It is time to clarify some of the, mostly inconvenient, truths and myths around Kansas from a cyclists perspective. Before this trip I had never been to one of the most productive agricultural US States, only heard phrases like “completely flat!” and “I started talking to cows, that’s how bored I was”.
Let’s look at the misconceptions one by one, shall we?
Kansas is flat. Wrong. Traveling from west to east actually put me at an advantage here since from the border with Colorado all the way to eastern Kansas it is actually a very gradual downhill. Barely noticeable in a car, but very noticeable on human-powered two wheels. Another note about its flatness: even western Kansas isn’t completely flat. Yes, compared to Colorado it is, but then again, lots of States appear to be flat when compared to the state with 53 fourteeners. Mid and western Kansas has a few dips and hills here and there, getting closer to Missouri actually turned the horizontal levelness on its head and into ascents and descents akin to roller coaster rides. Gaining a few tens of feet, dropping a few, gaining a few etc.
Traveling from west to east means that you will have the wind in your back. Mostly not true. The majority of the time it was blowing straight from the south, which meant crosswind. On some days, it turned to a slightly advantageous SSW direction and heading into Missouri I had a minor headwind, which actually helped to keep me cool.
Endless fields of corn and the same every day. True. Crossing Kansas was more mentally challenging than physically. Just by a small bit, however, given the wind conditions and multiple days recording temperatures in the high 90s and lower 100s. Listening to mentally stimulating podcasts like This American Life and Radiolab helped a great deal passing the time.
It wasn’t all about adverse conditions though. I did not have to pitch my tent once while traveling across Kansas, either found hosts through the Warm Showers network or, more commonly, people opened their homes where they would have a guest room, a shower, warm meal(s) and interesting conversations waiting for me. When this trip is in the books, the hospitality I encountered will stay with me longer than the cornfields stretching all the way to the horizon.
Where did I go from here? Due to the weather conditions with heavy southerly winds, I slightly deviated from my originally planned route and connected with the Katy Trail shortly after crossing into Missouri.