Sterling to Larned, Kansas. (60 mi.) Mile 1969Out WestAt breakfast this morning, our restaurant was decorated in a sunflower motif, across the street was a giant grain elevator, and the farmers at the next table were discussing tornado damage. No mistaking what state we are in. Over the course of traveling across Kansas, though, we have progressed from Midwestern to Western.More and more buildings use weathered barn wood siding, the cattle industry influences the economy and decor, and irrigation is necessary for crops and lawns. At a small country market, we were staring into the refrigerated beverages as is our habit, when we noticed Starbuck's Frappuccino for sale. This isn't southern Appalachia anymore. We can truly say we are out West here in Larned, once an important post along the old Sante Fe Trail, a major trade route between central Missouri and New Mexico in the mid-
1800s.Many early western Kansas settlers lived in sod houses like this replica at the Santa Fe Trail Museum.This morning we set a new personal record of 45 minutes from the time we opened our eyes to the time we had broken camp and were rolling down the road. No overcast, cool temperature today. The temperature was soaring toward 100 again by noon when we made it into the Larned Dairy Queen to cool down. Today's pace was the fastest yet.Over 100 degrees in the shade.Mayapple blooms outside of LarnedRiding through the Quivira National Wildlife RefugeFirst order of business was to look for spare spokes at the Larned bike shop listed on our map, or what is left of it, a collection of bicycle parts in cardboard boxes stored in a garage. We pawed through a tangle of old spokes and found a few the right size to carry as spares. We have not had a broken spoke in two days. The next real bike shop is in Pueblo, CO, not that far away.
This evening we are camping at the city park by the city pool again, where we can use the showers. The pool is packed with squealing kids enjoying the summer. So far, this is the "heart of the watermelon of summer", and approximately the halfway point of our trip. I remember having anxiety about bicycling across Kansas, but so far, Kansas has been great. We were ready for flat land after the eastern mountains, and we will probably be looking forward to mountains again when we have had enough flat land. Then, since it will have been a long time since we have had an ocean, we will be looking forward to another one. It is good that the country is organized this way.