Day 18 (Friday, July 2,
2004): The previous day was a "rest day" in Indianapolis, IN, with
Tammy Haley. We shopped leisurely for some bike parts and special foods for
Peter who is a Celiac, and then we started on some maintenance work on our
bicycles. What we thought would be simple jobs turned out to be major items.
Peter needed more spokes to be made and Warren Mason was called in with his
special tools to do this job. Garyís rear wheel appeared to be loose, and
closer inspection showed that the right ball bearing cage had disintegrated,
and that the associated adjustable bearing race was ruined. Allen Sneller in
Florida was called, and he promised to have the required parts sent to our
host in St. Charles, MO. A substitute wheel was put in place on Garyís
machine until a proper repair could be made in St. Charles. In spite of all
these repair programs going on, we had a superb evening of eating and
conversation with Wheelmen and friends that Tammy Haley had invited for the
At 8:15 AM on this riding day, we rode out from Tammy Haleyís home in
Indianapolis, IN, accompanied by Tammy. Two miles down the road we were met
by Carolyn Carter , and four of us rode to the firehouse in Plainfield, IN,
to say "goodbye" to Steve Carter who was on duty. From here it was straight
down Route US 40W to Terre Haute, IN. The road was mostly flat with several
large rollers along the way. The weather was warm but not hot, and the sky
was overcast threatening rain all day long. Luck was with us because we
encountered no rain even tough we did ride over some roadway that had water
on it from rain minutes before our arrival.
We arrived in Terre Haute, IN, at 4:15 PM having ridden 60 miles making our
total mileage for the trip to date up to 1054 miles. We were met by Wheelman
Curt DeBaun who volunteered to be our host for our time in Terre Haute. We
left our bicycles in Curtís funeral home on US Route 40, and we went to
visit the Frank Kleptz Collection of old cars and antique bicycles. We had a
personal tour of this collection, and all I can say is "Do see this
collection if you ever have a chance. The collection is simply fabulous, and
Frank gives his visitors a most interesting description of the objects being
viewed." The day ended with a shower, rinsing out our riding clothes, and
into bed for a sleep before the next dayís ride.
Day 19 (Saturday, July 3, 2004): We left Curt DeBaunís home in time
to retrieve our bicycles from Curtís funeral home and be on the road by 7:00
AM. Curt lead us to a restaurant on US Hwy. 40 where we all had breakfast
with Curtís Saturday morning breakfast group. It was almost 9:00 AM before
we were on the road again heading for Effingham, IN, our destination for the
day. This road follows closely one of the first transcontinental highways in
our country, and it is accordingly designated a historic highway. This
morningís ride was uneventful with a good road and almost no wind. However,
the shy was overcast and threatening rain.
We ate lunch midday in Casey, IN, and we were on the road again by 12:45 PM.
Thirty minutes down the road, we were hailed by Wheelmen Bill Wendling who
was returning to his home in Altamont, IN, after having learned that the
July 4th parade in Casey, IN, in which he was going to participate as a
Wheelman, had been canceled because of the threat of severe thunder storms
and a tornado watch. We talked for a few minutes, made a date to meet again
at 8:00 AM the next day (Sunday) in Altamont, and pushed on. Then the rain
began. This rain storm lasted about 30 minutes during which it grew
progressively worse until near the end the rain was so heavy that we could
only see a few yards ahead and the wind was so strong that we could barely
maintain forward motion at 8 MPH. This was followed by two milder rain
sessions and another heavy rainstorm when we arrived in Effingham, IN (our
destination for the day), during which we had to search for our motel for
We finished this day having traveled 68 miles making our total miles covered
to date 1,122 miles. We have completed almost 1/3rd of our ride across
America, and our ride has taken us into 6 states so far. At the end of this
dayís ride, we were soaked and exhausted. However, a warm bath and a good
supper revived us enough to do our evening chores and to get ready for the
next day of riding. We are still well and mostly in good humor.
Day 20 (Sunday, July 4, 2004): We rode out of our motel in
Effingham, IL, at 7:50 AM. The breakfast at the Comfort Inn was better than
usual so we were in a good mood. The weather was cool, and the traffic was
very light on US Hwy 40 since it was so early in the morning. At 9:00 AM we
were in Altamont, IL, home of Wheelmen Bill Wendling and his family of
ordinary bicycle riders. The whole family came out to greet us together with
Marty Potts (one of the Wheelmen who rode across America in 1984). We had a
good time chatting for about 30 minutes while everyone took pictures, and
Marty Potts reminisced with me about his ride across America 20 years
Peterís rear wheel has given trouble with developing a flat spot where the
ends of the tiring join, and by the time we had reached St. Elmo, IL, this
flat spot was so developed that the wire holding the tire on the wheel was
completely exposed. This problem was corrected by swapping Peterís wheel for
a spare wheel that we were carrying in the sag vehicle.
Except for the steady headwinds and the occasional big roller, we had a
pleasant and uneventful ride into Vandalia which we reached at 12:15 PM at
the 30 mile mark of this dayís ride. No restaurants were open so we bought
food for lunch at the local supermarket and went to the small Lincoln Park
opposite the old Illinois State Capital Building to eat picnic style.
Luckily, this little park had a gazebo with a solid roof over it because the
sky proceeded to get very dark and pour down rain while we ate our lunch. By
1:00 PM the storm had passed, and we proceeded on our way without further
We reached Greenville, IL, at 3:30 PM where we ended our riding day. Our
mileage for the day was 51 miles and our total mileage for the trip to date
was 1,173 miles. Tomorrow will be a much longer riding day as we must get to
St. Charles so a chance to get really rested up is welcome. And I can get
caught up on my reporting for our internet website.
Day 21 (Monday, July 5, 2004): This was a memorable day in several
ways: We passed the "1/3rd of the way" mark on our ride across America, we
rode over the Mississippi River which was thrilling, and we rode through a
really violent thunder storm. More about these events later.
We rode out of our Best Western Motel in Greenville, IL, at 7:40 AM. The sky
was clear, and it was sunny and warm. We rode north through the town looking
for Rt. 140, and we found a piece of the old Cumberland National Highway
that was still covered with red bricks. We have been following this old
highway since we left Indianapolis, but very little of the old brick
covering that characterized much of this road when it was in use remains.
Users of this road can be thankful that the bricks are gone because they
provide a very rough surface, but the old brick is historic.
Our way was through rolling, sometimes flat, farm land with corn, soybeans,
and patches of woods and streams all around. By 10:00 AM the skies were
beginning to darken, and by 11:00 AM it began to rain. First the rain was
gentle, but within the next half hour it had begun to pour down and the wind
came at us in mighty gust that almost blew us off the road. I took shelter
under a large oak tree while Peter pushed on. In the thick of the storm,
Peter did not see me leave the road although I was only about 100 yards in
front of him at the time. The storm passed in about 40 minutes, but Peter
was nowhere to be seen.
I finally caught up with Peter at 1:00 PM in Alton, IL, where he was waiting
at a turn in our route hoping that we (Irene in the sag vehicle and/or Gary)
would find him. While he was waiting, Peter left his bicycle leaning against
a light post at the corner, and he went onto a nearby restaurant for some
lunch. Midway through his meal, he notices that someone is riding away on
his bicycle so he runs out after the thief. Peter catches up with the thief
when the thief falls with the bicycle. The thief excuses himself saying that
he thought the bicycle had been discarded, and he drives away in a car with
three friends (accomplices). The happy ending is that Peter has his bicycle
with no damage done.
By 1:30 PM we were together again, and ready to resume our ride. From Alton,
IL, we rode over a new bridge over the Mississippi River that is beautiful
and that was built with wonderful bicycle/pedestrian lanes on both sides.
Access for bicycles is very easy and the views of the river from the bridge
are spectacular. We were stopped in the middle of the bridge by a reporter
from the Alton News, and I do believe that the pictures taken will be very
After crossing over the bridge, we had 24 more miles to go to reach St.
Charles, MO, and the home of Mary Harting (one of Wheelmen Charlie Harperís
sisters) where we had been offered shelter for the two days of our planned
stay in this town. The day had become hot and humid after the storm, and we
were exhausted when we arrived at our destination at 5:00 PM. We had
traveled 72 miles this day which gives us a total mileage for the trip to
date of 1,245 miles.
Tomorrow will be another lay-over day giving us a chance to make some
repairs to our bicycles and to see some of the special exhibits in the area
relating to the Lewis & Clark expedition that set out from St. Charles 200
Day 22 (Wednesday, July 7, 2004): The previous day was a lay-over
day. We were staying with Mary Darting (Charlie Harper's sister) in St.
Charles, MO, and Jean and Charlie Harper had come down from Muscatine, IA,
to be with us for a few days. We worked on maintaining our bicycles in the
morning which necessitated a trip to the hardware store to get a nut driver
to adjust the nipples on the spokes in my big wheel that needed tightening.
I called Al Sneller of Victory Bicycles in Orlando. FL, and he committed
Diane Blake to prepare the parts that I needed to replace parts on my
bicycle that were showing signs of wear and tear. Diane will bring these
parts to the Wheelmen Meet in Baldwin City, KS, so that I can finish our
ride across America with a bicycle that is dependable. To cap off this part
of our day, Charlie Harper provided some metal polish that made my bike
shine like new.
Next, Mary Darting's daughter Denise Coomer helped me learn how to use an
email service suggested by Wheelmen Karen Turner for transferring photos
from the field to our Wheelmen Web Master (Karen Turner) for inclusion in
our "Ride Across America" web page.
We then drove into St. Louis, MO, to see the special exhibit on the Lewis &
Clark Expedition at the Missouri Historical Society Museum, but this museum
was closed due to a power outage caused by the thunderstorm the day before
(the same one that we had encountered in Illinois). So that our trip to St.
Louis would not be a waste, we went to see the St. Louis Catholic Basilica
with its magnificent mosaics. Then we returned to St. Charles and visited
the local Louis & Clark Museum that is small but very informative. This day
was capped off by a visit to a Trailhead microbrewery in St. Charles
followed by a delicious bar-b-que dinner at Mary Darting's home. All in all,
a wonderful day.
On our Ride Day 22, Mary Darting served us a hearty breakfast after which
Charlie Harper (on a 52" Victory ordinary bicycle) rode out with Peter and
Gary at 7:45 AM. At 8:00 AM we were in downtown St. Charles, MO, on the
KATY Trail having our picture taken and saying goodbye to our friends. The
trail is beautiful in that it goes through heavily wooded areas alongside
the Missouri River, and there are frequent views of the river itself from
the trail. The Lewis & Clark expedition left from St. Charles 200 years ago,
and traveled up this same river to its source and then across the mountains
to the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. Our ride does not follow the
Lewis & Clark route, but the starting and end points are similar.
The KATY Trail's surface is compacted crushed limestone which offers
considerable rolling resistance to our bicycles. Also, we are traveling up
the river" so our way is a consistent gradual uphill pull. However, the
trail is a converted railroad bed so it is relatively flat which is an
We were stopped in Marthasville, MO, by a reporter from the San Francisco
(CA) Chronicle who was doing a story on the KATY Trail for the travel
section of his newspaper. He was intrigued by our bicycles, and listened to
us for about 30 minutes while we told him about our bicycles and the
Wheelmen. Hopefully our time was not waste
A few minutes later we encountered a lady bicycler who was just starting a
ride to the Pacific Ocean following the trail taken by the Lewis & Clark
expedition. She had just finished a one hour long tire fixing session, and
she was eager to make contact with her companion who had left her an hour
earlier. This lady's bicycle was so loaded down with gear that we wondered
if she would be able to make such a long trip, but I would certainly not bet
against her being successful.
A few more miles down the trail we encountered a tree that had fallen across
the trail. To get past this obstacle required a combination of pushing our
bikes off the trail through some of the smaller branches, and then sliding
the bicycles under the tree's trunk and larger branches. If only we had
brought a chain saw with us.
Our riding day finished with a dash across a two lane bridge with low sides
railings into the town of Herman, MO, where we intended to stay for the
night. We approached this bridge with some trepidation because we had been
warned by several people that this bridge was extremely dangerous for
bicycle travelers. However, we attacked the bridge by riding across in the
middle of the right lane, and we enjoyed a trouble free ride with
spectacular views of the river.
We found a room at a B&B at the end of the bridge just as we entered the
town of Herman. Our riding day ended at 7:15 PM with 66 miles covered for
the day and 1,311 miles for the trip to date. The weather had been sunny and
warm all day. The wind varied from none to about 2 hours of fairly strong
headwind in the early afternoon.
Day 23 (Thursday, July 8, 2004): Charlie Harper, Gary and Peter had
breakfast at their B&B in Herman, MO, and prepared to ride across the
Missouri river on the two lane bridge (see comments from Ride Day 22) when
our hostess came out to ask us to wait until the reporter for the local
newspaper could get there for an interview. Peter filled in the wait time by
performing riding tricks for the hotel's guests who were plying us with
questions about our bicycles. With this delay, it was 8:30 AM when we began
our day's ride. We decided to ride on the paved Highway 94 that paralleled
the KATY Trail as much as possible in order to take advantage of the
smoother road surface. This worked fine until we approached Jefferson City
when Hwy 94 ended at the convergence of several freeways. At this point
Peter and Gary sat down beside the road to wait for Charlie who was behind
and out of sight. After 20 minutes of waiting, Peter and Gary learned from a
cell phone call from Irene that Charlie had left Hwy 94 to return to the
KATY Trail, and that Charlie was looking for Peter and Gary somewhere on the
KATY Trail in the Jefferson City area. To make a long story short, Peter and
Gary never did find Charlie (or vice versa), but all three riders did find
the Rose B&B Hotel in Hartsburg, MO, which was our destination for this day.
The last rider was into Hartsburg at 5:30 PM. The day's mileage covered was
54 miles, and the total trip mileage to date was 1,365 miles. The weather
was mostly sunny with one slight shower in the late morning. There was very
little wind this day.
Day 24 (Friday, July 9, 2004): After a fine breakfast at the Rose
B&B Hotel in Hartsburg, MO, Charlie Harper, Peter and Gary rode onto the
KATY Trail at 8:15 AM. The day was sunny and warm, and we were all feeling
fine. This day was marked by some very pleasant encounters with people.
First, we stopped to view the "Pierced Rock Natural Bridge", and two bicycle
riders came along to explain how this famous landmark had been lost to the
local people for many years because the river had shifted leaving this
natural feature buried in the vegetation of the hill on which it stands.
Only recently, the Missouri Park Service has uncovered this landmark and put
a marker on the KATY Trail so that people who pass this way can view this
remarkable rock formation.
We stopped at Conner's Landing for a cool drink (Peter had hot coffee as
usual), and we struck up a conversation with a man who lives on a houseboat
on the Missouri river. This man is involved in programs to keep the river
clean, and he was a fountain of information about the river, the political
forces affecting the river, the Lewis & Clark expedition, Mark Twain, and
much more. We reciprocated by telling him the story of our bicycles.
We took our lunch at the Trailhead Restaurant at the Rocheport Trailhead.
Our hamburgers were great, and as usual the people around were curious about
our bicycles. Peter performed feats of riding skill, and we were given free
refills of our drinks.
At the New Franklin Trailhead, we met a family who was out accompanying one
son to earn his bicycle riding merit badge for the Boy Scouts. The entire
family was interested in our high wheel bicycles, and the four children all
wanted turns riding these machines. Perhaps some new Wheelmen will come from
this family in the future.
Besides the people, we have seen considerable wildlife as we ride along the
KATY Trail. Today I saw two deer at different times, two snakes, numerous
rabbits, three turtles, dozens of indigo buntings (birds), several cardinals
(birds), two eagles, many small frogs, and hundreds of crickets. The
vegetation is also worth noting. Our pictures show the vegetation, but you
have to be here to see the intensity of the greens, the definition of the
various leaf forms mixed together alongside the trail, and the wildflowers
sprinkled here and there, to appreciate the full beauty of it all. I was
thinking about how lucky we three riders are to be able to be enjoying this
Our riding day ended at 3:45 PM at the Comfort Inn in Booneville, MO. We
rode 41 miles today bringing our total for the trip to 1,406 miles. The day
had been sunny and very warm, and there was almost no wind.
Michael Coomer came with a pick up truck to take Charlie Harper and his
bicycle back to St. Charles, MO, ending his three days of riding with us. We
had fun together, but even good things must come to an end.
A man named Jim Smith had observed us crossing the bridge into Boonesville,
and he proceeded to follow us along the trail taking pictures of us as we
rode. This Jim met us at our motel to introduce himself, and to learn more
about us and our bicycles. The encounter ended with our going to dinner
together, we went to Jim's house to see the recumbent tricycle that Jim had
built for himself, and Jim gave us a copy of the pictures that he had taken
of us. One more very pleasant person encountered on this memorable day.
Day 25 (Saturday, July 10, 2004): The day started at the Comfort Inn
in Boonesville, MO. During breakfast, Jim Smith, who we had met the day
before, showed up with more photos of us riding on a disc. We invited Jim to
join us as we rode out of town, and he accepted the invitation. At 8:30 AM
the three of us (Jim Smith on his homemade tricycle, and Peter and Gary on
their ordinary bicycles) rode out of the motel and onto the KATY Trail
heading West. Jim had a hard time keeping up with Peter and Gary, but we all
arrived in Pilot Grove, MO (12 miles down the trail), at about the same
time. Jim turned around and headed back to Boonesville, and Peter and Gary
continued westward. The KATY Trail from Boonesville is mostly uphill, and
the day was very warm so we were sweating most of the way. We stopped on the
trail about 20 miles out of Boonesville to have a snack from our packs, and
then we were on our way again. We arrived in Sedalia, MO, at 12:30 PM having
traveled only 34 miles for the day making a total of 1,440 miles for the
trip to date. We would not have stopped so early normally, but we had agreed
to meet Wheelmen Glen Norcliffe in Sedalia on Saturday so that we could ride
together on the final two days of our ride to the Wheelmen Meet in Baldwin
Irene is sagging us at this point and she found rooms for us at the Hotel
Bothwell in the center of downtown Sedalia. This is a grand hotel where
President Harry Truman was staying when he learned that he was nominated to
stand for election to the US Senate. We are staying in the Owner's Suite
which is very grand but not too expensive. This is a very delicious
alternative to the motels on the freeway.
The advantage of finishing our riding day early is that we could take care
of affairs that needed taking care of. Peter changed the rubber on his front
wheel which was so bad we all wondered if he could ride on a rim without
rubber (and it looked like we were going to find out the answer). Gary
worked on getting his pictures to Karen Turner for the web-site. Karen tells
me that Charlie Harper's pictures from the three days that he was on this
ride with us have already reached her: My "on the road" methods for relaying
pictures to Karen are not nearly so fast, or reliable, but persistence has
paid off so I will not give up.
Day 26 (Sunday, July 11, 2004): Wheelmen Glen Norcliffe from
Toronto, Canada, had joined us at dinner time last night so this morning we
were again a group of three ordinary bicycle riders. We left our hotel in
downtown Sedalia, MO, at 8:30 AM and rode the few blocks to the historic
Sedalia Railroad Terminal where we got onto the KATY trail for another day
of riding. After taking pictures of ourselves, we turned westward onto the
trail, and rode off into the distance. The day was sunny and warm in the
morning, and it got quite hot by midday with a strong headwind that was most
noticeable when we were pulling up the occasional long uphill sections of
the trail that go over the rolling hills that are prevalent in this part of
Missouri. With the heat and headwinds, our progress was generally under 10
MPH, and then there were a couple of stops for drink and food along the way
with the result that we did not arrive at our destination in Clinton, MO
(the end of the KATY Trail) until 2:00 PM. Our mileage for the day was 39
miles making our total mileage for the trip to date up to 1,479 miles.
Tomorrow is a Century Ride (100 miles) day for us. We have coordinated this
ride with James McKenzie, organizer of the Wheelmen Annual Meet in Baldwin
City, KS, and James is hoping to be able to meet us as approach Baldwin City
so that he can ride the last few miles of this Century Ride with us. Gary
had selected a route for this ride on small back-roads, but an encounter
with a person who seems to know the area (and who had a DeLorme
topographical map of Missouri) warned us that this route was very beautiful,
but it was also a very hilly route. An alternative flatter, more direct,
route uses four lane divided highways most of the way from Clinton, MO, to
Baldwin City, KS. These roads generally have excellent surfaces, they have
wide shoulders to ride on, and they are graded like a railroad bed would be
so there are no steep hills to climb. On the negative side, the four lane
roads have a lot of traffic, and they offer the bicycle rider no escape
(shade) from the sun and heat. We three riders will make a decision about
which route we will take at dinner, and the choice will be announced in my
"Comments" for tomorrow. (Which route would you take?)
Our afternoon is being spent in maintenance on our bicycles, planning for
our Century Ride tomorrow, and rest.
Day 27 (Monday, July 12, 2004): This was "Century Ride Day" for we
three riders (Glen Norcliffe, Peter Matthews, and Gary Sanderson) and our
sag driver Irene Sanderson (I mention Irene specifically because the drinks
and snacks that she provided along the way were very important to the
success of our long hot ride this day). We were up at 5:00 AM, and we had
eaten a cold breakfast in our motel room before daylight. At 6:00 AM it was
light enough to ride safely on the highway, and we rode out of our motel in
Clinton, MO, onto the highway to begin our day's ride. The first 40 miles
was along MO Hwy 7 which is a four lane divided highway with wide smooth
shoulders: The morning was cool, and the riding was easy and fast (we
averaged over 10 MPH including stops). We stopped in Harrisonville, MO, for
lunch at 10:00 AM at the Wagon Wheel restaurant where we found most of the
people in the restaurant wanting to know about our trip and the bicycles.
After this lunch, we headed west on MO Hwy 2, and we encountered some light
rain (which simply cooled us off) and the beginning of what I will call
"Kansas Rollers" (a succession of long gentle up-hills followed by what seem
to be short gentle down-hill runs). When we entered Kansas, the road became
KS Hwy 68, and two things happened: The day got very hot (over 90 degrees
F), and the "Kansas Rollers" got bigger and longer. To add to the
difficulty, a gentle wind came up from the south that vectored into a slight
headwind as we traveled west. We yearned for shade and drank prodigious
amounts of liquids. We found very few places to buy refreshments along this
last 60 miles of our route which made Irene and the sag wagon critical to
our well being. About 17 miles from our destination, we turned north on KS
Hwy 33, and we benefited from a mild tailwind for the next 10 miles (if you
are reading the narrative of our ride across America, you know that
tailwinds are a very rare treat for us). As close as we were to the end of
our century ride, Glen Norcliffe began to suffer from leg muscle spasms so
badly that he had to get down and walk his bike up all the hills. Fearing
that Glen might not be able to finish the Century Ride, Peter and Gary went
ahead to finish the ride with the commitment to come back with the car if
Glen did not make it to Baldwin City by nightfall. As a result, Peter and
Gary arrived at the Three Sisters Inn (a B&B) in Baldwin City (which was the
end of their Century Ride) at 6:45 PM. Gary and Peter were relaxing with
Irene on the porch of the B&B at 7:30 PM when Glen rode in to successfully
complete his Century Ride. We were three very tired, but also very happy,
riders at the end of this long, hot day of ordinary bicycle riding. Our
mileage for the day was 100.2 miles, and our total mileage for the trip to
date is 1,579 miles.
We are now in Baldwin City, KS, ready for the national 2004 Wheelmen Meet.
The Three Sisters Inn is a very fine B&B that can be recommended to any
traveler, and I will leave all further comments for a later date after a
good night's rest.
Day 28 (Sunday, July 18, 2004): The Wheelmen Meet 2004 is over.
Peter and Gary had a great time, but we are glad to be on the road again.
This Ride Across America is a personal commitment that once made is at the
top of our list of personal goals.
Peter and Gary have been off the road since July 12 while they attended the
Wheelmen Meet in Baldwin City, KS. The Meet was a real success, and one of
the reasons for this success was the ample opportunities given (by plan
and/or by accident) for personal interaction among the Wheelmen present.
Gary and Peter were given Century Medals for their 100 mile ride from
Clinton, MO, to Baldwin City, KS, on July 12, and Gary was awarded the "Ride
to the Meet Award" for being the one who rode the longest distance (1,545
miles) to the Meet. More information about this Meet will be found in the
next issue of "The Wheelmen Newsletter" so we will not take up more space on
this subject here.
Before going on to describe the events of Ride Day 28, it is worth noting
that Gary's bicycle was rebuilt during the Wheelmen Meet thanks to Wheelmen
Diane Blake of Victory Bicycles in Orlando, FL; Jimmy Spillane of Whitney
bicycles of Madison, CT; and Ray Rittenhouse, the hard rubber tire man from
Indiana. These three people brought the parts that Gary needed to replace
the broken, or worn out, parts that he needed for his ordinary bicycle, and
he was able to leave Baldwin City on a bicycle that was as good as new. Gary
is very thankful for all the help that he has received from his friends.
Peter and Gary packed up their belongings, ate breakfast with the Wheelmen
in the Baldwin University cafeteria, and rode out of Baldwin City at 8:20 AM
to continue their Ride Across America. The route taken out of town was
somewhat different than the one Gary had chosen based on information from
the Kansas DOT. A conversation with James McKenzie the night before revealed
that Gary's route would have taken us into the hilliest part of Kansas: This
ride is a personal challenge, but we do not need to make it harder than it
has to be. The route out of Baldwin City to the south edge of Lawrence, KS,
was full of "Kansas rollers", but after 10 miles we were on Rt. 59, then Rt.
10, then Rt. 1029, to US Rt. 24 into Topeka, KS (our destination for the
day), which was all reasonably flat. Also, the wind was not a factor on this
day since there was very little wind and what there was came from the our
sides (sometimes form the north and sometimes from the south).
The only excitement of the day came when we arrived in Topeka, KS. Our plan
was to ride south from Rt. 24 through the center of the city, and then ride
west to our motel which was on the west side of town at the confluence of
all the freeways. We missed our turnoff from US Rt. 24 that would have taken
us into the center of town because it was not marked as shown on the AAA map
that we were using. Upon realizing that we had passed our turnoff, we
decided to ride on and take the freeway (US Rt. 75) south to our motel.
Peter wondered if it was legal to ride on such a high speed (70 MPH) highway
with limited access, but Gary assured him that it is OK as long as it is a
US Highway and not an Interstate Highway. Riding on this type of highway is
fine on the stretches without access roads because of the wide, and
generally clean (windswept) shoulders , but going across the on and off
ramps requires a great deal of care and concentration in order to avoid
conflict with the cars and trucks that are coming and going. We crossed the
Kansas River on this freeway and after about 2 miles of sharing this high
speed highway with a multitude of cars and trucks, we exited and found our
motel with Irene Sanderson (our sag driver) and a room waiting for our
Our riding day ended at 2:00 PM with 53 miles added to our total miles that
now add up to 1,632 miles for the trip to date. Tomorrow we expect to reach
the half way mark on our ride across America.
Day 29 (Monday, July 19, 2004): We stayed the night at the Quality
Inn on the south-west side of Topeka, KS. Peter and Gary were up at 6:00 AM,
and we were very concerned because it was raining. However, the rain was
soon over, and we were on the road at 7:40 AM after a continental breakfast
at the motel. We tried to ride onto US Rt. 75N from the end of the street in
front of our motel, but at this point our road was joined with an Interstate
Highway, and a sign at the on-ramp informed us that bicycles were
prohibited. We then retraced the route that we had taken to get from US Rt.
24 across the Kansas river and on to our motel only to find that this route
also required us to use a 0.1 mile section of Interstate Highway to get to
US Rt.75N, and there were no alternative ways to get over the Kansas river
for a couple of miles either up or down the river from where we were. To
solve this predicament, we simply rode past the sign on the approach road
that told us we were not supposed to ride on this roadway, and we sped down
the Interstate until we got to the turnoff for our road where we were again
legal. Certainly, there is a need for highway design that allows bicycles to
get over major rivers, and around Interstate Highways, without breaking the
Our route from Topeka to Manhattan, KS (our destination for the day), was US
Rt. 24. This is a rather straight road through farmland covered mostly with
soybeans and corn. The roadside did have patches of wildflowers including
sunflowers, the Kansas state flower. These sunflowers grow over 6 feet tall
as shown in one of the pictures in the picture gallery associated with these
We ate lunch in St. Mary, KS, and struck up a conversation with a couple
that had moved there from Long Island, NY, 17 years earlier to found a
conservative Catholic School. There school was a success, but they yearned
for their former home in Long Island. It seems that many of us are looking
for something lost in the past only to find that it is what we have now that
This was a day of interviews. We were stopped by the local TV Station
Channel 27 outside of Silver Lake, KS, and later by a reporter for the
Silver Lake Newspaper. It seems that Gay Stewart had notified the local news
media about the Wheelmen Meet in Baldwin City so they were on the look out
for something to report on.
By the time we arrived in Manhattan at about 2:30 PM the temperature was
near 100 degrees F, and we were soaked with perspiration and very tired. Our
mileage for the day was 55 miles, making our total mileage for the trip to
date = 1,687 miles.
We had been invited to stay the night with Gay and Keith Stewart in
Manhattan, and we were very happy to arrive at the air-conditioned home of
these generous Wheelmen at 3:00 PM. After showering, we were treated to
seeing how the 2004 Wheelmen Meet medals and pins were made (Keith was the
one who made these exceptional award pieces).
Tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter than today. We want to get to bed
early so that we can get up and on the road as soon as it gets light enough
to be seen by the cars on the road.
Day 30 (Tuesday, July 20, 2004): We had stayed at the home of Keith
and Gay Steward in Manhattan, KS, and Keith was up with Peter and Gary at
6:00 AM to help us find our breakfast. We were packed up on the road at 7:40
AM heading west on US Rt. 24. It was still cool but there was a promise of a
hot sunny day in the sky. We turned north after 12 miles when we got to US
Our first breakfast stop was in Randolph, KS, after only 21 miles of
cycling. Inside the country restaurant was a man who had built the
"rail-to-trial" conversion around Traverse City, MI. Peter and Gary had
ridden on this trail last year on our Ride-to-the-Meet in Elgin, IL, with
Glen Norcliffe. We had a great conversation about the merits, and the
controversy, of these trails.
At about the 40 mile mark on our day's ride, we came to Waterville, KS,
where we stopped for our lunch. The waitress had seen us on television the
night before, and she was pleased that we were now eating in her restaurant.
Before long, the reporter for the local newspaper (Sharon) appeared, and a
few minutes later Terry Roepke arrives. It turns out that Waterville is the
hometown of Keith and Gay Steward, and that Terry and Alice Roepke
(relatives, and promoters, of bicycle racing champion Tilly Anderson) live
in this town. We were interviewed, and then we were invited to visit the
early 20th Century Hotel and Opera House that are being restored: The people
working on these projects are to be commended for their vision and their
dedication to a very large undertaking.
We resumed our ride at 1:00 PM when the temperature was 98 degrees F, and we
had 16 miles to go to our destination. Peter and Gary arrived at the
Thunderbird Motel in Marysville, KS (a railroad town), at 3:00 PM, drenched
in sweat. The temperature had risen to 99 degrees F. Even Irene, our sag
driver, was exhausted by the heat. We all showered, and Peter and Irene went
sound asleep while Gary worked at updating the Ride Across America website.
Our mileage for the day was 57 miles bringing our total miles ridden to date
up to 1,744 miles.
Day 31 (Wednesday, July 21, 2004): We were up at 5:30 AM with the
intention of starting early so that we would finish our riding day before
the hottest part of the day had arrived. However, instead of waking to the
makings of another sunny and very hot day, the sky was heavy with moving
clouds, and rain showers were sweeping through the area. We were already up
and our ride plan was set the night before, so we ate a light breakfast of
cereal and orange juice in our room (the Thunderbird Motel in Marysville,
KS), and wheeled onto US Rt. 36W at 6:40 AM.
The sky was overcast, and there were numerous lightening flashes in the
distance all around us. We did ride through some very light showers, but the
heavier rain seemed to fall either on the right, the left, or in front of
us. We were indeed lucky to have missed any serious downpour even though it
was clear that such events were happening frequently in the area. Wind was
another matter: There was very little wind during the first two hours of our
ride, but after that the wind came up and vectored to a headwind that was
very strong at times. Now, you must appreciate that Kansas is just one hill
after another. With a headwind blowing, an ordinary bicycle rider must work
as though he, or she, is going up a hill that is 1 to 2 % steeper than it
really is unless there is some sheltering effect that blocks out the wind.
The road that we traveled on this day (US Rt. 36) is highly graded so that
we would start along uphill pull going over a fill over a broad valley with
a creek bed in the bottom: This is an exposed section of the road over which
one must pump as though he is going uphill even tough it may be flat. Then
as one gets to the hill proper and the road goes through a cut in the hill
with sandstone walls on either side: In this section of the road the rider
is protected from the wind and only has to manage the hill itself. Finally,
the road emerges from the cut in the hill and finishes its course to the top
of the hill fully exposed to the wind: In this section of the road, the
rider must pump hard enough to overcome the hill and the headwind. In
summary, we only covered 50 miles this day, but we felt as though we had
ridden more than 70 miles.
It was about 25 miles to Washington, KS, where we stopped to have another
breakfast. A reporter for the local newspaper approached us for a story and
pictures. It turned out that she had graduated form Baker University in
Baldwin City, KS, so we could shares stories about the campus. It was after
this stop that the headwinds mentioned above picked up to a troublesome
For the past three days we have been crossing and following trials that were
important in the development of our country: The Oregon Trail, the
California Trail, and the Pony Express Route. We did not stop to inspect the
vestiges of these routes, but we did try to imagine the trials and
tribulations that the pioneers who traveled these routes encountered.
We did spot three live skunks playing alongside the road today. Two of these
beautiful creatures were rolling about in the grass and the third skunk was
watching from a short distance away. We were either watching a skunk game,
or a mating ritual.
Finally, I want to say something about water towers. When riding down the
country roads in the Midwest, the first sign of a town is often a
water-tower that appears above the horizon 2 to 4 miles before you reach the
town. When you are tired and thirsty, or hungry, this is a welcome sight.
Gary tried to capture the water-tower that signaled our nearness to
Belleville, KS, which was our destination on this day: Can you find the
We arrived in Belleville, KS (our destination for the day), at 12:10 PM . We
had pedaled 50 miles bringing our total miles traveled to date to 1,794
Day 32 (Thursday, July 22, 2004): We rode out of the Super 8 Motel
in Belleville, KS, at 7:10 AM, with our rain jackets on (it was raining
softly). Within 30 minutes, we had shed our jackets because the rain had
stopped, and it was too hot riding with the jackets on. The skies were
overcast and threatened rain all day long, but only a few raindrops managed
to find us on this exceptional day. The day was exceptional because we had a
tailwind (slight to moderate) all day long. This was the first day of our
entire trip that we had tailwinds to push us along all day long, and it was
very exhilarating after fighting headwinds for so many days. We had planned
to end the day's ride in Smith Center, KS (61 miles from Belleville), but we
were at this destination by lunch time without being tired so we decided to
go 29 miles further to Phillipsburg, KS. We arrived in Phillipsburg at 3:40
PM for a day's ride of 90 miles bringing our total miles traveled to date up
to 1,884 miles.
It is worth noting that a day's riding against the wind is an entirely
different experience than riding for a day with the wind at our back. The
day before we were completely worn out after riding 50 miles against a
strong headwind all day, whereas on this day we were still feeling rather
fresh after riding 90 miles with a tailwind all day long. We are prepared to
take the weather as it comes to us, but we could easily travel further daily
distances than we have been doing if the wind was at our back more often.
Today we passed near the geographical center of the USA (I.e., the point at
which a map of the USA on stiff paper would balance). We did not feel any
different that we usually do, but it was interesting.
After the day's ride, Peter and Gary showered and washed out their riding
clothes as is done every day. Pictures accompany these comments that show
how we hang our clothes out to dry when conditions are favorable.
After dinner in the diner next door to the Cottonwood Motel where we are
staying, a group of people gathered who were interested in our bicycles. A
30 minute conversation ensued during which Peter demonstrated his riding
skills. This was a fitting end to a very good day of cycling