Posted by: bikedave | August 5, 2010

August 5, Eureka, KS to Chanute, KS

Sunset in Eureka, KS

Last night we parked on the west end of Eureka, near the fall river.  As the sun went down we enjoyed a spectacular sunset.  As the colors faded and the sky darkened, we had another treat.  We sat in the dark and watched fireflies dance above the grass next to our RV.
I was up and ready to go soon after first light.  There were some clouds on the horizon, but in Eureka it was clear, in the low 70s and very humid.
As I was preparing to leave, an older gentleman drove up to a nearby building in a pickup.  I rode over to him and we began a friendly conversation, starting with the weather.  He had been up since 3:30 AM, and told me that he had seen some thunderstorms earlier that had slid by south of town.  This led to talk of lightening, “Did you know that the lightning goes from the ground up, not from the clouds down?”   He had been a rancher for years before his stroke forced his retirement.  He told me that over the years he had lost two cows to lightning strikes.  I said, “I don’t think I want to be riding this steel bicycle in a thunderstorm!”  “ Those rubber tires would protect you,” he assured me.  “I don’t know,” was my dubious reply.  He was quiet for just a moment.  He looked past me, over my shoulder and off into the distance, then told me this story from his younger days.  “I was working with this fellow plowing a field east of here ’bout fifteen miles.  There was a storm coming in, but he said he’d just make one more pass around the field.  He’d gone most of the way around and was coming back towards the highway when the lightning struck.   It hit him right here.”  He touched his forehead above his left eye.  “ Went in his forehead, all the way through him, and made a hole where it came out his ankle.”  I knew it was a dumb question, but I had to ask, “Kill him?”  “Yeah, he was dead right away.  Knocked him off the tractor.  There was a hitchhiker on the road that had had some of that emergency training.  He ran over and stopped the tractor then tried to revive him.  He was dead though.  You could hear the blood gurgling when he pushed on his chest.”  I was a little stunned and said nothing.  He went on, “You know, he was wearing a straw hat.  Went right through it.  It exploded.  There wasn’t a piece of it left bigger than this.”  He had raised his hand and held his thumb and forefinger about two inches apart.  “You know why the rubber tires didn’t protect him?”  I started to answer as he said, “He had the discs in the ground!”   I tried to lighten things up a little when I asked, “So, did everybody go out and put lightning rods on their tractors?”  Deadpan, he answered, “No, they just make sure to bring the discs up in a storm.”  We talked for a few more minutes before I began today’s ride.  As I rode out of town, I was still thinking about his story.   The tractors they use today are all enclosed with steel and glass.  They have air conditioning and stereos.  I wondered, would someone in a modern tractor be protected from lightning by the steel cage?  Do they keep working when a storm hits?   I’m still not putting much faith in the ability of my rubber bicycle tires to protect me!
I’d only gone about 10 miles when the sun was obscured by low clouds.

Clouds east of Eureka, KS

It would remain cloudy for the rest of my ride.  The wind was mostly light making for very nice riding weather.
Just before leaving Hwy 54, I crossed over the Verdigris River.

The Verdigris River from the US54 bridge, near Toronto, KS

Looking straight down from the bridge, a turtle can be seen below the surface of the river among the floating leaves.

The Verdigris flows southeast into Oklahoma, where it joins the Arkansas which flows into the Mississippi.  I first crossed the Arkansas River in Canon City, CO, not far from it’s source near the Continental Divide.  Until recently, my route has roughly followed the course of the Arkansas.  I last crossed it near Nickerson, KS.  I was not surprised to learn that the Arkansas is the 5th longest river in the continental U.S.  Incidentally, the longest river in the U.S. flows along Kansas’ northeast border, the Missouri River.
I rode south through the town of Toronto, KS to the little town of Coyville, KS.  There was very little traffic on this small country road.  There were lots of rolling hills, a few with the steepest grades I’ve yet seen in Kansas.

Looking south, about 3 miles north of Coyville, KS

I crossed the Verdigris again about 2 miles before reaching Coyville.  Just before the town I saw a young man fishing from a bridge over a creek.  I stopped to ask him how the fishing was, and he told me that he had just caught a catfish.  He told me that he had been using liver for bait, and that the fish had struck as soon as he dropped it in.

Garrett with his catch

South of Coyville, my route took me onto state highway 39.  Near the town of Benedict, I crossed over the Verdigris for the last time.   Just past Benedict, I stopped to admire this stone fence.

Stone Fence near Benedict, KS

I turned east on to 2000 Road for the last 15 miles into Chanute, KS.  There was very little traffic, some cultivated fields, but mostly ranch land.

Ranch land near Chanute, KS

2000 Road, near Chanute, KS

In Chanute, Vicki was waiting for me at Santa Fe Park, a city park complex south of downtown, that has a golf course, lake, baseball diamonds, and a RV park.

Miles today: 64   Total miles: 2,490


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