Day 4: Guymon to Johnson City, Kansas - The Empty Middle 2015 - CycleBlaze

September 26, 2015

Day 4: Guymon to Johnson City, Kansas

Today will be a long day and I will have a mild headwind. It was still dark outside when I got up at 6:30. I had a big breakfast at the motel and was on the road at 7:45, about sunrise. 58F (14C), gentle northeast headwind.

I pedaled as slowly as possible to compensate for the over-exertion the first two days. Only 8.5 mph on the flats. I probably over-compensated but my butt never got sore again for the remainder of the tour.

This diesel-powered pump obtains water from the Ogallala aquifer hundreds of feet underground.
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Today the landscape is mostly irrigated farm fields. Giant crop circles of sorghum and (already harvested) corn watered by single-pivot irrigation systems.

I still see the occasional oil well but not as often as yesterday. Today I mostly see water wells. Those wells are extremely noisy when pumping. I can hear the diesel engine a mile away.

Today's route starts with 5 miles northwest on busy US 64 with a wide shoulder. Then I turned north on OK 36 which has light traffic leading to Kansas.

The Sunflower State is the 46th state I have toured by bicycle.
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I pedaled only 41 miles in the Oklahoma panhandle. The main difference when entering Kansas is that the roadside is mowed farther from the pavement. Still the same grasslands and fallow fields.

This reminds me of South Texas.
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3 miles north of the state line I turned west onto a county road. Finally a tailwind for 7 miles going west, but the road is mostly uphill until I turned north onto KS 51. Traffic was surprisingly heavy and the county road has no shoulder.

I can't resist taking pictures of grain elevators.
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Still another pump that helps deplete the Ogallala aquifer.
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Approaching Rolla, Kansas.
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Lunch was at an excellent cafe in Rolla. The only restaurant in town. Rolla appears to be struggling. Population 420 and shrinking. The town will probably survive as long as the grain elevator stays in business. Rolla is one of many small shrinking towns that might be ghost towns in a generation or two.

In Rolla.
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The next town is Richfield, population 42. It's nearly dead because the grain elevator closed recently. To compound the problem for Richfield, it's not on a U.S. highway like Rolla is.

In Richfield I turned north onto KS 27 which I will follow for the next 3 days. Navigation will be easy now!

Stereotypical Great Plains view.
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KS 51 and KS 27 have very little traffic. Sometimes no traffic for several minutes at a time.

Oil development on an abandoned farm.
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Today was overcast in the morning, partly cloudy in the afternoon. High of 80F (27C) with a gentle northeast wind all day.

Johnson City's grain elevators lined up along the railroad track.
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I rolled into Johnson City at 6 PM and got a room at the only motel in town. Restwell Motel, $64. The room is big but run-down. Small motels like this don't serve breakfast, so in the morning I must go the the cafe which takes more time.

County courthouse in Johnson City, Kansas.
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Johnson City is a county seat with a population of 1462. It doesn't appear to be thriving. Much of downtown is vacant. Like most towns in the Great Plains the population has been shrinking for a very long time.

Today I had a slight headwind but the gentle terrain allowed me to pedal lazily. I went as slowly as possible, making it a long but not at all difficult day.

Distance: 82.8 mi. (132.5 km)
Climbing: 997 ft. (302 m)
Average Speed: 9.8 mph (15.7 km/h)

Today's ride: 83 miles (134 km)
Total: 251 miles (404 km)

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