Day 5: Johnson City to Tribune - The Empty Middle 2015 - CycleBlaze

September 27, 2015

Day 5: Johnson City to Tribune

I got up at 7 and went to have breakfast at County Fare cafe 2 blocks away. Eggs seemed great a few days ago, but I'm quickly getting tired of eating eggs every morning. On the road at 8:45. The tailwind is back!

Farm houses are always surrounded by trees to reduce the wind.
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10 miles down the road I crossed into Mountain time zone. The clock turns back an hour, as if I started at 7:45. But now it will get dark an hour earlier.

Another time zone, another county, another dry creek.
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From Johnson City it's 28 miles north to the next town, Syracuse. Mostly the usual irrigated crop circles with brown grassy fields in between. The highway has a 2 foot paved shoulder and the traffic was very light, largely because it's Sunday.

Just south of Syracuse I crossed the Arkansas river. The first stream with water since day 1. I was surprised at the small size of the river and that there wasn't much of a descent to the river.

Arkansas river south of Syracuse, Kansas. 3200 feet elevation.
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I've seen this river far upstream in Colorado and far downstream in Arkansas. It was bigger at both ends.

Arkansas river in Johnson Village, Colorado. 8000 feet elevation.
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Arkansas river in Ozark, Arkansas. The bridge is 410 feet elevation.
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After the tour I learned that farmers pump the Arkansas river dry. 50 miles downstream the river bed is completely dry between Garden City and Dodge City.

Today the tailwind is back. 5 mph south wind in the morning and 10 mph south wind in the afternoon. That makes for a pleasant easy day, especially when the grades are less than 1%. This is the flattest part of the tour.

Syracuse Coop, the community-owned grain elevator.
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Syracuse (population 1812) is another typical farm town. Syracuse seems more prosperous than Johnson City, possibly because it's on US 50, a major highway. I arrived at 10:25 AM but it seemed like 11:25 to me. Early lunch at Subway.

Like most towns, Syracuse is next to a railroad track.
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For Kelly Iniguez. One of your former competitors.
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After Syracuse I continued north on KS 27 to Tribune. 34 miles, still nearly flat with a tailwind. Very easy miles.

I hereby declare this location to be the geographic center of The Empty Middle.
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The monotony of the landscape is starting to bother me for the first time. It hasn't changed much the last 2 days.

Old grain storage tanks.
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One new thing today was swarms of grasshoppers. It was the only day of the tour I saw many grasshoppers.

One of the last oil pump jacks I saw.
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Today I pedaled downwind of a couple of giant cattle feedlots. The stench was powerful for a couple miles each time. I was upwind from the feedlots I saw earlier.

The corn circles have faded away and are replaced by circles of freshly planted winter wheat. It just sprouted in the last few days and is barely visible in the furrows.

Another farm with many trees on an otherwise bleak landscape. Newly planted furrows of winter wheat all around.
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Highway 27 had light traffic and a 2 foot paved shoulder. Very nice for cycling. But today is Sunday. It would surely have more truck traffic on week days.

Giant metal airplane-shaped wind vane at the Tribune airport. Well balanced and very responsive despite the immense weight.
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Approaching Tribune, Kansas. Sorghum on the left.
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Tribune, Kansas (population 741) is known to legions of touring cyclists because it's on the TransAmerica bike route. I got a $55 room at Trails End motel. The proprietor said cyclists stay here often but I'm the only one tonight. Not surprising because late September is too late to be in the middle of a cross country bike tour, with a month or more needed to reach either coast.

I arrived at 3 PM (seems like 4) and was finally able to take an afternoon nap. That helps with recovery and today was an easy day because of the tailwind and flat terrain. 67 mile days are always more pleasant than 87 mile days.

There was no restaurant open on Sunday night so I ate dinner at the gas station convenience store.

Tailwind at the end of the day.
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I took this picture of the full moon when walking back to the motel. The next morning I learned that it was the beginning of a "blood moon" lunar eclipse. I didn't know that 30 minutes later the moon would be orange. This would have been a great place to see it.

Beginning of a lunar eclipse in Tribune, Kansas.
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Today had a high of 86F (30C) with relentless hazy sun. Fairly warm in the afternoon with a tailwind reducing the airflow. Nice for late September, though. Flies are still a nuisance outdoors and indoors.

Distance: 67.6 mi. (108 km)
Climbing: 1012 feet (307 m)
Average Speed: 12.1 mph (19.4 km/h)

Today's ride: 68 miles (109 km)
Total: 319 miles (513 km)

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