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Saturday 18 June 2011

Day 40 - The Pianist

Todays mileage: 63
Total mileage: 1,981
End point: Great Bend, KS

Panic this morning as I couldn't find my wallet, turned the room upside down, then involved hotel staff, traced all my last steps.. no joy. Reluctantly I got on the phone to halifax bank to cancel my cards, then, as if by magic my wallet appeared from deep inside the duvet with a shake. Maybe sleeping with your wallet is a little much, especially when it has as little money in it as mine. Halifax had cancelled my debit card but fortunately they didn't cancel my credit card. I do actually keep my passport and a spare credit card hidden in a separate place just in case of such stupidity. This fiasco left me rather rushed in packing up my stuff.

I headed south of Hays and before getting far out of the town I spotted a couple on bikes with some young kids who were parked up next to an interesting looking field. It turned out he was a student doing his masters, and this field was his project. The field was divided into lots of micro plots of prairie grass. Above the bunches of grass were small plastic roofs; each roof was movable to allow different amounts of rain through e.g. 20% or 50% of the natural rain fall. The aim of his project was to understand the potential effects of climate change on Kansas' grass, interesting stuff.

Vince has told me that I am now nearly 15 inches across the map out of 27. I say this because I have been (as I do every day) been looking closely at the map. There are some interesting attractions: the barbed wire museum, the worlds largest hand dug well, and of most interest to me the geographical centre of the 48 continguous states. This point is in Smith County which I am now 100 miles south of. One thing to remember however is that whilst Seattle is very nearly the top left point, Jacksonville Beach is many hundred of miles north of the Florida keys which will represent the the bottom right point - so I shouldn't treat this depressingly.

I headed south to Liebenthal, here I found quite a grand little church with a very european looking building next to it. I think this must have been a seminary or something similar. Here I decided it was time to change my route and get off the highway as the shoulder had disappeared again. I was heading on to country roads which can be an absolute lottery. I would love to drive a rally car round on these. Some of these roads are paved and it was these I intended to take. I have learnt from today however to sprinkle huge amounts of salt on my warren map of Kansas. Not only is it inaccurate in terms of road surface, but I am now convinced that it isn't geographically accurate either - I think it has had a dose of artistic impressionism similar to that on the london underground map. Everything on the map exists but I am not sure about the ratios. Hence to say I ended up doing about 10 miles on gravelly sand. At best there was some hardcore which was nearly paved, at worst big piles of sand. I nearly fell off a number of times but wasn't moving fast enough for these wobbles to be fatal. The good thing about these roads is that on average I just see 1 or 2 farmers an hour.

I complain too much those because I was seeing the real Kansas. Large fields of golden wheat stretching to the horizon, small oil wells (the smell of crude oil is different), quite a few cows roaming around and some wild grassland which apparently you can hunt on (walk on hunting only!) The little towns I passed through appeared quite sleepy, a well kept church and an ammonia fertilizer depot for the farmers co-operative. One of the towns Olmitz I decided to cycle through, interestingly most of these towns did not have the road going through the centre of them unlike most places I had been through. Olmitz probably had about 50 to 100 residents, no shop but there appeared to be a large gathering at the 'K of C' building. I had no idea what this was, but google is my friend: 'Knight of Columbus'. From what I can make out its catholic version of the freemasons, but I'll take further guidance on this!

I would like to point out that rural Kansas is not without comedy, near the end of my ride I spotted an odd sight in a field. An old piano with a mock dummy playing it! Love it! Not quite sure if this is a new form of scarecrow, a practical joke or some combination of the two.

I am now absolutely shattered and writing today has been a bit of a labour; ususally I'm quite excited to post. Good news though, pizza hut accepted my coupon so I should be eating free pizzas for a good while. Still on course to reach Wichita for Monday night.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Brian,

    You're correct that the Knights of Columbus is a Catholic frat. There's a good chance they were playing bingo.