.....The BiKeWriTeR

VIDEO | Racing the train in Kansas

What do you do on a bicycling adventure in a very flat Kansas? Why race the train of course.

I left Newton, KS when the train first crossed my path and as I wound my way through town and picked up Old Hwy 81, I saw it again.

Dominating the race… bike vs. train on Old Hwy 81 in Kansas

A double yellow engine, a couple of box cars and some round liquid container cars.

I didn’t think too much of it until I wondered if I had the speed and stamina to catch it.

I was pedaling about 12 – 15 mph and carried about 55 pounds of gear. The roads were flat with good shoulders. I fought a modest headwind and there were spotty showers but not too much of a hinder.

I buckled down and slowly passed one train car… then another… and another. I could see the engine.

It was a steady 17 mph and eventually I overtook the engine and left the train in my rearview mirror.

I’d hear the mourning call of the horn behind me. I relished in the victory. It was a full-on gloat, pleased with a sense of accomplishment. After another four miles though, something changed. The train was getting closer.

The horn was such a tease; like having magpies Heckle and Jeckle over my shoulder taunting me.

In Hesston, KS I stopped for water and the train slipped by. I gave chase and caught him again. Then around mile 10, I could feel his breath on my neck.

The horn sounded closer. The engine huffed, and spit, and I felt the pressure through the road that he put the hammer down. From 17 mph to 20 mph. That engineer totally steamrolled me.

Not a bad race for a 60 year old.

I thoroughly enjoy the roadside art while on tour. It’s one of the treasures of pedaling the old county highways. Mary Chapin Carpenter totally captures the essence of the feeling in her song, “I am a Town.”

Just outside Sedgwick, KS

“Have I not commanded you? …  Be strong and courageous. … Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9


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