Cycling Along The Way...

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Silver City, NM, United States
Riders of the wheel. Racers, Roadies, Mountain bikers, Touring cyclists, Commuters, and others. Diamond frames, recumbents, trikes, and more. Sharing a web of connections often misunderstood or unappreciated by those who don't ride. Herewith, my attempt to share some of the more rational thoughts that flit around inside my head while bicycling, knocking back a brew or three, or just thinking about life. Reviews of bicycles, gear, touring, and more, plus some unsolicited posts about people, politics, and philosophy. Other things, too. Me: retired, gave up my TV in 1988, avid cyclist, several cross country tours completed with more to come. Your thoughts?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Topeka, Kansas City, And Bloody Kansas/Civil War Sites...

"It's like, how did Columbus discover America when the Indians were already here?  What kind of shit is that, but white people's shit." ~ Dick Gregory

Not much to do with my trip to date, but I like it because it's true.  Ok, last I left off, I was heading from Topeka, KS, to Kansas City, MO.  The trip into Kansas City was better because it was on a Sunday.  A weekday would have been much more hectic, so I was happy despite the long day into Topeka.  Of course, the wind, always a presence, good or bad, had an impact on my ride, but I got to my mother-in-law's place on Sunday around 6pm or so.  She was preparing dinner, but I was up for going out.  As the ride wore on me as I was sitting down at Marilyn's apartment (my mother-in-law, Marilyn Sullivan), I decided to sit and enjoy the dinner she was preparing for me.  Popped a bottle of red wine and slid into the gracious comfort of slight intoxication.  No better post ride treatment than some ETOH, in my humble opinion.  Beer is probably the best...ETOH, B vitamins, hydration...a dynamic combination!

My time in Kansas City was to spend a bit of down time with my mother-in-law, Marilyn Sullivan, to see some of the Bloody Kansas and Civil War sites, try some good espresso, beer, and, of course, BBQ.  
First was Lexington, MO, where Confederate General Sterling Price had invaded Missouri in 1861.  We visited the Anderson House, a wealthy local supporter of the Confederacy, whose house was occupied by the Union Army.  The Confederates used bales of hemp in order to get close to the house and take it from the Union Army.  Apparently, it changed hands numerous times and the bullet holes remain as evidence of that struggle.  Some photos:
Back Door To The Anderson House...And Our Guide.
This is made from human hair...
Room where surgery was done...note the holes in the wall.
Bullet hole in the staircase.
Entry way from the front door...
Library in Lexington, MO...
Sign on the front door of the Lexington, MO, library...Eileen needs one for the Silver City, NM, town library!

I have more photos of the house, but won't bore you with those.  Marilyn and I went to see the Steamboat Arabia museum, http://1856.com/, where the cargo, remnants of the steamboat, etc., are stored.  This was dug up by some local amateur archaeologists, just folks from two families who were interested in it.  They started searching for it in 1987.  In 1991, they opened the museum with what had been dug up by that time.  To complete the total excavation...they expect it to take at least another 30 years, which includes cleaning what they find and preserving it.  Amazing collection.  A few photos:
Shoes made from rubber...
More cargo...

Another day, we went to see Fort Osage, a fort on the Missouri to encourage trade with, and protect, the Indians (http://www.jacksongov.org/fortosage/).
One of my wishlist things was to try breweries on this trip.  So, based on the recommendation of the guide at the Anderson House in Lexington, MO, we went to Weston, MO, where the oldest brewery in the U.S. outside of the East Coast is located...oh, and we could see how people lived/worked back in the 19th century.  Well, they had a brewery, so life was pretty good, I think...
No visit to Kansas, particularly to see Bloody Kansas, is complete without seeing Lawrence, KS.  William Quantrill led the infamous raid in 1863 that resulted in the deaths of about 200 men and boys, aged between 14 and 90.  In retaliation for this raid, the Union General, Thomas Ewing, Jr., ordered the removal of about 10,000 civilians in 3 counties bordering Kansas, along with the total destruction of homes, buildings, planted fields, and livestock to prevent any of this support to get to the raiders or the Confederacy.  Hard to see anything in Lawrence today, since it's a thriving college town with a well known basketball team.  However, the original Jayhawks were a different breed altogether, as you can see...
One of the best finds in Lawrence was the Z's Divine Espresso (http://www.zsdivine.com/).
And it was divine.  Fabulous espresso...had two double espressos there.  Went to one of the two brewpubs in town, the Free State Brewery, but found the food just average and the stout I ordered was bland, and the barman didn't fill it to the top of the pint glass either, a major pet peeve of mine.
The amount you see in this "pint" is really only about 12 ounces.  Neither the barman nor the waitress did anything about this and the customer should never have to remind either a barman or a waitress what their job is.  So, Free State is off my list...not that it'll break their hearts or their cash registers.  The place is popular with the locals as the crowd indicated.

At the university in Lawrence, they have the stuffed horse, Commanche, who survived the battle of the Greasy Grass, known by whites as the Little Bighorn battle where Custer and his command were almost wiped out.
In the evenings, Marilyn and I went to see a big band group from Germany at the Kaufman Center for the Performing Arts (http://www.kauffmancenter.org/?ignoremobile=y).  They were quite good and fun to listen to.  Some photos...
Near where Marilyn lives is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (http://www.nelson-atkins.org/).  We went there one gloomy day to see the American Folk Art exhibit, which was very good.  I love that stuff. No photos were allowed, but I took some outside.  There's a glass maze that Marilyn had tried before and she'd walked into one of the panels, hard enough to give herself a bloody nose!  So, she was encourging me to give it a try.  With no bloody nose, I managed to make my way through the maze.
Glass Maze at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Shuttlecock sculpture outside the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art..there are four of them.  Two on one side of the museum;two on the other side to make it look like a game is being played.
Next on our list of things to do, go see the musical, HAIR, well, a retrospective that included some of the orginal cast members from the first and other early productions of HAIR on Broadway.  It was very good and in a small theater on the UMKC campus near where Marilyn lives.
No visit to Kansas City is over with until the BBQ is tasted.  Based on good recommendations from my step-son, Isaac, as well as Marilyn, we headed to Joe's Kansas City.  Now, Isaac raved about this place.  Seems like it's rated one of the best in the country.  The line of people waiting to get in was snaking out the door.  It took us over an hour just to order and get a table. Yes, I'm snarky here, but no place is worth that.  And it was a short wait, according to others, since we were there before 4pm on a Saturday.  I ate BBQ at a place in Meade, KS, which is nowhere near Joe's place, reputation wise, that this place is, but, to be honest, I liked their BBQ better.  So, no more Joe's for me.  And, like the Free State Brewery, they won't care if I don't show up again.
One of the things that I love...donuts.  Cake donuts.  I know there are all kinds, but the cake donuts, plain and cinnamon are my favs.  And apparently have the most calories, too.  Who knew?  So, on my last day in Kansas City, I went to Lamars and got a dozen cake donuts, plain and cinnamon, to chow down on.  What we didn't finish then, I ate on Monday morning, the day I headed to Fort Scott, KS, on my bike.  I haven't figured out how to turn photos yet on my iPhone.  When I do, I'll come back and replace this one with one where you don't have to turn your head sideways!
A tune to exit with...some Kansas City jazz.  Lester Young and Charlie Parker doing "Embraceable You". Hope you like it...http://youtu.be/T9cZF2dOZPM Adios for now.  Off to Fort Scott, KS, where I've been before...in 2010, on my ride across county.  I stayed at the Cortland Hotel and enjoyed my time there and in Fort Scott.  Working my way towards Vicksburg, MS.  To Maril (what Marilyn would like to change her name to), enjoy the jazz I picked out and thanks for a great week in Kansas City.  I'll be back with your daughter, so we can travel to more sites, like St. Joeseph, and eat more BBQ!  I appreciated your hospitality and the conversations.





Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Honest, Sir, I Thought It Was OK To Ride This Road. I Mean, The Gate Was Open, Sir.

"They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist..." ~ Gen. John Sedgwick, last words (1813-1864) just before being shot by a Confederate sharpshooter at Spotslyvania Court House, Virginia

After leaving Sam/Maggie's house, I stopped for espresso and a bite to eat before leaving Salina.
Good food, very good espresso.  Hard to find espresso shops that make good espresso.  Most are not proficient at making espresso and the results tend to be terrible.  This is the second espresso shop I found that was good.  First one was in Canyon, TX...The Palace.

My next stop was Junction City, KS, just south of Manhattan, KS.  The ride that day was decent as long as I was headed East.  Those times when the road headed north...my friend, the wind, slowed me down considerably.  Gratefully, the road mostly went East/Northeast..  When I told a guy in Abilene where I was headed, after he'd asked me, he said, "Oh, Junk City, eh?".  Was that a warning???

Got to Junction City, KS, around 6pm, got a place to stay, had some food, fell asleep...my usual routine.  The next day, I knew I'd have a long day.  I didn't know just how long it would turn out.  If I had, I'd of stayed in Junction City!  What I did not remember was that Fort Riley is located between Junction City and Manhattan.  Soon, I'd find that out...

Got an early start and promptly ran into a gate to Fort Riley, where a yound soldier politely let me know that, without a military or Dept. of Defense ID badge, I was going nowhere on base.  The good part was that I'd only gone about 3+ miles before discovering this fact.  No maps show what roads are closed off due to being on the base and Google Maps was all screwed up.  Because of Fort Riley???  Who knows.  No cellular, no wifi, no nothing.  After going back to the main road I'd been on, my cell phone worked well enought to stop at one of the ubiquitous convenient stores where I bought a banana, a donut, and some coffee.  While eating/drinking, I looked on Google Maps...the map showed a road that I could take which would bring me out just south of Manhattan, where I hoped to get a bite to eat, then head to Topeka, KS.

Old Highway 77.  Pretty road.  Quite a few rollers.  Some significant and made me breath hard.  Then, on my right, I passed another gate to Fort Riley, but the road ahead was open.  No gates.  Traveling on for about half a mile, for probably a total of 10+ miles from U.S. 77, there was a sign to my right stating that no civilian without a proper military or department of defense ID could continue on this road in another half mile.  Learned a few new combinations of curse words.  Always look for the positive in a negative, I say.  So, I get to where there is a gate across the highway, with a sign just past it that stated, "Tank Crossing".  Not in Civilian Kansas any more, Dorothy!  Well, damn it...  There was a small kiosk there, sort of like the ones at the beginning of hiking trails with all the appropriate info for hikers to read.  Well, this one had a map of Fort Riley, with two areas marked, "Off Limits".  One that was to the right of the road was the artillery range.  The area that the road went through went in between these two off limits areas and, during hunting season, locals are allowed in to hunt after getting permission from the military.  Keep the locals happy, I say.  A phone number was posted to call to see if the road was open.  I called it only to hear a recorded voice stating I needed to look at the online posting to see what was open.  Duh, no wifi, no cell phone coverage.  To help clear my mind, I went behind the kiosk to pee.  Mind clear, I headed down the road.  Now, my heart was beating faster than normal at this point.  I mean, it was my first real adventure on my road trip!  Heart beating fast, I was also pedaling faster, too.  Not too far down the road there were what looked like military observation posts???  How was I supposed to know what the hell they were???  Oh, and I have no photos of the open gate or the kiosk either.  Or of the road that I was on.  The last thing I wanted on my iPhone was any photos of the fort.  No, Sir, I'm not a spy.  Really.  What are the photos on my phone?  I wanted to show people where I was riding.  Are the handcuffs really necessary, Sir?

I traveled about 8-10 miles on that road.  The next interesting piece...it went from the artillery range to a section where they were using lasers!  Oh, and the gate to that section was open, so I continued on down the military yellow brick road, frequently passing signs saying, "Tank Crossing".  Jesus...so far, so good.  Not a single person or vehicle on the road except me.  Coming to a rise in the road after what seemed like a LONG time on that road, as I crested the rise...another gate.  And it was CLOSED!!!  Shit!  Will I have to turn around and ride about 20 miles back to U.S. 77????????  As I approached the gate, I knew that I'd not be able to cross that one and still have a reasonable, albeit bad, excuse.  To my significant relief, the sign said: 
The first two photos are from the military base side.  The last one is from the civilian side.  I went back under the gate to take the first two pictures.  I wanted to be on the civilian side quickly!  What a ride!  If the gate had been closed like this one was, with the signs that are on the gates here, I would have turned around and headed back, realizing that I would only get to Manhattan to spend the night, pushing my arrival at my mother-in-law's (Marilyn Sullivan) to Monday.  And I didn't want to ride into Kansas City on a weekday considering the size of the city and the traffic in a big city.

Once I got to Manhattan, it was another 50+ miles to Topeka and it was after 2pm...so, I stopped at a pizza place there and fed myself a lot of food.  Done with stuffing myself, I headed off to Topeka, And it was longer than the ride to Salina was...14hrs in the saddle for a total of 98 miles, with the wind, of course, adding to the joy.  Got in to Topeka around 9:30pm, and got to use my Cygolite again...and it worked just as well as the first time.  And it was very dark.  Spent the night and took off in the a.m. for Kansas City.  One of the things I've noticed about signage in Kansas...it's either non-existant or it only gives names of places without the distance or, if it has the distance, frequently the distance changes from sign to sign.  My ride into Kansas City turned out to be about 69 miles and I was very happy to be coming into the city on a Sunday.  Traffic was light in comparison to how it would have been on a Monday.  So, despite being really tired getting into Topeka, I was glad I had pushed it.  No photos of Manhattan or Topeka...I just had my head down and my feet moving.  Now, I'm at my mother-in-law's place and looking forward to a week here visiting with Marilyn and going to see Civil War sites, since the war really started in Kansas/Missouri with "Bloody Kansas"...

Hoping that the military or the Dept. of Defense or the CIA or whomever doesn't read this, I hope to be able to finish my ride.  But, for now, a tune to exit with...Country Joe McDonald singing, "Be The First One On Your Block..." at Woodstock, 1969.  http://youtu.be/nXspsfoPX50

Not sure why, but it's the first tune that comes to mind when I think about the military.  Not to be disrespectful, believe me.  Sort of like why I have the Confederate flag, and the U.S. flag, on my bike while doing this ride.  It really is to honor those who died.  Not to represent what those flags mean to any particular person or group, good or bad.  This song speaks to the futility of the deaths in Vietnam.  Perhaps the futility of any death as a result of war.  Think of what we lost as people, family, spouses, children, friends, and communities all over the world from war.  Devastating.

Next, a week in Kansas City!



Salina, KS; Sam And Maggie...And Their Friends...

"I may be drunk, Miss, but, in the morning, I'll be sober and you will still be ugly." ~ Winston Churchill

One of my favorite politicians and one of his better quotes.  Alright, on to Salina, KS.  I left Great Bend, KS, on the early side since I knew the wind would not be nice today and to try to get to Salina on the earlier side.  Sam Browning and his wife, Maggie, have a potluck dinner every Thursday...and today was Thursday.  Despite the motivation of hanging out with Sam, Maggie, and their friends, the wind was not going to give me a break today.  Hunkering down, I got into the "long day in the saddle" mindset.  It helps keep the frustrations to a minimum.  Not good for enhancing my curse words vocabulary.  Save that for a ceiling fan installation some other day.

The distance I rode to Salina was not that far, 82 miles, but because of my friend, the wind, I didn't get into Salina until around 9pm that night.  First use of my Cygolite 850 lumens bike light (http://www.cygolite.com/products/expilion850.html) and it was great.  It lit up the street in front of me well enough to see any potholes or debris.
It fits comfortably on my helmet and I really did not feel the weight of it at all.  Once I got to Sam and Maggie's home, I really regretted not being able to get there earlier.  Their friends were equally as nice as they were and I had a great time talking to them.  Please don't ask me to tell you their names.  I'm terrible with names...great with faces, however.  I remember Amy, Anderson, Sam, and Maggie.  Sam's business partner, whose name I have forgotten, looks like he could be my college roommate's (Bob Roisman AKA Chico) brother.
All together, there were about 12 people or more at the potluck.  Like Sam and Maggie, they were all interesting characters...ranging from student pilot to public defender to a 5th grade teacher and more. Again, more proof that the media has it wrong about this generation, as they've been wrong about just about every generation.  Bright, fun, talkative, inquisitive, and wondering why a geezer like me is doing what I'm doing.  And I said nice things about my wife, Eileen, too...that's always easy to do.  Sam and Maggie own a Victorian home in the historic district of Salina...some photos:
What a beautiful Victorian home...
Had to take a photo of a photo of Sam/Maggie...forgot to get one the night before!
This photo is of Sam's grandparents, Marilyn and Ray Browning, married just 3 days, when she was a WASP (Women's Auxillary Service Pilot) test pilot and his grandfather trained fighter pilots and was the 7th person to ever fly a helicopter.  He was one of the first group of helicopter test pilots.  Sam told me that his grandfather said, whenever they'd land on the outskirts of a town, people would come running out to see the helicopter since they'd never seen one before.  I just had to take a photo of this photo.  Just fabulous, I think.

Now, a tune to exit with...Frank Sinatra singing, "Come Fly With Me"...seems appropriate.  http://youtu.be/SLC5AGGHLz0

To Sam and Maggie, and their friends, thanks for a great evening.  When I come through Salina again, I'll get into town earlier and bring some food/beer to the potluck...and my wife, Eileen.

Next up, my first "adventure" of the trip.  Just don't tell the government, ok???