Feed on

On Sunday, Joel and I went out to Emporia to have another go at the Dirty Kanza course. As I’d helped mark the second half of the ride (the part I didn’t get to ride during the race) I was really excited to get to see it from the saddle. We were supposed to meet up with Kim Smith, another rider from the Dirty Kanza who hadn’t gotten to enjoy the last half of the course either. Unfortunately, she got rained out, or rather flooded out and had to stay home and bail out a submerged basement.

It’s spectacularly beautiful countryside. What we ended up riding was a route from Emporia out to the start of the second half of the course. We rode all of the third quarter of the course and about 30 miles of the fourth quarter, cutting out a bit of said route that was known to be a muddy, rutty, messy disaster. Also, given that we’d had to put in about 20 miles to get started with the ride, if we’d ridden the entire last half of the route, it would have gotten us back to Emporia way too late in the evening. It would have been dark and we’d probably not have been able to have a meal at Wheat State pizzeria. I’d been most excited about the first quarter of the last half of the route anyhow.
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It was a big day for birds. I didn’t see it, but Joel spotted a prairie-chicken dashing across the road for cover in the tall weeds in the ditch. We saw cranes wading in a marshy area (and flying away when we stopped to take a picture). We saw a peacock. We saw a tree full of vultures, hawks wheeling through the air on the lookout for rodential snacks, sandpipers, larks, flycatchers…just about anything that lives and flies in the Flint Hills, we saw.
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When we had marked the course last month, I remember several low-water-crossings that were completely submerged. A shallow, swift, clear stream of water flowed across the concrete surface of the crossing. I recall feeling a little nervous about being expected to ride across that, especially dreading the notion of riding miles and miles in wet shoes. Yesterday, however, I came to truly appreciate those streams. The road leading up to this series of crossings (there were three in about a 2-mile stretch) was pretty muddy and one particularly bad section preceded the first crossing. My bike was a filthy mess; I had to stop and poke packed-in mud out of my brakes and from between the chainstays and back wheel. When I hit that first crossing, it washed out the remaining mud beautifully. The next crossing washed out the next accumulation of mud. The road was pretty good between the second and third low-water-crossing and so the third stream pretty much just finished up the cleanup job. The road beyond that crossing was well-packed fine gravel so the bikes (and our legs) remained relatively clean thereafter.

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The color combination of those orange flowers and the red clover really caught my eye.

We stopped to eat a snack in Cedar Point, KS which is a nearly-abandoned small town with the remains of an impressive stone flour mill.
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You can read more about Cedar Point and see some much-better photos of the mill at this site. He’s got photos from other sides of said structure, plus some vintage photos of people rowing boats in one of Cedar Point’s periodic floods which slowly drove the residents away from this town.

Another site I’d been wanting to photograph on my first trip out there was the Chase County Courthouse, a lovely Second Empire stone edifice completed in 1872 and still in use in its originally intended capacity. It is the oldest continuously operating courthouse in Kansas.
Chase County Courthouse, Cottonwood Falls, KS

This site has some photos of the courthouse interior, which I was quite interested in seeing. I learned that this building has been undergoing an extensive renovation and I would love to see how the restored interior turns out.

About halfway on our route from Cottonwood Falls back to Emporia (about a 30-mile serpentine, back-roads meander) we came upon a horse. Joel saw her before I did and said we ought to hop off our bikes and walk for a bit so as not to spook her. Spooked, she was not; the darn horse decided that we were her new friends.
Joel and the exceedingly friendly horse
She ambled up out of the ditch and started sniffing at Joel who obligingly petted her nose and ears, then brushed his hand along her neck and side. After I let her sniff at me and patted her nose, she decided to see if my bike smelled or tasted any good. After lavishing a bit of attention on the horse, we decided that it was time to get on our way so we started walking onward. She followed. Joel suggested that I ride on ahead and see if she would get bored and drop off. Not a bit of it…trotting alongside of me seemed to fill the horse with great joy. To my dismay, her high spirits included little hops and prodding at my backpack with her nose. I stopped, afraid she’d cross up with me; my imagination illustrated scenarios of injury and a broken bicycle. I walked her back to the spot where we’d first encountered her. It was directly across the road from a prosperous looking house with (most significantly) a wide, open gate at the driveway. I walked up to their veranda and rang the doorbell, but nobody answered. I’d hoped it was their horse, or that they would know to whom she belonged. Well to shorten the story, in order to stop the horse from trying to follow us all the way to Emporia, we lured her into the yard of this house and closed the driveway gate. I felt like kind of a jerk doing this, as I fear she probably ate their landscaping but I didn’t know what else to do. She probably belongs to the people who have that house, and if she doesn’t it’s almost certain they will know whose she is.
I don't know a thing about horses, but I reckon she's probably a pretty darn good one.
This was the parting view of our equine friend and a bit of the garden she almost certainly sampled later

The rest of the ride back to Emporia was much less eventful. We got chased by a good half dozen small dogs near several different houses, but they were basically the opposite of fearsome. Small terriers are NUTS. Seriously. The little terrier dog my family had when I was growing up was a nutburger, and I think four of the six dogs who chased us on Sunday were some variant of terrier (mostly Rat and Jack Russell). They have no freakin’ clue of how tiny they really are.

Once we hit Emporia, we tidied up a bit, exchanged greetings and made loose plans for a future meetup with Matt Brown of High Gear Bikes, and ate some wonderful pizza at the aforementioned Wheat State. They do a darn fine pizza! We got a thin-crust pie done half “Mediterranean” style and half “Veggie Dream.” Ideal post ride eats!

I realize how fortunate I am to be in the relationship that I am in; to be with somebody who loves to go on these foolish adventures and who is patient with my limitations. I’ve known some women in the cycling community to talk about how they can’t ride with their husband or boyfriend as the guy can’t/won’t dial it back, shake off the racerboy mentality, or is impatient with his partner’s riding style. I told Joel just that as we were headed home; that I was grateful that he is happy to ride with me, at my pace. He replied, “well, why wouldn’t I?” Our long rides are like dates for us and the whole point of it is riding together. He says I have a good, steady pace and he’s very good at modulating his own pace to match mine. While I’m not exactly Madame Zoomypants, I’m not the slowest rider on the planet, and I try not to drag too much ass.

4 Responses to “Woo hoo! Kanza Take Two!”

  1. Bill Smith says:

    You are, indeed, a lucky person. What a great story, and great photos, of a neat little trip. Keep them coming. The internet is a great way to share with others all the fascinating things there are to do and see in the Kansas Flint Hills!

    Our 22 county Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc. promotes visits to the Kansas Flint Hills – the website is: http://www.kansasflinthills.travel/

    Best wishes!
    Dr. Bill 😉
    Personal Blog: http://flinthillsofkansas.blogspot.com/

  2. kim says:

    Looked like a great time! There sure are a lot of interesting things to see in kanza country aren’t there..

  3. meetzorp says:

    It is amazing countryside out there. I’m sorry you weren’t able to make it, but we’ll get another ride together one of these days here. How’s the basement doing?

  4. kim says:

    One good thing about water coming into the basement is that it’s a great opportunity to throw stuff away that, quite frankly, is probably not needed anyway.
    Have a great independence day!

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