Leoti, KS to Cheyenne Wells, CO – 114 miles
Yesterday was an early start after a long day the day before. I had set my alarm for 6 am, but snoozed it a couple times because I could barely keep my eyes open. I finally forced myself out of bed at around 630, because I knew I had an even longer day ahead. On the agenda was Kansas’s high point. Essentially a hill in a field, prominence wasn’t what was going to make it difficult. It is about 50 miles north off route, with 24 miles of gravel, and no camping opportunities nearby. The plan was to make it to Cheyenne Wells where there is a Warmshowers host or just setup the tent when I can’t go any further.
We packed up and left Carol and Terry’s by around 730.
The 25 miles to the first town flew by. Slight head wind at times, but it was definitely coming out of the north, which was bad news for me. When we hit Tribune I parted ways with Dries and headed north. I had essentially a direct headwind and the next 30 miles took me 4-5 hours.
I stopped in a town called Sharon Springs to refill water and grab lunch at around 130.
It was about another 15 miles west to the gravel road turn off to Mount Sunflower. I felt like I flew through those miles without having the direct headwind anymore. Along the way a guy named Kelley pulled up next to me in a pickup truck and offered me a banana, some water, and gave me $20 to donate to the charity! The interaction reenergized me and I was feeling great when I got the dirt road.
The wind had died down a bit, so the ride actually wasn’t as bad as the previous section going north even though I was riding on dirt. It was about 12 miles to the high point and I ditched my panniers in some tall grass near the beginning since I would be doubling back the same way on the way out.
I got to the high point at around 4 or 5. The views were actually pretty spectacular, but hard to capture in a photo since it’s just green pastures for miles.
After a short break I headed back out on the same dirt road I came in on. With a slight tailwind and a lot of downhill sections I was able to really cruise. The gravel and unloaded bike made for a squirrelly ride at times, but fortunately I kept it under control. The sky was beginning to get really dark to the west and by the time I was back on Hwy 40 the sun was completely eclipsed by dark rain clouds.
Just a couple miles after getting back on 40 I hit the Colorado / Kansas state line. For some reason it gave me a ton of energy and I just felt this rush of excitement.
I was surprised at how much energy I had and I was pedaling harder than I had all day as I hit 100 miles. I was signing the music playing through my headphones at the top of my lungs and incredibly the storm clouds began to part right where I was headed. Also a rainbow appeared off to the south (hard to see in the picture).
I was feeling so good when I arrived in Cheyenne Wells I thought about going the extra 30 miles back to the route to meet up with Max, Dries, and Julia, but ultimately decided to stay in Cheyenne Wells when I heard back from the Warmshowers host.
I met up with the hosts, Michelle and Bo, at a gas station in town and they showed me to the historic hotel they manage. Really cool place. Everything is really old and all the rooms are done up in a different theme. There are even tunnels underneath it from the prohibition era that go to various other buildings in town.
Bo and Michelle were gracious enough to invite me back to their place where they had some ribs, baked beans, and potato salad ready! I ate a little, but I think the exhaustion was finally setting in and all I could think about was sleep. They took me back to the hotel and I crashed hard.
Not sure how far I’ll try to go today, but it’s looking like it’ll be an easy day. It’s hard to believe that after just over a month in I’m already in Colorado!