New Vistas (Images From a Kansas Morning Ride)

March 31, 2012

One thing I love about bike riding, even locally (i.e. not on a trail you must drive to visit, not biking across a state or the country, etc) is the selection of environments.  Here in Ottawa, Kansas, I’m blessed with a variety of terrain and conditions.  There are long flat stretches; stretches of rolling hills; stretches of harder rolling hills; biking-around-town routes; there are paved routes, crushed limestone routes, more mountain-bikey dirt/grass routes; there are routes to enjoy plants and nature, routes to be around people, routes to get alone and think in quiet, etc.

Earlier this week I discovered an area on the outskirts of town I hadn’t previously known about.  I don’t venture around much by car, and since it’s been winter for most of my serious interest in cycling, temperature and daylight are factors that limit how far away I can roam and how much new stomping grounds I can find by bike.  Now with warmer weather, and longer daylight, I’ve been able to greatly expand my possible ride routes.

The area I found combines two of my longtime favorite “environments”: an industrial-type area (think shipping/receiving warehouses, factories, mills) and wide-open spaces (think sprawling flat Kansas farmland, with sporadic cattle).  As you enter this area heading north from town, you first go through some miles of industrial/warehouse surroundings.  Past this beckons wide-open vistas of farmland, with roads stretching like unrolled carpet past the horizon and the occasional cross-roads doing the same, inviting you with the possibility of traveling a long, quiet, lightly-traveled stretch as far as the eye can see.

I had one of the most fun rides I’ve yet had earlier this week finding this place, and decided to return again this weekend.  And that’s what I did this morning.

Yesterday I got in almost 22 miles – and discovered yet another area which I will further explore sometime later  🙂  Today I hoped to add another 20 miles, which I would have been content with. Instead I got in 24.5 miles and felt (feel) fantastic.  I left town in the direction of this new industrial-into-farmland area, explored that for some time, circled back, and rode around town for some miles before calling an end to this wonderful adventure.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I love riding the bike; I can’t wait to get out there again for more exploring.

Above:  Such a beautiful machine.  Love when she’s all rigged up for a ride.

Above: The possibilities of a brand new day.

Above: Starting to see a whole lot of sky and a whole lot less of buildings and traffic.

Above: Cycling in Kansas.

Above: From an overpass.  Road rolled out like carpet.

Above: It stretches to the extent of the mind’s eye in the other direction as well.  Future days I will accept its silent invitation 🙂

Above:  I call this one “the paradox of free will”.  Bicycling distances lends itself to introspection 🙂

Above:  Portrait of the (very content) author.

Above:  Here I turned back toward home.  Above – I love the almost mythical look of this picture – is the road stretching out beyond that point.  Future days I will continue to explore its secrets 🙂  For now, back toward town.

The song “Bad” by u2 was playing on Pandora. “I’m wide awake, I’m not sleeping.”

Above: Looking back toward the way I had come, and toward which I now headed.

Above: Back in town.  Took a short refreshing break at a convenience store, rode around town for a few miles visiting several of my common bicycle touchpoints, and back home.

It was very gratifying to see a few cyclists out this morning.  Close to my turnaround point in the middle of nowhere, I passed a cyclist headed the other way, whose gear bespoke a “dedicated” cyclist (such as I’m evolving into).  Then back in town, where I briefly rode the paved portion of the Prairie Spirit Trail for a couple miles, I saw two very serious cyclists with serious rigs, backpacks, matching team cycling jerseys & shorts, the whole bit.  I’m assuming they are training on the trail today.  I passed them as they were entering the trail; I regret now not slowing down to talk to them.

A wonderful morning ride today.

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One Response to “New Vistas (Images From a Kansas Morning Ride)”

  1. Randy said

    I believe I was that “dedicated” cyclist you crossed paths with near Le Loup. Wish we’d stopped to talk.

    I was on a *long* ride, started near Gardner, rode to Ottawa, hopped on the Prairie Spirit Trail, met some friends at Princeton (the two cyclists with matching jerseys were part of my group as well), and we all road to Garnett for the trail celebration, then I rode back home via Osawatomie and Paola. Whew.

    There are some great roads, and some really interesting historic sites to discover (see http://www.visitottawakansas.com/cms.php?drivingtours.php) around Ottawa!

    An idea for you, for a slightly longer loop: Take Montana Road north out of Ottawa, Shawnee Road east to Le Loup, Tennessee Road south to Peoria, then take the Flint Hills Nature Trail back to Ottawa. Should be about 30 miles or so.

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