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     Bicycle Tour 2003 page 6 ...

October 19, 2003

I awoke just before sunrise on an absolutely gorgeous morning.  This is just the sort of fall morning I love … cool, but not cold, with the sun shining brightly.  The night was not nearly as cool as Friday night had been; it scarcely got below fifty degrees.  The first light gave me an opportunity to take in what I had missed while riding into camp in the dark:  peaceful lake,  huge old oak and maple trees, and the rolling hills across the highway, dotted with the seasonal colors at their peak. 

After a look around and a trip to the obligatory “modern pit toilet”, I settled back into my tent to relax for a bit.  It was still quite early, maybe 6:30 or so, and I was in no big hurry.  This was, after all, the shortest planned day of the trip at a mere 45 miles or so.  I read my book for a short while, and then began gathering my gear to fix some breakfast.  At this point, I had used my nifty backpacking stove only once – yesterday’s breakfast of oatmeal soup.  I couldn’t bear the thought of eating more oatmeal (why on earth did I select cinnamon raisin oatmeal, anyway?), so I decided to be a little more creative.

The stove is pretty nifty.  The whole stove (minus the fuel can) fits into a fabric sack about the size of a large apple.  It has two pieces:  burner assembly with pan support, and the valve assembly.  The two pieces screw together in a few seconds, and this assembly screws on to the fuel canister.  The fuel can is about the size of two cans of tuna stacked atop one another, and is fairly lightweight.  The proprietary fuel is some kind of butane/propane mix.  I especially like the brand name of the stove:  Primus.  Isn’t that a BAND? 

As the water heated, I began packing up my stuff.  Deflating the air mattress is not too difficult, provided one is patient.  But rolling and stuffing the sleeping bag is a huge challenge.  It ultimately compresses very very tightly, but it resists this process with a vengeance.  One slip of the wrist, and SPROING!  You’re back to square one.  By the time I finished coaxing the sleeping bag into its compression sack, my pot of water was at a rolling boil. 

I tore open one of those envelopes of Lipton rice side dishes.  This one was cheese and broccoli.  Into the pot it went!  The directions call for a tablespoon of butter, but hey, we can all use a little less fat in our diets, right?  My two dollar Wal-Mart non-stick saucepan was just the right size for the entire meal.  I covered the pan with my Corelle plate.  In about twelve minutes, the rice was done!  I opened a can of diced chicken, drained the liquid, and added that to the pot as well.  An odd breakfast, perhaps, but very tasty.

As I was waiting for the chicken to heat up, a couple of scouts wandered over for a closer look.  “Dude, cool stove!  How does it work?”.  We had a nice chat about the stove, about bicycle camping, scouting overnights, etc.  They were impressed that I had managed to get “all that gear” into the bags on my bike.  Admittedly, as I looked around my camp, it DID seem like an awful lot of gear.  But it all packed up very compactly, with room to spare.  I ate my breakfast at a leisurely pace, while reading another chapter in my book.  Then I washed up my dishes, and went to work packing up my gear.

As I set off, the scouts came back to check out my packing job, and to wave goodbye.  I laughed to myself a bit as I realized that “word had spread”, so to speak:  as I rode through the campground, a number of scouts turned out to wave, point, and ponder.  I could hear occasional comments like “THERE’S the guy!” or “Hey, did you see that guy who’s camping on his BIKE?”.  I was amused that these boys now had an opportunity to contrast their big white cube trailer full of gear with the spartan load on my bicycle.  I imagined that before I arrived, they thought they were “roughing it”.  I could see the contemplation on their faces.

I wonder if there’s a merit badge for bicycle touring?


8:30 AM

On the road, on a FABULOUS morning.  The air is still crisp and cool, but after a few miles of exertion, it’s time to shed the athletic pants and windbreaker.  Some of the ride was along the flats of the river bottoms, near the railroad tracks.  This made for a brisk pace, and a modest level of effort.  Cycling on relatively level ground is a bit of a double-edged sword – though there are no challenging hills to push your limits of endurance, there are also no downhill runs.  This means that one must pedal constantly in order to maintain forward motion; there is no coasting.  In the short term, my aching legs and tender buttocks thanked me.  But in the long run, I seemed to exhaust more quickly than I had before.  Of course, after two days of challenging rides, I was pretty much out of gas.


10:00 AM

Arrived in Iatan, Missouri.  On the way there, I had marked a spot on the map where Highway 45 passes by Bean Lake.  This sounded interesting to me – who could resist a name like Bean Lake?  Unfortunately, Bean Lake was not visible from the highway, and the access road to the lake was in disrepair.  I briefly contemplated a side excursion, but quickly decided against it.  No point in risking a flat just to see some little lake.

Iatan’s claim to fame is a POWER PLANT.  Coal-fired, methinks.  The map shows a large loop of railroad track at the plant.  I am guessing that this loop provides coal transportation to the plant.  I noticed on the sign that the Iatan power plant is jointly owned by several utilities, including Kansas City Power and Light.  Somehow, it seemed odd to me that this plant in the middle of nowhere was supplying power to the hustle and bustle of Kansas City.  Other than a modest hum, the area was peaceful and quiet.

If there is anything ELSE in Iatan, I apparently missed it.  It’s a clever name for a town, though, don’t you think?  Sort of rolls off the tongue…


12:30 PM

Just rolled in to the northern end of Weston, Missouri.  I’m now faced with an interesting decision.  There’s a gas station right on the highway here, with a Subway restaurant inside.  I’m not a big Subway fan, and I’d sure love to go to downtown Weston, where I could sit down for a nice meal.  Alas, a side trip to downtown Weston would add several miles to my trip, and I am just BEAT.  So I settle for a steak and cheese at the Subway, which turns out to be quite tasty.  At the gas station, I pick up a bottle of Gatorade, with the intent of replenishing my electrolytes.  Add a bottle of water, and a couple more candy bars, and I’m ready to go. 

As I ride past Weston, the traffic, which had been very sparse all morning, is now quite heavy.  It’s Sunday afternoon, and there are plenty of folks headed to or from Weston, or just out enjoying the nice weather.  It’s in the seventies by now, atypical for mid-October.  There hasn’t been much of a shoulder on the highway since Iatan, and with the traffic, the ride becomes tedious and unpleasant.  After a hydration stop in a gravel area, I consulted my map, and decided to take Highway 273 to Platte City.  This would mean that past Platte City, I’d be taking the same route I took going the other direction on Friday.  A different route would have been nice… but I’ve ridden 45 Highway from Parkville to Farley, and it’s not much fun even when the traffic is light.  Sunday afternoon is NOT the time to go that way. 

At 273, I move over into the left turn lane to exit from Highway 45.  I always worry about riding literally IN the traffic, even though this is much safer than trying to cross like a pedestrian.  I’ve activated my flasher, and I use the proper hand signals to communicate my intent.  As usual, my fears are unwarranted, as all the drivers are courteous and patient as I sprint through the intersection.  The bad news is that Highway 273 also has little or no shoulder, and the traffic is just as heavy as on 45. 

It’s only a five or six miles from Weston to Platte City, but it’s a series of steep rolling hills.  On numerous occasions, I am forced to take the bike entirely off the road and into the grass.  This happens when I’m climbing a blind hill, and traffic approaches me from behind.  The cars can’t move into the other lane to avoid me, since there might be oncoming traffic behind the hill.  The car is then forced into the difficult decision of encroaching into the oncoming lane (dangerous), passing me very closely (dangerous for me), or waiting behind me until I crest the hill.  For the sake of everyone’s safety, when this condition occurs, I simply move off the road entirely. 

At this point, my legs are like overcooked pasta.  My brain amuses itself by replacing the “keep spinning” mantra with a more appropriate slogan:  “keep noodling”.  This is clearly not the best leg of my trip…  the ride is punctuated by frequent rest stops and several slow and challenging hills.  It takes me an hour and a half to make it to Platte City.


3:00 PM

After a brief stop for water in Platte City (and to throw away that nasty Gatorade that I didn’t drink), I’m on my way again.  I head south on N Highway, through a residential section of Platte City, and out into the country again.  N Highway was a pleasant ride on Friday, but today, it’s filled with Sunday drivers out for a nice little …  NASCAR race.  What’s with these people?  I see lots of motorcycles, classic cars, and convertibles.  Obviously these are folks driving for pleasure, perhaps with “no particular place to go”.  In which case, why the hell are they in such a hurry?  As the Mazda commercial says, “Zoom, zoom!”.  Once again, this is NOT the most pleasant part of my ride. 

There’s some terrific scenery south of Platte City, but I’m not inclined to take any time to enjoy it.  I am carefully concentrating on my rearview mirror, watching carefully for approaching traffic.  Once again, the terrain is very hilly, and I am occasionally compelled to get off the road.  Despite the frequent excess speed, the drivers are once again courteous and cautious, and I feel unnerved, but safe. 

As I passed County Road D, I consulted the map and determined that I was now directly west of the KCI airport.  I hardly needed a map to reach this conclusion, since I’d been watching the airplanes take-off and land for the last few miles.  At one point, high on a ridge, I could actually see the KCI control tower.  I snapped a picture, had a drink, and headed on.  Just a mile or two past this point, I was passed by a Platte County Sheriff Patrol car.  I was bemused when the officer pulled over onto a dirt farm road just ahead, and switched on his flashing lights.  As I rode up behind the car, the officer stepped out, and gestured for me to “pull over”. 

For a moment, my thoughts raced.  Was I in trouble?  It’s hard to conceive that one could NOT be in trouble when confronted by the law.  The officer’s friendly smile quickly told me that all was well.  He explained that someone had called 911, expressing concern about some guy with a huge load on his bike riding right on the highway.  I explained where I had been, and why I was heavily laden.  The officer politely explained that he was only stopping to make sure that no one had intimidated or harrassed me, and his only concern was my safety.  He made a point of emphasizing that I had every right to be there, and that I was doing nothing inappropriate or illegal.  Then he suggested a couple of routes that would get me off the highway. 

I replied that all the drivers had been courteous, and I had not been intimidated in any way.  Then I explained that I intended to get off the highway at Tiffany Park Road, which I guessed was only a couple of miles away.  He said, “Oh, you don’t want to use THAT road… it’s gravel!  Your narrow road tires won’t handle gravel, will they?”.  I explained that gravel wasn’t my favorite surface, but that I had come that way two days earlier, without incident.  Besides, the gravel only lasted for a mile before the road became asphalt again… and this road would be my earliest opportunity to get off the highway.  He gave me the thumbs up, wished me well, and went on his way.


4:30 PM

Guess who should have listened to the Platte County Sheriff? 

As I had estimated, Tiffany Park Road was only a couple more miles down the highway.  I exhaled a sigh of relief as I turned off of Highway N, and onto a short section of paved road which preceded the gravel.  At the corner of this intersection, there is a training facility for the South Platte Fire Department.  Interestingly, the department was conducting a training exercise, so I stopped to watch.  They were extinguishing a blaze in a mock building – one of those that can be repeatedly “set on fire” and then put out.  Two firemen were up on the roof, chopping a hole in a section of mocked-up roof (the rest of the roof was fireproof concrete).  Other firemen were snaking a hose up two flights of stairs and in through a door.  All had donned their breathing apparatus.  I watched for a few minutes, took a picture, and then moved on. 

I think I had gone all of five feet on to the gravel when my rear tire went flat again.  A wave of distress fell over me, and I stood there dumbstruck for a moment, trying to figure out what to do.  I finally dismounted, and began walking the bike forward through the gravel.  The sun was still warm and bright, so I concluded that the I-435 overpass just ahead would be a good place to rest.  Unfortunately, after walking the quarter mile to get there, there was no convenient place under the bridge to prop the bike.  A few hundred yards further ahead was a small church, with a neatly trimmed yard, mowed all the way to the road.  I walked on, and settled down on the grass beneath the shade of a tall tree. 

This time, I’d had it.  My buns were terribly sore and tender.  My wrists and hands were numb.  My legs were turning to jello.  I was still 12 miles or so from home, and my rear tire was flat again.  With a dozen patches on it already, the likelihood of successfully patching the tube again seemed very remote.  Without hesitation, I pulled out the cell phone again, and was relieved to discover that after three days without a charge (I kept the phone OFF most of the time), there was still enough battery left to make a call.  I called Dan and Nancy. 

Shortly thereafter, I concluded that there surely must be a God, and he has one heck of a sense of humor.  Clearly, it was not in the cards for me to give up the ride.  Fate and forces unknown had conspired to ensure that I FINISHED this ride – all of it.  I seriously contemplated calling my in-laws, who would have grumbled and groaned, but certainly would have come to get me.  But the phone displayed “LOW BATTERY”, and the signal strength was now indicating “NO SERVICE”.  I figured that I could probably climb out of the little valley, and make one more phone call from the next hilltop.  But, recognizing that providence was going to insist that I continue riding, I reluctantly began removing the rear wheel. 

The tube was a mess.  I immediately found a sizable pair of holes, in a “snakebite” configuration.  I thought at first it was a pinch flat (meaning that I had carelessly installed the tube on the previous repair), but upon closer inspection, it appeared to just be another rock puncture.  I patched this spot, and the tube still wouldn’t hold air.  By this time, the sun is getting low, and my frustration is getting high.  I’m tired, crabby, and all I want to do is GET HOME.  I find and patch another hole.  It still won’t hold air.  I patch a third hole.  And it STILL won’t hold air. 

The last hole took me several minutes to locate.  I finally found it by holding the tube near my cheek, and pumping the hand pump furiously as I moved the tube through my hand.  I felt a quick wisp of air, and held that section closer to my face and pumped harder.  Bingo!  Found the hole.  To my amazement, there was a hole in a previous PATCH.  Luckily, it was right in the middle of the patch; I doubt I could have patched a hole on the edge of another patch.  So, the final repair was a patch on a patch.  I inflated the tube, and it held. 

Now quite adept at the procedure, I quickly re-installed the tube, the tire, and the wheel.  Still on the gravel road, I had to walk the bike another 3/4 mile or so before I was back on pavement.  I carefully tested the repair by gingerly settling my full weight on the back tire, and the tire stayed inflated.  Phew!  Elated, I turned the cranks and moved forward.  My heart sank as I immediately heard “ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump”.  I was certain that the tire was flat again, but when I looked down, it was still inflated.  It took me a moment to figure out, but I finally realized that the “double patch” had created a lump in the inner tube.  My tire was no longer nicely round, but rather was distended in one spot.  I shrugged my shoulders, and ka-thumped on down the road.


5:30 PM

A couple miles later, I arrived at Tiffany Springs Park.  As far as I know, there are no restrooms and no water at the park, so there was no reason to make a stop.  I made one anyway, to quench my thirst and rest my trembling legs.  After a very brief rest, I rolled down the road, past Highway 152, and on to old Barry Road.  This was the home stretch!


5:40 PM

Ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump…


6:00 PM

It’s a short distance down old Barry Road to N. Childress, fortunately.  There’s not much traffic on Barry Road these days, since Highway 152 was completed… but it’s a lousy place for bike riding, with blind hills and a poor shoulder.  I made the turn to the south, just before The Grass Pad.  Just a half mile south of Barry Road there is a new housing development on the west side of N. Childress, with a very nice landscaped entry.  I thought of this as a bit of a milestone, since I had completed a couple of “training rides” where this housing development had been my turn-around point.  A few weeks earlier, this spot had been the outer limit of my bike rides.  Today, it was a landmark which indicated that my journey was nearly at an end. 

On one of my training rides, I had stopped here and rested on a large rock in the landscaping.  I had sat and had a snack and a drink, and watched the hawks circling overhead.  I had noted that there were only a handful of houses which were completed in the development, and there did not seem to be anyone living in any of them.  I wondered why such a nice neighborhood had not managed to garner any new residents.  As I was pondering this, a 757 roared overhead at a very low altitude.  The light went on!  The subdivision is directly beneath the final approach to Kansas City International Airport.  I’m not sure why, but the first thing that popped into my head was “Gee, I bet you’d sure get a lot of drywall cracks from all that vibration!”.  Not to mention that you’d probably get about as much sleep as you’d get if you camped a few hundred yards from a railroad track. 

As I rode southward, I approached a woman who was on her knees near a mailbox, planting a flat of pansies.  She looked up as I passed, and I waved and said hello.  I wish I could have taken a picture of her expression; it was priceless.  I think it could be appropriately characterized as “What the hell?”.  I’d had this look a few times over the past three days.  Admittedly, I must have been quite a sight, with my bright red nylon panniers, handlebar bag, trunk bag, and blanket and sleeping bag strapped on top.  The entire mess was bundled up with black strapping, due to my earlier pannier disaster.  Even I was inclined to snicker a little when I saw it from a distance.


6:30 PM

As the twilight began to fall, I churned my way through Weatherby Lake, and across the dam.  This was a tricky operation, as the pavement is very uneven at both ends of the dam, and I had to be very cautious in the limited light to avoid bending a rim (not to mention flattening my precious tire!).  I rode slowly and carefully, not wanting to do anything which might cause stress to my precarious configuration – a bicycle figuratively held together with baling wire and dental floss.  The sunset at the lake was lovely, and I contemplated taking a picture.  But my sense of urgency prevailed, and I rode on. 

I stopped for a few minutes on a side street in Weatherby, and ate a candy bar (Snickers with Almonds – awesome!).  While I was stopped, an elderly gentleman came toward me, carrying a plate of cookies.  He stopped to visit for a moment, and to ask the obvious “what the heck are you doing with all that stuff on your bike” question.  We chatted for a few minutes, and I recounted my overnight stops.  I thought it was odd that he did not offer me a fresh homemade cookie, since he had a large plate full of them.  They looked very tasty.  But then a small terrier came running up to his legs, and he quickly fed the dog a cookie.  Then the man said, “All the neighborhood dogs just LOVE my homemade dog biscuits!”.  Hmmm, I’m sure glad I didn’t help myself. 

The last few hills were more than my weary legs could handle.  Two days earlier, these are hills which I would have climbed slowly and steadily, but successfully.  Today, I would spin part way up the hill, and then my legs simply didn’t have the strength to turn the cranks any further.  I found myself walking slowly up Eastside Drive approaching 9 Highway, supported by my rubbery legs, and pushing my heavy bike.  As I wheeled onto 9 Highway, I resolved to stay on the bike the rest of the way.  The traffic cleared, and I sprinted across the road and into the left turn lane, ready to turn on to 45 Highway.  And the light turned green.


7:15 PM

After a jubilant downhill run along Riss Lake, I pounded my way up the hill, and turned into the Riss neighborhood.  My brain seemed to shout out loud “This is the LAST HILL!”.  I surged up the hill, shifted into a higher gear, and accelerated into an ambitious coast.  I had burned my last calorie, and inertia would now take me home.  I rolled effortlessly on to my street, and gently eased the bike over the curb and into my driveway.  I stopped the bike right in front of the garage door remote keypad, and opened the door.  I’m home! 

After gulping a great deal of water, I collapsed on the sofa.  I had succeeded in riding the entire route, without giving up!  (Despite my best efforts to do exactly that!)  I had a sudden urge to share my success with someone… so I grabbed the phone and called my friend Dan.  “You’re not still in San Diego, are you?”.  No, he’s at home now.  I blathered on excitedly about my trip, likely not making a great deal of sense.  After three days of exhaustion and very little sleep, I can’t even imagine what I might have said in that conversation.  I know that I received a very nice invitation to stop over for dinner, which I seriously considered.  But I declined, realizing that I just didn’t have the energy.  All I wanted to do was have something to eat, take a shower, and go to bed. 

And without unpacking hardly a thing, I did exactly that.


8:30 PM



Copyright 2009 Brian A. Moffet