I welcomed the sound of the rain on the motel roof this morning, thinking it would provide a significant temperature drop throughout the day. I got going into the openness east of Lander by 8:00 and the riding conditions were just wonderful today. The cloudy weather and the freshness of the recent rain made it very enjoyable. The eastern part of Kansas is more humid than the dry west, but since the temperature stayed reasonably low today, the humid heat wasn't an issue.
Alongside the humidity, came a change in both vegetation and type of critters to be found along the road. The roads this morning was covered with masses of small toads trying to make their way across the road and I also saw a few brutally smashed turtles.
Just after entering the Quivira wetlands, I saw a cyclist up ahead that I eventually caught up with. His name was Anthony and he is participating in the Trans America bicycle race. Although the race - kicked off on June 7th - had been won several weeks ago, there were many other riders still making their way across the country from Astoria,OR to Yorktown,VA. After riding a couple of more minutes, we met up with Steve, another guy riding from San Francisco to Philadelphia, that Anthony had been riding with yesterday. We rode together - through lush areas and past cornfields - into the city of Nickerson where we all sat down at a local café after for a meal after the 94 km ride. The lady at the café sent around a journal that we were to write in and asked us to put a pin on the world map she had, to mark the place we were from and I got the honor of putting the first pin in Norway.
We were all planning to get to Newton today, which was a long ride for all of us, so withouth wasting more time we headed out into the now sunny weather, leaving Steve behind to do some stretches. I had heard tales of an awesome bike shop in Newton that catered specifically to TransAm cyclists with a hostel as a part of the concept, and was very much looking forward to checking this place out.
The riding from Nickerson was pretty tiring, and I starte to get aches and pains all over. Out of a sudden, an oncoming pick-up truck stops in front of me, and with Anthony being a couple of hundred meters in front of me, I stop to check out what was going on. An older guy rolls down his window and asks me if I'm going to the east coast, and after shaking his head signaling what he thought about it, he hands out a bag of beef jerky that he apparently made himself. He told me that it is the best beef jerky I'll ever find and that he keeps a chunk in his pocket at all times to keep him going. It wasn't bad at all, but what astounded me the most is how random things like this keep happening out of nowhere!
After a long and tiring ride, Anthony and I arrived in Hesston just outside Newton. I decided to stop at a supermarket to get ready for the sprint into Newton, while Anthony pressed on. The strangest thing happened when I stood at the checkout counter with an iced coffee drink and a bag of m&ms, when this lady I had not exchanged a single word with, just takes my stuff and moves it over to the other checkout counter and tells the cashier "I'd like to pay for this as well". For a brief moment I thought "what the...". She went on to ask about the trip and then told me "now you'll have a good memory from Kansas!" and wished me luck. People like this never cease to surprise me with their kindness that seem to come out of nowhere.
The whole incident lifted my spirit and the after a fast 13 km into Newton and asking for directions to the bike shop, I arrived to an open door with the owner and Anthony waiting. Luckily, Anthony had called ahead to make sure there were someone there. I needed to change my rear tire since it was almost completely worn. The owner of the shop recommended a Panaracer Tour Guard tire that Anthony had been using since the start of the trip, without any incident and I decided to try one out.
This bike shop was a truly special place with special gear and amenities for touring cyclists. There was free wi-fi, a kitchen, bathroom and a lounge/bedroom bunk beds, a couch and a computer. The owners gave us a key and gave us access to the huge amounts of tools to service our bikes and get them cleaned up.
Anthony and I later went out to a restaurant where we enjoyed a nice meal of Mexican food and margaritas. After heading back to the bike shop, I changed my tire and enjoyed a comfortable evening in the bike shop.