Race To The Bike Shop (USA Day 48)

“You’ll hate Kansas. There’s nothing there.”

We love Kansas. There’s nothing here.


The gridded fields have given way to open pasture with free-roaming cattle or horses, brought here from miles around to feast on the extra-juicy Kansas grass. Back before the white folks ruined everything, the flint hills were padded thick with six-foot high blue grass and bison chomped away, undisturbed largely by the world around them. That feeling of limitless space and calm still remains, though the bison have headed west and the grass is neither blue, nor tall.

I’m a very serious cyclist

I’m a very serious cyclist

We were passed early in the ride by Mark, another westbound TATter, who was due to stay with the same WarmShowers host as us this evening. Delighted, we swapped pleasantries and agreed to meet tonight, letting him blaze a trail west while we pootled along in his wake. Of course, that’s never the way these things work, so we met him again at the only available lunch spot: a country store in Cassoday.

Glugging down our baths of coffee, we discovered something we had in common: we both wanted to get to the bike shop in Newton before meeting our host-in-common, but Mark revealed that it closed at 3. Ah. Time trial time.


While grubby truckers came for burgers and went away happy, and a couple of leather-clad bikers swapped snarls in the car park, we climbed onto our bikes and pedalled on, spurred by a rare and superb Kansas tailwind. Here was another stretch, forty miles this time, with nothing but blue sky and cows, but the remoteness failed to close in on us. In fact, I found my own mind stretching out to meet it. We’d brought masses of water, plenty of peanut butter and a few fresh pairs of legs, so the miles rode themselves, to be honest.

With half an hour to spare we rolled into Newton, the biggest city we’ll pass until Pueblo, Colorado, though still pretty cute by Eastern standards. The bike shop had just the chamoix cream we needed (ick) and just the lights Mark was after, but for the wrong price. Nevertheless, the hurry had got us to Newton with a whole afternoon to spare, so we found our host’s gorgeous Victorian house, explored its cavernous depths, complete with pets, watermelon, ice-cold water: all the things a touring cyclist needs to recover.

There’s an ominous atmosphere hanging around our heads tonight: tomorrow’s either a forty-five mile day or a hundred-and-five one. Between the next town and the one after that is a big, straight westward line of heat and fields. We’re going to have to crack out a biggie on one of the next three days to get to Dighton on Tuesday, for another WarmShowers bed. By the looks of the temperature and wind conditions, tomorrow’s the day to do it. So. Are you ready?

 Today: 75 Miles

Total: 2145 Miles