Thursday, August 26, 2010

Your Prairie Home Companions

Hey jerk! Get a car!

Soooooooo......... the town of Fort Scott, as some of you sharper-pencils-in-the-pencil-case may have deduced, is named after the thing of Fort Scott. In the evening, we couldn't really find a good spot to stay in the town, so we went over the the National Historic Site of Fort Scott and found excellent camping on the grassy campus. In the morning, we had to get out of there before the park rangers came and tazed us... but after leaving and cooking some yummy pancakes, we went back to the National Historic Site of Fort Scott and TOOK A MONDO THREE-HOUR SELF-GUIDED ALL-EXPENSES-PAID ALL-INCLUSIVE TOUR!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cost of entry was only three bucks for Alex, and Emelio got in free because we convinced the ranger that he was under 12 years old!!!

The site is basically amazing and super-interesting, especially for a couple a (nerdy) dudes like us. It is a restored US military fort that was built on the "Permanent Indian Frontier" in the 1840s. Eventually, the idea of the permanent frontier dissolved and the army sold the fort to civilians and it eventually became the center of a new town called Fort Scott. After the Kansas-Nebraska act (1854 you idiots! Don't you remember your Social Studies examinations?), the era of "Bleeding Kansas" came into full swing. Basically, the pro-slavery and anti-slavery interests in the U.S. sent pioneers into Kansas in hopes of swinging the territory to be either pro-slavery or "free soil." We found out that John Brown (of Harper's Ferry fame) launched some attacks in Kansas during this period! Fort Scott itself was a really fascinating example of Bleeding Kansas: two military buildings were converted to hotels, one of them pro-slave and the other free soil. They faced each other across a lawn no longer than a football field!

This is Fort Scott.

After our fort visit we dipped into a local diner called the Nu-Grille, a lovely historic restaurant open continuously since 1946. Juiced up on grease and milkshakes, we hit the road and "road" 78 miles to the very itty-bitty municipality of Benedict, KS. The city's population was 102, so when we hit the town there was a huge celebration and the mayor even changed the city's record books! JK LOL. We found a quiet park and set up camp next to a slide, and were cooking a gourmet dinner of couscous and sauteed mushrooms (can ya' buh-leeve it!) when local dog-walker Steve Jones came over to chat! Steve was a really great guy, had seen cyclists pass through before, and dagnabbit wouldn'tchaknow he came back with a big box of choco-ice cream for us to share! Thanks Steve!!

The next day we hit some pretty nasty winds (gusting 'round 30mph!!) on our way to Cassoday, another achingly tiny village in rural Kansas. This was really the first day of our trip (20 days so far) that we could say, "The day wasn't hot!" and that sure was a relief. We both agree that the most memorable part of the day's ride came on the last stretch into Cassoday. We had finally hit the storied open Kansas pasturelands, and the sky was huge above us and the horizon stretched for miles and miles. The sun was setting to our left, the clouds were really deluxely golden-pink, and on our right the moon was making its slow and deadly ascent into dark blue dusk. Really top-notch riding.

In the morning, as we were setting out from Cassoday, we happened upon ANOTHER BIKE TRAVELER!! He was just packing up his tent (strangely, we camped in the same 110-person town but in different parks, and so didn't encounter each other the night before), and thought it would be totally rad if we all three rode together! His name is Brendan, and he's riding from Philadelphia out to the West Coast. Alex and Emelio had a really nifty time riding with someone else, and sure hit it off well with Brendan. After 40 miles of riding and gossiping like Prairie Chickens, we hit the town of Newton and tumbled into CJ's Pancake House. Dee-lish!

40 more casual miles, and we were in Hutchinson at Harley's Bike Shop picking up the key to our nighttime lodgings, Zion Lutheran Church (labeled on our map as a cyclists-only lodging!!). We had a little work done on the bikes at the Shop, and then took some time ourselves to do some basic tune-ups outside the church.

Alex and Brendan adjust Alex's front brake while two creepy bikes watch.

Just as we were 'bout ready to go off to pick up some groceries, who should roll up but BEN AND JAMIE WHO ARE ALSO RIDING THEIR BICYCLES ACROSS THE COUNTRY TOWARDS THE WEST COAST OF CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!! "Holy crap!" we all said.

In the end, we composed a massive feast in the basement of Lutheran, ran our yappers on and on about our respective bike journeys, compared gear and tan lines, and popped in our Red Box movie, Shutter Island. Let's just say that we got pretty creeped out by the movie and generally had a rollickin' good time last night. It really is something special when you can camp with three other bike travelers.

Eyyy!!! Mangiate, bambini!!!! Molto bene!!!! L'italia e la pizza e la bicicletta a la Roma!

Well, that's all for now you freaks! We might not have computer access for a few days, as we're going across some pretty desolate terrains until reaching Pueblo, Colorado at the base of the Rockies (sheesh!!).

Before we could leave Hutchinson Evangelical Lutheran Church,
Emels felt the need to bounce on the bed like a juvenile delinquent.

Remember to check our winks!




  1. I love your posts, guys. Thanks for sharing this with us so often. I almost feel like I'm going along with you except, of course, my legs aren't tired! Alex, Grandma and Grandpa look forward every day to your next post and Tracy prints each one out in huge print for Grandpa who then reads it at least 10 times until the next one comes. It is very sweet and actually makes me tear up thinking about it. He is clearly very proud of you and enjoying the updates. Anne

  2. I hope you are eating a lot of pancakes on this journey. good luck!

  3. uh oh.. Here come the Rockies! Good luck!

  4. May your time in Colorado be as fruitful as that of Dante Bichette.

  5. you guys a practically freakin there already!

  6. Seriously, what are you gonna do with the extra time?

  7. FYI - Emelio and Alex are currently in Pueblo, CO as of Tuesday, August 31.