Under the Bleachers (USA Day 50)
Dennis turned up again today, shortly after we woke up, to let us know which cafes and restaurants were open early. His wife had given him a cigarette this morning; he’d folded, and now felt annoyed with himself. With a shortish day but the heat rolling in, we bid him farewell and set off, buoyed by a good wind and an even better sunrise, and made Rush Center by 10:30. Some kind cyclist had put ten dollars behind the till for other TATers’ coffees, so we sipped away, chatting to three women travelling east, one of whom had left herself three weeks to get to Virginia before she began a new job. That’d be 110 miles per day. Ouch.
Kansas keeps getting more spacious: each town is now surrounded by miles of open fields, irrigated by those enormous radial hoses that trundle around their central fixing, watering a perfect circle of crops and letting the corners dry to a crisp. The towns themselves are small, with clusters of businesses related to farm machinery or other vehicles, with one gas station that might sell a little food. We pass about three of these each day, and the rest is just us, with the occasional cattle truck screaming past us, creating a moment of hellacious and stinky crosswind that threatens to blow us off our bikes.
We reached Ness City by half past two, and could have continued to Dighton except that it was getting hot, and the extra thirty miles would make two centuries in two days, and we don’t yet know if that’s a good idea with this amount of weight. Instead, we paid the single dollar required to access the city pool and splashed around until we were cool enough to function as humans.
Cleats replaced by flip-flops, shorts replaced by looser ones, we pootled up to Louie’s Bar and Grill, populated solely by bearded locals in patriotic T-shirts buying each other beers and shouting out the answers to Jeopardy. During advert breaks they took to insulting Alexandra Ocasio Cortez.
“How drunk d’you have to be to vote your f****** bartender into government? Bartenders don’t know s***. She ain’t done s*** but serve beer.”
We’ve been here for fifty days, now. Some things we’re getting used to. Others, no chance.
After wandering back to our city park, we sat in the shade of the baseball field’s bleachers, amongst the husks of a million sunflower seed shells, eating ice cream and cooling off. With flat days like this, we have two options: go the extra mile, or keep it short and spend a piece of time to get to know a place. Today, we made the right choice.