Good morning! Happy Fourth of July, y’all!
We set our alarms extra early – 4:30 am – so we could (hopefully) get into Syracuse, Kansas in time for mid-afternoon celebrations. After everything was packed, we began to put together our outfits and make-up. We had all sorts of fun things – t-shirts, face paint, flags, streamers, and more. I even painted Tyler’s face…
We met outside around 5:30 am (for Kansas, it was pretty chilly) for our dedication circle.
Today’s was extra special. Most people had friends or family members that had or are currently serving for our country. Some even fought or were affected by cancer. I dedicated today to all of our armed forces. After dedications, we played the National Anthem and faced an American flag across the street. It was an amazing moment, as the sun was also rising, shining through some clouds just beyond the flag. I definitely got the chills, feeling like a united team. It was a humbling and surreal moment, a reminder of how beautiful this country is and how lucky we are to be seeing it.
Our team – AmErica’s Americans – was made up of Erica, Lauren, Katie, and myself. We left at about 6:45 am.
After the past few days in Kansas, we thought today would be fun, easy, and somewhat quick. We did 80 miles yesterday in about 6 hours, why wouldn’t we be able to do 100 miles and get in early afternoon?
If today had a title, I would call it “Welcome to Kansas.” Today was exactly what we were expecting, but never encountered: 20 mph headwinds, 95 degree weather, no shade, some hills (and long flats, which are boring and miserable), and 110 miles. The winds were the worst. It got to the point where I would be pedaling as hard as I could, and felt like I was going nowhere. Gusts of wind hit my face like a wall. At one point it was so bad that all I could do was laugh hysterically. Was this a joke?
We pulled over to the side of the road to let teammates catch up. I unclipped on one foot and stood on the ground while my other foot was still attached to the pedal. Right then, a gust of wind swept through and legitimately knocked me to the ground. I had no control from the strength of the wind and fell flat on my butt.
Aside from the headwind, today was quintessential Kansas. It was incredibly hot and sunny. I peed maybe 12 times because of how much water and gatorade I was chugging. Because of how flat it is (generally – there ARE some awful hills), we would be staring into the distance for miles. We felt like we were going nowhere because the scenery never changed – we were constantly chasing the horizon. We tried to pick trees and buildings in the distance to ride to, over and over, to make time and distance go by quicker, but that did not help too much. We also passed multiple slaughterhouses… there were fields of thousands of cows, right next to these huge factories. Not only did it smell beyond awful, but it was depressing to see these cows just locked up all together waiting to die. And being in the sun that long, struggling to keep pedaling, made us go crazy. By mile 80, a lot of us were delirious, laughing at anything and everything and saying ridiculous things. It definitely made for fun moments. I did my best to stay positive all day, after all, this is what our time in Kansas probably should’ve been like from the day we entered. In a way, I was happy to struggle because I felt like we experienced the real Kansas.
There was also fun chalking in the streets today that made the ride a touch easier (just a touch, though):
“From the mountains (Virginia), to the prairies (Kansas), to the ocean (San Fran), white with foam!”
“Kites fly highest in strong winds”
Right before we all met at around mile 100 for our police escort into town, we crossed into the Mountain Time Zone!
Also, I got a flat, which was frustrating (I just got a flat yesterday. Flat count = 9). But the last 10 miles were fun, super-grouping it into town, being led by the County Sheriff. It was a bit awkward at first, being that we were riding 10 miles into town with a cop car for about an hour, but it still was cool.
We pulled into small town Syracuse, Kansas around 5 pm (population 1,800) and rode up to the First United Methodist Church, welcomed by some community members and customized sign out front for us…
We showered at the local high school, had dinner back at the church (some people complain about constantly getting lasagna, but I’ve started not to mind. And garlic bread is always welcomed). After we walked about 2 miles through town to the local pond where people were shooting off fireworks. It was definitely a fun way to spend the 4th of July – the middle-of-nowhere Kansas is kind of quintessential America.
I hope everyone had a great holiday!