american journeys   

Gary and Peter Ride Across America In 2004
 June 12 - August 21, 2004

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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 evening.

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 the night.

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 earlier.

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 incident.

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 impressive.

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 years ago.

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 important trade-off.

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 beautiful outdoors.

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 City, KS.

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 arrival.

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 law.

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 Comments.

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 matters most.

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 Rt. 77.

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 speed.

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 water-tower?

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 miles.

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


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