We really should pay more attention to the weather forecasts. It said rain early and late. That’s what it did. So we left late in the lessening downpour after our free room and breakfast and immediately stopped across the road to chat to some Ride Across Kansas cyclists. They’re only doing 600 miles. Pah! (We’re turning into right transAm snobs).
Fort Larned was our next halt, only a few tailwind miles down the road. It’s the best preserved frontier fort in the country, built in 1868 to protect the mail, commerce and people (in that order!) on the Santa Fe trail. The child in me was disappointed not to find a wooden palisade but a cross between stone alms house type bungalows and a sheltered housing complex, loosely arranged around a grass playground. Rubbish! No walls, no moat, no lookout posts … what sort of defence was that against those wiley Indians? Very good actually.
Contrary to all those old cowboy films, the Indians would never attack the fort as it was too well stocked and armed, hence the seemingly casual layout. This and the infantry defence tactics were all explained to us by helpful and knowledgeable staff. The interiors of the officer’s and infantryman’s accommodation bought the fort to life though … all the rooms laid out with personal effects and short biographies of actual occupants. It was so interesting that we spent 2 hours there, which turned out to be a bit of a mistake.
Back on the road the tailwind had strengthened considerably (as was predicted) … brilliant! Ten minutes later we turned north and the fun started. That ‘tailwind’ was actually a 35mph northerly and we now had 20 miles of it … uphill. Everyone else had left over an hour ago and had only a bit of a breeze to contend with. We were looking at 3 hours of this stuff.
As you battle into the wind, a car goes past and you watch it, watch it, watch it for several minutes as it disappears into a small dot in the distance … not even the horizon, just the distance. Then you work out that it was travelling at least 10 times faster than you, so you will take about half an hour of hard slogging to get to that point. Depressing. At least it’s not raining. You can’t even look at the view … if you take your eyes off the road for a nano-second, the gusting wind will put you in the ditch. The amount of effort required was laughable really … and all because we were interested in the history of the place.
Eventually we make Rush Centre, a flyblown crossroads with a gas station and a cafe. We discussed cutting our losses and camping there for about a second and then decided to crack on. Tired, we turned west into what was by now a raging crosswind for a further 20 miles to a B&B at Bazine. Did I mention that it was raining by now? Anyway, it got worse. The wind and the rain. And it hurt. It made the previous 20 seem a doddle. ‘They brings it on themselves’ was the thought I kept having … was Fort Larned worth this much effort?
A couple of very long hours later two cold, sodden, miserable cyclists find that their salvation for the night was shut. Suddenly we have to do another 12 miles in the wind, rain and darkening sky to the next bolt-hole. And now I’ve lost my glasses and the rain really stings. Fort Bloody Larned was certainly not worth this. An hour later and just before we reach Ness City the rain stops and we arrive into town facing a glorious sunset with a rainbow behind us. All the others were fed, watered and taking a dip in the pool … too late to eat, we hung our wet clothes around, had a warming shower and hit the hay. But not before checking tomorrow’s weather. Today’s miles: 65 Miles since a First Landing: 2003