A long ride to Kansas: Pittsburg, to be precise

Tuesday June 16, 2009, 64 miles (103 km) – Total so far: 1,674 miles (2,694 km)

You may have heard the saying, “If you want to give God a laugh, tell him your plans.”  Well, He had a good one this morning.

The plan was to get up at the crack of dawn, and ride through the cool, with a second breakfast stop before getting into Pittsburg early in the afternoon.  Only, the crack of dawn sounded more like a crack of lightning directly overhead, as the second of two thunderstorms came through at 6:00 am.  Between the two of them, the storms dumped 2.5 inches of rain overnight.

Bill, the owner of Running Spring Farm, let us know, and told us there were several low water fords on the route that might be impassable with the flash flood warnings that were in effect until noon.  An hour later, he hopped in his truck and ran the route, coming back to report that the weather radar showed Kansas was clear, and SR K was passable.  I can’t recommend this place highly enough; it’s a decent distance from Pittsburg and from Marshfield, Bill is friendly and helpful, the place is great.  The only problem I can see is if you’re with a large group (more than 9), somebody might have to camp outside.

So, we hit the road about 10:00. It was still overcast and cool, with a nice southeast wind – a quartering tailwind.  OK, when there were power lines around, it was a howling tailwind, but it kept us cool and didn’t hinder progress.  Good enough for me!

I noticed there were a lot of fields that weren’t actively being tended; I wonder how many of those are going to try to make a go of it as hunting clubs.  Some of those fields were probably in rotation, like the ones the cows were in and the ones they were going to.  And there were patches of day lilies, including this huge one.  My guess is one of the early settlers started these, and the house is long gone.

Idle fields

No cows here!

Huge patch of daylilies. Note they're being blown the other way...

There were still a couple of hills to get out of Missouri, climbing up from the creeks.  One big creek before we hit the “town” of Pennsboro (one church, six houses, a cemetery and a couple barns).  All the rivers, creeks, ditches, and culverts had muddy, high, and fast water.

Virginia also noted the puddles had waves from the wind – that’s some wind!  We turned north for four miles, and the wind was blowing 15 mph, because it was still around us at that speed.  We pushed a little bit to get some cooling breeze, and didn’t drop below 20 mph until we hit the city limit of Golden City.  What a rush! and what a change from the normal speed of half that!  There’s a famous diner, Cooky’s Cafe, in the Golden City.  Good food, great prices, they take care of cyclists, and, oh, did I mention they have about two dozen kinds of pies?  I had a piece of strawberry-rhubarb that could only be better if my wife made it and added a scoop of vanilla ice cream, yum.

Cooky's Cafe in downtown Golden City, MO

After that lunch, we rolled on.  The wind was from the south, from the side, for a while, and the sun was heating things up.  But after 10 miles, I noticed the wind was coming more into my face.  Sure enough, it had swung 90 degrees, and was coming out of the southwest.  Ugh. 24 miles to go, in the heat of the day, no good stopping place, and now we have 87 degrees and a headwind.  Well, nothing much to do in that situation except slog on.  The Golden City park was almost half the distance to Pittsburg, except in the wrong direction, and we’d have to make it up tomorrow.

I mentioned a couple days ago about the flood gauges on some of the roads.  Finally got a good shot of the gauge.  There were also a number of signs that were easier and cheaper to put up than to fix the bridge in question.  Not that any of them are enforced; the only time I remember seeing a truck do 15 mph over one of these bridges was just this side of the Mississippi, when the unloaded truck had to yield to a loaded truck (which didn’t slow down) on a one lane bridge.  What I found amusing was that this bridge was elevated above the (potentially flooded) roadway by about six feet.  You couldn’t get to the bridge in high water, but you had to drive slowly over it if you were overweight.

Flood gauge, fairly common in Missouri

Climb out of the flood plain to cross the substandard bridge?

This river, North Fork of the Spring River, was the first I’ve seen flowing south for a few days.  Near the Mississippi, most of them flowed south, but Summersville or Houston all the creeks and rivers started flowing north.

Maybe some of the fields I saw weren’t untended farming fields, they may have just been prairies.  This was up above the bridge above.  There was a sign noting they were going to try grazing cattle on this without any fences; can’t wait to hear how that turns out!

Finally, we made it to Kansas! What a relief!

Made it to our fifth state!

It’s been a hard slog across 378 miles of Missouri.  I think we’re ready for some flat (maybe 400-500 miles of it?), but I’m not sure about the wind.  I did notice that, within about half a mile of the state line, there were trees planted close enough to the roadway to block the cross wind.  I don’t expect that to last, but it was a welcome relief.
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