling this road of infamy on two wheels; rolling out the red carpet and providing beds, food, laundry, mechanics. I could go on about the kind waitresses who look deep into your eyes as they hand you your pie and you know they are are as wise as any monk. I could go on.
But instead I will leave this post right here and put myself to bed. Even though I am no longer in Kansas, the terrain ahead is similar, though at 4,000 ft much cooler. The next days to Pueblo will be long and flat and windswept, after which we will begin our ascent in earnest and remember what hills feel like once again as we begin to see snow capped mountains in the distance.