Monday, October 19, 2009

Kansas Flint Hills

Just what are the requirements for the "Perfect Ride"? Here's a few thoughts: 1) A full tank of gas 2) Sunny skies 3) Comfortable temperatures 4) A smooth road 5) Little traffic 6) A great machine 7) Lots of spare time 8) A decent camera 9) Interesting scenery 10) Little or no wind Friday 10/16/09 Yesterday was the 15th, the day that the final extension on individual income tax returns would expire. We had been very busy at the office. It went well that last 2 weeks, but at times a bit hectic, and it was good to get away from the office and go for a ride. That perfect ride was hopefully a possibility. We had had miserable weather for the last week or so. Cloudy, cool, rainy, just plain crappy. But the long term forecast looked good for the weekend. Were the motorcycle gods smiling at me? Well, if you looked at my ten requirements for the potential perfect ride, they were all met with only one exception. Number 3 It was a bit colder than I would have liked. A weatherman recently put up a graph on the televsion illustrating the fact that since the first of October there had only been 3 days where the high temperature for the day exceeded the normal high for that day. In addition, there were 4 days that the high temperature didn't even get to the normal low for the day. Now, I was prepared. I had 6 layers of clothing on, my silk glove liners and my new cold weather gloves. But it still surprises me when traveling at 65 mph or so, how the wind chill can still get to you. The temperatures were not comfortable. But it was survivable! About 30 miles from Wichita, I took a short break to take a pic of a very normal scene around our area. A small town called Whiterwater with a (almost required for every town) grain elevator. It's flat, not a lot of trees and this is a common sight around my neck of the woods.

A view to the east from the same location.

I was going to take a trip to Topeka for my high school reunion. I left Wichita at about 10:00 am. It was 47 degrees farenheit. I'll let you do the math if you want to convert to Celsius. There was just a light breeze from the north. Requirement 10 for that perfect ride was met. But the wind, what there was of it, was cold.

The Kansas turnpike goes directly from Wichita to Topeka, in almost a straight shot. About 135 miles that is easily done in 2 hours. But my route was much different. I wanted to see more of the Flint Hills. I didn't want to take Max on the turnpike. He's not exactly a high speed touring kind of machine. And I wanted to take pictures. Motorcycles and cameras are very congruent with each other.

This trip was to be a riding and picture taking Extravaganza!!

Because I didn't take the turnpike, I had guessed that the trip might be about 160 miles or so. Turned out it was very close to 200 miles one way. No matter!

I had to travel about 50 to 60 miles before getting to the Flint Hills by the route I was taking. I started out on county roads. North for about 25 miles then straight east for about 40 miles until I actually was to be on a real highway.

After going east for a bit, I came across this tank battery and oil pumpjack. I am not far from a relatively famouns oil and gas field known as the El Dorado field. Yes, we have oil in Kansas. It's not quite like Jedd Clampitt, but this particular field was discovered around 1920 and has been producing ever since that time

There were 6 pumpjacks near the tank battery. I smell money!!
I pass through the little town of Cassoday and here is where I get on a regular highway. It's Kansas route 177. In this area it is also known and designated as a "Scenic Byway". Now, what might be considered one person's Scenic Byway and another person's boredom are relative things. But as far as much of Kansas is concerned, the Flint Hills of Kansas are certainly a little different from much of the scenery in the rest of the state. Instead of farmland and grain elevators, you will see gently rolling hills, beautiful valleys, few trees, lots of grass and some cattle. The ground is not real conducive to crops. Knowing how some people like trains (Joe and Jack), I stopped here to get a picture of the valley and the train tracks. Just a moment after taking a couple of shots, I was going to get back on Max and continue down the road. But then this train sped by. Took another couple of pictures, just for fun.
Was wondering what constitutes a "private" railroad crossing. There was no road on the other side, just seemingly an area to store equipment and supplies for the railroad.
Another shot of the train passing by. The train was traveling at a pretty good clip. The flowers looked a bit brown. I suspect that there was an early season freeze in this area.
I was able to travel almost at will. Stop when I felt like it. Go as fast or slow as I wanted to. There was almost no traffic. I clipped along at 60-65 mph much of the way along here. The posted speed limit was 60 with a few 40 mph curves here and there. Isn't it great that on a motorcycle, that 40 mph curve speed limit can be maybe not be ignored, but certainly stretched a bit. Taking a 40 mph curve at an actual speed of 40 mph almost seems agonizingly slow sometimes. Maybe unless you are Jack Riepe leaning into a curve while riding his Suburban. He once told me he has done that before.
Did I say it was cold?
You bet your ass it was cold! I really was prepared for it, but the wind chill got to me a couple of times and I shivered a bit along this part of the trip. Funny thing though, was that by stopping to take pictures, the sun would beat down on me a bit and warm me back up. I stopped regularly for both reasons. One to get warmed up, and two to take more pictures.
A few cattlle up on a hill.
I am not sure I would call this a real "twisty" but at least the road wasn't straight. So many of the roads in Kansas are built on Section lines. K-177 is not.
I was hoping to get pictures of the change in colors in trees. The colors had started to change, but not quite as much as I had hoped. But there were a few places where you could get some color.
Then I arrived at a town called Cottonwood Falls. There are some actual falls on the Cottonwood River that flows through here. Not big ones I am sure. But this town has an absolutely fabulous old courthouse. Maybe the prettiest in the state. I have a client , an attorney, that is a photographer. He has made it a point to get photographs of all the county courthouses in the state. There are 105 counties in Kansas. I am not sure if he has actually photographed them all, but has done a bunch of them. Some are beautiful, some more ordinary. This one is not ordinary!
The sun, unfortunately, was right behind the building. I had to hide the sun behind the tower in this picture.
A view from an angle.
And from the downtown area. Not a big town. Population in Chase county in its entirety is not big either. But it is beautiful and a bit unusual, I think.
Up the road a ways sits this old farmhouse. It also is quite a sight along this relatively barren highway.
Here's the view from the front of the house.
The area near here has been designated as a nature preserve. This house has become an entrance and focal point for the preserve.
And a pretty serious barn on the property as well.
There is a little parking lot near the house. Signs for RV and bus parking. Couldn't find a sign for motorcycle or scooter parking so did the next best thing. I think I get better gas mileage than that Toyota Prius parked next to me.
Speaking of gas mileage. Sometimes I worry needlessly. I regularly get 75 mpg in town. I knew I would not probably get that much on the highway at faster speeds, but have never tracked it. My tank holds just shy of 2 gallons, so theoretically I can go 125-140 miles or so on a tank of gas. Maybe 100-110 miles at highway speed usage. Some of the area I traveled through had only very small towns, some without gas stations. I googled the area to see where gas stations were and where I could stop if needed. Turns out it wasn't an issue, there were many gas stations I could use, but I worried about it a bit nonetheless.
Up the road a little further I arrived at the town of Council Grove. The name of the town is due to the fact there were apparently some negotiations with area Indian tribes at some time in the past. General Custer even spent some time here before Sitting Bull later got to him.
Irondad had recently posted a picture of a tank on his blog. As I rolled through town I saw this one and determined that I could get a picture of a tank also.
People in small towns can be very patriotic.
There is an interesting little story about a former sheriff of Morris county. It seems that he and his wife had once made a video tape of themselves. This was back in the 1980's when VCR's were all the rage.
It was one of those tapes that should not be copied. Meant for private use. It bacame very public.
Catch my drift?
But someone got access to it and copied it. Numerous times. The copy I saw was very distorted after having been copied so many times. Of course it was a tape of them having carnal relations.
He wasn't sheriff soon after that.
I continue north from Council Grove, but soon turn back to the east. There is a town called Alta Vista just after the turn. I had never been there before.
Why not stop! I didn't have to be anywhere at any time soon. It's wonderful to stop when you want to and see something you haven't seen before. I thought it might be just a quick spin through the town. Thought it might be just like any other small town, with nothing real unique.
But I was wrong again! I quickly came across the "Ag Heritage Park"
A museum of sorts for old farm equipment of all things. Now I must say that used and even ancient farm equipment might be just considered "junk". But in a way, this was at least a bit interesting, definately unusual.
Here is Max with some sort of old steam powered farm implement. My how technology changes.
A whole row of old combines. Did they really need that many of them? Ahh, who cares.
A fence created with old wheels.
Some really old plows. Probably still work!
Up the road a way is some more cattle.
Now I am on K-4 approaching the small town of Eskridge. My wife's great grandparents actually homesteaded on some ground near this town. They did not survive the Great Depression of the 1930's. The farm apparently went back to the bank. Many years ago we attempted to take a drive and find the old farmstead. Not sure if we actually found it, but we knew we were close. There were many Swedish immigrants in this area.
In Eskridge, I found this old small church that now is a community center.
There is a little park not far away with a gazebo. What is it about gazebos and small towns? This one seems to serve as a bandstand. There are picnic tables and benches all over the park. I imagined a band concert on a Sunday night with most of the residents of the community in attendance.
Ahhh.... Life in a small town.
A view in the downtown area.
Max ran like a champ the whole trip.
After leaving Eskridge I encountered a signpost over the gate to a field.
Across the road was an interesting house. I had stopped for just a moment when I heard barking. I thought to myself, Oh Crap! Am I going to have to fight off a dog protecting its territory?
But turned out that he (she) was a very sweet sort of typical farm dog (maybe a Lab). Came up very sweetly and let me pet her (him). We talked for a bit. She (he) was very interested in the scooter, and then got a very confused look on her (his) face when I put my helmet back on. Said goodbye and rode off and I could see him (her) lazily wandering back to the house. An unexpected, but very sweet moment on the trip.
I arrived in Topeka about 4:30 in the afternoon. As the sun was getting lower in the sky, the chill was back in the air again.
Did I say it was Cold?
Made it to the football game just in time to see the pre-game ceremonies put on by the band. I was in the band in high school as well, but we were not very accomplished marchers. We sort of marched onto the field, played a couple of songs and then marched back off.
The band now is very accomplished having actually been invited a few years ago to one of the January first bowl game parades.
Way better than our band in my days was.
Also way better than the current football team.
The organizers of our reunion rented out one of the hospitality rooms in the pressbox area for us to watch the game and relive old times. We were so busy catching up with each other that we didn't watch the game much. We were playing Emporia High school.
Not that we missed much. We were the home team.
Maybe not the "Perfect Ride" according to my criteria, but it was damn close.
More to come!

11 comments:

  1. 6 layers? Holy cats!

    Two questions: What kind of alternator output does your scoot generate? Were any of those layers made of windblocker fabric?

    Good on you for riding and taking such nice pictures!

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  2. Stacy,
    Regular T-shirt, long sleeve T-shirt, heavy flannel shirt, then the gear jacket has a windproof liner, a fleece liner and the mesh portion of the jacket.
    Have no idea about the alternator, but should check into that probably.
    You are very kind to compliment the pictures. It was a blast!
    Jim

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  3. Jim3485:

    6 Layers !! I agree with Stacey. At 47F (8c) on my commute to work I only have my dress shirt (over a V-neck T-shirt) then Joe Rocket jacket with liner. Riding pants over work slacks, without liner and all is warm for my 40 min at speeds up to 55-60mph (85-100 kmh). I also have heated grips which I did not turn on. If it gets colder I have a thin thinsulite sleeved or if it gets really cold I plug in my heated vest.
    Your alternator should be able to handle ONE heated item so choose between heated grips or heated vest. Connect both items to a DPDT switch so you will be able to switch to one or the other as required. The switch will ensure that only one accessory can be used at at time.
    I am glad that you managed to have an adventure with your scoot before the winter sets in. It will give you something to think about during the winter and you will be able to make plans for more trips next season.
    Nice documentation of your travel. With the sun out it didn't appear too cold-looking, and little traffic too. Nice pictures

    bob
    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

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  4. Bobskoot,
    I am sure you are more of a road warrior than I am. Maybe I exaggerated the cold a bit just to try and make people feel sorry for me. I was prepared, but it would have been nice if it was about 10 degrees (2-3 celsius) warmer. But it was a fantastic ride. Damn near perfect!
    The only spot I was chilled and shivered a bit was near Cassoday and Cottonwood Falls. I don't think the temperature ever got above 55 degrees, and traveling at 65 mph or so through much of that area. There was one stint near there that I didn't take a break for about an hour.
    I have definately ridden in much colder weather. Last year I did a few days below 20 degrees, but my commute only takes about 15 minutes. This trip was certainly much longer, the longest I have ever ridden by far.
    The total trip that day was a little over 6 hours. I took numerous stops for pictures. The actual riding time was probably less than 4 hours as I am certain that I averaged well over 50 mph. Most of the time at 60-65 mph coupled with the slowing as I went through small towns.
    I may check into the electrics soon, but for now do not consider it a priority.
    Thanks for the suggestions and ride safe and warm my friend.
    Jim

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  5. Dear cpa3485 (Jimbo):

    Now here was a posting that was up to the best of any ride report I have ever read. You would never have known that it was "chilly" based on the sunny "fall" harvest-type pictures that you sent. But I must admit that when you said you had six layers of clothing on, I could only envion that little kid in "A Christmas Story," who wore so many winyer clothes that he couldn't put his arms down. I was on the verge of wondering if you were being a bit of a pansy about this, until I went back and checked -- You're riding a bike without a windshield.

    No wonder you froze your ass off.

    You might want to look into a detachable windscreen for longer rides, like this one. The difference a windshield makes is simply amazing.

    The courthouse shots were very interesting and greatly appreciated. Moreso than town halls, the soul of a community seems to be fully represented in the local courthouse. I'm delighted you had a fun trip. It's tough when they're over though, isn't it.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

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  6. Jackboy,
    I fully admiit to being a pansy about cold weather, however I discovered that for me, wearing multiple layers of lighter clothing is better than trying to put on something very heavy with few layers. Some windproof, some not. It just seems to work better for me.

    It was a fabulous ride!

    Tomorrow morning will have a new post about the ride back. Very different in one respect, you'll see.

    But you mentioned the feelings of getting closer to home and not wanting it to end. I touch on that in the wext post.

    Take Care and thanks for the compliments,

    Jim

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  7. Tanks a lot. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I've heard.

    While I appreciate your list of what makes a perfect ride, I've found an interesting contrast. Putting too many "rules" on what makes a perfect ride can backfire. We either end up disappointed, or skew our perceptions. Sometimes perfect rides take many forms if we're open to them.

    By the way, was it cold? :)

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  8. cpa3485_Jimbo:

    If you return safely, then it was perfect. The pictures and smiles are just added bonus'es

    bob
    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

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  9. Dan,
    You are so right about the concept of a perfect ride, there will always be something to complain about. My intent was to express that this trip was very near perfect.

    BTW, Tanks and mototcycles make excellent assault vehicles.

    Thanks for the visit and take care

    Jim

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  10. I would add to the list for a perfect ride also:

    a degree of mystery, some element of the unknown, which could be heading down a path not planned, being open to an unexpected adventure. Yes, the perfect ride for me, is in part about coming home a little changed as a result of having ventured beyond my comfort zone.

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  11. By the way, I'm loving your pictures!

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