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Saturday, June 06, 2015

Kick-Ass Weekend Part IV: Madison to Colony

[Note: I posted this, then was told by the love of my life that I'd gotten some aspects of it significantly wrong. I was too focused on what she's lost since her injury, not focused enough on how great it is she's recovered what she has. I also realized independently that I'd neglected to mention the asparagus. Revisions have been made.]

After cheering our friends on at the Dirty Kanza we went on down to Madison City Lake to camp. Madison, KS is just south of Emporia and actually the rest of the campers were ATV riders who had done support work for Dirty Kanza.

The fence going into Madison City Lake is lined with enormous catfish heads, as if in warning to catfish dissidents about how severely they will be dealt with. One of them had a cardboard tag reading '58'—I assume that is pounds. There were bigger heads on the fence but not much. There was a gap in the heads, too, though there were bits of wire that had apparently held heads in the past. We heard some coyotes in the night, so I'm guessing some of the catfish heads disappear to coyote action when the heads are fresh enough.

The plan was for me to ride Madison to Colony and Corinna would drive and pick me up. This is not the traditional way we'd plan such things, but since she doesn't have the endurance to cover that many miles in the saddle, she tries to scheme ways for me to get her miles for her. She rode out of camp with me and into Madison proper, then rode back to camp to sleep a bit, pack up and drive out as I pedaled along Sunflower 58. She met me for lunch in Leroy, then drove on ahead. As I was plotting along on 58, I looked up and saw her taking my picture as I rode. I asked her where her car was, and she said, over there, on the left. And I saw her bike. I waited for her to catch up to me and then we rode together back to the car. Which was further than I would have expected given her usual endurance limits of late.

At one point she stopped and ran across the ditch to a fence and I couldn't figure what she was so excited about. She'd spotted some wild asparagus, but the shoots were all harvested, by human or animal we couldn't be sure. I suspect deer find asparagus quite the toothsome delicacy but I guess my wife isn't the only forager who'd spot those ferns and check.

I ended up with around 47 miles on the bike and a revised opinion of hillbillies. I've used the term hillbilly to describe assholes in crew cab pickups and SUVs who pass alarmingly close, throw shit at me, heckle me and otherwise make themselves a nuisance as I ride. But between Madison and Colony, as rural as it gets, I experienced none of this. All but one vehicle that passed me went out of their way, changed freaking lanes to pass me. The only heckle was someone asking where I was from and when I said Kansas City, he gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up.

The one guy who didn't change lanes to pass me was trying to get over, but there was an oncoming car at the same time. I wish he'd used his brake and not charged through the gap, but I think he just didn't know what it's like to get just three feet of clearance from a pickup gong 65 mph.

So anyway, whatever the term for the urban/suburban drivers of such vehicles, it can't be something that confuses them with actual country folk. Country folk are generally very considerate drivers, the urban/suburban faux cowboy should take lessons from them in how to be a human being.

I don't know if part of the difference in behavior has to do with the economics of bike tourism or not, but one thing bike tourists don't do is pass gas stations and restaurants. Like steam locomotives, we have to take on fuel and water more often than an SUV, and we spend money every time we do.

Or maybe they're all satanists. I say that because apparently the Order of the Eastern Star is the dominant masonic tradition in the area, and they seem to love them some inverted pentagrams.

I recognized Leroy when I rode into it from a road trip with my daughters years ago. We drove in from the other way that time but when I saw the beef jerky shop and the wagon airplane and all that, I knew where I was.

A friend of mine when I lived in Gardner described that town as, 'A nice place to live but I wouldn't wan to visit there.'

It seems an apt description of some small towns, but Gridley, Leroy, Madison, these towns seem like nice places to just be. Provided you can find a way to plug into the economy and make a living there, anyway.

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