It's just me and the road now. By and large, a singles event - hopeful and alone on the road. I am riding on one single road for days. No turns. My knifed-out guidebook pages have many miles with no landmarks. There are listings of towns with city parks where people typically camp. I am connecting the dots between these towns. I'm in no hurry, but I'm not going slow.
I asked a man if there was a market or a cafe in town. In 1996, there was. Now there is not. No store in town, but the man offered me two packaged sticky buns and a Pepsi. I always accept any sincere offering. To decline such and offer is to say I'm too good or proud for his packaged sweet-goods. I certainly am not. I never will be. I thanked him and moved on - determined to find a morning coffee if it had to sit on the burner until 3pm. A right; a ritual.
Last night was a storm. I jumped up and affixed the rainfly. I staked everything down forcefully, and returned to my mattress. Within minutes, lightning consumed. Thousands of flashbulbs illuminated. Ten flashes per second, sustained. This was a test of my tent stakes - aftermarket, light, and strong ones. The wind gusted my fabric structure until the poles bent sideways. If a stake came out of the ground, I would be exposed to the elements. Rain pelted hard enough to blast little splashes right through the nylon.
I woke up with a puddle of water sandwiched between the floor of the tent and the ground-sheet. Not bad! I was happy that the tent performed so well under pressure. Damp sleeping gear isn't a worry when 90 degree sun can dry it out in the afternoon.
I rode down the same road in the same direction. Route 96. I saw a few cyclists headed east. A couple chatted, one rolled past with just an acknowledgement. The winds favored me. They probably wanted to kill me. I couldn't blame them if they felt a homicidal jealousy as they forced each difficult pedal-stroke, and I cruised on as though I had a hidden sail. Kansas! Its winds and people have treated me well!
I ate lunch in Dighton, Kansas. I talked to an old man who drives a combine for fun. Combines are farm implements which cut wheat like a huge riding mower and toss it into the back of semi which rolls alongside it in the fields. Rain slows the harvest because the trucks can't get traction in the wet soil. The man claimed to do it for fun - he had other business on his plate as well. It was true. Nice guy. I got up to pay, and he said I was taken care of. This man wanted to demonstrate how friendly western Kansas could be. I told him further evidence was not needed to make his case! I thanked him, nodded appreciation, and I stepped out the door. I tossed myself lightly upon my bicycle; following sun and wind toward the horizon - a long straight line.