Written by Dan Osterman
“A Trail Angel is defined as someone who provides help, transportation, lodging, or food to a hiker. Many times, these random acts of kindness are what it takes for a hiker to pull through and continue on their journey when they feel like they have reached their breaking point.” -wiki
In my case this was for bike touring.
The past couple days riding through Kansas were tough, but yesterday I woke up and had a better mindset toward riding. I was ready to fight back and show Kansas I wasn’t done. I had biked around 35 miles when I was struggling down a dirt road and ran into a farmer who was headed home for the day. He asked where I was going and offered to give me a ride a few miles down the road, so we threw my bike in the back of his truck and took off.
Right from the get-go I knew I liked him because he told me he was his own “sort of weird,” and I responded with “hey me too.” His house was only a few miles down the road but “Bullfoot,” as his friends call him, decided to give me a tour of the county. Lincoln county has more Limestone than I’ve ever seen in my life. The houses, fence posts, signs, and even a place called “the garden of Eden,” which is only 20 minutes from Paradise, as he told me, were constructed of Limestone.
He took me to a limestone query before driving to Lucas where we saw the art structures and had dinner. Lucas, Kansas is known as the grassroots art capital of Kansas.
It was really great meeting him. He colored my view of Kansas and helped raise my spirits in the process. After dinner we exchanged contacts and he drove off. I thought it was going to be the last time I saw him as I biked down to Wilson Lake where I wrote the beginning of this post inside my tent, and where I was camped a few feet away from water’s edge. My girlfriend and I stopped at this lake in July when we drove our van back to Michigan. It feels nice being here again, but it was better with her company.
I woke up this morning around 7am and packed up my tent. After loading the bike down, I rode 6 miles back to where Bullfoot left me the night before and I filled my water bottles and talked to some locals. They thought I was crazy sitting outside the gas station in shorts, but I tried explaining how warm it gets after riding a bunch of miles. I left the small town of Lucas around 9am and rode around 40 miles before Bullfoot called and told me he was heading west to “look at some fields” and asked if I wanted a ride. At the time I was only 15 miles away from the town I was trying to get to, but I said yes anyway. I think he just wanted to hang, but so did I.
We both arrived in the town of Plainville around the same time. I didn’t feel bad about accepting a ride because I had already biked over 50 miles and in all honesty, I’d accept any ride going further west through Kansas regardless of how many miles I’d ridden that day. It was cold, overcast riding today but I liked it more than the hot and humid days I began the tour riding through. Bullfoot brought his German Shephard puppy named Jed along with him for the ride.
We stopped and ate at Dairy Queen and then headed west. It was fun! He took me to a random farmers place because he wanted to show me how they pack down the silage after harvesting it. We talked to the farmer and followed one of the trucks back to the field, so I could watch how they cut the plants and fill the trucks. We got out and talked to the guys there as well. It was apparent he liked making friends and was given the gift of gab after watching how he interacted with complete strangers. I learned a lot about farming and a lot about the history of the area. We also talked about how the creation of the interstate system really hurt the small towns throughout the country, especially along highway 18 where the small towns I’ve been riding through are located. The cafe’s and old truck stops are now abandoned, and the towns are quieter.
I’m under 300 miles away from Denver. I have a better mindset going forward but I’m also nervous about the winds I could experience. I thought the wind I’d been feeling the past couple days was bad, but Bullfoot told me they could reach up to 40-60 mph in the more western parts of the state. Kansas is much hillier than I ever could have imagined. These are things you don’t learn driving along the interstate system.
I’ve struggled writing much about this adventure because I’m usually on my bicycle all day and by the time I stop riding I’m either too tired or slightly frustrated from the long days ride. It’s mostly due to my butt hurting. I should have spent more time training. I told myself I’d ride my way into shape and although that’s what I’m doing, it’s a lot harder in action than in theory.
I’ve been wild camping and staying in hotel rooms. One night I locked myself in a city park bathroom and slept inside my tent in the building. I swear it wasn’t too bad. It was clean minus a few spider webs and beetles on the ground. I was in my tent, so I didn’t really mind.
I’m really glad I met Bullfoot. He made my experience of Kansas a much brighter one. I look forward to staying in touch! These are the experiences I so badly hoped I would find coming into this trip! I’m grateful for the experience. Tonight, I’m staying in a small-town motel that reminds me of the town I was raised. There are a little over 1,000 people and the town is 95% white. The motel room I’m in is straight out of the 90’s. I’m not sure how far I plan on riding tomorrow, but I have 10 days to get to Denver and I only have to average 28 miles a day to arrive on time.
This journey has been much harder than I anticipated, but I’m still glad I made the decision to do this! Until next time!