20. Lessons Learned

We are currently in Eads, Colorado, taking a day of rest after eight days of riding, mostly challenging rides with wind, heat, gradual climbing and limited opportunities to find places to find a shady place to rest. Our route since our last post took us from Sterling KS to Great Bend (where the temperature reached 109 a few hours after we pulled in)(43 miles); to Ness City (66),to Scott City (56), to Tribune (47), and finally across the border into Colorado to Eads (59). Our route across Kansas covered about 510 miles. 

Jens and I have ridden about 1,950 miles so far, giving us a lot of time to think. Here are some lessons I have learned along the way. 

1.  It is good to have friends.  We caught up with our friends, Mark and Pat, in Great Bend.  It has been good to ride with them and share this experience together.  We have been able to share ideas. For example,  Mark suggested a detour off our route from Sterling to Great Bend which saved us a few miles and increased our opportunities to find food and water along the way.

2.  Take one day at a time.  It is temping to get caught up in looking too far down the road and worrying about problems that may or may not happen.  This stretch in Kansas was a bit of a challenge because we faced many long rides, because there were no services in between towns.   The temperatures some days have been over 100 degrees.  The winds have often blown between 15 to 25 miles per hour (of course they were almost always crosswinds or headwinds; rarely did we have a tailwind). And to top it off, flies that inflict a painful bite swarmed us the minute we slowed down or stopped. There were times when we were skeptical we could make it as far as we wanted, but we took the rides a few miles at a time. Riding my bike at 5:15 am when it was dark was not anything I thought I would be doing, but to ride when it was cool with little to no traffic, and watching beautiful sunrises over wheat fields and grain silos, was actually quite a pleasure. 

3.  Look for good  in all situations.  One of the ways I coped with the challenges mentioned above was to look for the good in whatever situation we were in.  No, I don’t like getting up at 4:15 am to ride my bike, but I did enjoy some amazing sunrises.  Do I like battling wind all day?   No, but when the wind blew from the north, it helped keep the temperatures down. Did I like riding in the remote parts of Kansas, where there were few places to stop and rest? No, not always – but I did enjoy having the roads almost to ourselves at times. 

And in these remote parts of the country, we have experienced the generosity of church congregations.  Yesterday was windy and hot, and two churches helped us get through the day.   At the Sheridan Lake (Colorado) Bible Church, we were able to get out of the sun, rest in air conditioning, use the restrooms, refill our water bottles, and grab refreshments offered by the church to bicyclists.  Later, in Chivington, CO, – essentially a ghost town – we unexpectedly came across a small church.  No one was there.  The doors were unlocked, so we walked in and rested in the cool sanctuary, used the restrooms, and filled our water bottles.  What a blessing these churches were to us. 

4. We are stronger than we think we are.  For example, we have stayed overnight  at some pretty undesirable places.  I learned that I can tolerate more that I think I can – not that I like it, but I can handle it.  I am growing and learning that how I choose to respond to the situation makes a difference.  This whole trip has been a stretching experience for me.

5.  Our challenges are not going to disappear once we get to “the next state.”  We seem to develop a love-hate relationship with the states we ride through.  We get to a new state and it seems so much better, at least at first.  Maybe the shoulders on the road are wider, or the pavement is newer.  BUT, then day after day of riding in that state, you realize that each state has its own set of challenges.  Yesterday, excited to leave the challenges we encountered in Kansas, Colorado immediately presented us with an entirely new challenge: perpendicular cracks in the highway about every ten yards.  Bump, bump, bump, bump,  . . .  All day long. Annoying in a car, but literally a pain in the butt on a bike. 

The reality is that there are no perfect states to bicycle through, and there will continue to be challenges in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and yes, even in our near-perfect home state of Oregon.  Part of this adventure across the USA is for us to learn how to handle unexpected challenges.

6.  M&Ms don’t melt in the heat!

7.  Kansas isn’t flat.  We entered the state in the east near Pittsburg at 925 feet of elevation and exited the state near Tribune in the west at 3975 feet.

Onward  . . . .

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Jeff Svejcar

    1950 miles? Who’s counting? Heh-heh-heh. You are doing awesome! Isn’t it neat to experience the human kindness across America? Sure there are some A-holes but very few when compared to the numbers of people you come in contact with.

    Thanks for keeping us posted and glad to hear that you made it through Kansas.

    Have you already noticed that the cities you go through have “city limit” signs that announce what city you are going through but also the elevation instead of the population?

    I think you are about 115 miles from Pueblo. That will make it about your half-way point. If you stay in Pueblo, may I suggest the “B Street Cafe”? It was not only a great breakfast but the first time I drank a good cup of coffee from when I started my trip.

    I think you will, as you alluded to, find that your conditioning over the last 1950 miles makes you unstoppable. The Rockies are no match for you two!

    God bless.

  2. Bob P.

    Nice update Shelly. It sounds like you are in a groove, not making the trek easier but making it doable. Take care you two!

  3. Pam

    Starburst chews also hold up in the heat.

  4. Jeff Svejcar

    By the way, you two are looking so buff! 🙂

  5. Margie & Larry

    Shelly, what a lot of wisdom and insight shared!! It would have been so easy to miss those life lessons in the discomfort (and downright misery)!! We admire you (and Jens) as much for that, as for your amazing physical accomplishment to date. We are so grateful for the kind people and places you have encountered. Pedal on with our continued prayers for safety, stamina, and pleasant surprises…

  6. Bruce

    Colorado? You two rock! Thanks for the updates. Kansas heat and wind sounds tough. Way to go with the day-at-a-time perspective. Sounds like you’re continuing to learn more about yourselves. Stay safe. Avoid those three-legged dogs! Hope you get a break from the heat. You are amazing!

  7. Ralene

    Have really enjoyed following you through your posts. You are reminding me of some of the good and bad things about long distance bicycle traveling. I think you will find the Rockies much easier than MO. They grade mountain passes. Hang in there! You are doing great!

  8. Christina

    Love the posts! You two rock! God bless you, and enjoy this adventure. You are so blessed to have the time and ability to do this together.

  9. Jane

    I love your attitude to look for the good and think about it. Excellent piece Shelly!

  10. Ken P

    What you two are doing makes my 9 day, 150 mile backpack trip on the PCT seem so insignificant! And yet it was grueling everyday. There are so many parallels to what you’ve written, Shelly; about the lessons learned, the people you meet, the way you approach the elements you will face each day. It’s tough yet rewarding. I’m so looking forward to hearing more when we make it to Montana! Keep pedaling. Stay safe!

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