Start: Lamar, CO
Finish: Garden City, KS
Weather: 90 degrees, overcast
Bike Time: 10 hours
Distance to date: 589
I am beginning to get the hang of this – travel early, stop often. Today I logged thirty miles in the cool morning, then stopped for a sumptuous breakfast at Jack and Wanda’s Tasty Café in Holly,
CO. Unfortunately, I was the only customer, while the convenience store with the Subway across the street was packed with pick-ups.
Soon after breakfast I crossed into Kansas. The topography always seems to change with the state line, but given that this state line is arbitrary, perhaps it is our preconceptions that color what we experience. Kansas is still wide open, but more comforting than Colorado, more domestic. The towns are closer together, you are rarely out of range of at least one abode on the horizon, and the grain silos in the distance are reminiscent of the hulking form that Dorothy and crew first glimpse as the Emerald City.
No sooner does Kansas comfort with its hominess than I understand it is an industrial comfort. Colorado had few cows, but the ones it had were grazing on the range. Kansas has huge fields of grain and thousands of cattle, but the beasts are penned in feedlots, great tracks of mud speckled with black and white hides. The land in Kansas has been tamed at an institutional scale. Even the underground is controlled; there are pump houses and pipeline valves that sprout in chain link
cages along the highway every few miles, each clicking along as it monitors the flow of oil, natural gas, and whatever else we pulse through the land.
Highway 50 is grand for cycling. The shoulder is a good eight feet wide. It follows the original Santa Fe Trail, so there are historical markers to boot; each one I visit. There are places where you still see the ruts of the wagons from over 150 years ago. The logistics of traversing this land were easy compared to the mountains of Colorado; the perils were other people. The
Arkansas River, which parallels the route, was the border between the US and Mexico in the early 1800’s, and the Pawnees claimed the whole area, so there were three groups vying for supremacy.
I was lucky to have cloud cover much of the day, cross winds as opposed to head winds (Murphy’s law of bicycles is that you never get tailwinds) and Kansas is famously flat, so the miles passed easily, This was good, because there were a lot of miles before I found a motel on the industrial east side of Garden City. Actually, Garden City must have been named by
the same bloke who named Greenland because the north side and the west side seem industrial as well. The city is brown
with fine dust, noisy pick-ups and a slew of Hispanics. I capitalized on the situation by eating dinner at a former fast food place turned taco /seafood emporium. The counter waitress spoke no English, the menu had no prices, I ordered the taco/burrito platter with Carnitas. It was immense and incredibly delicious. It turned out to cost $6.95 plus the cost of a Modelo; a Kansas experience that fell well outside my preconceptions of the place.
Sprinklers ouside of Garden City, KS