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Day 13

Thar She Blows!!!! 

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ROUTE: Liberal to Dodge City KS DISTANCE:  82 Miles TOTAL CLIMBING: 700 feet maybe

DAILY REPORT:  Overcast, high 52, windy...did I say windy?  Northeast winds 20-25...UGH.  The good news is we only have 82 miles.

Boy, somebody hasn't been paying the winds gods...today was one of the toughest days I've seen on one of these cross country trips...and I've done a few.  Usually Tucumcari to Dodge City are pretty easy days with kicking tailwinds and mild temperatures...but not this trip.  Yesterday was really a challenge but today was bordering on torture.  I rode from the motel with Jay and Sam and it was all we could do today to maintain a 13-14 MPH average into the relentless wind.  The absolute worst wind we could have during this period of the trip is northeast...and that's what we have and it appears we'll have that for a couple more days as we are chasing a front just ahead of us that's plummeting the temperatures and kicking up non standard winds.  Teamwork is the word of the day as most of the riders have teamed up to share the workload, but a couple have been slugging it out on their own...a formidable task on a day like this.  Usually on this day our riders get through by noon or so to do some sightseeing in Dodge, but today I'm sitting at the turn at the 60 mile point and don't expect the last rider to get here until near 4:00...with 20 more miles to go into a 20 MPH headwind.

After an early load to get a start on a tough day, we chowed down at the local pancake house where the owner, an attractive woman who is always bubblier than anyone should be allowed to be especially this early in the morning, always welcomes us with open arms.  We also got to mix with the locals as we put away more pancakes than they could imagine people our size could eat...the locals seemed to be entertained by our exploits and are always curious as to what we are up to.  It's always a hoot to hear reactions from people we meet along the way...most times they ask us if we are running away from something.  We do meet some interesting folks on the road.

Speaking of interesting folks, shortly after departure, I always stop in a little store in Plains Kansas.  Every year the same guys are sitting in the store drinking coffee when I come in...it's like we've planned a reunion every year.  I get a kick out of them too as they are always kidding back and forth about what we are doing.  This morning while we were all talking about the crazy weather they've had this year, one of them asked his friend, "Can you imagine wanting to ride a bicycle across the country?"  His friend said, "I wouldn't drive a car across the country."  I guess it's all in how you look at it.  We see it as a way to see the country and challenge ourselves and they see it as taking time from their socializing.  See you guys same time in two years, stay well.

It's kind of neat coming into Dodge City...we ride right down Wyatt Earp Boulevard to get to our motel.  Dodge city has an interesting history that I'm sure you've studied in your youth...from lawless cattle town to being the center of commerce in the 1870s.  The picture at right is of "El Capitan," a statue of a steer that represents the many longhorn cattle that came through this town on their way to the Santa Fe railhead.  The longhorn cattle were descendents of cattle brought into this area in the early 16th century by the Spanish.  Shortly after the civil war, 1875-1886, over 4 million longhorns passed through Dodge on trail drives to northern markets.  Very close to El Capitan, you'll also find the famous "Boot Hill" cemetery and Long Branch Saloon where in the summer you can witness wild west gunfights and a variety show that belies belief...no kidding.  We once had a rider that described the show was like watching an elementary school play that your kids weren't in.  As far as the cattle are concerned, not much has changed except instead of cattle drives across vast prairies and through Indian territory, now thousands of head are hauled by semis through the streets of Dodge to the feedlot situated just outside the city limits.

We passed several other historical places on our ride today.  We had lunch beside the Dalton Gang's hideout and secret tunnel in Meade Kansas.  It's interesting to try to imagine what it was like in the late 1800s when they were being chased by the law.  I can't believe the law had such a hard time finding them as there's signs all over the place (right) directing people to their hideout...duh.  Furthermore, if the law would have just put up the required $5, the curator of the museum would have shown them where the secret tunnel was...I can't understand why they couldn't figure that out.  And from what I hear, the Dalton's weren't the smartest cracker in the wrapper.  The lady, Deb, at the hideout shared the story of their demise as a ruthless gang.  Seems they thought it would be a smart idea to rob 2 banks at the same time...in the same town.  Since they knew the layout of Coffeyville, their home town, why not rob those banks?  Seemed like a good idea at the time...they knew the terrain, the people, and the banks.  But they didn't consider a couple important things like everyone in the town knew who they were and there was some street repair going on the streets leading to the banks.  So they had to park their horses about 8 blocks from the banks which allowed several of the townsfolk time to easily recognize them by the time they walked to the loot.  You guessed it, the locals gathered at the town mercantile and armed themselves to the teeth.  A shoot out erupted and the members of the famous Dalton gang were gunned down in their hometown as they tried to get to their transportation grazing 8 blocks away.  I guess they should have stuck to robbing trains...less local people carrying guns out near the tracks.  They would have gotten the DUH OF THE DAY in the past or the DID I REALLY DO THAT had they'd been riding with us at the time.  Karen said they should have been called the DUHlton Gang.    

We also passed a bridge that was an engineering marvel when it was built in the late 1800s.  Many Kansas towns grew as potential railroad centers.  Arkalon was just such a town that sprang up at the Cimarron River crossing of the Chicago, Kansas, and Nebraska railroads.  City lots were cheap and the population flooded into the area in the late 1800s and the plan was to make it a profitable marketing point.  Two problems:  The sandy soil in the area made it almost impossible to get horse drawn freight into the area, and secondly, the major railroad was along the Cimarron River which flooded on occasion.  The railroad diverted the rails to the present location (thus the bridge called "The Sampson of the Cimarron") to bypass the flood area.  It also bypassed the town which pretty much led to the demise of Arkalon by the 1930s.

Well, so much for the history of the area.  We're going to ride again tomorrow if we can not oversleep from today's epic effort.  We're hoping for a break in the winds, but we're not sure if that's going to happen.  We definitely could use a break, but this weather pattern may hang around us for a spell.  I've never been on a trip that either Kansas or Missouri didn't give us a tough weather pattern but usually not both.  Maybe if we can sludge through Kansas this year Missouri will be nice to us...we can only hope...and keep pedaling.  See you tomorrow as we get the flock out of Dodge!

YOU DON'T SAY:

"Jay!  I was in front pulling during the fastest speed we hit today...17.5."
"Yeah, and if the downhill would have been a little steeper, you may have gotten 18!"

"I'm glad my computer registers in 1/100s.  At least I can see some progress as I'm pedaling."

"We were doing one mile pulls and every time I thought my pull should be about over, I'd look at my computer and it had only gone about 0.3...geeze."

"Today's winds were relentless." 

"Geeze, the older I get the more I don't see things the way I used to."
"Maybe it's cataracts."

DID I REALLY DO THAT?: 

Boy, I got one today...I was riding today and Karen took over photo duties for the first half of the day.  When I was in the van with the last riders, I was checking the photos of the day before downloading them into my computer.  I found one that was blurry and decided to erase it.  In my "brain dead" state, I went into my normal "Reformat" steps...oops!  I erased all the photos of the day...no long range photos of the day today...the only photos of today are the ones on my little camera I carry when I ride...my bad. 

PHOTOS OF THE DAY

At least someone was happy riding today.

The strain of the day is making Jay act a little more unusual than usual.

When the riders saw this sign they were delighted that Dodge was only 20 miles away.  I didn't have the heart to tell them that this sign used to be in a store 30 miles from here.

Ron was getting into the spirit of the Dalton gang after lunch at the hideout.  With this garb Ron, I wouldn't go by any ATMs before the motel.

See what I mean?  Why couldn't the authorities find this place?

I rest my case.

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