The temperature rose from the 20s overnight to the 50s by mid afternoon. The wind was southerly and today my long suffering machine and I were going north. Ha ha! Wind and food; these are pretty much all I think about. It was a good route, along a minor road, past small fields and houses, trees, streams and pleasantly undulating terrain. If only every day were like this. I liked that the views were brief; I know that America is freakin' ginormous, but I don't need to have this fact shoved in my face ALL THE TIME. The countryside reminded me of The Weald, on the Kent/Sussex border, while most of Kansas is reminiscent of The Levels in Cambridgeshire. One week to go until the election and there are no Obama signs at all round these rural parts. No al fresco lunch today and chose a steak hoagy from the 'Sandwiches & Such' section of the menu at Mom's Cafe in Whitewater. Most cafe grub is less than half the price of the equivalent fare back home – and twice as tasty. So many old folks working in restaurants here, as well as grocery stores and libraries. Continued on the same minor road and it deteriorated into a dirt track – which is one drawback of Google Maps, as it doesn't differentiate between black top and unpaved roads. Asked a man fiddling about with an agricultural machine for directions to Hillsboro and he asked me where I was from. I told him and explained I was lost. “I would say you are,” he laughed. He rerouted me and related his job of pumping animal waste from farms in this area. I'm thinking about how I'll adjust with humdrum life back home after an experience like this. I wonder whether I'll be sick of cycling, or whether I'll be sick of being in one place and not cycling? Will it be strange to put things in cupboards and drawers, rather than pack everything into a few plastic bags? Will my weight balloon because I won't be exercising much, but still want to eat this much? Will I find the grey days and rain of Scotland depressing? I think I know the answer to all these questions and need to mentally prepare myself for the dismount.
Passed a Mennonite museum, and then upon arriving in the pretty little town of Hillsboro, I saw a couple of what I took to be Mennonite women in the library (they wore black skull caps and old-fashioned dresses). Couldn't get wi fi here, so went to Little Pleasures Cafe, where I had a cup of green tea – I'm converted. The lady in here was uber friendly, as was everyone I spoke to, and one man even asked if I was married - after I'd told him how long my trip lasted, so it was relevant, but kind of personal, especially when our conversation lasted one minute.
As soon as I stepped over the threshold at Charles' house (tonight's Warm Showers host) he said he'd invited as many people as he could muster, so that I could be exposed to their radical Republican politics and I thought, “Uh oh.” He was joking. I was introduced to Charles' wife Elly, her father, Art, her brother and other neighbours and friends. They were all of German descent, could speak the language and Art spoke with a slight German accent. I asked if there were a lot of Mennonites in the town and it turned out they were all of this order, although they didn't belong to the serious bunch, who are puritan (no cars, electricity, fun, smiling) and do everything they want to, except most of them don't drink or smoke, or do anything considered harmful. Most of the assembled were either teachers or had some job connected to the local schools, or were retired from such work. For religious Republicans they were a lot of fun, and disappointing in this respect. I would have much preferred them to be dour 'fire and brimstone' types. I am joking. Charles looked like Bill Clinton, but I didn't dare mention it.
However, let us talk about the far more serious subject of what we were put on this earth to do above all else : put tasty stuff in our mouths. Tonight's ham-stuffed pork chops in cheese & onion sauce and sweet potatoes roasted with marshmallows, brown sugar and corn syrup were to dine for and very nearly my favourite meal so far. The fact that they were so filling and I made a pig of myself was their (and my) only downfall. We would have had Charles' piece de la resistance, a chocolate cheesecake, but because one of those present, Tim, didn't like chocolate, we had the pie instead. Yes, unbelievably he didn't like chocolate. The apple pie, my first one yet, was still par excellence, with particularly fine, cinnamon-dusted pastry.
I hadn't played the game I had intended to play every day over here since Denver, but that was redressed later, when Charles and I Scrabbled into the night, me winning both bouts with a bingo. Charles had dreadful letters and on two separate occasions his rack contained only vowels. He told me some interesting things he'd heard about Obama, which he was at pains to point out he couldn't prove. One was that when invested he had sworn allegiance to The Koran and the other was that he would not salute the American flag.
I slept in the basement. A lot of houses in Kansas go down one story instead of up, I think because of tornadoes. Again my hosts were up and away before I woke, as they had early starts. Even Art, who is 96 years old, said he usually wakes at 4 and forces himself to stay in bed until 6. Charles had baked a kind of omelette pie with bits of bacon on top in a casserole dish, and I had this with toast. Art helped me and told me about his formative years in North Dakota or Montana, I forget which, when his family lived in a place without running water (they had to dig wells by hand) and he only went to town a couple of times a year.