July 28, 2005 – Thursday – Day 33

48 States or Bust – The USA on Two Wheels
Miles Today: 401 – Total Miles: 8417 – Average: 255.1(travel days)
11:30AM-9:30PM (10hrs)
(-staying at a Super 8) KS,NB,IA,MO (33/48)

One of the Days Inn come-ons is that one can pour the batter and make freshly made waffles in the morning. While Karen was making us a few in the snack area, a woman said to her, “I don’t go hardly nowhere, but I don’t know if I’d want to do it on a motorcycle.”

On that bicycle trip of mine a quarter century ago I stayed in Great Bend for a night. Here’s how it went after that 84-mile bicycling day from my journal notes:

One cute woman in the laundromat and I got into a conversation and after she learned about my adventures, she asked if she could call her husband. He happened to be a reporter for the Great Bend paper. She went to pick him up. I spent the next hour being photographed and interviewed. Then, when my tip of a place to stay in at Pawnee Rock fell through, reporter Chuck Smith and his wife Lisa invited me to stay at their home. Lisa made bean tostados for supper. Chuck was a big fellow and wears a cowboy hat and a bushy beard. He was constantly puffing on an ever-extinguishing pipe. The couple was in their twenties and Lisa is expecting a child in December. I slept on the floor in my bag which was laid upon Chuck’s big buffalo cape. I forgot to ask the Smiths to turn off the fifteen-minute-interval chime of the grandfather’s clock. The huge clock was in the same room where I was sleeping. But it didn’t matter. From the time my head hit the bag at 11:00, until I was up at 6:00, I didn’t hear a thing. In fact, I thought they had turned it off! My sleep was sound and deep.

Well I wondered if maybe Chuck Smith might still be around these parts. I called a person by that name in the phone book and the lady who answered said it was the wrong one. Then I mentioned that he had been a reporter 25 years ago and she said, “Oh yes, I read his stories in the paper!” I quickly got the Great Bend Tribune phone number and before you know it, I was talking with Chuck Smith.

As soon as I said I was the guy who slept on the buffalo robe, he knew exactly who I was from so long ago. We chatted a bit on the phone and I was sad to learn that Lisa had past away, but Chuck had remarried and was doing well. He was now an editor of the paper. He invited Karen and me over to the office.

We were there by 10am or so and Chuck and I gave each other a good hug. After some conversation, he took a picture of Karen and me and the Shadow with intention of doing a story about us. Then he invited us in to his office. When we walked into the Great Bend Tribune newspaper building, Karen, who had worked for a publishing company many years ago, immediately smelled the ink and felt nostalgic.

Chuck was just recently 50 and there were birthday messages in his office. (Like, “Antique Human – THIS is what 50 looks like!”)

We met Kevin, a friend of Chuck’s. As we were talking about Chuck STILL being at the paper after all these years, and how surprised I was, Kevin gave a friendly jab to his pal by saying, “Well, you’ve gotta add the element of sloth in there, too.”

We got a nice tour of the little newspaper office including the huge press machines in the back. Chuck and I reminisced about my time there and we talked about his kids and a little about Lisa. There were some good posted slogans that I liked around the office – one in particular read, “It’s Fun Doing the Impossible!”

Chuck, admiring the trip we were taking by someone older than himself, said as we left, “What you’re doing gives me hope.” We shoved off at around 11:30ish.

We rolled passed some cattle pens. Not the big ones like yesterday. Outside Dodge there were huge stinking pens of cattle. The smell was intense. Here’s what I wrote 25 years ago, and what I still thought today:

On the way out of town, I passed sprawling cow pens. The poor beasts were mooing their lungs out ready for slaughter or ready to be sent to the slaughter houses. I wanted to tell those cows that it wasn’t *my* fault, being a vegetarian and all. But I pedaled speedily away. The stench of the air from the unclean pens made me want to get away quickly. And the filth there made me gladder than ever for being a vegetarian!

We swung eastward on Route 56, then 156 north, then I-70 east then 75 north, then 2 east, and I-29 south… Now, that’s a lot of numbers but what they meant was we zipped through Kansas to Nebraska, then into a little nip of Iowa, then south a-ways into Missouri. And that added three more states to our goal of reaching all 48 contiguous states. (At the last gas stop in Kansas, I was going over the route with a trucker guy, and he turned the phrase, “So, you just gotta go up and tap Iowa, an’ then come back!”)

Trees. We saw trees today for almost the whole day. That’s the first we saw of trees on our way back from the west. Also, today was the first day of the trip in which there was not a single cloud in the sky for the whole day.

The roads were the worst of the trip on I-29 south out of Iowa and into Missouri. There were big vertical cracks in the highway that just looked hungry enough to gobble a motorcycle tire. I was VERY careful there to be sure. Karen noted that it bumped Ohio off as having the worst roads.

Coming into St. Josephs, I let the mileage get all the way to 112 for the tank of gas. Still didn’t have to put it on reserve.

We had stopped at one of those visitor’s centers and saved a bunch of bucks with a coupon on a Super 8.

On my run in the evening out of the motel, I found Carlos O’Kelly’s Cantina (a mixture Mexican and Irish place I guess) and got us a couple of guacamole tostados to bring back for supper. Karen wasn’t sure if we were getting potatoes or beans.

Author: Joel Perlish

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