Day 49, to Smith Center: The view from the center of the country - Chris Cross America - CycleBlaze

June 10, 2022

Day 49, to Smith Center: The view from the center of the country

This is me making a selfie in front of the monument marking the geographic center of the contiguous United States. The monument is a kind of trapezoidal shape and made of stone. It is topped with a flagpole flying the flags of the United States and of Kansas.
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Lednar De NallohThat's one huge insect photo-bomber on your beard
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Chris GeorgeTo Lednar De NallohHa! That's actually the end of the helmet strap hanging down (thank goodness). The beard is hiding the rest of the strap.
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1 month ago
Lednar De NallohHa ha, now I've got 'egg on my face'.
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Friday stats

Start: Super 8 in Belleville, Kan.

End: Roadside Park in Smith Center, Kan.

The Daily Progress: 71.05 miles

The Ascension: 2,165 feet

Ice cream flavors: Andes mint mixed with brownie. Sounds amazing, right? It was a little disappointing, but hey, it was still ice cream. The lesson here is that Andes mints make for surprisingly hard bits of chocolate when blended up in soft serve ice cream. Thin mint cookies on the other hand ... Oh, don't get me started.

Food expenses: $36

Lodging expenses: $0! Thanks, city of Smith Center!

Friday recap and highlights

I've been looking for an excuse to slow down or take a rest day, but conditions were looking pretty close to perfect today and it's gonna get unbearably hot in the next few days, so I decided I should make today one more long-ish day and then slow it down and definitely take a zero day on Monday, when the temperature is supposed to be over 100. 

I wasn't really feeling energized about the distance ahead of me today, but once I got rolling, I realized the plan was solid. Conditions really were nearly ideal. Warm but not hot. Very little wind, from the side but ever so slightly from the back too. Firm pavement. Very little traffic. I could ride like this all day! Good, because that is exactly the plan.

The black pavement of the road leads straight ahead, with uninterrupted green fields on either side. A bright but cloudy sky hangs above, glowing with diffused sunlight. Can't get much better than this if the goal is to cover a good distance.
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Aside from a lunch break in Mankato, there was one major stop along the way today: the geographic center of the contiguous United States. This required a few extra miles, which took me through the town of Lebanon.

This gives you a sense of the tiny downtown of Lebanon. Two squarish red brick buildings sit next to each other in front of a broad, mostly empty street. The building on the left says on the facade, "American Legion Hall." The larger building to the right has two storefronts, but the one on the right looks closed. The one on the left has a sign saying, "Ladow's Market."
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I stopped into the visitors center and then took a quick look at 100-year-old jail cells that were on display; they were originally used to hold prisoners who were being transported across the country and needed to be held somewhere as they transferred between trains. 

The jail cells are now a rust-orange color. Strips of metal make a square grid pattern forming the walls, door and bases for two bunks.
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I popped into Ladow's Market for an apple and a sticker. I found one with Kansas's motto on it: "Ad astra per aspera" or "To the stars through hardships." I like it. I think it's a little metal. 

Finally, to the center of the contiguous United States. Some signs referred to it as the center of the Lower 48 states, but I assume what they really mean is the center of the Lower 48 states and the District-that-is-not-a-state-despite-having-a-population-larger-than-two-actual-states.

As I approached the monument marking the center, I noticed how far I could see because of how flat it was.

My photo doesn't capture it, but I think I could see outward for many miles, past the grass and the soybean field and the trees and more grass and what seems to be a town and more green and on and on.
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Keith AdamsOn my first Biking Across Kansas adventure I was riding with a Kansan who explained that when you first see the water tower of a town in the distance you are about 10 to 12 miles out. It was a bit of a bummer for me, accustomed to East Coast standards, to realize that meant I had another 45 minutes to an hour to get to town.
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1 month ago
Chris GeorgeTo Keith AdamsAh, good to know!
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1 month ago

I walked up to the monument (shown at the beginning of this post), and I could feel the force of all the freedom just concentrating right there, echoing inward from across the land as if —

Nah, of course not. It was a stone monument with a flagpole. Neat, for sure. Not magical.

I pedalled onward, back to U.S. Route 36, which I've been following for (how many?) three or four days now, and on to Smith Center. I stopped at a bar and grill and sat at the bar, feeling confident that I'm not contagious anymore after testing negative for covid several days ago. Wearing all your cycling gear is a good conversation starter. I treated myself to a beer with dinner and enjoyed being around people and talking about my trip and the weather and one guy's son's baseball tournament. It felt so satisfyingly normal.

Finally, to the park that City Hall had recommended (the Eastern Express documentation had actually suggested camping in a different park, so I'm glad I called to check). It's a peaceful night for camping. Some bugs feasted on me two nights ago and I've been itching up a storm (good thing I held onto all the Neosporin and anti-itch gel that I picked up after the first problem with this). Let's hope they stay away tonight.

Here's my camping spot. My hammock hangs between two trees, with my U.S. flag tucked under the hammock strap against the tree on the left. Blue leans against the tree on the right. A small pavilion sits in the background on the right. To the left, you can't see it but Route 36 is right there, maybe 50 feet away, just behind the grass, which curves downward in a tiny hill. The light is low as the sun slowly drops toward the horizon.
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Today's ride: 71 miles (114 km)
Total: 1,915 miles (3,082 km)

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