How could it be back in the 30s again? What is wrong with this country? This was because the wind was from the north and the wind in this state is like nothing I've experienced before; it never gives up, not even for a second. I thought the wind was bad in Scotland, and sometimes it is, but it doesn't go on and on and on and on... like this. As Dustin from Great Bend had told me, although it's flat in Kansas, “The wind is our mountain”. The craziness of American street numbers goes on too, and heading south from Chuck & Bev's place, the streets intersected went : 30th, 17th, 4th. Apart from a predilection for the number 13, what on earth could be the reason behind such numbering? Then I headed east along a quiet road parallel to the highway, through miniature towns with no stores. I had cycled 50 miles, it was after 2 pm, there was only trail mix in my panniers and I needed food. I came across a petrol station in Haven after I turned on to Highway 96 and picked up a barbecue chicken sub. It had a strange, but not entirely unpleasant flavour. Today, to alleviate boredom, I counted caterpillars. The only rules were that they had to be within the hard shoulder, they had to be wriggling and I had to avoid squishing them.
I also enjoyed looking at the white lines. So straight and smooth. I like white lines, especially when they're painted by the Wichita Linesman. I need you more than want you and I want you for all time, etc, etc. Following H-96 as per Google Maps directions I came across a sign that read : “Pedestrians – bicycles – motor scooters – motorized bicycles – animals led – ridden or driven – u turns – PROHIBITED”. It wasn't even a freeway and bikes weren't allowed on it. So I came off at that exit and made my way across Wichita, the biggest city in Kansas, at something approaching half a million. I found 13th Street, which was on the Google route and sallied forth until I turned off on to North Point Drive. 10 miles later... I was still on the same street and I was still in Wichita, although I was close to the opposite side of it. I was so worried that I was going in the wrong direction and would have to turn round again... No, for once I got it right and saw the turn off.
Finally I made it to the des res home of John & Diane, in insurance and nursing respectively. It was in a picturesquely located cul de sac of four or five houses, overlooking a golf course. Why were the numbers of these houses all in four digits though? Why not number them 1, 2, 3, 4? A bit novel, but it might just work. Diane was evidently the house-proud type and not only were the lighting, rich colours and soft furnishings all ultra stylish, but the only book on the coffee table was about interior design. John rides his bike to work. In America! It's true. Not only that – he leaves at 5 am (the same time as his wife) and rides 15 miles each way! Diane presented me with the most delicious meal of my trip so far. I told her this and she didn't believe me. I even had double helpings of both courses – and she still didn't believe me. Fanfare... It was chicken lasagna and salad, which might not sound very special, but it was so flavoursome and the salad had dried cherries and pecans in it. For afters there was apple crisp, which is cooked apple slices with cinnamon, brown sugar, etc. They also forced me to drink lots of beer – forced I tell you. Then we watched sports, with Diane flicking between baseball and football. Quite the sports fan, she tried to explain the rules of football to me, but I'm still clueless. There is no local, geographical element to an American's favourite team, they support the one they like, regardless of distance or relevance to their lives. They often support several teams as well.
As with many city folk, John & Diane were a bit condescending about parts of rural Kansas, especially the western part and agreed with my analysis of Dodge City, as 'smells of poo'. Chuck & Bev had told me there's a scenic overlook there where you can look at hundreds of cows being fattened up in the feed houses before they're slaughtered. John & Diane grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, the state atop Kansas and were in the same class together. They started dating at the age of 15. Now they have three children and one grandchild. John sung from the same song sheet as myself about many things, as he was pro cycling/anti car and pro healthy lifestyle/anti laziness. He agreed with me that it should be illegal to use a cell phone whilst driving, but also informed me that it is against the law for cyclists to use earphones. Where's the logic in that?
By the time I rose at 8.30, my hosts were halfway through their workdays. They had left me in their house, while their son slept downstairs. How trusting is that? Made myself a couple of cream cheese bagels and a cup of green tea (no they weren't Mormons – it was all they had).