Newton to Hutchinson - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

June 7, 2014

Newton to Hutchinson

THE ONLY CAR I'd seen since dawn slowed as I stood by the roadside and took off my jacket. It stopped, red and suburban, and the window wound down. A man in his mid-30s, dark-haired and with a beard, leaned towards me.

"You be careful out there, now," he called, looking solicitous. "A lady got killed running down here the other day."

I asked how.

"Car hit her. Got run over."

I asked how, on a straight road which never had much on it, anyone could drive into the only other person there. The man shrugged and turned his head sideways in a way that said "Search me, but it happened", wished me better luck and drove on through the frog-croaking, grass-dripping morning.

I had just the short hop from the bike shop at Newton to Hutchinson, the nearest town. The locals and even at least one of the television stations refer to it as "Hutch". The last time I was there was to abandon my Transam ride and take the train to Chicago and a flight from there to France. My bike travelled separately, because Amtrak wouldn't load it at Hutchinson, and the outrageous cost to ship it across the Atlantic was worsened by the paperwork's not pointing out that the bike was my personal property, so that I had to pay several hundred euros of sales tax on my own bike.

On that same road from Newton - or, at least, on the main highway because my back route turned to an unsurfaced track after an hour - will come Karen Cook tomorrow. She is on the train from Los Angeles, convinced I am too stupid to ride beyond Kansas by myself.

There's not a lot to Hutchinson worth mentioning, apart from its space museum. And that's a wonderful story, of a local woman who opened one of America's few public planetariums and then decided to go further with a space museum. Of course, you can't have a museum without exhibits and there she proved that the best solution is often the simplest: she asked. She asked the Kremlin if they didn't perhaps have some old space junk up in the loft or at the back of the garage. If they did, could she have it for her museum?

It's hard to imagine the Russians' surprise but they couldn't see why they shouldn't send her stuff that nobody would see otherwise and I suppose it arrived in a packing case with a lot of Rs written backwards. And then, having got the Russians to help, she wrote to NASA and put them in a tricky spot. After which a load more cases arrived.

So if you want to see both the Russian and the American halves of the space module that joined up in the sky, or part of a NASA command centre, or even how America astronauts relieved themselves in a world without gravity, it's all in Hutchinson. Along with a great deal else.

Hutchinson's space museum: just look for the rockets
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An American space vehicle: rugged in parts but seemingly made of bacon wrap in others
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Russian end of the modules that joined in space
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And the American end
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Today's ride: 67 km (42 miles)
Total: 2,873 km (1,784 miles)

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