A storm yesterday evening lowered both temperature and wind speed today. Combined with a shift in the wind to the south-east quarter for most of the day, this made for quick and comfortable cycling. I rode a double stage of 191 km to Scott City at an average speed of 21.4 km/h.
Refreshed by my layover day yesterday and rejoicing in newly laundered kit, I made good time to Rush Center, where I turned west onto Route 96, which I will be following for some days. Traffic was lighter than I had expected but included a good number of trucks and oversize loads, mostly agricultural machinery of some sort. These combine harvesters, if that is what they are, have gigantic wheels that protrude beyond the side of the transporter.
I stopped to talk to eastbound cyclist Alan, who started in San Francisco on the Western Express route and joined the TransAm in Pueblo, CO. Once again, prolonged conversation was difficult because of the narrowness of the shoulder – averaging about 50 cm on this road. Soon afterwards, I reached Alexander, where my fifth map section ended and my sixth began. Here the route begins its long gradual ascent to the Rockies. I pulled into the rest area to change maps and found Randy there, the westbound cyclist I met fixing a puncture four days ago on the way to Newton. He camped at Alexander last night and told me there was an immense storm lasting from 3pm to 10pm. The wind was so ferocious he took down his tent and sheltered in the amenities block for some hours until it was calm enough to pitch it again.
|Two of the six eastbound cyclists|
I set off once more and almost immediately crossed a group of six eastbound cyclists. I exchanged a few words with the first two; the others did not stop. It was a pity we had not been in the rest area at the same time.
|Cuppa Joe, Ness City|
I reached Ness City at about 11:30am and stopped for lunch in the Cuppa Joe diner. This offered a very limited choice but what it had was good. I took the Friday lunch special of tuna casserole with peas and a wholewheat roll and butter. I followed that with a piece of pecan pie and washed it all down with iced tea. I enjoyed it much more than the typical meal from a national franchise. The staff and customers were talking about yesterday's storm.
On my bike again, I found that the wind, which had been almost imperceptible in the morning, was beginning to strengthen. My intention had been to stay the night at the next town, Dighton, a little over halfway between Ness City and Scott City. Encouraged by the tailwind, I began to think of Scott City as my goal. When I got to Dighton, I bought and consumed a cinnamon roll, a banana, and a quart of Gatorade. Refuelled, I set off on the last leg, which was not quite so easy as expected because the wind swung back to the SSE.
Not far beyond Ness City, I crossed the 100th meridian. This is the notional boundary line to the west of which rainfall is insufficient to grow wheat or corn (maize). It marks the start of the semi-arid high plains. As today wore on, the number of trees in the landscape reduced. I saw my first tumbleweed.
I am very pleased with the progress made today. I am confident now that I could have made it to Ness City yesterday, as Randy nearly did, but without the re-energising caused by a day off I would probably have gone no further than Scott City today. In effect, I have caught up with myself.