This is the sixth day we have been riding in Kansas. Contrary to a former personally held belief, riding through Kansas is not boring. At all.
First of all, we have met some really great animals. We saw prairie dogs yesterday, a whole colony all chattering their heads off. Randomly seeing a herd of Zebras was awesome, even though they just wanted to bite our fingers off. My favorite was the wild mustangs which you see in the picture above.
Noah and I had stopped in a tiny diner in a tiny town to ask to use the restroom and the smiling owner said, “Of course!” and pulled out a registry where thousands of other cyclists that have stopped in at this diner have signed their names over the decades. (The registry thing is a common occurrence, many small-town stores, libraries, churches, city halls and restaurants have guestbooks for us cyclists to sign, it is really neat to read through the pages.)
The owner chatted with us for a while and mentioned where we could find a herd of wild horses. These mustangs originally lived in Colorado but to preserve the herd they now live on a ranch here in Kansas. Noah and I watched the horses gallop across their “range”, and we could still tell how untamed and free their spirits were. (And how ungroomed by humans they are, if you look closely at the photo you can see how many of the horses tails are matted.)
Also, the people of Kansas have been amazing. From the friendly cops, to the waving motorists and the random strangers who ask us where we are from and where we are headed-everyone has been wonderful. Of course, some folks go even beyond that, giving us a place to stay for the night, a free meal or both!
Meeting up with other touring cyclists is always a joy, it is a great feeling to know that there are others who are traveling “along with” you. Some cyclists we only see in passing: they are headed east, while we are headed west-but even so we usually stop and chat for a few minutes and it is fascinating to discover how global cycle touring is, we have met people from all over the world!
But some cyclists are going our direction so we get to see these folks frequently. Ayana is a young lady from Israel and she has been great to hang out with. We met Dan and Brianne and their two children, Aaron and Connor in Fordsville, KY and they have been looking out for us ever since on the road. Dan is great fun to ride with and I have really enjoying talking with Brianne. I can’t even explain how awesome their family is (and their dog!) we are really gonna miss them when we reach Colorado!
And finally the past few days have been filled with heady excitement as the TransAm racers have started to fly by us! The TransAm race is one of the most intense endurance races that exists- and each racer is completely on their own. They carry everything they need for the trip, they have to stop to get food and water and find places to rest, just like Noah and I and yet some of them will cycle 4,400 miles in under 20 days. They are insanely talented athletes and it has been ridiculously cool to see them racing.
They are super friendly as well, everyone smiles and waves. We have also chatted with Steffan, Sarah, Ken and Markku. One thing that blows me away is how open they are about sharing their struggles in this race. Whether it is the headwind, homesickness, heat or just the overwhelming feeling of pain that comes with pushing your body to its absolute limits, these cyclists are giving their all to do the best they can in this race. As a woman cyclist it has been so inspiring to me to see Lael, Sarah and Janie riding across the nation at top speed.
So if you ever want to have immersive experience in an epic race, ride the TransAmerican trail during the TransAm race. I would recommend Kansas as the ultimate state to meet the racers in, the flat terrain and long stretches of open road make it easy to spot the riders coming and cheer them on. (Also, if possible, have someone who can text you about who you will meet up with next. Thanks so much, Dad!!)
Noah and I are plodding very slowly across Kansas compared to the racers, but I gotta admit, we are making good progress. Today was a 64 mile day which is pretty average for us, but the three days before that we rode 77, 85 and 90 miles-and it has been really hot out too! It is so weird, yesterday was our 90 mile day and it should have been really rough but a magical thing happened. The last 20 miles of our day we had the most perfect tailwind I have ever experienced. We ended our 90 mile day soaring down the road at 20 to 25+ mph and we got to our campground before we even knew what had happened. (The only sad thing was that there was no where to get food in town so to celebrate our epic ride we ate clif bars and trail mix…)