June 2, 2001

6/2/01 Larned, KS

83.4 miles

Forgive me if I sound rushed, but I have a wedding to go to (that's called a teaser!).

Watched the weather while I packed this morning and they're moving up tomorrow's thunderstorms to tonight. For me, that would work out a lot better. But for today, I had clear skies and it was a little cooler.

And traffic was next to nothing this Saturday morning as I left the city on Hwy-96. Actually had a nice shoulder for half the way to Nickerson. It was my normal early start, but I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me when I spotted a camel alongside of me in a pasture. Blinked, and looked again. No, I was right. In fact, there were a dozen of them. Zebras, too. Up ahead the sign read "Hedrick's Bed & Breakfast and Exotic Animal Park." Only in Kansas!

Camels in Kansas?

Had a quick bit to eat at Sunshine Café in Nickerson before heading out. From here it was almost a straight shot to Larned.

I took a break at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, a saltwater marsh habitat that attracts thousands of migratory birds. I cut right through the middle of it, but the headquarters were still miles off-route. From the look of things, it is a birder's dream.

A beautiful day of riding!

Next on the itinerary was lunch (go figure!). Rode a good speed all the way to Hudson, only to find the café closed on Saturdays. It shouldn't surprise me, though. These small town cafes have a limited staff and need to take a day off. They probably figure everyone will go to the big city or just stay home. Bought a coke out of a vending machine and headed out again.

At the rate I was going today, it looked like I could be in Larned by early afternoon. That was good because I wanted a chance to see the Santa Fe Trail Center. But an odd thing happened in those remaining 30 miles. I think I almost fell asleep. Yep! Must have been a combination of riding without a break, hunger, and the static scenery. When my vision began to tunnel, I stopped for a few minutes to eat some dried fruit. Weird!

As I approached Larned, I was struck by the sight of a large cattle stockyard. The sight made me think of images of KC's huge stockyards. I never saw it with cattle, but I can imagine.

Rode into your typical Kansas small town (approximately 5,000). The main business street is very wide. I'll guess that was how it was when the wagons needed room to turn around. Many of the side streets are still made of brick. Business fronts could use a coat of paint, but all the fast food joints along the main highway look very new.

Main Street, Larned Kansas

Met a few cyclists heading for Boston on a "Cross Roads" group bike tour. Seemed like nice folks. Wish they were going my way, or at least spending the night here.

Checked in at the police station, viewed my email at the library, and decided I needed to get going if I wanted to see the museum before it closed.

An old time sod house

A couple of miles on a busy highway almost made me regret heading out this way this afternoon. The Santa Fe Trail Center is a museum and library dedicated to research. Inside are exhibits on early settlers and the trip across the Plains. Outside, they have a recreated sod hut that actually looks homey, plus it is solidly built with thick walls of sod.

As I rode back into town, I spotted folks outside a church, clearly getting ready for a wedding. Turns out the best man lives across the street, and he yells at me as I ride past, "Do you want a beer?" That's how I met Robert Marley, the groom, as he was getting ready to walk down the aisle with Margie. After a few photos, he invited me to the wedding reception at the VFW hall. As his friends led him across the street to get married ('HE' and 'LP' was written on the bottom of his shoes), I headed down to the city park to camp and to take a shower at the pool. Actually, a very nice park.

Groom, groomsmen & Jim

So, I'm sitting here by the pool as I write this, trying to even out my tan (ha, ha, ha!) and looking at my meager wardrobe, wondering "what to wear?"

Well, just got back and thought I'd write this down before I go to sleep. According to all present, the wedding went well and Bob was visibly more relaxed. I was welcomed by all the groomsmen to join them at the wedding table. I think I disappointed them by only going for seconds. They still wanted to know more about my trip. Even their wives were asking questions. And I tried to ask them some about their lives here. I don't think I could have been treated any nicer, even if I had been family.

The Happy Couple!

This is the supreme example of what experiences a person can have if they slow down. I would have never met these good folks if I'd been traveling in a car. I promised them I'd send a postcard, at least from the finish.