Friday, June 6, 2008

Southern Winds

I have fought strong southwestern winds the past two days, but I am finally in Kansas and back on the Transamerica. I let myself sleep in yesterday after my long ride the day before. I then messed about on the Internet in the Safari Motel's breakfast room, which seemed to serve as the town social hall. Of all the people staying at the motel I think I was the only one who was actually from out of town. Everyone else seemed to be old friends and longtime neighbors.

Before leaving Clinton, I took a quick tour of the downtown. It was the first town I had seen that had a European-style town square with retail shops on all four sides. I stopped into the Dollar General (ubiquitous in these parts) for sunscreen and other essentials. On my way out, a middle-aged guy on a bike started telling me that the Klan in these parts equate bikes with wearing earrings. I didn't quite follow all that he had to say, but his general message was that I had better watch out for the Klan. I thanked him for his encouraging words.

From Clinton, I intended to head directly South for the entire day in order to rejoin the Transam. However, after a few hours pedaling into 25-30 mph winds I changed my plans. The wind crippled my progress, reducing my speed to 8 mph on roads where I should have been doing twice that. I reduced my mileage expectations and found roads headed West as well as South. The wind was a harbinger of the severe thunderstorms that were headed for Western Missouri that evening. Aware of the weather forecast I got a room at the Apache Motel in Rich Hill, MO. I was on a roll with the themed motels.

This morning I used a state map and my GPS to create a revised route back to the Transamerica Trail. The roads were very quiet, however several were in a bad state of disrepair, making for a bumpy ride. In Kansas, where every other road appears to be unpaved, my route took me down several dirt roads. On one stretch of dirt road, several owls soared above me and perched in the trees lining the road. Unfortunately, the road that I took into Kansas was so minor it didn't even have a sign welcoming me to the state. I'll have to stage my photo op on my way out.

As I approached Fort Scott, Kansas, I stumbled upon what must be one of its best restaurants, Sugarfoot & Peaches.

If it seems like all the noteworthy food that I've eaten lately has been barbecue, that's because it has. I went for another combo plate -- spicy sausage and ribs with gumbo and potato salad on the side. The ribs were the thickest I've ever eaten. A local stopped by my table to ask about my ride. He is going to ride the RAGBRAI next month, an annual ride across Iowa that draws over ten thousand people.

Fort Scott was setting up for its annual festival this weekend. Several people informed me that the Clydesdales were coming. I checked the events line-up, but nothing was compelling enough to keep me in town. The fort in the center of town, now a national historic site, was, at one time, the last frontier for European settlers -- to the West was Indian lands. The gold rush of 1848 changed that, making Fort Scott and others to its North and South obsolete.

As I continue to move West, I know that I'm entering a new region of the country because I recently tried to order a sweet tea and the restaurant didn't serve it. As a Northerner, sweet tea was not a staple of my diet before this ride. However, over the course of the past month, I've become addicted. I guess I'll have to get use to once again sugaring my own tea. Also, I'm not seeing as many of these signs:

“No guns allowed” signs are common in Kentucky and Missouri, posted on the entrances of everything from a grocery store to a bowling alley, but most do not have the artistic flair of the sign pictured.

For the last six miles of my ride today I was back on the Transamerica. I arranged to stay the night at Immanuel Lutheran Church. Pastor John and his wife Darla, a music teacher, live next door to the church.

John was working in his garden when I arrived. He showed me around and gave me free reign in the church kitchen. He also picked a bowl full of lettuce, onions, radishes, and herbs so that I could make a salad. It was one of the few times in the past month that I've had a leafy green vegetable that wasn't between two buns.


Nick said...

If the storms in Missouri were anything like the storm in Southeastern Michigan, I'm sure you're glad you stayed the night in the hotel! Sugarfoot & Peaches looks like a classic restaurant, but I bet the fresh picked salad tasted pretty good at the end of another day. I continue to read with jealousy, although I certainly don't envy riding West across such a flat area of the country!

Keep having a safe ride!

mav said...

loving each and every one of your posts, brian. i just adore seeing the characters you meet along the way. hugs, maria

Andy said...

Ha, how cool. I met Pastor John, and one of the guys I rode with also stayed there! Small world.

Grace said...

Can't believe you actually like sweet tea- you'll have to come by auburn sometime, and my folks will take you out for some. And are you really identifying yourself as a "lawyer from Chicago?"

The Rider said...

Generally, I sucessfully resist the urge to introduce myself as "Brian Dunn, a lawyer from Chicago." Stories about people riding the Transam travel up and down the Trail. You stay at a place and people there ask where you are from and what you do, etc. Then, when later riders come through they hear about the cyclists that have stayed there in the past few days or weeks. Faster riders talk about people they passed on the road and slower riders talk about others who are up ahead. So that's how Marc came to know me as a lawyer from Chicago.

Sarah P said...

My coworker does Ragbrai every year and loves it (sorry for the late post - I've been out of town and catching up on your journey). His wife, however, came from the one year she rode with him and complained about all of the hills in Iowa. You don't realize how many hills are in a flat state until you're on a bike...