Sunday, 26 October 2008

Dodge City – Sylvia (October 25)

Day 41

In retrospect I was a bit harsh in my assessment of Dodge City; off the main drag there are some decent brick buildings. The wind came from the west today as I marched on eastwards - and it was in the 70s! It seems odd to me that houses in small towns are often beside huge, humming lumps of machinery, which may well continue to hum through the night. That being said, industry gradually diminished the deeper I dove into Kansas, and it became mostly prairie, except for the occasional nodding donkey. Flat, yet there is the odd small hill and plenty of trees. Missing interaction and excitement today – even took to reading through the information at the front of my diary about public holidays and conversion tables out of sheer boredom.

Missed Raymond Road, intersecting with the Highway, where tonight's Warm Showers couple lived. I actually remember seeing it and not registering the relevance. Then I missed the sign to the town of Sylvia. I had ridden 100 miles at this point, so I guess I wasn't registering much of anything, A lady at a dog kennels, whose door I knocked on, five miles down the road pointed out my error and back I went. So, I saw a sign for South Raymond Road on the south side of the Highway and assumed the dirt track opposite must be North Raymond Road. It was sandy, so much so that the ruts were problematic for riding a fully laden bicycle and when I had skidded about a few times and fallen off once, I decided to walk, thinking it wouldn't be very far (I had promised myself never to dismount whatever the weather or how steep the hill – I hadn't counted on sand). Six miles later... It was dark, it was scary, there were no houses and it was all dirt track. I couldn't call my hosts either because I had no reception. What a crap phone network I'd chosen. The further I went the more stubborn I became and didn't want to backtrack. There were rustlings in the bushes, which I believed to be deer, although it was too dark to see. The paltry light from my front lamp picked out a skunk, which either didn't see me or was quite happy for me to be in such close proximity. I also saw the stars, which were pin-sharp and the Milky Way was much in evidence too. Eventually I came across a farm building and saw a man tinkering about in the lit, open doorway of his garage (by which time I had ridden/walked 117 miles). He was about as surprised to see me there as I was relieved to see him and he gave me a lift (yes, another cheat) in his pick-up truck to my destination – which at least I was heading in the right direction for – about another five miles up the road. His name was Bill and after his home burnt down recently. he was living in a trailer. He had several other properties he said, so I'm not sure why he hadn't moved into one of them. The house had been insured, but he'd lost the paperwork in the fire and when he phoned the company, who were based on the East coast, they said they didn't have any policies in Kansas and he said there was nothing he could do about it.

Chuck & Bev were also quite surprised to see me, as by now it was nearly 9 pm. They lived in a rustic, old house that Chuck's grandfather had built in the 1890s and it had a stove that was nearly as old as the house. They had a dog, six cats that lived inside and six that lived outside. The cats were all different colours and two had lost their tails. Chuck & Bev warmed up some 'Company Casserole' containing venison from a deer Chuck had shot in his back yard. You have to pay a permit per deer you shoot (about $30) and a further butchering fee (about $80) – unless you chop it yourself and then it's free. Chuck had also shot a goose flying low in fog over his property. Chuck worked as a custodian at a local school, Bev was a student and both were born in Kansas. Chuck had been married four times (twice to Bev + two sisters) and Bev had been married five times! We talked and drank beer, until it was time for a bed choc-a-bloc with cats; they were on the bed, in the bed, running, fighting – and even in my dreams.

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