Frigid Creme and Other Disappointments (USA Day 51)
Just a short hop today, to take us from Ness City to nearby Dighton. We’d laid up a rest day with a family there because our urge to stop and catch up on sleep/planning/Le Tour de France was bigger than the urge to crack out some serious miles. The major concern about all this decision is wind: it’s been on our side all the way through Kansas, either a light tailwind or no wind at all. That’s unheard of. The main reason West to East is so popular with TATters is to avoid those headwinds, and we’ve managed to suffer none of that, but it’s not over yet. The Rocky Mountains, only five-or-so days’ ride away, will mark the end of the great plains, but before that the forecast is for extreme heat and higher winds, possibly coming from the West. Despite all this, we’ve slowed our pace considerably. It’s a risk, but then again we’d have no fun if we were riding exhausted whatever the weather, plus we’d be much less able to deal with hardships when they inevitably came. At this rate we’ll still be into Wyoming by the beginning of August, which is way ahead of schedule.
With the remainder of our morning, we sat in the shade of a local ice cream joint called Frigid Crème, winner of two prestigious awards: the least appetising name for an ice cream joint in history, and the smallest ‘large’ size in America. Disappointed, we licked away at our Frigid Cremes until a car pulled up, co-incidentally containing our hosts: Destinee plus her young sons Taydem, Brayden and Camden, who live just out of town on a ranch with a dozen ‘bucket cows’: doe-eyed babies rescued from the burn pile, who tugged hard at their milk bottles as we fed them, sucking with gusto.
The brothers gave us a tour of the ranch, brought us a horse to pat, showed off their racing turtles and warned us about rattlesnakes. This is how they spend their summers: bouncing about outside, collecting experiences that city kids dream of.
As the afternoon faded, we headed off to the opening night of the local fair. With pork and beans provided by the local electricity company and big polystyrene cups of iced tea at hand, we sat in the shade and watched the kids of the city try out the rides. These were old, rusty contraptions that looked like modded farm machinery, spinning and clattering away by means of a sputtering petrol engine. There were ‘teacup’ rides made from old barrels, chairoplanes resembling old threshers and a bumpy slide built from a grain conveyor. As bored locals manned the rides, the engines rattled and grumbled, throwing about the children in a semi-safe way, I guess, and then we went home.
Long after the sun set, we sat about the kitchen with the extended family, talking politics. Kansas is probably the most conservative state we’ve passed through, but like all the places we’ve been, these are good people. There’s an anxiety here, everywhere really, about the way the country’s going. The difference is how each person proposes to solve it, and whether they want to move forwards, backwards or freeze things in place. We know this by now, but the dialogue between opposing sides is so bitter and polarised that it’s not productive, and can’t be resolved. There’s nothing we can do about it, but at least we can let people feel like they’ve been heard.