Day 45: Haulin’ it down to Hoxie through the high plains

I woke up early outside the Bailey’s motor home to start a day I didn’t plan on – I was going to continue down 383 to get to Rexford to sleep before a triumphant return to Goodland, but I learned the night before from the Baileys that road construction wouldn’t allow for that. I had to ride south a bit to Hoxie, adding 20 or so miles to my ride over two days.

The sunrises keep getting better as I ride west:

And then I was off, flanked by wheat and a big sky.

I knew looking at the map that I was about to ride through some pretty barren country. It was alright. I had water and food, and the farmland was getting more and more beautiful as I continued my ride through higher elevations.

As gorgeous and dramatic as the clouds were, they started to look ominous in the distance:

I hadn’t had to deal with rain in a while, and while I wasn’t looking for that to change, anything to cool off a bit would have been welcome.

I stopped in to Norcatur to get something cold to drink (I had plenty of water but it was quite warm…a reality I’ve dealt with for a while now). There was nothing there but a collection of houses, a post office, and a grain elevator. I asked a man coming out of the post office where the nearest gas station was, and he told me Oberlin, 18 miles west. 

And therein lied a problem – Oberlin was on US-36, not 383. The two roads joined together for a piece west of Prairie Dog State Park but then forked, I went the wrong way and was having too much fun jamming to the Dead and marveling at the wheat and epic sky to notice when I passed it. I hadn’t been using navigation because I didn’t think I’d need it. That turned out to be an issue, obviously. I checked my map and considered pushing west on 36 and then heading south at St. Francis into Goodland but opted instead to make the more interesting 7.5-mile ride through the dirt roads bisecting wheat fields, which would get me right back on 383:


The dirt was dry, dusty, and loose, and just as with all the gravel, mud, grass, and dirt I’ve ridden through so far, I had to work harder to go slower. I eventually made it back onto the pavement though, and was good to go. 

383 took me through Jennings, where the Bailey’s less-mobile home is. I saw a sign that made me curious about the Eastern European connection to the town:

Always nice to see a reference to my former life in Prague.

There wasn’t much going on in the town. I was still anxious for a cold drink (touring can give you food/drink obsessions that are impossible to shake until satisfied). I saw a storefront that said “market”, and a woman was unlocking the door. Excitement! I asked if she was opening up for the day, and she said “oh no, this is just storage”. Hmm? She did tell me that the grain elevator would have something cold though, so I headed back there.

I was excited to finally get in the office of a grain elevator. I’ve been seeing them all over the place since Iowa and never thought to stop in one. I didn’t even know I’d be welcome, or that they had store fronts (of sorts). I chatted with the kind folks there for a breather while I satisfied my jonesing for a cold drink, and then I was off to Dresden, where I would have to get off of 383 for Hoxie. I grabbed a “ham and cheese sandwich” (quotation marks very much intentional…) from the fridge and chatted with the farmers coming in to do the same. We had the chitchat that’s become typical at this point, but just as typical, I enjoyed seeing their reactions to what I’m doing. They thought I was a bit crazy and mentioned that I didn’t seem to have the body to be an athlete. I bit my tongue while thinking a) they hadn’t seen my legs; b) I’m no athlete. Competition is the furthest thing from my mind as I pedal thousands of miles; and c) I’ve lost close to 30 pounds since I started in New York and used to weigh 100 more, thankyouverymuch. I mentioned that Kansas was full of much nicer people than Nebraska, and they were quick to posit that a reason for that is their football team hasn’t been doing so hot. I don’t know a thing about football but I’m sure Nebraskan hostility has a reason rooted far deeper than men hitting each other in front of thousands of people.

I headed south to Hoxie, but before I could ride the paved state route 23 I had to reckon with some more dusty dirt. 


But with each mile I grinded through I came to love passing the wheat fields more and more:

The pictures don’t do justice to the calming waves the crops would make in the Kansas wind. It was fantastic. 

Eventually I had a pacer:

At first I was worried about wanting to pass and not being able to, but this guy was going the perfect speed for me to draft off of and cut down on the wind quite a bit. 

Then it was onto 23:

Not too friendly of a shoulder to cruise along on, but all the drivers passing me gave me plenty of room. Friendly Kansans!

Soon enough I was in Hoxie after nearly 70 miles given the unintentional detour:

I pulled in to the Stop 2 Shop to get a milkshake and decompress. And then I met Stretch. 

Stretch was a character if there ever was one. He got a kick out of my adventure and told me how he’d always wanted to ride a horse across the country. Before long he grabbed his flip phone and called a friend, telling her he had met me and that she should do a story on me for the local paper. Before long the owner of the paper drove up and talked to me for a bit, and we made a plan to meet at the county fairgrounds and rodeo where I’d be camping for the night a couple hours hence. 

I set up in the camping area of the fairgrounds, fighting the heavy wind with each tent stake I shoved into the ground with the help of a peice of driftwood:

And soon enough I had my interview. That should be a fun piece of reading, and I’m tickled the town took an interest in me and my ride. I’d heard that things like this happen to cross-country cyclists but I never really thought I’d be the center of a human interest peice. But it was fun answering questions to a small town newspaper man!

Afterwards I talked with some friends on the phone, and boy, was it restorative. Texting only goes so far. I was on the phone for a couple hours and I’ve gone so long without talking too much that I started to feel horse. The big surprise was talking to Kate and Chuck, my friends from DC and Philadelphia, respectively, when they called from Hancock, MD on the C&O Towpath I conquered way back when. They’re in the early days of their own cross-country tour, and I’m so grateful they called to chat. I miss them both the most of everyone I’ve met on the road so far, and am a wee bit jealous that they have each other to ride with given that I’m going it solo. It’s going to be fun checking in as we all make our own way across this landmass.

I tried my best to sleep with the heavy wind fighting my tent the whole night, and I needed it. The next day would be a 75 mile push into my next rest day in Goodland, Kansas!

-J

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