[Charlie – en route to Kansas] Our ship is a black Toyota Tacoma sailing eastward. The ocean is a never-ending sea of green prairie grass as far as the eye can see. The distant rolling hills are our version of massive rogue waves or ocean swells. Malorie and I are on our way to Kansas from Colorado to see her grandmother. We’ve left the comfort of our high elevation cabin and descended into the depths of America’s heartland. In my mind, everything east of the I-25 corridor (the north to south running interstate in Colorado) is Kansas. The first half of this will be my preconceived notions in regards to Kansas. I know it’s flat and I know there is a lot of grass (not the Colorado grass). The trip started off with Malorie ignoring my plea for a quick lunch at Whole Foods and us frantically searching for any local cafe that could ease our hunger. We settled on a random cafe called Country Corner which was advertised as a Greek spot. While the menu did have gyros, this little cafe was a transient town diner through and through. I reluctantly scarfed down some chicken tenders while Mal ate what I’m convinced was the world’s smallest grilled cheese sandwich. Heres a little fun fact, the coffee cups at that little cafe were handmade locally. The cups were large enough for all the coffee you could possibly need, I’m just not sure why they slapped a “made in China” sticker on the bottom. I’ll add some observations from our trip East below.
-WIndmills, lots of windmills. Why the hell aren’t they turning?
-Cows. I feel like East Colorado and all of Kansas is some sort of cow sanctuary.
-Big sky country. I don’t know where big sky country begins and ends exactly, but without mountains soaking up the horizon as well as the lack of trees, Kansas has a massive amount of sky.
Malorie and I ran around Minneapolis yesterday morning. The little town North of Salina actually has a quaint feel to it. Old houses line the quiet streets and kids run around in the warm haze. Minneapolis is a small town where everyone knows everyone else. Kids attend the same school their parents attended with the same teachers that taught their parents. An especially wet winter and spring have left the mid-west absolutely gorgeous this year. The vibrant greens of spring have been on display in Colorado and the same is true for Kansas. We ran on dirt roads, past grain mills, through downtown and over old bridges to the outskirts of town. I love mountains but there’s something to be said about running through a small country town in the morning. This was the first time Malorie and I had actually ran together. We had biked together hundreds of times but we never ran together. It was nice trotting along through a new town chatting with her.
We drove into Salina later on to go grocery shopping with Mal’s Granny. I had never experienced sheer terror until I had the pleasure of escorting an 83 year old woman through a packed Wal-Mart while she “drove” a scooter down the aisles without any regard for her own safety. That terror only multiplied as we stacked her scooter full of heavy frozen foods, inviting some sort of fish stick and tater-tot avalanche. We made it out without any sort of disaster and pointed the truck North, back towards Minneapolis.
We had a nice dinner at a comfort food grille called Mattie’s. They had catfish and okra along with a southern staple, chicken gizzards. Gizzards are the parts of the chicken that people don’t typically eat like the heart, intestines and liver. The liver and heart are soft while the intestines are chewy. We try to eat healthy but it’s nice to enjoy food from our childhood.
I have a confession to make: I can’t, for the fucking life of me, change a spare tube on my road bike without pinching the tube and rendering it useless. I got a flat 50 miles from my hotel in Arizona on Mount Lemmon and I waited until last night to change the tube since Malorie and I were going to ride today. As of this morning I’ve been through 5 tubes for my road bike. UPDATE: I drove to a local bike shop in Salina called Bike Tek to purchase extra tubes since I ruined all of mine and Mal’s last night. I bought 5 new tubes and went back, eager to conquer the spare tube. The VERY FIRST tube I put in (without the assistance of any levers) popped at 100psi. Disheartened and slightly irate, I yanked the tube out and ripped the tire off of the rim. I checked the inside of the tire multiple times for any sharp objects that might be puncturing my tube and found nothing. When the tube popped this morning I decided to take everything apart to inspect the inside of the tire as well as the rim. Upon closer inspection of the tire once it was removed from the rim, I found that the tire had been punctured, not just the spare tubes. The puncture in the tire was pinching the tube once it was inflated and popping my new tubes! Part of me was relieved that I wasn’t a totally incompetent moron while the other half of me had to live with the fact that I’d spent nearly $100 on spare tubes because I was stubborn and had to fix my mistakes. Our Kansas bicycle ride was postponed and Malorie and I decided to run again.
Running in Colorado can be a treat. The mountains are incredible and offer stunning views for the duration of your runs. The other side of that coin is that those mountains can give you some pretty gnarly ascents and smoke your legs quickly if you’re not accustomed to it. The elevation is an entirely different beast. Running through a small town in Kansas reminded me why I started running in the first place. The relatively flat land is, and I hate to say this, easier. You can be alone with your thoughts and not have to worry about your quads screaming at you. There is a certain type of fulfillment you get when you slow down and experience the world at a different speed. Running allows me to slow down and take in scenes that I otherwise would’ve just driven by and not thought twice about. Running in Kansas was almost therapeutic and I’m honestly glad I got the chance to do it, even if it meant spending an absurd amount of money on spare tubes and having Malorie ridicule me for a couple of days.
Malorie and I are on our way back to Colorado now. We’re back on that ocean of green, this time pointed West, towards home. I think I’ll always favor the mountains. Mountains are humbling and they provide myself and Malorie with an unlimited amount of recreation, but I’ll look at Kansas in a different light now. I won’t dread the drive East to see Granny. I won’t dread the flat horizon or the endless wind mill farms. Comparing Kansas and Colorado really isn’t fair. They both offer unique experiences. Colorado is more akin to a playground while Kansas is that spot where you go to relax, slow down a little bit and enjoy the simple things. Oh and Kansas is where turtles go to die.