Colorado Springs to Colorado Springs

Added: 1-7-2007 0

back on the slackpacking tip…after a couple of days of essential admin (sending 100s of emails, sorting new photos out for the website, reading all the football news we can (16.5 million quid for Darren Bent?!!), hitting the bars of Colorado Springs for expensive tequila at the World’s Smallest Bar etc.) we’ve just finished a 7 mile walk in from the outskirts of Colorado Springs to the centre. not much to report really, just more of the same city outskirts we’ve become familiar with over the past eight months. that said, at least the Springs has some mighty mountains in the background – the city is at about 6000 feet and off to the west the skyline is abruptly rising to 8000 feet (our host’s house) and higher. after spending so long getting here across the plains Dave and I are now eager to get up them hills, but quite when we’ll start we’re not sure – we’ve planned to go north to Denver for a couple of days but let’s see.

whatever we do the last couple of days have made a nice change from walking all the time. the air at Dick’s house is clean and clear, and mornings on the deck have been a hit. both Dave and myself have managed to get some time off from each other to do our own thing (a lot of Dave’s own thing involves sleeping a great deal, and mine involves, er, visiting brand new libraries like the marvellous one at Woodland Park where I was given a tour yesterday) and basically we’ve been recharching our batteries and learning to live at altitude. next up we’re heading off in search of possibly the most dramatic scenery of the trip as we cross the Rockies west to Grand Junction, on the way taking in such delights as Cripple Creek (Steven Stills playing there tonight), Crested Butte, Paradise Pass (I think so, maybe not), lots of other passes and a national forest on a mesa. as you can tell I am entirely familiar with the route. I think we’ll just head west as usual…

in other developments we realised it was once again time we asked ourselves that eternal hiking question: “What would Andrew Skurka do?” Once again the answer came back the same: he would buy shorter shorts. therefore, at approximately 2pm this afternoon Dave and I moved into the realm of the obscene by purchasing the shorts of Brazilian men and saving ourselves, ooh, grams of weight in the pack. no photos until tan lines are all resolved and consistent…

that’s about it really. gonna try to write a Project piece about the Midwest tonight, will post something online when that’s done. Dave has added loads of new photos to the Kansas gallery and created a new gallery for Colorado – click on the links to check them out. did you know you can see where we are by clicking here? we’ve also added a few new links on the Links page so please go here to check out some other new sites, and I’ve even managed to change the mile counter at the top of the page to more accurately reflect how far we have to go. my, we have been busy….

tomorrow: additional slackpacking. more soon come…

Stuart                                Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Eads to Colorado Springs

Added: 28-6-2007

s’been a long time…finally we’re back in front of computers and this comes to you from the house of the one and only Dick Bratton (AKA Trails 007), ADT state co-ordinator for Colorado and Utah. Dick’s house is a peach, 8000 feet up in the mountains to the west of Colorado Springs, and outside it’s all early morning sun and crisp air as I write. Dave’s asleep upstairs taking well-earned rest.

we left off in Eads, annoyed that some rancher guy who asked us to get up at 5am to meet him never showed (beware of moustachioed men requesting early starts). from there we have motored, raced west as best as we could towards the Springs, passing through, well, mostly nothing, on our way back to civilisation. here’s how it went down (nb. very long indeed)…

Friday 22nd June. 20 miles. Hot and Stormy.

From Eads to Kit Carson today. Notable events included hangovers, the ridiculously early start, a fine breakfast bought for us by John the Rancher and the news that my latest test results were all good and that I can go for another month (c’est bon). we walked north from Eads along a very straight road staight into a thunderstorm, and on the final half hour stretch got attacked by mosquitos in an extremely vicious way. trying to slap them off while wearing a pack is taxing. in Kit Carson we stayed at a motel and met manager Margaret and her 87-year old mother who does the very good home cooking at the restaurant. we also had the rather strange experience of sitting in front of a V.I.B.E. machine, an $18,000 contraption developed by a guy in Colorado that apaprently uses noble gases and fluorescent lights to create an energising vibe that can be used to re-align people’s bodies to combat disease and whatnot. cue to Dave and I sitting in front of the machine with our hands and toes outstretched towards it, R Kelly’s ‘She’s Got that Vibe’ constantly going through my head…(many thanks to Marcia at the liquor store in Kit Carson too – the donation of, er, wheat beer to the walking fund was very much appreciated)

Saturday 23rd June. 20 miles. Bloody hot.

Hot even as we started this day but we were refreshed after an evening watching Fox News and the Hal Lyndsey report (“God doesn’t call the prepared; He calls the called”). supplies were bought and on the road we got after breakfast, but not before meeting another German person from Hamburg (why are all the Hamburgers out here?!). today we left civilisation and headed west to meet up with the 94. the way to get there was along the shoulder of a major north/south trucking route so we spent most of the day facing down about 50 giant Transformer-like trucks (these trucks are not like ours in England, they are giant and seem to come with cabins that house king-size beds, walk-in wardrobes and spas, among other luxury items) an hour. at lunchtime we were the guests of the amazing Curtis and Leona Shrimp at Wild Horse, and their daughter Marty. Curtis is 91 and the writer of a local newspaper column (as well as being the mayor of tiny Wild Horse) and Leona is 89. A great couple, and a great help to us as they re-appeared the next day on the 94 with water and food. twice. most of our afternoon was spent discussing politics in light of our new Prime Minister Brown and peace envoy Blair, and then we spent the night at Aroya Ranch, just in time to get attacked once more by mosquitos. oh, and we also got a mile long train to blow its horn for us. we continue to be easily pleased.

Sunday 24th June. 22 miles. Bloody hot with a side of very hot.

up at at ’em at 6am, this morning’s ablutions were carried out with the help of a garden hose aimed directly at my face. we hooked up with the 94 and the nothingness began. 20 cars passed in the first three hours, I spent my time listening to the Decemberists and The Smiths on my headphones. water was an issue today, so we were well pleased to meet Marty and Curtis and Leona in the morning and again in the evening. we managed a two hour sleep in the afternoon to conserve energy but man was it hot, and sweat was everywhere. in the evening we got lucky when John the Rancher’s friends Dan and Sheree turned up at just the right moment bearing gifts of water, fruit and a prized can of beer each. we celebrated by camping in a cow pasture, walking into cacti lot and puncturing our air matresses on sharp things. a very bad night’s sleep.

Monday 25th June. 26 miles. Hot but with a nice breeze.

and here we are. on this day we saw the mountains proper. on Sunday we’d got a glimpse of Pikes Peak (over 14,000 feet) but Monday confirmed it all – we’d be leaving the flat very soon. quite an experience, especially after spending the last five weeks in Kansas and eastern Colorado where a hill is a pleasant surprise. about 10am we made it to the metropolis of Punkin Center (normal population 4) where we kinda gategrashed a family reunion and received great hospitality from the lovely people at the (only) house on the corner. Gatorade all round. later on after lunch we received a visit from Debbie and her son Cole, sister and nephew to our previous day’s benefactors Dan and Shereee. never before have I been offered a Danish pastry in such an odd setting. still, all good. we picked up more water from 74 year old Vernon’s trailer later that afternoon, enjoyed stories about sheep rearing and then hit the road for what we thought were the last 2 miles. at this point something weird happened in that there was another person walking down the road in the middle of nowhere. funnily enough my first reaction was to tell Dave that there was a lunatic walking our way but then I realised this is what we look like to everyone else on the road. anyway, the lone figure was 72 year old Jose from Boulder, a true hero of a man who had decided that he had had enough of sitting around his house waiting for his mind to go and that it was time to hit the road with a specially made cart (perfectly balanced for pushing). Jose was a pleasure to spend some time with and we wish him all the best. after this we made another few miles until we had done nearly a marathon in one day and camped at the house of Menonite couple Ross and Myra. great hosts, good hospitality and tasty hot dogs. Ross was a trucker so we finally got to see some pictures of the inside of those big trucks. luxury, my friends, luxury…

Tuesday 26th June. 21 Miles. Cooler.

Big day for us as we returned to a kind of civilisation in the form of the restaurant at Rush. we’d been looking forward to this for days, endless talk of what we would have when we got there (in the end it was the regular, sausage and eggs with a side of bacon and some pancakes, plus juice and huge amounts of coffee). as per usual we created a big stir in the restaurant when we walked in and were soon telling our ridiculous story to the entertained patrons. one lady in partiucular, Janine, was very helpful and sorted us out with Internet access down the line in a propane shop – witness my last very exciting entry. another lady from the restaurant also dropped off water for us later down the road – many thanks (we didn’t even get your name!). the rest of the day saw us walking down huge hills as we came down a little from the plains’ altitude and we reached the town of Ellicott about 4pm with big storm clouds coming in from the northwest. Ellicott was great, we hit the local bar and discussed politics with Dan the propane man and Pat the AC and heating man, and then were lucky enough to be invited back to Pat’s place to drink a few beers and watch Larry King interview the remaining Beatles and Yoko and, er, George’s wife. it was all good, and Pat’s stories were also well worth the trip (I’m gutted I didn’t get to play him at pool – he was on a team in the late 80s that won national championships. hadn’t picked up a cue since he said…).

Wednesday 27th June. 18 miles. Overcast, then hot and sweaty.

Pat’s wife Cyndi and daughter Jessica made us a fine breakfast and we were on the road by 9am. Dave found an old school hip hop station on the radio and it was all good. our enthusiasm ran out some time later though and the journey towards Colorado Springs was slow. it was good to see the mountains coming nearer though, and the acts of generosity from Ernie (good fella from the Ellicott bar, dropped us off some lunch) and Janine (she turned up again, this time bearing home made muffins) made things easier. we reached the edge of the Springs just before a huge storm hit, rang Dick and waited out our time in a gas station reading the local newspaper (best story: a school had won a dispute over freedom of speech in a 2002 case where a student had unfurled a banner reading “Bong hits for Jesus” just as the Olympic torch went by his school. quite an image). once Dick arrived all was golden: nearly 200 miles in ten days, a massive dash across eastern Colorado and the end of all the damned flat. now we are in the mountains, we are ready for different air and different muscle use and, best of all, we are not going walking for at least three or four days.

Stuart                                   Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

We are her

Added: 27-6-2007

we live. we have taken on the 94 and whupped it. nothing but plains and the odd cow, but we made it. this is a quick one from a propane shop in the small town of Ellicott, some 20 miles or so from Colorado Springs (where we’ve just been informed is the smallest bar in the world. fact). more soon once we get to a motel but for now all we can say is – nearly 200 miles in 9 days. frightening innit?

Stuart                               Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

A long way to nowhere

Added: 22-6-2007

Kansas is not even remotely remote compared to Eastern Colorado. The soil here is too sandy to make good arable land so mostly it is left as native shortgrass and sage and used for pasture on huge ranches covering thousands of acres. The names on the map that we assumed planning the route would be small towns sometimes don’t even have a house.

There is a joke here we have heard many times along the way that the state tree of Kansas is the telegraph pole. That is a bit harsh on Kansas, it is not harsh, however, for East Colorado.

Yesterday, for the last 11 miles of highway there was no shade to be found, nothing, not a single tree or building. The sun was blazing and it was literally too hot to sit on the asphalt. We had to sit on our packs rather than use them as backrests as is usual when we are slumped by the side of the road. The only saving grace is the wind which blows pretty much constantly up from the southwest, nothing on the flat, featureless plains to halt its flow. Sitting down lower to the road though, even that drops off and resting is not at all comfortable.

The temperature reached 98F and the heat is forecast to continue through the weekend. It was by far the hardest day yet this year. We covered 20 miles in just over 7 hours simply because there was really nowhere to rest along the highway.

The last 4 or 5 miles yesterday were agony. My feet throbbed. Harvesting crews came past in semis hauling huge combines, off to cut wheat. The tar on the long straight road was melted and sticky underfoot, sweat dripped off my sunglasses. We quit waving to the passing traffic; our only job was to put one foot in front of the other and get there.

Finally we saw the sign for Eads, elevation 4213ft – higher than anywhere in England and flat as a pool table. When I arrived at the gas station, the first place in town to get a drink, Stuart was sat in a booth looking like he had just come from a war, an empty litre bottle of Gatorade in front of him. I just nodded in silent agreement to an unspoken profanity, grabbed myself a drink and collapsed down on the seat opposite. When we left the gas station the contrast between the air conditioned interior and the furnace outside made us realize how hot it really was.

Today will be our third day in Colorado. We are about to head out into what will be by far the most remote stretch of the trip so far.

Once we leave Kit Carson, 20 miles north of Eads from whose library I write this, we will not pass another town for 74 miles along Highway 94. We will see only a handful of ranches. For a 32 mile stretch we will not pass a house on the road. We have been repeatedly warned off this route for the last hundred miles or so and the guys we met in the bar last night were no different.

“94? Man, that’s a long way to nowhere.”

We have the route planned out though. We have spoken to the sheriff who will be keeping an eye out for us, we have people dropping water out to us on the most remote section and, if all else fails, we know that we can get water from the windmills that pump from wells to cattle troughs on the ranches. We will need plenty of water. I got through a gallon on the road yesterday and was incredibly thirsty when we arrived.

We have set ourselves up for the coming few days in true walkingthestates style with a 4-hour sleep. We left the bar at about 1am with an agreement to meet a rancher at 5.30 to get and watch the cowboys round up the cattle. He never showed up. Frustratingly we had to wait until the library opened at 8am to do our internet chores before we can set off.

It is hot already.

I am exhausted already.

Dave                                   Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Added: 22-6-2007

oh man. we’ve just walked 20 miles from Brandon to Eads and I’m extremely knackered. temperatures of around 95 we reckon, unbelievably bright sun and so many flies swarming around my legs I felt like an At-At surrounded by snow speeders (I’ve been working on that similie all afternoon)…

the weather’s been the same for the last three days really, certainly since we left Tribune on Tuesday afternoon. from there we headed west towards the state line and ended up spending the night at Mike and Rhonda Mortitz’s farm – fine people who gave us beds, showers and even let us sit in on a family dinner. we even got the chance to get an hour’s slackpacking in on Tuesday evening – an opportunity we embraced so speedily that our four miles in an hour has left me with a nightmare blister on the bottom of my right foot. will we ever learn…

from the Moritz’s place we continued, where else, west and by the end of yesterday had reached the extremely isoloated town of Barton. Barton was oddly familiar, in that it was once a bustling town with a bank, hotel, stores etc. and now it was just a shell of a town, home to some 30 people and with – I kid you not – tumbleweed blowing across the few remaining streets. we’ve seen evidence of crumbling towns all across the midwest and more than once we’ve wondered how things keep going across this part of the country (and in places in West Virginia and southern Ohio too, mind). the farms are vast but require little manpower to work them (Mike Moritz farms 5000 acres and he will use 5 or 6 people to get the wheat harvest in during the next couple of weeks) and the towns seem to be supporting dwndling populations with fewer and fewer young people. there are some exceptions – the Mortiz’s son-in-law Shannon and his wife Wendy just returned from Seattle to Tribune because Shannon can do his IT job from home – but generally I get the feeling that we are walking through a part of the country that is clinging on for its very existence in some ways.

regardless of this, the people have all been great – as in  Kansas, so now in Colorado. last night in Brandon we were saved by Kathy Schapp (I think that’s it, apologies Kathy!) who let us camp on her lawn and gave us water, pepsi and shower facilities. we even got breakfast this morning, and a brief history of the town. good to know that hospitality is alive and well in Colorado…

…especially as we now really move out into the wilderness. tomorrow we head north to Kit Carson, our last look at civilisation (ish) before a dash down the isolated 94 and on to Colorado Springs. we’re way off the ADT (sorry Dick!) and we know it, but we’re looking forward to the total isolation offered by, er, miles and miles of pasture containing cows. we like the cows – they know the score.

so that’s all for now. today has been brought to you by a horrifically hot sun and the letter 45 – the number of miles we’ve done in two days.

oh, and during this morning’s first break a fly flew into Dave’s ear. I am not sure if it ever came out.

Stuart                                 Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Where the streets are filled with FM country...

Added: 19-6-2007

so I guess this is our last entry from Kansas…we’re in the very small town of Tribune, some 16 miles from the Colorado border on the 96. we got here about an hour ago after a swift pre-breakfast 9 miles in some fog, and now we sit content in front of computers in the nice little library on the main street. Tribune is one of a small band of quite strange American towns, strange in that there is no-one wandering around outside and yet there is country music being pumped into the street through lampost-mounted speakers. this gives a very weird feeling while walking through town…

not that much has happened since I last wrote. we said goodbye to Martin after a great few days with an extra walker, and then we set off in the heat out of Leoti. we had return visits from George, the very kind gentleman who gave us a lift from Garden City to Dodge City last Friday (George drives all over Kansas for his job – his car has nearly 600,000 miles on it. seriously.) and the nice waitress at yesterday morning’s restaurant who had given Martin a lift up to his Greyhound connection. we also met the mother of Billie (from just outside of Great Bend) which was another nice link up. people just stopping, chatting with us out the car window, all very pleasant…

we are continuing to meet a lot of coast-to-coast bikers, the best of whom may well be Jason George who last night provided us with some Jameson’s whisky after learning of our ridiculous quest to cross the continent on foot. this was much appreciated, and went into toasting John Peel as the sun went down last night. very pleasant.

at this point, a word on our money-raising exploits. as some of you reading this hopefully know, we are raising money for the Association for International Cancer Research on account of me developing testicular cancer last year (as I am currently ‘well’, albeit only six months past my operation I have no idea how to refer to myself…’I have cancer’? nope. ‘In remission’? not really. ‘Survivor’? not yet. you tell me…). the good people of Kansas have been very good, and we’re off to a start of almost $200 courtesy of personal donations in this state alone, plus some more from good people elsewhere. in total we’re getting on for about $500 at this point. anyway, it seems that it is not that apparent how to donate to our cause online and therefore I would direct anyone interested in contributing to the best international cancer research charity to click HERE. there is more information on the ‘Sponsors and Sponsorship‘ page of our website too, although we will soon be changing the name of this page because we think it’s confusing a few people…

so next, Colorado. as I mentioned yesterday we are apparently heading out into the middle of absolutely nowhere over the next week or so. woo. hoo. as if western Kansas wasn’t enough…anyway, we’re looking forward to a new state, and even more looking forward to Colorado Springs the weekend after next. kicking back, shops, bars, people! so there we are. thank you Kansas, it’s been very nice. now we go over the border and see the people of the next state. more soon…

Stuart                              Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

From Leoti

Added: 18-6-2007

so, where are we….fresh from a weekend in Dodge City (where Dave appears to have offended Jennifer, one of our gracious guides – we did have a good time! the music wasn’t that bad either, just don’t think Dave is a hip hop kinda guy, think he needs more twang in his tunes if you see what I mean (Martin and I enjoyed the dancing, and the winding and grinding. I would like to go on record that there is nothing wrong with a little bit of bump and grind). I think he secretly lusts after some boot-scootin’ line dancin…therefore: Friday night was a fine laugh, especially our trip out to the middle of nowhere to play loud tunes and scare the cows. Jennifer, come back to us!!!) we are now in the small town of Leoti (‘A Great Place on the Great Plains!’) about 30-odd miles from the Colorado border. we have new shoes (a pair of white Elvis trainers for Dave, some sparkly black/silver/yellow running shoe combo for me), new books (the Cormac McCarthy is finished, very good, time now for some darkness courtesy of Chuck Palahniuk), supplies (suntan lotion, much needed) and a full compliment of medical tests. many thanks to the good folks at the Great Western Plains Medical Complex for dealing with my surprising appearance on Saturday morning. news on the results as I get them…

we left Dodge on Saturday afternoon courtesy of a hitching sign marked ‘The Heck Outta Dodge’ and a lift from the marvellous Maria Cassanova. at Garden City we got picked up by Lori Pollock and shown a great time – we drove straight past Scott City to Healy and she surprised her husband, Warren, with a present of three stinking hikers. Warren, good man that he is, took the whole thing in his stride and before long we were grilling in the back garden, listening to an impromtu live concert from daughter Melissa in the back garden (all sorts of music, Christian, Country, even a bit of  ‘Stand By Your Man’) and generally shooting the breeze of the state of America under the stars. later we added neighbour Jason into the mix and kicked back with some cans of Keystone Light into the early hours.

Lori took us back to Scott City yesterday morning and we moved out of town about 11am. hot again, but the breeze was fresh and constant and the whole day was pretty pleasant. we did about 17 miles in all, Martin keeping up just fine, and by the time we reached a rest area about 6.30pm we were just ready to sit. and sit some more.

now we’ve reached an important stage of the walk. Martin leaves us today to head back to Denver, then Chicago, then Denmark, and Dave and I will progress to the state border as quickly as we can. trouble is, things (i.e. places to buy stuff, get water, speak to humans etc.) are getting further and further apart out here, and we’re gonna have some logistical issues to face – 21 miles to the next town (no probs), 32 to the one after that (no probs), then about 50-odd to the next. then a 20, then about 74. hmmm. of course, this is what happens when you leave the ADT and try to go quicker…still, we’re up for some help. anyone in the area reading this with a cart? we figure we can load up our required supplies in a cart and push it, like hobos. as we are very well-qualified for this look we need a cart asap. anyone?

supply issues aside there are other developments. first, my phone is dead. completely caput. apparently it didn’t like being submerged in water. likewise my iPod, which is annoying and will require some jiggerypokery to get a replacement sorted (Dom, email coming your way soon). remarkably, my $40 MP3 player from Wal-Mart is still working. odd. anyway, anyone trying to phone or text me is outta luck (not that I could get it here anyway). fitness wise we are in good shape due to new shoes and my shin problems seem like a thing of the past (if it was shin splints/compartment syndrome then I think I got lucky and got a very mild case). tan wise, we’re still hot even if we couldn’t find short shorts in Dodge. spiritually, we are trying, spirits-wise, we are high. all is good.

anyway, that’s it for now. not sure when we’re online next, maybe tomorrow. keep all contacts coming, big hellos to Dale and Billie – was great to see you again yesterday!!

Stuart                                  Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Getting the Hell Out of Dodge

Added: 16-6-2007

Dodge smells. I don’t want to be unkind, it just does.

Stu is off at the hospital getting his tests so I am on journal duty. What better way to start off than offending an entire town?\

There are over a million cattle within a 100 mile radius of Dodge City. Much of the grain that we have seen growing across Kansas and stored in the huge elevators which dominate every West Kansas town ends up in the Dodge area. It is more cost effective to bring cattle to the massive feed lots around Dodge than to graze them on pasture land. Here they are fattened for slaughter. We drove past several yesterday and they really are an incredible size. Cattle are lined up in a maze of metal fencing, like tourists queueing for a ride at an amusement park, heads stuck through the railings into troughs full of hay, corn and other grains. These cattle feeds stink and, although they are many miles from downtown Dodge when the wind blows from the right (or wrong) direction, the stench comes in with it.

Yesterday we hitched the 90 miles from Scott City to Dodge, to take a break from walking, replace our worn-out shoes and sample some Wild West nightlife. It was tougher to hitch than we expected. Previously in rural areas we have found it easy to hitch when needed and we end up having to fend off rides much of the time. Hitching through Garden City, though, was a different proposition. Garden city is by far the biggest city in the area and we waited in the heat of the afternoon sun for nearly 2 hours yesterday to get a ride to Dodge. In an attempt to make it easier to get rides, we were split into 2 parties, Stu hitched with Martin and I went out on a solo effort. I finally got picked up just as I was about to give up and my ride, George, very kindly offered to drive back and pick up the others. It was noticable driving through Garden City and Dodge City how the population had changed there were a lot more faces of different colours and it was distinctly a more Hispanic area than any we had been through to date on our trip.

When we arrived in Dodge we were predictably disappointed. The name is hugely evocative, the reality is the same street (only this time called Wyatt Earp Avenue) that we had walked down time and time again with endless chain motels, fast food restaurants and car dealerships. So we checked into a chain motel, got some fast food and set off to find the Wild West.

Boot Hill is a purpose built museum that is a reconstruction of what a street in Dodge may have looked like 150 years ago if you squint, ignore the hundreds of tourists brandishing cameras and have limited peripheral vision (otherwise the magic is spoiled by the unauthentic presence of Applebees, the Doc Holliday Liqour Store and a vaguely Wild West-themed Sonic drive-thru.) We decided against paying the cover charge to get in and instead watched the underwhelming shoot-out reinactment  like cattle through the railings. The buildings on Boot Hill are set back about 30 yards from the road, it really is a tremendously poor effort.

Rather dejected we set out to walk the 4 mile round trip from the downtown area to the stores on the edge of town where we could get what we needed. On the way our luck began to change and we ran into Jennifer who, on hearing of our situation,  immediately offered us a lift to a bar. From here things started looking up. Although the bar, the Central Station, did not have saloon doors, a player piano and there was not a single chair or person thrown threw the window, it met our basic needs perfectly and we settled down with our barman who was fresh out of barman school and eager for us to sample his cocktails.

From there we drove with our hosts Jennifer and Nicki out into the middle of nowhere where we could witness Nicki’s car’s cow-destroying bass. Next stop was the Latino Disco for hip-hop night. The music was a disappointment and the most perturbing thing was the fact that it was linked to a huge screen playing videos of all the songs played. This is wrong. Very wrong. There was a lot of bumping and/or grinding but regretfully little of it involved the English or Danish contingent (How do you ask a lady of you can have the pleasure of the next grind?) There was also some terrifying boggling.

We still had a great time though. It is now Saturday afternoon, it is hot and we are about to return to the road to hitch back to Scott City. Thats all I’ve got time for.

Wish us luck with our thumbs.

Dave                                  Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

The things I lost in the flood

Added: 15-6-2007

Thursday evening, a motel in Scott City. strong walking today, along a dead straight road west out of last night’s stopover, Dighton. when I last wrote we were in the library in downtown Dighton – following that we went and freaked out the cashiers at the supermarket by blundering round the aisles with backpacks and then we grabbed some lunch at the local bar courtesy of a distinctly underwhelmed waitress.

at that point things were looking good. we were supplied, full of good burger and we’d already walked 16 miles. the plan was to walk another hour and a half out of town and then find somewhere to camp. what actually transpired was that we walked about a half mile from the bar and then were confronted with the most incredible storm clouds I’d ever seen – huge and rolling and with a nasty green tint in them (I’m told this means that hail is likely to be forthcoming). walking on was a foolish idea so we pitched our tents on the grounds of the nearby State Transport Department building. the wind was getting up and it was all a bit Wizard of Oz momentarily. I half expected to see a twister come round the corner with Hollywood stunt cows flying out of it.

cut to about half an hour later and the three of us (remember we now have Martin with us) were relaxing, as best possible, in a small alcove near the transport building catching up and enjoying a relaxing cup of red wine as the storm raged all around. at first it seemed that the storm was simply big and impressive, but then it got really gnarlydude and suddenly my tent was blowing everywhere and it was all Not Good. in fact, it was very bad, and when I went over to sort the tent out the true horror of things was revealed. we learned this morning that in the hour or so we stood watching the storm nearly two inches of rain fell – the heaviest rain Dighton had experienced in 5 years. most of this rain seemed to end up in my tent – I was flooded. badly.

soooo….the moral of the story is the following: don’t drink red wine in the alcove of a transport building while a large storm breaks around you without first ensuring that everything you own is sealed, double-bagged and, preferably, nowhere near a tent about to be breached by floodwater. 80% of  my stuff was soaked – clothes, books, iPod, backup MP3 player, phone (darn thing don’t work anyway), sleeping mats, wallet, rucksack…a complete nightmare.

luckily for me (the other guys were on slightly higher ground – literally only a foot or so higher but enough to ensure flooding was not as serious. most of their stuff was dry) help was at hand in the form of Curtis, an employee of the transport department who we met while setting up, and his church, the Bible Fellowship Church of Dighton. Curtis picked us up when the storm finished and we ended up spending the night in the church building with all of my things individually laid out on the floor (down to individual bank notes) drying out as best they could. two hours after I looked in my tent and saw everything floating we were inside, warm, dry and eating delicious left over scallop potatoes from the evening’s church meeting. huge thanks to all the people in the parish.

so that was that. or so I thought. Curtis picked us up at the church at 6.30 this morning and took us back to the transport depot. there we hung with the guys and drank coffee and swapped storm stories, before hitting the road at 7.20. at 7.25 I was back at the depot – the frame on my rucksack had snapped. luckily for me (again) I had the genius of the transport guys to fall back on and within minutes of seeing my dilemma there were seven people crowding round my back and fitting replacement bits to it to ensure that the snap could be neutralised. very much happier, although wondering what would happen next, I got back on the road again at 7.50am.

three hours later my left shoelace completely snapped, and my shoes are now beyond repair. they’ve done well, all of Missouri and most of Kansas but with the flooding and the rucksack and the shoes…it’s been an interesting 24 hours.

anyway, to stop writing this very long entry now the rest of the day involved lots of walking, avoidance of more rain, Martin getting his first blister, various stops to meet cross country cyclists (including 68 year old Merle who is a true star), state troopers and county cops, massive appetite and now, finally, the Lazy R motel in Scott City. it is good to be out of the rain.

Stuart                                Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

QE School Reunion

Added: 13-6-2007

this one from Lane County Library in Dighton, western KS…we’ve made it here after a very pleasant morning motoring along the 96 from just outside Beeler. yesterday we made about 16 miles from Ness City after doing laundry and resupplying for the coming days (chocolate, more chocoloate, a most unappealing looking Philly Steak sandwich that had a list of additives as long as your arm, nachos, trail snacks. all good, healthy, food).

as I mentioned in the last entry, we’re in real Kansas now. this theme continued on yesterday’s walking as we just headed straight west past flat fields of wheat and the occasional grain elevator. the houses are becomming further and further apart out here, and there is plenty of time to zone out and just walk, 3mph for two hours at a time. Dave is normally ahead of me; we meet every now and again for a break and a chat. normally about fields and roads.

so anyway, this morning was a little different because we got up early at our campsite (an historic monument to George Washington Carver – an African-American scientist from the 19th century who invented over 150 uses for the humble peanut) and were on the road by 7.30. I’d fallen asleep before dark last night, meaning I got in a powerful ten hours of kip (nice). we’d gone about five miles before we met two cyclists from Hamburg, Klaus and Wali. I know few places in Germany but I do know that some of the best people are from Hamburg so this was a pleasant diversion. as I previously mentioned, the 96 is on the TransAmerica cycling route and therefore it wasn’t a surprise that a few moments after we met the Germans we ran into some more cyclists, this time from England and Holland. more surprising, however, was the fact that the fella (David Wilks) was from Faversham in Kent, and had actually attended the same school as I did (Queen Elizabeth’s). ‘Tis indeed a small world and while he was about ten years ahead of me we passed several pleasant moments recalling teachers we both shared (Mr Poultney! Mrs Geldard! Mr Cole!). a strange occurence indeed, and one to treasure alongside the man we met the other day on a horse who had eaten Shepherd’s Pie at the pub opposite the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury.

after a bit of reminiscing we waved David and his girlfriend Elspeth on their way and then resumed walking. shortly after that our visitor, Martin, arrived in a vehicle driven by that scourge of many/most/some (delete as per political persuasion) Americans – the Hispanic illegal immigrant. it’s great to have Martin with us as we now have someone new to talk to (our jokes to each other are getting a little stale, especially as Hu being the president of China is now very old news) and now we’re all gearing up for some good miles further west for the week he’s with us. tomorrow evening we should get to Scott City – after that we’ll hitch south-east to hit up Dodge City for new shoes, reading material (I finished my Neal Stephenson book and started the latest Cormac McCarthy last night. after one session I’ve almost finished it – s’very good. incidentally I’m reading this, my, er, second recommended by Oprah’s Book Club (apparently they’re on War and Peace at the book club at the moment – whoa) because it was the only half-decent thing I could find at Wal-Mart in Great Bend. Unless you like romance and/or inspiration, perhaps give Wal-Mart’s books a miss. Oh, they also had a big horror section, make of that what you will) and the long-anticipated short shorts. to go with my (much commented on) vest/sleeve tan lines I have decided to add a new look courtesy of 1908s football shorts. if I can find them. please keep your fingers crossed.

so that’s about it.

Stuart                                Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Will the real Kansas please step forward...

Added: 12-6-2007

We are here. Kansas. Or at least the Kansas I had in my mind before I got here. It’s taken us two thirds of the state to get to this point, through country where things were a lot greener and hillier than expected, but now we’re here and the flatness begins.

Imagine a flat table with an unironed green and yellow patchwork tablecloth on it. that’s basically it, there are lumps and bumps here and there but the roads are straight, it’s all like a grid and we can see for miles in every direction. this change in environment has come about in the last couple of days or so, after we left Great Bend and headed west on the 96. I last wrote from the kitchen of Dale and Billie (suppliers of a great breakfast) and since then we have moved on quite a bit. Dale was kind enough to run our bags up the road a good 15 miles or so on Saturday, and so we had little trouble making our destination of Rush Center that night. Saturday supplied the weather template for yesterday and today (and for tomorrow too, apparently) – hot in the high 80s and 90s and little wind. there is humidity, and consequently we are sweating and are steadily getting funkier.

Rush Center gave us half a Saturday night out, in that there was a bar but we were almost too tired to make the most of it. while we were there though we did some good local-meeting (thanks to everyone who came over and braved the smell to say hello), ate some Bull’s Testicles (AKA Mountain Oysters. they were quite flat, very chewy and the all round verdict was that they tasted like chicken (aren’t all strange meats supposed to taste like chicken?!)), played some pool and chatted for quite a while with John, a born-again Christian and a nice fella who had some interesting stories about being a harvester (in the literal, working in the fields sort of sense). once again we were fascinated by the willingness of Americans to talk about religion to complete strangers – I can’t remember the last time this happened to me in England…

Saturday night we camped in a park and got up early to hit the gas station for sandwiches. we were misled however, it wasn’t open and the only option was to hitch four miles north to La Crosse and pick up some food there. we were on a tight time schedule when we got there though, and were sadly unable to visit the barbed wire museum (La Crosse styles itself the ‘Barbed Wire Capital of the World‘) or the Post-Rock museum (now I will never know if this was a museum curated by various members of Tortoise and Godspeed You! Black Emperor).

yesterday we were kinda lame on the road due to the heat and only made 13 miles to a rest area at Alexander. there we slept and availed ourselves of top-notch restroom facilities. this morning when we got up we discovered 100s of cyclists going past – our new route, the 96, is apparently the cross-country cyclists road of choice and in fact we met another guy on Friday night, Steve Fultz (or Fults AKA Grandpa’s Gone Mad – he’s got a website but we can’t find his card. first person to send us the URL wins!) who was also en route east to west on the 96. anyway, this morning passed in a pleasant blur of ‘Hello!’s, ‘How ya doin?!’s, ‘Delware’s, ‘San Francisco’s and ‘I don’t have a bike, I’m on foot’s. about 800 cyclists man, that’s a lot of waving and greeting on our part…

so here we are now in a crazy motel (indoor pool in the middle of a Jeremy Bentham-like prison layout, the only window in our room opens on the interior courtyard) getting clean and watching Seinfeld on the TV. we’re in Ness City and shortly before we came in the motel we ran into a real-life baseball scout who used to play for the LA Dodgers, Mitch Webster. Of all the places to get a scouting beat, this dude got the mid-West and spends a lot of his time in flat places. Nice fella though, we chatted to him while eating ice cream and even got a cheesy snap of us with a proper ex-major leaguer. we are so easily excited.

so that just about brings me up to date. I’ve spent most of the day trying to avoid finding out the ending to The Sopranos (NPR had a feature on it this morning, and all TVs I come into contact with seem to have information about it on the ticker bar – nightmare) and rejoicing that my shins seem to be doing well.19 miles today, all good. tomorrow we head further west and await the arrival of this year’s first Special Guest Star – the one and only Martin Steiner of Denmark, fresh from hanging out at the back of rich kids’ classrooms in posh Chicago schools (quite why he was doing this, we are eager to find out). Martin, good luck finding us on the 96….

Stuart                                        Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Post-Big Breakfast

Added: 9-6-2007 1

currently in the throes of more amazing hospitality…quick entry this, coming from a computer in the farmhouse of Dale and Billie somewhere west of Great Bend…Dave and I left the motel yesterday lunchtime, got haircuts, did the Wal-Mart thing and then headed out of town to the northwest. we’re leaving the ADT for a bit in order to cover some ground before my medical tests in about a week or so (ADT people take note – we will still be going to Dodge City, not going to miss that)…so yesterday (apart from trying to keep up with the Paris Hilton situation – these are difficult times for celebrity heiresses) we walked about 10 miles in the afternoon in very hot temperatures on a very nice day, heading out of town on the 96. about 6pm we stopped to camp on what we thought were the fields of a very nice guy called Gerald (cheers for the donation sir, and for the water too). all was good, save for the mosquitoes (they are out in force this year, Kansas has had an odd spring, there is loads of ground water around at the mozzies are pissed). later in the evening we got a visit from Dale, the real owner of the land we were on. Dale had seen straight through to our modus operandi and brought us a beer for our dinner (and then turned back up with another one two hours later!). he’s also responsible for me writing this journal now – after a good night’s sleep we were woken about an hour and a half ago (6am!) and taken to Dale and Billie’s house for a massive breakfast and plenty of coffee. all is good and Kansas hospitality is alive and well…

today we head off for a night out in Rush Center. can’t wait…

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32 short films about walking across Kansas

Added: 8-6-2007 0

SCENE: Sitting in a Best Western motel room in Great Bend, Dave lying on a bed watching Ben Affleck on NBC talk about the Democratic Presidential candidates, especially Barak Obama. The air con is on, luggage is everywhere. I sit at the small table with one leg up on the chair opposite. Balanced on my right shin is my hat, which is filled with ice. I am typing the words “Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. My shinjury seems to be getting better; indeed, we have walked 18 miles today from Silica.”

SCENE: Dave and I walking along a due west back road on the way into Great Bend, parallel to the the 56. Clear blue skies, 80-85 degrees. We each walk swinging a plastic bag which contains just a few items such as rain jacket, wallet, trail snacks. In the fields there is corn, and every so often there is an operating oil derrick, dipping up and down regularly.

SCENE: Dave and I in a gas station in Ellinwood, deflated after discovering the only restaurant in town doesn’t do breakfast. Three kids come in, one on crutches. The gas station owner, from Afghanistan, jokingly asks one of the kids what happened, if his girlfriend attacked him. “Yeah, your wife’s tough man” replies the kid, all of 16. Gas station owner replies “My wife? You like the older ladies? You can’t get a girlfriend your own age? Or are you like your dad, and have to import a wife from Africa? Eh?” The kid is speechless, his friends ragging on him. They all leave the gas station, in separate cars.

SCENE: Walking to Ellinwood. 5 mosquitoes, feasting on my right calf.

SCENE: 6am, Dave and I are woken up in the trailer by Richard with a can of Mountain Dew. We pack our bags and make our ablutions. I am irritable because I was unable to stretch out my leg all night on account of me being too long for the bed.

SCENE: 4.30am. Lying on my back on the trailer bed I can tell that the high winds have suddenly ceased, as if someone has simply switched them off.

SCENE: 11.30pm. Dave and I in the small front part of the horse trailer, the part used for human habitation. Me writing my journal by headtorchlight, and Dave sorting through the day’s picture on the laptop. My iPod plays the Midlake album through some crappy speakers, and we both sing along to snatches of each song because we love all the tunes. My right leg is balanced on a small pressure cooker and on my right shin is a bag of ice. The trailer is rocking in extremely high winds.

SCENE: Upon hearing of our earlier slackpacking, Richard offers to run our bags into Great Bend in the morning where we can pick them up at a friend’s business. We are once more overcome with gratitude.

SCENE: In a small living room in a house, after dinner. Dave and I are sat on a couch with Anne. Richard and Tracy are on two other armchairs, and Travis sits opposite us on another chair. We are all intently watching Eddie Murphy’s latest film, Norbit. Outside the wind is howling.

SCENE: Bright sunshine, high winds. Dave sitting on the back of a Watusi bull, whoopin’ and a hollerin’. Richard is solemnly holding the reins.

SCENE: We are upgraded from the horse section of the trailer to the bit with a small bathroom, table, bed, bunk bed and a sink.

SCENE: Dave and I in the back of a horse trailer, where the horses travel when on the road. “It’s perfect!”, we declare.

SCENE: Dave and I arrive at a farmhouse near the crossroads in Silica, and are met at the door by Anne who is the mother of the farmer Richard. We are joined by her Grandson Travis, who is wearing overalls from a local garage in Lyons with his name across the breast pocket, her son Richard and daughter-in-law Tracy. Richard and Tracy have returned from rescuing an escaped calf from a pasture down the road. We explain our need for an evening campsite and within moments Richard, a considered man, kindly offers us the back of his family trailer, usually used for family holidays that require horses, on the grounds that the high winds are expected to get worse before they get better.

SCENE: Dave and I stumbling down the 56, in bright early evening sunshine, buffeted by 50-60mph winds coming from the south. We both lean ourselves and our packs into the wind to prevent us being blown into oncoming traffic.

SCENE: We are walking south out of Chase, back to the 56. High winds are throwing gravel straight in our faces. A man on a disability vehicle drives right past us, wearing a bright Hawaiian shirt. “Picked a bad day for a walk.” he says.

SCENE: Dave and I in a gas station in the one-horse town of Chase, 8 miles west of Lyons. We are sitting in a formica booth intently looking at the Kansas paper map, the ADT turn by turn guide, and the GPS unit. By the door are our rucksacks, delivered earlier on by Frank.

SCENE: I walk on the south side of the 56 into Chase, limping with a peculiar gait. I carry a yellow plastic bag with my most treasured possessions in. I can hardly stand up straight due to the high winds. Half a mile ahead of me, Dave is having the same problems, minus the stupid gait.

SCENE: The motel lobby, me talking to Maria and Frank, staff at the motel. Frank has just offered to drive our bags to Chase, to ease the pressure on my leg. Dave and I are extremely happy.

SCENE: Dave and I eating ham and cheese Subway sandwiches in the motel lobby. We keep spilling filling onto the table.

SCENE: 10.05am. Dark motel room, I tell Dave to get up.

SCENE: 8.00am. Dark motel room. Alarm goes off on my phone. I turn it off.

SCENE: 11.15pm. Dave and I watching the South Park episode that introduces Butters. I am still trying to get the Internet to work.

SCENE: Dave and I lying on separate beds in a motel room watching The Daily Show eating unidentifiable Mexican fast food, surrounded by plastic bags, a few beer cans, a bottle of wine and various items of luggage and clothing. My right leg is raised on a pillow and on my shin is balanced my hat, which is full of ice.

SCENE: The lady at reception, warming to our play, says “Yes, we can do that. Yes, we do have Internet. And we also have ice.”. We are secretly ecstatic.

SCENE: The Lyons Motel lobby. Using our best persuasiveness Dave and I ask the receptionist if it there is any chance at all of a room tonight, on the grounds that I constitute a walking cripple, we have important emails to send, and the motel looks lovely.

SCENE: Dave returns from wandering the immediate area to tell me a) the motel is full due to the men constructing New Road and b) there are no likely places to camp in the near vicinity. My heart sinks.

SCENE: Baking hot sunshine, in the shade by the side of a Subway building. I am lying flat out with my head on my rucksack and my right shin covered with ice. Flies keep settling on me but I lack the energy to brush them off. My leg hurts.

SCENE: Main street in Lyons, road construction going on all around. Me, irritated at Dave due to my discomfort, testily asking where the Subway is. Dave, irritated at my irritation, saying we should just keep going down the road.

SCENE: The edge of town, on a country road. Me limping badly, unsteadily going downhill and then back up on the way into Lyons. The temperature has shot up into the high 80s and the sun makes my pitiful condition worse.

SCENE: Dave and I sitting by the side of the road, being interviewed by a local journalist. “So how long have you known each other?” she asks. “I have never seen this man before in my life.” I reply. “He just keeps following me.”

SCENE: Country road, on the way into Lyons. On the field to my left there are harvesters at work, large agricultural vehicles which are driving parallel to each other, one sucking up grass and shooting it into the container on the back of the other. A man crosses my path on the way to his vehicle on the other side of the road. “What, she’s run out of things to say?” he says, gesturing behind me to Dave, some 25 metres back who is wearing his rucksack without a top on, making him look like some sort of hairy chested hiker extra out of Mad Max. I am confused by this reference to Dave in the feminine, but reply “She’s never had anything interesting to say anyway.” The man looks at me like we have both known sorrow in our lives.

SCENE:  9.30am. Dave and I leaving the house of Stan and Marie-Ann Miller, turning round to wave at them and thank them for their hospitality. It is slightly chilly, and a little overcast – but this will obviously change very soon. My right ankle is strapped, and already my shin is confused that we will be having to do things all over again.

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Who Crocked Stu?

Added: 5-6-2007 2

Dave reporting.

A very quick one for you. I have left Stuart seeking refuge in the shade of a Subway restaurant. He has a Subway bag of Subway-provided ice clamped to his right shin and he is not on top walking form. We have done about 10 miles this morning but Stu has been carrying a more and more pronounced limp. I am hoping that by the time I get back to him he will be cured but my head tells me we are going to have to consider amputation, roller skates or a younger and less hairy model (ladies get your applications in.)

Seriously, he’s not in a good way and having had my own troubles with a shin injury last year I know how painful it can be. We will be taking our time in getting to Great Bend and will hopefully be checking in later in the week with some good news on that front.

On the plus side, I feel great.

I have just put on the pictures from the weekend’s trip to Strong City which was a fantastic time. Big ‘hello’ from us to everyone we met and a redoubled ‘thankyou’ to Scott and Justin for all their hospitality.

Dave                                Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

23 miles from McPherson

Added: 5-6-2007 0

a somewhat shorter entry from the marvellous house of Stan and Marie-Ann Miller, some 23 miles or so west of McPherson. Dave and I are here staying the night by a sweet chain of co-incidences – this time the result of walking past a kind gentleman named Randall’s house earlier in the day. Randall and his wife Betsy gave us drink, fruit and an introduction to Stan and Marie-Ann, calling them to let them know we’d be along in need of a place to stay tonight. remarkably, exactly the same thing happened last year when Jacob and Tamar, our Canadian walking counterparts, passed this exact same way.

so here we sit with a can of Milkwaukee’s Be(a)st after a fine dinner of toritllas. good company, good chat. 23 miles done today, it’s been a remarkably easy distance to cover considering 2 things: 1) we only set off at 11am from McPherson after one of our Strong City hosts, Justin, took us back to the trail and grabbed breakfast with us on his way to pick up a horse in Colorado and 2) some darned nasty shin pain on my right hand leg – thought the weekend had got rid of this niggle but now it’s come back for more. still, some ice this evening has calmed the pain for now.

today therefore has just been a heads down walk on a very long back road parallell to the 56. it’s been dusty, hot, and at one point there was an Attack Of The Ticks. nasty. but we made it through with the help of some terrible gas station sandwiches and, in my case, a pack of Haribo Gummi Bears. reminded me of Denmark.

tomorrow we move on to Lyons but for now we’re still basking in the luxury of yet another night indoors in a wonderful house. it’s right good, this walking across America…

PS: Strong City, we love you. Scott, Justin, Dangerous Dave, Doug at the flower store, Carl, Karin, Wendy, all the rodeo girls and the musician fellas, Ryan, Tiffany – too many good people. thanks to y’all for a great weekend…

Stuart                                Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

On the rodeo...

Added: 3-6-2007 2

quite a weekend in Strong City. we hit town Friday evening after an industrial cleaning session at Scott and Justin’s house. clothes smelt fresh, feet were repaired and all was good. Strong City is a very small place, with a population of approximately 600, but it does support two bars and has been hosting a rodeo for 70 years. every year at this time hundreds of people descend on the town to watch three nights of rodeo and a Saturday afternoon parade. this year this number included us.

where to start…Friday was a big night for Scott and Justin’s bar as the place was rammed with people fresh from watching cowboys riding, roping and falling off horses into mud. there was live music courtesy of Pete and Russell, two guys we got to know pretty well, and dancing of the type not normally associated with English hikers. Dave and I did our best to twirl the girls around but I believe my efforts could be best described as Must Try Harder.

yesterday was the big day, and we prepared by sleeping late.Friday’s weather had been dodgy, but by the time we eventually made it the quarter of a mile to the bar the sun was out and the temperature climbing. there’s something extremely pleasant about being able to enjoy nice weather without walking 20 miles in it, so of course we spent most of the next two hours in the dark bar sorting out Internet stuff avoiding direct sunlight.

the parade came past the bar about 3pm and Dave and I took up positions with cameras. how to describe the parade…lots of riding clubs so obviously loads of horses were heading past, some of them clearly unhappy about crossing the town’s railway tracks but most of them carrying happy waving riders on their way up to the rodeo ground. we also got some nice displays of tractors of all sizes, a variety of quad bikes and ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles), and some cars which looked like they were caught up in the parade by mistake and were now performing the slowest exit from town ever. kids on floats threw sweets, kids on streets caught sweets and then everything finished as a train at least half a mile long moved slowly through the town and people went home to prepare for rodeo.

we, of course, went back to the bar and were treated to more afternoon music and a few games of pool. rodeo wasn’t until 8pm so we contented ourselves with beer and cinamon cake from the Mennonite bakery in Galva.

at 7.30pm it was time to go up to the fairground, grab a programme, hot dog and can of Bud Light, and take our seat in the stands in preparation for horse and cow-related entertainment. much denim was being worn, we felt bare without a hat and we really needed a belt buckle. the atmosphere was good, our hosts (and sometime rodeo-experts – depending on the discipline) were Jenna, Megan, Mandy and Kristen and we soon became confused as a succession of men on horseback rode after cattle that seemed to keep escaping. this, apparently, was not the way that rodeo should happen and soon the exhortations of the constantly chatting compere (Roger Mooney, nominated rodeo announcer of the year) roused the competitors from their failures and we began to see how this was done. we saw Steer Wrestling (man rides after steer at about 30mph, jumps onto the 600 pound beast and then wrestles it to the ground), Sadle Bronc (man tries to stay on the back of a bucking horse for 8 seconds while horse does its best to thrown him roughly to the ground. man must show style and good grace on the horse to get points), Tie Down Roping (man rides after running calf, lassoos calf and then jumps off his horse. the horse, a valued team member at this point, comes to a stop and leans back to tighten the rope and prevent the calf from getting away and the man runs to the calf and throws it on its side. then, with a flourish, he ties three of the calf’s legs together. after that he sits up and throws his hands up in a “Hey! Look what I did!”) Team Roping (One man on horse lassoos one end of a fleeing calf and another man on another horse lassoos the other end) and Barrel Racing (ladies on horses tear around the arena at great speed, rounding three barrels at the points of a triangle and then sprinting back to the start. fastest time wins). In between all of this we got some clowning about from the rodeo clowns (I can’t really descibe this, it was like a skit that confused English people) and a nice little event where some 40 kids are let in the arena to chase down some calves and remove ribbons from their tails. plenty of the kids around the rodeo were rocking the stetson, denim and belt buckle look, and you could tell that out here this cowboy style is really working.

the highlight of the rodeo, however, is the bull riding and I guess this is the event most Europeans might have heard of. man sits on bull in box, box is opened the bull goes loony around the arena trying  to shed the man. it’s dangerous, insane and the crowd goes wild. most rides are over very quickly but they are invariably quite spectacular. most spectacular was the penultimate ride though, when all of rodeo came together in a crazy bucking bull, an unfortunate rider and a rather severe compound fracture of a right leg. fair play to the fella though, even after the bull had stomped on him, hit him in the head with its horns and generally made it clear that it would rather not be ridden by a human, our hero managed to limp about ten metres towards the safety of the side before collapsing in a heap on the ground.

all of these events took place against a backdrop of whooping crowd (we were doing our best), chatting compare (“He owns that calf! He’s gonna drop him like a bad habit!”) and snippets of music that ranged from country (appropriate) to Salt N’ Pepper’s ‘Push it’ (innocuous). we had a great time, and retired to the bar happy rodeo-ers, happy in the knowledge that out here men are men and they are roping cattle on our behalf. everything looked complex, dangerous, and when done properly, extremely impressive to two non-horsemen.

all there is to say after that is that we hit the bar and so did about 200 other people. the place was rammed, the music was rocking the joint and there was, briefly, the much-looked for dancing on tables. we took pictures, shot the video camera and beamed at everyone. at 2pm we repaired to the local truck stop in a riot of stetsons and cowboy boots and ate breakfast at about 3.30am. more power to the rodeo…

obviously there’ll be shots of all this up on the site soon. in the meantime Dave has begun to upload the first of the Kansas pics and you can check them out here. the whole weekend has been a blast and being back on the road tomorrow seems to have come round a little too soon..

Stuart                                 Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Right now, even longer grooves...

Added: 2-6-2007 2

where have we been, let’s see…last entry from Marion, and that must be Wednesday…well, we made it out of there after a quickfire interview with the local paper and lots of astonished looks from the folks at the local general store…we also discovered that we had been heard of as far south as Wichita, a place close to both of our hearts thanks to Glen Campbell. apparently someone picked up on our story and now we’re really making news across small areas of Kansas. our media machine rolls on…

Wednesday night was spent in Canada, yet another one of those US towns where the name ends up confusing everyone involved. I think there is also a Nebraska here in Kansas, and I swear there’s been an Iowa somewhere we’ve visited, maybe Illinois. I also note that somewhere to the north of Canada there was a Little Sweden – a shame we didn’t get to visit because I’m missing my herring, dried reindeer and blondes.

but yes, Canada. a very nice evening spent camping on the lawn of the local bait and tackle shop courtesy of its owners, Donna and Warren, there was beer, a table to write on and even a new Shrek-themed Snickers bar with green filling. this country thinks of everything. in the morning we cruised another five miles into Hillsboro for a superb breakfast on another superb morning (big blue skies, sun out, Kansas-style) and fair motored out west after that on the 56, making a good 12 miles along the road by 4pm. this took us to Canton, a small gas station, a restaurant for lunch complete with dentally-challenged staff, and a liquor store where we re-confirmed that in Kanasas it is not possible to buy soft drinks in the same place as vodka.

at this point yesterday we had walked 18.5 miles and were frankly footsore. our walking had been firm and efficient despite a number of stops (Local sheriff to us: “I take it you want to be doing this?” I considered telling him that Dave was forcing me to walk across America, and that he was a very bad man, but in the end we had to agree that, yes, we did indeed want to be on a small shoulder by the side of the 56 in high temperatures and little to no shade) but we really were knackered after the break in Canton. we walked out of town fully expecting to find somewhere to camp quickly but an hour later we were still walking as the sun was preparing to go down. no one was in – the houses we were trying were empty, leading us to guess that something big was happening elsewhere in McPherson County, and that cross-country walkers weren’t invited.

thankfully, for our spirits and our feet, a man named Randy stepped in at the last minute. Randy was a Mennonite farmer and his wife Roberta and children Crista and Cheyenne made us extremely welcome on their farm – at the same time as cheerfully pointing out that a severe weather warning was in place and how were our tents?

Kansas has been many things so far – flat, hilly, green, hot, hospitable – but one of the most interesting things is the diversity of religions that we’ve encountered so far. we had heard of Mennonite communities in Kansas but weren’t expecting to meet any, so it was a treat for us to find out a little more about what it means to be a member of the Mennonite church. Randy handed us a booklet to get a-learning, and we quized the family a little over iced tea and home-made cakes as the light slowly disappeared and lightning moved in from the west. The Mennonites are cousins of the Amish (the Amish spilt from the Mennonites in the 17th century), and their attitude towards Christianity, like that of the Baptists and the Methodists and the people from the Church of Christ that we have met, calls for a strict adherence to the teachings of Jesus as expressed in the New Testament. they generally practice a simple lifestyle (although they should not be confused with the Amish in this respect for they do use modern technology), pacifism, and they’re one of the many denominations taking it back to the roots, as it were, for Jesus is front and centre in their devotion. Randy and his family were members of the Church of God in Christ Mennonite Church and we were more than ready to ask futher questions when…

giant storm. huge. of course Dave and I sat out watching it approach as long as we could – and it took quite a time – but when it hit it was back to the tents and a frantic search for hatches to batten down. never have I heard such loud thunder, seen such expansive lighting (all over the sky, especially by the time it was directly above us) or checked around my tent so much in search of leaks. the storm lasted about three or four hours and Randy even drove out from his house to see if we were ok (cue a comedy shouting match through the tent in loud rain). this morning we learned there had been an inch of rain overnight.

but we (and the tents) survived. we celebrated by walking 3.5 miles and having breakfast at a Mennonite cafe. quite unexpectedly it was one of the best breakfasts of the trip and we were Well Pleased. we caused quite a stir too – the patrons wanted to know everything, we got to telling everything and pretty soon we were receiving donations for the charity from everyone. quite a scene, and lovely people.

anyway, this is really rambling on now so I shall draw it to a close by saying that we walked from the cafe to McPherson, timing our run to miss the rain, found a bar to watch England play Brazil (no comment) and are now safely back in the one and only Strong City ready to rodeo. that’s R-O-D-E-O. Dave is still freshening up at our base, the sound of country is coming through from the front of the bar I am sitting in (the one and only Branding Iron, owned by our hosts Scott and Justin), and the sawdust is on the floor in preparation for…well, I don’t know what happens. line dancing? dozy do? see how little the ignorant British know…

more soon when I’ve perfected the thumbs in belt loop look. out…

Stuart                         Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

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