Week #5 – Chain Repair and Cyclist Race

Week #5 – Chain Repair and Cyclist Race

Day #29 – June 8th, 2019

Miles – 68.1
Houston, MO -> Marshfield, MO

I woke up at 5:30AM. I had my first time constraint in over a month today. I told Prashant to mail my battery bank to Hartville, MO. This was a poor calculation on my part. It’s Saturday and Hartville is 38 miles from Houston. The post office was only open until 11AM. Covering nearly 40 miles before 11AM was not something I had done yet, but it was doable.

I was on the road at 6:40AM. I had plenty of time, but with worries about my chain, I was nervous. Biking on a time constraint was more exhausting but there was a bit of thrill involved. I was frequently checking my place on the map against the time. I took every hill as gently as possible to avoid another chain break. Fleetwood Mac’s advice was ringing in my head – “Never break the chain!”

I arrived in Hartville at 10AM. Plenty of time to spare. I grabbed my package and had a large breakfast at the town’s diner.

I met my parents in Marshfield. We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant and caught up. I camped near the county fairgrounds. The ACA group was camping there as well.

Day #30 – June 9th, 2019

Miles – 37.0
Marshfield, MO -> Springfield, MO

I detoured to Springfield today to get a new chain. The ride was pleasant. There was hardly any traffic because it was early Sunday morning.

I did my laundry and visited the bike shop. The team at A&B Cycle was great. They immediately put my bike in the stand as soon as I walked in, gave me a cup of coffee, and had me out the door in 30 minutes.

Springfield was a nice place to spend more time with my parents. We had lunch at a brewery, walked around downtown, and hung out at the motel. It was nice to have a large, indoor space to clean all my gear.

Day #31 – June 10th, 2019

Miles – 28.9
Springfield, MO -> Ash Grove, MO

After a free motel breakfast and an overpriced haircut, I said goodbye to my parents and started my ride back to the trail. Springfield has an impressive bicycle route network. It was easy to follow safe, quiet streets all the way out of town. I rode a rail trail for a few miles as well.

I was in Ash Grove early in the afternoon. I stayed at a community operated bicycle hostel in the city park. Eventually, Sue and Jason arrived at the hostel as well. It’s great to have friends on the trail once again. Chris needed to detour to Springfield due to mechanical issues.

Ash Grove cyclist hostel.

Day #32 – June 11th, 2019

Miles – 72.9
Ash Grove, MO -> Pittsburg, KS

Within about 20 miles of leaving Ash Grove, we started to see the landscape really change. There have been hills in most of western Missouri, but at one particular intersection, we crested a small hill and saw flat fields far into the distance. Much smiling occurred. It was a good feeling to know we’ll get a break from hills soon.

We had lunch and pie at Cooky’s in Golden City, MO. It’s a popular spot for TransAmerica Trail riders. Their cyclist log book went back many years. Lots of diners and other public places have log books they ask cyclists to sign and write in. It’s neat to see people from all over the world riding the same route for many years.

We crossed the Kansas state line and took photos in front of the welcome sign. Unfortunately, hills kept popping up throughout the day. We are not yet in the totally flat Kansas section yet.

Pittsburg is a little college town. It was nice to have things to see in the evening. We had dollar tacos and beer, walked around downtown, and had some ice cream. We camped at a city owned campground.

Day #33 – June 12th, 2019

Miles – 55.7
Pittsburg, KS -> Chanute, KS

Every summer, a particularly daring group of cyclists race the TransAmerica Trail West to East. These fine-tuned folks stay on the bike all hours of the day, squeeze cat naps in at convenience stores, and push themselves to the edge to get across 12 states as fast as they can. What I will accomplish in 3 months, most of them will do in 16-35 days. It is impressive and unimaginable.

I tell you this because we almost had our first racer sighting. The leader, Abdullah Zeinab, is hundreds of miles in the front. He is likely to break the record by over 10 hours. When I woke up this morning, I checked the dot tracker. He was last pinged just west of Pittsburg and due to pass our campground in minutes. I rushed out to the road with Sue, cameras in hand. We stared westward for a few minutes. Eventually, his location updated on my phone and he was already in the center of Pittsburg. We missed him by a few minutes at most. Bummer.

Per usual, Sue was on the road much earlier than Jason and I. We made the mistake of camping in a dirt section of the campground. It rained for a couple hours overnight. It took us quite awhile to pack our soaked, muddy tents. We were finally on the road at 9:30AM. We were soon joined by a local cyclist, who almost certainly has a name but not one that I think I ever learned. Unknown Cyclist was riding from Pittsburg to Girard to pick up his car. He had driven his bike to Girard early in the morning and staked out to wait for Abdullah to pass by. He rode with Abdullah to Pittsburg. Abdullah was evidently stoked to have some company. Unknown Cyclist wanted to buy Abdullah breakfast in Pittsburg, but Abdullah ate nearly every item on the menu and insisted he buy Unknown Cyclist’s breakfast instead. UC passed it forward by buying Jason and I milkshakes at Sonic in Girard.

Unknown Cyclist, a Pittsburg local.

We camped at a city park in Chanute. There was a pool hall/bar nearby.

Day #34 – June 13th, 2019

Miles – 63.8
Chanute, KS -> Eureka, KS

We had some wind. We had some good roads. We had some bad roads. It was a pretty unremarkable day.

We camped in the city park. The line between touring cyclist and chronically homeless is starting to blur. A church was having their annual picnic in the park that evening. They invited us to eat with them. I ate a lot of food. They were nice.

Day #35 – June 14th, 2019

Miles – 75.0
Eureka, KS -> Newton, KS

Today was extreme lows and extreme highs. We started the day on a miserable road. We had a narrow shoulder to ride on and were passed by heavy trucks for nearly 20 miles. A strong crosswind made the road nearly unbearable. I think it may have been the lowest moment for me thus far. I thought Kansas was supposed to be easy.

Eventually, we turned north on to a completely desolate country road. With the wind coming from the south, our miserable cross wind instantly became a delightful tail wind. Jason and I were ecstatic. We were easily keeping above 20MPH and topped out close to 35 when we really pushed it. Jason got a flat 7 miles into this road. This is usually a frustrating experience, but with the tailwind, neither of us seemed to mind the minor set back.

Once back on the road, we saw our first TransAm racers. They were probably placed in the top 10 somewhere. They approached in the opposite direction, meaning our delightful tailwind was a ferocious headwind for them. We cheered and hollered for them. They made half-hearted attempts at smiling and waving back. It was probably only more frustrating for them to watch a couple of dorks on fully-loaded touring bikes zip past at close to three times their speed.

We stopped at a convenience store in Cassoday, KS, where we met back up with Sue. There were yet more racers at the store. One was asleep face down at a table by the time we left.

The last 50 some miles of the day were spent again in the miserable crosswind. The road was quiet, but the wind was relentess. Eventually, the three of us drifted apart and rode at our own paces. I passed more racers. Our shared crosswind experience made these interactions more fun. We gave each other thumbs up and shouted encouragements.

We stayed with Janet, a WarmShowers host. She was kind and fun. She made us a pasta dinner and rhubarb pie. She drove us around Newton to see some sights, including Bethel College which she attended.

Janet’s awesome house.

Week #5 Mileage: 401.4
Total Trip Mileage: 1,812.6

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