May 30, 2001

5/30/01 Matfield Green, KS

54.9 miles

What a day! I'm so tired, I don't know where to begin.

I think after raining all morning, the skies had to build up for last night. And around 8 P.M., it cut loose. Rain, gusts, and thunder for hours. I kept waking up to see if the tent was floating or leaking. But I was dry and comfortable.

This morning, it had stopped raining, but looked as if it was just building up again. Stopped by the bakery for a donut, but decided to get riding while it wasn't raining.

The terrain was different heading south out of Council Grove. A lot more hilly and I saw more pasture land than crops. In fact, I saw very few houses along the whole stretch of Hwy 177. And because of the storm clouds, I had a hard headwind.

Even though it didn't rain as hard as during yesterday's ride, I only got 10 miles before it started. I saw a hay barn near the road and pulled in. I thought that the rain might blow through, but after 30 minutes, I decided to put on the rain gear and get going. Traffic was light and for that I was grateful.

Stopped at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and talked to the rangers. Had a nice visit with them while it rained outside. One of the rangers recommended the Grand Central Hotel for lunch. "Best quality and quantity for the money!"

Farm house at Tallgrass Prairie

Talked to a few more tourists about my trip before heading back out onto the road. More rain. Cottonwood Falls is a nice little town. Things must be good because I saw several art galleries. Had a good lunch in the elegant restaurant. Thought I was on the Plaza in Kansas City for a minute.

The Ranger Museum wasn't open and I had wanted to kill some time there. Oh well, back on the road. Ended up riding 25 miles in the rain. My raingear did a fair job. The jacket was muggy and both my waterproof socks and gloves leaked, but I was warm.

Finally, the sun poked through the clouds and I wanted to sing. The wind continued to blow and I knew my sunshine could be short-lived, so I asked Nancy to se if she could intervene. Fount the Hitching Post Bar & Grill just like they said.

I was to go in and ask for directions to Carol's house. Just as you can imagine, I got several different ways to get there from everyone. Most figured it was 7-8 miles on dirt road, so I thanked them and headed out again. Everyone looked at me funny but I didn't think anything about it.

At first, the rangeland was simply amazing. Just what I thought Montana would be like. But then I hit a muddy spot in the road and, before I knew it, the bike wouldn't budge because of all the mud and gravel sticking to it. Eventually got going, but as the miles went by, it kept happening. About the fourth or fifth time, I realized that if it rained tonight, I wouldn't be able to ride these roads at all. Disappointed at not meeting Carol, but I wasn't even sure I could make it back to town, either.

The gods were looking kindly on me when I happened upon Allen Fipps out tending his cattle. He told me I was still about 3 miles from Carol's and I'd already done 8. I asked him which way he was headed and asked for a lift.

Allen is third generation on this ranch and is very thankful for this life. We rode by his place, which he'd just expanded to give the family more room. His kids range from 5 to 19. It is a beautiful home. "And we just moved back in a couple of weeks ago," he smiled. For me, he was a saint for giving me a lift. Thanks again, Allen.

Rode the four miles of pavement back to Matfield Green. A few people were surprised that I was back so quickly. "I never made it," I said as I described the terrible riding conditions. Everyone at the Bar & Grill were kind of relieved that I made it back.

Jerry, who was running the place tonight, said no one would care if I camped in the yard of the vacant house next to the bar & grill. And I asked a neighbor if I could use his hose to wash all the mud off the bike. I did the best I could, but the pedals might need to be re-built.

As I talked to all the friendly people in The Hitching Post, I thought that these things happen for a reason. So I didn't get to meet Carol, but I did meet wonderful people like Annie O'Meara, Jerry's niece from KC Turns out her family is from the Brookside-Armour Hills part of KC Jerry even graduated from Hogan High School (although a few years earlier than me ). Annie was so interested in the stories of my trip. And before the evening was over, she had handed me a generous donation for Nancy's scholarship fund. I promised her I would look her up when I'm back in KC

I really enjoyed myself here. Besides the old-timers and regulars, I even talked to a few cowboys. They loved the idea of my trip, but on horseback. But they said a horse would only travel about 20 miles a day.

Everyone has gone home and I sit under a cloudy sky writing this. They tell me tomorrow will be a sunny day -- let's hope, because I will be reunited with the TransAm and heading west.