I left Newton, KS early Sunday morning, scooting off into the cooler air around 9 am. Crystal, avid scooterist and blogger of girlbike had put me in contact with a Salina, KS host. However, my long day in the small town of Newton ran into nightfall and I didn’t want to traverse Kansas backroads at night-so I never got to meet up with Jerry. Hopefully, I will catch him on the return trip! Ultimately, my decision was sound, as the roads I traveled had many patches of gravel and were even missing asphalt in some sections!
After a restless night in Newton I was up early with excitement to hit the center of the Peace sign. I will revisit Salina, KS as I approach the last leg of the trip, so I didn’t fret about staying there long. The ride was a delicious complement to my mood. The skies have been so sunny and blue lately, and I prefer the heat that comes along with that over wet, rainy roads. My route was also North bound, so the gusty Plains winds were finally behind me, versus battering the bike from the South West, as has been the case since I hit Oklahoma. There literally were no other travelers out, so I had the freedom of stopping in the middle of the road to snap photos. Since I entered Arkansas, most of the roads have been without shoulders for easy on/off picture taking. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, this terrain has rules of its own and scooting around requires a lot of attentiveness.
I arrived in Salina around 11 am and spent some time cruising around the city. I stopped at a hotel to use their free internet and the clerk was nice to print out some documents for me. That done, I headed into the downtown area of Salina to find some morning percolation and grub. Salina is the closest city to the geographic and geodetic centers of the United States-truly the bellybutton of it all! I suppose this is why Steve Fosset chose to start his solo, nonstop aerial trip around the world from here. The suburbs of Salina were very Steven Spielburgesque, think E.T., low skyline buildings, mainly ranchers all nestled together in cul-de-sac formation. Closer to the downtown center I began to see more of the town’s timeline. I found it simple and quaint-as opposed to a pretentious and fussy renaissance you often witness older small towns going through. I ran across a brunch buffet and talked the manager into giving me half price. My point was that I didn’t need unlimited trips to the buffet, one would do me right. The deal was done and after my double shot I was ready to crank out some miles. Before starting the jaunt towards Nebraska, I took a moment to reflect on the miles I have traveled so far and entertained some ideas for the rest of the trip. I decided I am going to incorporate a daily Peace visualization/meditation into every morning. I invite you to join me. My goal is to do this every morning at 9am. Email me if you have any questions about meditation. I suspect that days spent contemplating in these wide open spaces of the Plains have influenced my decision to meditate.
It was noon at that moment and the bank thermometer flashed 98 degrees-probably an underestimate. The heartland of America has been pulsing with a heat wave the past week; temperatures reaching 103 degrees. I did some annoying backtracking and finally found my direction towards the back roads of KS. I was jarred by how quick the fields erased all trace of a bustling town. Major highways around the area diverts traffic from these roads, so they were very enjoyable-quiet and scenic. Also, they were well marked and have been ever since I left Louisiana.
I was cruising along really amped to have completed two major legs of the Peace sign. I can see the vectors taking the shape and now have a real confidence about what I am doing. That makes a difference in how I respond to inquiries and also how I accept donations! Now when people offer, I have no problems saying, “YES and THANK YOU, whereas I was a bit shy before. The end of this leg is Fargo, ND, although the plan for the day was just to reach Nebraska.
Even in the heat I felt excited and energetic. Summer time in the Plains feels like God is standing over you with a massive hairdryer and there is no where to run. In fact, scooting faster just brings about hot, burning gusts of air-no reprieve. Since I was meandering alone on backroads, I took off the riding jacket, otherwise I was going to pass out. The landscape was beautiful, but surreal. There was absolutely no shade anywhere, and I couldn’t fathom how crops were growing under the scorching sun. Everything in the horizon was shimmering from the heat and sun. Everything was also bleached out. I don’t think the photos turned out as good as I would have liked because of the blinding sun. My favorite photo was of the gravel road I wound up on. I suspected that would happen at some point, but the gravel was well combed and soft and I only needed that road for seven miles, so I proceeded carefully.
I was about 70 miles from Salina when I ran out of gas. I also knew that would inevitably happen. I haven’t needed to carry a gas can as of yet, and might only do so when I get to Montana. Running out of gas doesn’t really phase me. After all, I am in farm country, people keep extra gas for their lawnmowers. The bike didn’t actually run dry, she was just sipping from fumes when a farmer behind me at the stop sign told me the closest fuel station was still twenty miles away. John, the farmer, went to his house a mile back and grabbed some gas.
After we fueled Audrey up we talked for about an hour. His first thought was my safety and he asked if I was ever scared. I guess I could have been scared that I was trapped on a back road with some guy I don’t know from Bill. Through this trip I am finding the world is not the scary one projected onto our TV screens. Personally, I am more frightened by what I wouldn’t discover if I were to stay at home, baking cookies and making lemonade. My mom always gives me a spiel (love you mom) about the dangers that lurk in the world, and fears that I will run into the bad, greedy, scandalous people who litter this world. Problem is, those people are also infiltrated into every level of our government and religious institutions. So no, I’m not really scared to ride alone as a female-although I do practice safety and I check in with “switchboard operator,” about twice a day. John was such a great guy for helping me out, he showed up at the perfect time and I thought he was very polite. Our opinions are very different, and he would always preface his viewpoint with, “I don’t want to upset you.” However, we found a common ground and thats what its all about, transcending political and religious frameworks, to at least listen to someone else’s opinion. I don’t agree with him, nor him me. It was quite a political conversation. His belief is that we need to win the war in Iraq to eliminate the future possibility of terrorist invasion. I said we need to stop giving them weapons to fight us with and that we have given enough money and our civil rights toward Homeland Security that it should prevent a future terrorist attack. The banter went back and forth. I brought up Hurricane Katrina, saying that it I am hesitant to think we can rebuild another country when we have such a mess in our own. He said that was a destruction of God. When it comes down to it, though, the government could have made the levees better. And mind you, that’s a blog entry of its own, which I will do when I can catch up, but I would like to refer you to the August 2007 entry of National Geographic. It’s informative and objective.
It was great to speak with someone so friendly and honest about their opinions, no matter how different from mine. I asked him to define Peace for me and his response was that feeling that he used to get watching his kids play ball, or being out at the lake. Hopefully, we can find a way in this world for everyone to touch that feeling. Since we were already talking so politically, I asked him how we can make policy shifts that incorporate diversity, don’t reflect imperialistic values, and how we can avoid going to war in times of conflict. We rapped about holding leaders accountable and what it means to be Patriots. Remember, our founding fathers were dissenters.
It was nearing four pm and my water reserves had been tapped for awhile, so I pushed on through the cornfields. Thirty minutes later I came across a store and bought a gallon of water, using the money saved from FREE gas. Maybe this should be my new strategy to save some cash! Soaking a bandanna in cool water helps to regulate body temperature, as does pouring it over your head. I was cooling down in the shade when three bikers pulled up and started rapping with me.
I spent the next half an hour with Laurie, Bill and Walt-telling dirty jokes and answering questions about the trip. They each offered me some money and took postcards. I have already been contacted by some people they know, so many thanks you three-for everything-wasting time together, cash, and promotion!
I only had about 60 miles to the border of Nebraska, so I cruised on to find a hotel in Fairbury. The days trip clocked in at 200 miles. Originally I had planned to travel US-81, nice and convenient for its North-South run along the 6th Meridian, until I found out its mainly four lane trucker traffic. Highway 15 North was in good shape, little traffic still but scenic with average speed of 60. I will take this all the way up to South Dakota.
John the farmer had told me Fairbury had nice, cheap hotels. My friend called ahead for me and reserved one for only $30! I must say, the Capri Hotel is a traveler’s gem.It was nicer than any hotel than I have stayed at yet, for a fraction of the price. They offered clean rooms, hi speed internet, actual glasses in the rooms, refrigerator and a large, deep bathtub. I don’t need the perks like swimming pool or crappy continental breakfast for an extra $30. The town itself was small, pop. 4, 235, but it had all the essentials. I took a walk at sunset, something I need to do to reacquaint myself with land legs!
I noticed that Nebraska was greener than Kansas and went to sleep hopeful the heat wave would be breaking soon, or at least the trees would offer some cool shade spots. I smiled a lot, the day had that essence which defines travel. And a certain someone keeps the smile beaming….
“In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us. ”