February 18th Highway 59 + PST Ride

February 18, 2012

As mentioned earlier, I set a new personal high distance today of 29.3 miles.  The route was similar to that taken on January 28th, with small variation.  I set out at about 7:30 AM, with the outside temp about 33.  The sky was getting light, but the sun wasn’t really visible.

I again headed south on Highway 59, took a westward gravel road about 14.5 miles out, hooked up with the Prairie Spirit Trail, and took this for several miles before crossing back to 59 at the Princeton PST Trailhead, and taking the highway back north to home.

Above:  My first stop in the journey was the Princeton Trailhead, roughly 8.5 miles from home and maybe 1/4 mile off of Highway 59.  This was only the second time I’d reached this Trailhead – the first was my “Marathon Man” ride – but I didn’t get any pictures then.

Above: A map of the PST posted in a recess in a little wood structure at the Trailhead which housed trail permits.

Above: My trusty companion leaning against the structure. On the seat are my gloves and a little bag my phone travels in on the bike.  The little bag on the back rack is where I keep my crackers and SWUV-8 (see this post for details).

Above: The Princeton Trailhead has got water fountains, bathrooms (currently closed for the winter)…

…and a few different little picnic tables and benches for resting. When I do the full-trail ride, I’ll be sure to rest at this place!

Above:  The cavalry, i.e. my replenishments 🙂  Water, SWUV-8 mix, PB crackers.

Above:  Intersections of many previous adventures, traced in the sand around the Trailhead 🙂

I pushed back from the Trailhead and continued south on H59.  After another ~6 miles, I took one of the periodic gravely roads west, to hook up with the PST.

Above:  My bike & replenishments at the Clark Road intersection, on the PST.

Above:  Not much to see in this area of Kansas. Still, I very much love cycling here.

Above:  Happy to be doing what I love doing 🙂

Above:  Looking further south on Prairie Spirit.  Another day, I will win this terrain 🙂  For now, it’s time to turn back home…

…which is where I’m facing in the above picture.

I packed up my stuff and set off back toward home on the PST.  This next leg was by far the most difficult of the trip, for two reasons.

One, I had underestimated the softness of the trail. We’ve had some recent snow & rain, but it’s a few days past, and I assumed the trail would be a lot firmer than it in fact was.  Biking on water-softened crushed limestone is hard work if you’re in the shape I am in – it’s similar to maybe a slightly “firmer” version of clay, or possibly wet sand on a beach.  It’s amazing how much harder you have to work when the trail is wet versus dry.

Second reason was that the wind, which was a headwind on my return journey, was a good 25% higher than forecast.   It was supposed to be roughly 9-11 MPH at this time.  Instead it was closer to 11-15.  That headwind combined with the trail consistency made me work extremely hard for the next several miles.

Above:  After some miles, I passed this tree just as “Carry You” by VNV Nation (see this post) was playing in my headphones.  The image struck me as symbolic of my feeling at the time.  I was feeling extremely beat down by the conditions on the trail, with negative thoughts creeping in.  Something about the combination of the uplifting VNV Nation song paired with this fallen tree (which had lost its battle), however, forged in me an instant resolve to break through the doubt, finish the ride in victory, and assess the lessons learned.

Earlier in this difficult portion of the ride, I’d decided to reach the Princeton Trailhead and cross back onto H59 to go home on pavement, versus continuing all the way on the soft trail.

I stopped here, at a bridge near the fallen tree, for a time to drink & snack.

Above:  Long shot of my bike resting on the bridge.

Above:  A creek running under the bridge.  The water wasn’t the prettiest in the world, but the sounds it made a little further to the west as it ran across some rocks was extremely soothing.  I actually considered stopping here for a short 15-minute nap  🙂

Above:  A cool little stone stairway leading down from the bridge to the ground below.  The scale in this picture is probably not true to life.  The stairway was quite narrow and steep, and I was pretty high up.

After recharging here, I continued south on the PST.  Just a short distance (maybe a mile or less) from here was the Princeton Trailhead again; I didn’t stop there but crossed through it and turned east down a (thankfully paved!) road to finish the trek via Highway 59.

Above:  My bike parked at a church on 59H.  This is a church that I found and where I have stopped to rest & re-fortify many, many times during longer rides.  It’s approximately 4 miles from home, south on H59.  I bike around to the back lot to get off the bike, rest & replenish.  This church has been a welcome sight for weary eyes (and legs!) on some of my longer treks.

Above:  Looking out from the church lot.  Just through those trees runs the PS Trail.

Above:  Don’t know why but for many years I’ve had a habit of noticing often-humorous stick-figure portrayals of people in various signs.  “Wet floor” signs, “take stairs / walk don’t run in an emergency” signs, etc are the kind I’m talking about here.  I decided to start documenting them on my cycling journeys, for pure amusement.  Here’s one on the back of the AC unit at the church 🙂

I finished off my water, SWUV-8, and crackers, packed up and finished the remaining ~4 miles home.  I arrived weary but feeling surprisingly VERY positive despite the big difficulties and negative emotions earlier.  I felt like I learned a lot that would help me in future outings.  I was also delighted that I’d accomplished a new personal record daily distance.


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