June 3, 2001

6/3/01 Ness City, KS

68.8 miles

Have I mentioned how I hate all the cars that come cruising a city park? But all the loud engines and squealing tires didn't even come close to the noise made by last night's thunderstorm. I was camped under a 6-foot diameter tree and I still had images of one of its massive limbs crushing me. Lightening all around; and heavy, heavy rain. At one point, I found standing water within arm's reach of the tent. Difficult to sleep when you're worried your gear might be getting wet.

I discovered a twenty-foot diameter puddle near my tent in the morning. I'm glad I looked for some higher ground. The clouds still hung above me as I packed. Thank goodness for waterproof bags.

As I got ready, I kept thinking about the wedding reception last night. It made me realize what I'll be missing when my brother Bill gets married in two weeks. He's the last of us to finally "tie the knot," leaving just me, the wanderer. He's found a great girl in Annie. I know he won't mind me not being there. I'll make it up to him somehow.

The day wasn't starting out too good as I left the park, because it started to rain. So, instead of trying to get some miles in before getting something to eat, I just stopped at Papa's Family Restaurant, located in the old Larned train depot. And just my luck, they had an AYCE breakfast buffet. Yumm! With the weather the way it was outside, my biking was a hot topic.

The rain had stopped by the time I finally left, but I wasn't hopeful of that lasting. I had a couple of miles to go to reach the Fort Larned National Historic Site. The buildings are all original, built in the 1860s and have been completely restored to show what the fort looked like, down to the last detail. Unfortunately for me, that meant natural lighting or kerosene lamps. With the gloom outside, some rooms were difficult to see into. I think I found the hospital the most interesting, especially the surgery.

Fort Larned

I think the weather gods look over my maps at night just to see how they can toy with me the next day. For the first fifteen-miles out of town, I finally had a fierce tailwind, almost doubling my normal speed. But today's route also had me going north for twenty-miles. The crosswind was so bad I had to lean the bike into the wind just to keep from being blown into the lane. That takes a lot more effort and concentration than a headwind.

Good thing I had breakfast back in Larned, because nothing was open in Rush Center, not even the gas stations. Had some dried fruit and kept going.

More 'imagination' mail boxes!

Besides not seeing many farmhouses, but still being able to see for miles in any direction, the most interesting feature today was the stone fence posts. Because trees were scarce (I can attest to that), farmers and ranchers used limestone posts to build their fences.

Stone fence posts for miles

My whole day was overcast, but my tailwind died out. Guess that makes me even. Rolled into town in the mid-afternoon and, boy, was I hungry! I checked in at the police station and asked for recommendations. Being Sunday, I had few choices, but ended up at Pizza Plus. I know you'll find this hard to believe, but I ate the whole pizza.

Not many 3-story buildings on the prairie

One perk to camping at the city pool is free showers and bathrooms. That is if it's sunny. Because of the weather, everything was locked up, including the water faucets and bathroom. I ended up going back to the police station to use their toilet.

While setting up my tent, over walks Harley Calvin and his son, Kyle. They'd come out to the park to practice some baseball and were curious about my ride. Harley turns out to be a family practice physician here in Ness City. When he joked about doing the Bike Across Kansas, I encouraged him to try it. "My wife says that it would kill me," he laughs.

With more severe storms on the way tonight, I found another good spot under some trees for protection. With everything closed and without a shower, I decided just to take it easy and get a nap. Woke up later to voices of a girls softball team practice, so I decided to write here a little bit.

It's getting late and you can still feel the rain in the air. And it's pretty cold, too. I have my fleece jacket on for the first time since April. Wonder if I'll get sunshine tomorrow.