Languishing in Lizard Licks (USA Day 47)
We’ve a few blessed days approaching where the temperature’s only ninety degrees and the wind’s blowing from the east, which is unheard of, so it’s important to make some progress while the going’s good. From here, the towns thin out and you’ve got to think much more strategically about water, provisions and so on. We’re talking stretches of forty, fifty miles at the most without services so it’s never a mortal challenge, but definitely a step up.
Today felt sluggish. After a gorgeous morning with our host, Rick, his set of schnauzer dogs (Sterling, a miniature one, and Emmett, a biggie), tennis on the telly and French toast in the belly, we joined the lonely road to Toronto (not that one), past cornfields full to bursting and faded red oil derricks dipping forward and back like rusty praying monks.
Despite quick progress on the flats, we both felt a bit out of sorts today, and spent most of the ride either bickering or trying to work out why we were bickering. Current theories include not enough sleep, too much sleep, the heat, full-body fatigue and camping anxiety. Whatever the case, the highlight was a visit to the legendary Lizard Licks café where we signed the guestbook and were presented with our ceremonial lizards, to fasten to our bike. Wherever you go across the world, if you see a cyclist with a lizard on their bike you know they’ve been to this nondescript diner on the corner of Highway 54 and State Road 105.
We drunk our coffees and eyed the wall featuring photos of hunters holding the antlers of the prize stags they’d shot. The locals were kind but unimpressed with our journey. After all, at least one customer per day has done exactly the same thing as us, and there’s written evidence to prove it. The odd-one-out was Jeanmarie, who regularly hosts cyclists and had many stories to share. It’s wonderful and mysterious how neither she nor last night’s host, Rick, even cycle, yet they’re a stronger part of the touring community than we’ll ever be. They clearly both love accepting in the rainbow of visitors to darken their towels and empty their fridges, and we couldn’t be more grateful.
The last twenty miles were unpleasant, really. The aforementioned Highway 54 was home to obnoxious cattle trucks making dangerous overtakes and Chevrolets zipping a little too close to our left elbows. We survived, I’m glad to report, and rode into Eureka along the first few of the Flint Hills, an area of very mild but rather long rises and equally pedestrian descents. It’s the Kansas version of a mountain range. Bless.
We camped in the city park, alongside the swimming pool and baseball diamond, and poked away at a store-bought pot pie while chatting to Chris, Cheyenne and Cheyenne’s Cousin who didn’t seem to have a name. They’d got a bit stuck in this town, but Cheyenne had applied to study hair and nails at a college, and Chris had a job of some sort. Chris informed us that he hadn’t been in trouble with the law since he was six, when he hit his brother with a pipe. He also provided us with the opening times of the pool, on the off chance that we wanted to travel back this way.
This is small town Kansas in a nutshell. We feel nostalgic for its passing before it’s even left.