Day 26

Kansas is subtly different today. Imagine her from yesterday, but less rain and flatter land has made her paler and short. I'll be honest, some of her beauty might be fading away too.

The grass is shorter in this part of the High Plains. Well I'll take it. The grass keeps everything down. Remember, this was once the Dustbowl. Best not to rip up the topsoil to grow potatoes here.

I had a minor depression today. The wind just would not get off my case. When it wasn't directly in my face, it decided to blow hard into the left side of my bike and body. To keep from riding into the shoulder (and up to Nebraska), I had to lean my entire body's weight on the right side on my handlebars. Fine. Then, settled, a Mack truck filled with cattle would come flying down the opposite lane and send a horrible gust of wind into your chest. It was like leaning into a punch or being sprayed by shrapnel made of cowshit.

This began to wear thin. I should never have drank a gallon of soy milk at breakfast. Elaine made the best granola and, after giving me a CD ROM of some kind of rapture inspired videogame, Dan played us one last song. "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down" is the perfect song for a Kansas sunrise and sweet goodbyes.

We walked outside and briefly met the 80-year-old man who farmed last night's sweet corn. As a teenager, he and his Sunday school class built a large sign outside of town that is visible from an airplane. It says: Jesus Pilot Me. Is it asking or saying in broken English? The man is a spry 80, and he says this is because he never drank or smoke or did anything but love the Lord. We took photos of him holding a rock with the sign carved into it. He sells them for 30 bucks.

But back to me being in a bad mood. Good feelings wear with the wind, and after three hours of cowshit shrapnel punches, I was about ready to stop my bike, run into a cornfield, grab an ear and shout a violent obscenity in one of the few parts of the country where that might still matter. It made me mad.

Compounding this all, the electric motor I've been using to power my bike died. It's Korean. It uses 37 hearing aid batteries every 70 miles. I hate buying new batteries because some teenagers slip them behind their eyelids to get high. You should see the dirty looks I get at the pharmacy. I broke a sweat just worrying about it.

Scott City couldn't have come fast enough. Towns pop up from about 10 miles out here. You can see a town's grain elevator take over the sky like the Emerald City itself. We made our battered way to a Mexican restaurant, ate modestly, and then hit the Athleticlub.

The Athleticlub let's cyclists sleep on the floor, use the showers, and, most importantly, use their jacuzzi. They also have a diving board. The room I am lying in now has little girl's gymnastics lockers, a series of trophies, a large fan, and a couple of framed photographs of George Bush and Regan on a white horse. Oddly (or not), this is the exact same trope used on my rapture CD-ROM.

And that is a full day. We have an easy one tomorrow to Tribune (named for the New York Tribune) and we're going to try and wake up at 5 and bang it out. I'll be in bed soon, but I want to leave the day with breakfast because what we were talking about (and that we were talking about it) was all quite interesting.

We talked about organic food, mad cow's disease, other wasting diseases, agribusinesses that don't allow you to keep last year's seeds, and agricultural talk radio. Dan is a sometimes phone in caller. One farmer called in and wanted to know why hormone free organic milk lasts longer. The host had no answer.

An angry farmer called in to say that all this organic talk is rubbish and we should just go back to doing it like we used to, like our grandparents did. He meant using pesticides and hormones like our grandparents did. Even if his family were prodigious breeders, I should have liked to have had the chance to correct him. Dan was in his harvester at the time, but he wanted to give the man hell.

No comments: