Sunday, July 17, 2011

Santa Fe Trail by Bike

On the bike at sunrise. Heat advisory for Interzone--it will feel like 110 today.

My plan was a ride out to Baldwin City, Kansas--a place I've been a few times now--and see for myself the wagon wheel ruts on the Old Santa Fe Trail a few miles East of the city. I'd just finished a few books on William Bent that Little Egypt had used to do some checking for a researcher that had made some inquiries about his family in the Kansas City area.

The Santa Fe Trail started roughly around Kansas City and traveled Southwest to Santa Fe, NM--about 1200 miles if I remember right. Bent and his business partner brother began by bringing trade items to the Indians via the trail, and then returning back with beaver pelts and buffalo robes for of all things--men's felt hats--which were the rage in the Eastern US and Europe at that time.

The route was used for more than 50 years, from the 1820's through the 1870's. I'm very excited for a chance to see a legendary setting and chapter in history of the Old West. For all I know, my family members used the Santa Fe Trail at some point--may have seen it--traded on it--and been close to where I'm going to travel!

Pretty hot and muggy--even at 6:30 am.

I studied my map and just tried to travel light as possible. I'd have the headwind going out of course, but wanted to get out early so I could explore the site and take some photographs. My plan would be to catch the tailwind back into Lawrence and get in just under 100 degrees.

Heading due South down Hwy 1055.

On the way out of town this morning I took "15 - 15" which is the intersection of 15th Street (N 1500 Rd and E 1500) and Haskell Ave. The way the grid is set up in the county, I started at 15 miles North and 15 miles East of the Southwest corner of Douglas County. Its some sort of survey system and road system--my neighbor Paul the Fire Fighter explained it to me. If I'm out on the roads and if there's a sign on them, I can figure out where I am exactly on the county grid. If I ever got in a fix, I could call the police of fire dept and they'd know right where to find me.

Kansas Farmland.

In the little village of Sibleyville, the farmers are doing quite well. The fields are fertile and the crops are looking great. These guys out here farming are wealthy!

Airport at Vinland, Kansas.

At Hwy 460 I come to the village of Vinland. In the past I've kept going South, but this time I head West. I've never actually seen the airport--and here it is! I think these guys are running a crop dusting business out of Vinland.

Sure enough! A crop duster ready and waiting.

Have you ever seen these things fly? Its crazy how low they dart over the fields then swoop up after they make their pass! The grass airstrip looks well-groomed, however these planes are tough and rugged and could land in a pasture if they needed to.

The Coal Creek Library, established in 1869.

This is one of two or three old buildings that look like they've survived the ages. Roosters and chickens seemed a little edgy as I approached for a closer look. Dogs and people seemed to be still sleeping--waking everybody up on a hot humid Sunday morning didn't seem neighborly at the time. There was a kitty cat sitting on the porch watching me with some suspicion but she slinked away as I took the photo for you Gentle Reader of This Blog.

Come to Church.

Behind this church, which seemed to be too unsafe for the congregation to use after awhile, was a new church--then that church got too old--and so there's another church behind it as well! It seemed that there were six or sever airplanes in Vinland--and just as many churches!

For a few miles I saw that some farmer had put large rocks on the fence posts--and strapped them down. Like are the rocks gonna float off into space or something? I don't get it...

I'll take this road South for five miles and intersect with Hwy 56--The Santa Fe Trail!

By the way that road you see up there was freakin' straight as an arrow--and due South. The headwind was brutal and sometimes would change to a sudden crosswind. Also, the road was narrow and I did not want to get blown into the ditch or run into the ditch by a farm truck. People tend to drive a bit fast but slowed and gave me plenty of room when they passed. Just hard to see up on hills with on-coming traffic. Luckily I only saw about three cars the whole stretch, mes amis.

Hot now, and a head wind. My top speed is only about 14 mph this stretch.

Church and cemetery across the road seem all that remain of the village of Clearfield. Rest in Peace those who reside by the side of the Hwy.

What ever those people did, they sure did a good job--this corn is perfect--and goes on for miles.

Did I mention there was corn?

Hwy 56 at last! Looking East on the Santa Fe Trail, mes amis!

Finally at Hwy 56 I'd get to turn West--and get out of this headwind that was kicking my ass... In a few miles I arrive in Black Jack--where John Brown had a gun battle with Pro-Slavery Missourians--and then I'd find the park where the wagon wheel ruts could be seen.

I've ridden 20 miles from where I just jumped on Hwy 56--a little less than half-way home.

I'm on the historic Santa Fe Trail !!!

Black Jack does not exist any longer, but is an important milestone in Pre-Civil War History.

So you have to understand that the Santa Fe Trail is basically Hwy 56. The original trail got plowed under and paved over--and pretty much disappeared when the Rail Road arrived in the late 1870's. It would have taken us six months to make it from Kansas City to Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory. With the train, and then the train connections to the steamboat towns on the Missouri River, that travel time was reduced to a few weeks. Outfitting a wagon with food and supplies, pulled by oxen, cost maybe several thousand dollars--I believe I read that a train ticket one-way in the 1870's was $68.00...

About Black Jack the village--well John Brown was on the prowl out here and pretty close to where I am he and his men captured some Pro-Slavery Raiders who had been terrorizing the Free State inhabitants. The story goes that John Brown, a very pious man, stopped into a church on a Sunday Service--and was unrecognized by the congregation of Pro-Slavery leaning Kansans. He over-heard where the guerrilla fighters had their camp and so that night (4 am) he ambushed them. After a day-long battle, the Pro-Slavery blokes had had enough. They surrendered to John Brown.

The Mighty Trek. I could not find the 1825 marker of Cornel Selbey's surveying mission of the Santa Fe Trail. I had read that it had been vandalized often. It may have been out there in the tall prairie grass somewhere and I couldn't see its location.

When the taste in men's hats changed, and felt hats were no longer in style, the market for beaver pelts to make the hats dropped out. Trade with the Indians for furs ended--plus the railroad pushing to California--made the Santa Fe Trail wither and die--but not after making some men like William Bent, Kit Carson, and others famous--and infamous.

Ivan Boyd was a biologist that taught at KU and/or Baker University. This is the entrance to the 18 acres of Virgin Prairie--and what remains of the original Santa Fe Trail!

Can you see the depression in the earth? Starting from the top of the rise in the center, and then curving past where my bike is parked? My bike and this sign are on a bump or like a median--the ruts pass to the left and to the right.

This is looking straight ahead East. I'm standing in the depression worn down by the wagons, and although you can't see the ruts, I can feel them under my feet.

Left to right you can make out the depression and see how the wagon wheels have worn ruts--the grass is about knee-high and very thick (this is so cool by the way!)

If you click on these pictures they're bigger so you can see more detail, mes amis. I'm standing on top of that rise, and I'm looking West. You can see my Mighty Trek parked down by the sign--there's two sets of ruts in the foreground and a set on the other side of the sign. These depressions were carved into the prairie by hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children--along with their wagons and livestock--heading West.

This is pristine virgin prairie--the grass is thick and waist high when I'm not in the Trail's wagon wheel ruts. The air is sweet, and thousands of birds are singing and catching insects for breakfast. I'm very happy to be here and able to walk on the actual Trail itself!

I'm standing in a wagon wheel rut, which is still very solid. Venturing off into the grass, the ground is soft and feels mushy, and the grass is waist high on me.

Wagon traveling East, back to Kansas City, and then on to St. Louis, would be carrying beaver pelts and buffalo robes traded from the Indians. Going West, this would be about the time travelers would have started--June and July--as there would be plenty of grass for their livestock to eat along the way.

I've walked West down the hill from where the Mighty Trek was parked by that sign, and now I'm at a gravel road which seems to be the end of prairie and the ruts for now. This if for folks that just drive past real quick I think, and see the ruts from their car.

Colera was a big deal at the height of travel on the Santa Fe Trail. I could figure because of all the people and animals--water got contaminated with shit and urine--and often the trail was a muddy slimy morass to struggle through. The rail road made things faster and cheaper--still from 1822 to 1877! Wow that is impressive!

Can you see the ruts? You can click on this photo to make it larger... I took this from the side and across the road as I was heading West on Hwy 56. If you were driving East on 56, you could just catch a fleeting glance...

I'm back on The Santa Fe Trail--on my bike--happy to have made this journey!

Baker University, established 1856.

I ride to Baldwin City via West Hwy 56, but before I stop in and get water, I wanted to quick check out the campus of Baker University. During the Lizard Under the Skillet Ride with the Lawrence Bike Club, I rode past here and heard a few things about the buildings.

First University in Kansas.

When Lawrence was attacked by Missouri Guerillas, students from Baker could see the smoke from Downtown Lawrence fires fifteen miles North. The raiders shot and killed anyone they could find. Lawrence residents were caught unprepared for the murauders, and when John Brown caught wind of the attack, he came to this part of Kansas Territory to kick ass and take names.

This chapel was taken apart brick by brick and then re-assembled here at Baker.

Will try to find out the name of this chapel and get this up for you--I did not photograph the historic marker which explained from where in England the chapel came from. It was in decline and disrepair in England, and then sold to Baker and rebuilt here in 1995. Whatever the story, the place is quite lovely, and the time of morning I was there it seemed that I was a welcomed visitor.

To the Glory of God indeed, mes amis!

There has been a stop here at this corner for over 150 years, Gentle Reader of This Blog...

My trip would not be complete without pulling into the Santa Fe Trail McDonald's now would it, Gentle Reader of This Blog? I need water, I'm hungry, and a cup of coffee would taste divine.

While here, I struck up a conversation with some motorcycle riders--a fellow my age and a nice woman too--on a date they were actually. They were quite impressed with my ride, and I gave them my map of the route I took (I down-loaded it from the Lawrence Bike Club's website--members only part)

They did not know the roads I had taken, and the woman was very excited when I told her about my visit to the wagon ruts on the Santa Fe Trail. They really knew very little about the Trail and its significance.

The woman was originally from Tulsa herself so that was cool! They had very nice touring motorcycles and gear, and were eager to take a quick trip (for them anyway on motorcycles) down to the Park. I showed them the pictures on my camera that I've posted here for you--soon they were off, waving goodbye as they headed East on Hwy 56.

Bent's Fort was on the Northern Route--I'm not sure why the split there on the map...

I had noticed the bank's sign across the street that said the time as 9:30 am and 91 degrees when I pulled in to the Santa Fe Market. By the time we left, it was now 10:20 and 98--had I been there that long? I had 15 miles to ride home and it was going to be hot as Hell.

Fortunately I got my tailwind, which pushed me up and out of Baldwin City, to the summit of Palmyra Hill. I shot down the hill at 45 mph (its like going down the back side of Gates Pass) and with the tailwind, I made some good time for a long stretch of about six miles at 20 mph past Vinland and on to Silbeyville.

On my way to "15 - 15" and still riding with a tailwind.

42 mile ride this morning.

"15 - 15" or riding back via rural East 1500 Rd (heading North on this road) seemed a bit faster than riding to Broken Arrow Park and dealing with no direct route back to the Little House. I was riding back into town and East 1500 Rd is then Haskell Road. Traffic wasn't too bad as everyone here just sleeps in and stays home when its 100 degrees with 90 percent humidity.

Well, I made it, Gentle Readers of This Blog--and it was a memorible ride for me! Thanks for reading my blog.

Cheers! Bruce

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Summer Metric Century

Riding into the Wilds.

I was one of many hundreds of participants in the Lawrence Bike Club's annual Lizard Under the Skillet Ride. I did the 62 mile metric century, and briefly considered doing the 40 mile option one more time to make things 100 miles--that would not happen, mes amis--it was certainly hot and humid. I drank tons of water, and still I dealt with leg cramps.

I arrived about 5:45 am at the start. People were just taking it easy getting ready--you could start anytime between 6 am and 8 am--and I started out just after 6. I happened to go out with the real fast riders from the Sun Flower Bike Shop (I think the Free State Racing Team) and boy did we go out fast, Gentle Readers of This Blog! For about seven miles I hung on with these guys--this was great because my plan was to ride with a group out against the headwind, and then rest and take it easy and enjoy the tailwind coming home.

On a big hill I got dropped. At the bottom of the hill, that pack made a sharp right--which I did not see them make as I came down. I kept going straight by mistake, thinking they had just got up and over the next big hill in front of me. I climbed and climbed and then shot down only to discover gravel. According to my cue sheet I was on the right road so I kept going, and soon realized that I had missed a turn although the map still said I was on course.

What happened is that I ended up being a mile North of the controle as I hit the paved hwy and saw others riders pulling in. I stopped, got water and some munchies--and then pulled out with a Father and Daughter team riding fixed wheel bikes. I rode with them through the headwinds taking my turn pulling for the next 15 or so miles. It was great! and Paul and Mary were strong riders! I was able to ride with them quiet well, and they wanted me to stay with them the entire trip.

I will say that it became very hot--into the 90s by 9 am--I drank as much water as I could and filled up on carbs and Gatorade at the next few SAG stops. It was wonderful riding in a group and has to be the fastest I've ridden on these country road ever. Riding and being able to stay in a pack to cover long distances in this Kansas headwind is the way to go, mes amis!

The last 10 or so miles back to the finish I rode on my own as Paul, a Lawrence HS Teacher for 35 years, and his daughter Mary, a graphic artist, cut off the course to ride back to their home. Paul had shown me where I made my error and he and Mary both told me the had stopped a few riders doing the same thing I did earlier that morning.

By now the wind had changed and I was out on my own with only a few riders way up ahead of me. I started having some pretty bad leg cramps flaring up and my hope was I'd get back okay. The wind was getting stronger and the I still had to climb a few miles until things leveled out. Finally I could see the campus of KU off in the distance so I just had to hang on and relax until the finish. I finished about 10:30 and by then it was 95 degrees with about 90 per cent humidity.

Got home and felt pretty good--did chores and ate a little lunch and tried to stay on my feet and moving to work out the leg cramps. I will have to get some Endurolites or something because if I go out on longer rides I'll need to stave off cramps!

I also have to tell you that the whole city was motionless as people just stayed indoors and nobody ventured outside because of the heat.

Cheers! Bruce

Friday, July 08, 2011

Cat 1 Racer

Stanley has lived and worked at the LBS for many years.

Besides going out into the Wilds of Free Kansas for my riding adventures, Gentle Reader of This Blog, a good part of my time running around Interzone is spent on my old Desert San Campus Bike I had with me back in Tucson.

I bike to work, to the grocery store, to the liquor store--and today for a haircut and stop by the local bike shop. I spied Stanley relaxing in the sunshine of the front window and thought I'd stop in to see how he was doing. Stanley is a legend in Old Historic Downtown--I don't know that much about him (I'll try to find out from the lads) but he's back after a sort of medical leave.

Out to run errands--Fraser Hall looms as the regal tall-boy of KU.

Out for a haircut in Old Historic Downtown. The new paved road just off from the neighborhood of the Little House is fast and the bike lane wonderful. However, Old East Lawrence where I reside, despite the new road that runs through, mostly remains brick. Bricks look charming but if you've ever ridden a bike on them mes amis, well you can appreciate what they where talking about when they used the term "Bone Shaker"

Luckily I just have about two miles on the bricks--believe me, two miles is quite enough.

These 100 year old streets are for the most part in pretty good shape. They've poured asphalt over some of the streets but that eventually wears away--the bricks seem to be stubborn so the city probably just gave up and let the bricks have their say.

Some houses have aged well--especially if not owned by a slum lord.

Okay there's a bit of charm in all this but I would not want to be on a Historic Old East Lawrence Parade of Homes Bike Tour for long--you'd lose a few fillings by the time you were done.

Parking is often where ever you can find something to lock the bike to--

After my haircut I made my way to the bike shop just to see what was happening. Glad I did because it was late afternoon and pretty slow--everyone was watching the last 30 or so kilometers of the Tour de France on the big screen TV back by the tool room and repair floor.


Dan the owner of the shop told me about the upcoming century ride Lawrence Bike Club puts on--so I'm pretty sure I'm going do it! Start time is between 6 a.m. and when ever you get there. I'll show up and find a pack to ride with and cruise into the Wilds for the day. The cost is only $30 for the sag stops and all--not bad seeing as how El Tour de Tucson can cost you about $130--if you're like me and wait till the last minute to sign up...

Watching the Stage with the lads in the tool room.

Yellow Jersey.

The Local Bike Shop is well known by many pro riders. Greg LeMond is a friend of Dan's and stops in often. Here's a signed yellow jersey from Greg among other signed jerseys of cycling heroes and friends of the shop.

In the winter Stanley wears a yellow jersey/sweater to keep him snug and warm. This summer it appears he's sporting cooler attire.

Stanley is reportedly doing quite well for his age. When the shop is busy with lots of customers (the shop and store are very large) he can be hard to find--but he's around. Today he's just hanging out, and at first I spied him sunning himself in the window when I arrived. After a while, he came by to say hello--then made his way off to some favorite perch to sleep, or watch the comings and goings of the world inside and outside the shop.

In early Spring I was coming in the backdoor of the shop and Stanley followed me in through the door as well. The lads were a bit surprised as Stanley came strolling in with me. "Stanley? Where have you been, Old Man?" They said to him. I don't think it was that common that he ventured outside much anymore, but the back door is by the back alley so maybe he went out for a look. He pretty much does what he wants around the place.

My bike parked out by the street near the back door of the shop.

On the way home!

Old Man House not looking so good. My hope is that he will see better days again--someone will buy him and fix him up and windows will let in light--not rain and cold...

Bike Lane for my ride home.

Slowly the old streets and old man houses are being restored--it takes a bit of money--lots of work and courage! Slum lords still control large sections of Old East Lawrence, but when they give up and new people with new ideas come in and save the past while they build the future--well there is hope for all of us! 100 years ago people lived here and did well for themselves. So shall we, Gentle Readers of This Blog--so shall we...

Cheers! Bruce