48 miles (77 km) – Total so far: 1,655 miles (2,663 km)
The bed at the Beaumont hotel must have been stuffed with angel feathers. I slept a full 10 hours last night, and a good hour past dawn, which is an anomaly on this trip. I don’t set an alarm clock, but my body has definitely adjusted to a regular natural rhythm. The hotel was totally silent and peaceful as I tiptoed out with my gear and got rolling.The first 30 miles of the ride was fogged in. It felt like that scene in The Matrix where Neo and Morpheus are in the blank white room. Road signs would appear out of the mist about 50 feet in front of me and then recede into nothingness. Most of the time I couldn’t tell whether I was on an incline or decline because the fog took away visual referents and a moderate tailwind equalized most of the effort. My phone only had one bar, so Google maps would display a road only as I was just crossing it. As far as I could tell, the world ended fifty feet in every direction. Which, any Sophomore philosophy student will tell you, may in fact be the case.

blah_ride-1 blah_ride byron_heartland_cycles-1 byron_heartland_cycles civilization

Leaving the Beaumont Hotel, which is dedicated to aviation I was aware that today in 1945, the allied forces landed in Normandy as the fog over the channel cleared. Meanwhile in Kansas: still foggy.

Leaving the Beaumont Hotel

As the fog lifted, US highway 400 merged with US highway 77. Crap, more traffic! Then the shoulder narrowed. Crap, getting squeezed!. Then a military convoy rolled up behind me USING THE SHOULDER! Crap, tanks! I found a spot to squeeze off to the side and let them pass. I didn’t know how the men with M16s would react to me taking out my camera, so no pictures of the convoy. After they passed by the US highway became indistinguishable from a full-on interstate. I turned off the first exit and plotted a bailout route into Wichita. I ended up on 8 miles of gravel road. Free of tanks. Fine by me.

Straight gravel roads were the alternative to interstate shoulder riding... and tanks. I'll take boring over crazy, thank you very much.

Straight gravel roads were the alternative to interstate shoulder riding… and tanks. I’ll take boring over crazy, thank you very much.

 Rather than going straight to the hotel where I’m resting for a day I routed a detour to Heartland Bike shop. On the way I passed the first Starbucks in 1,600 miles. My detour got detoured. As one might expect I enjoyed a wonderfully refreshing coffee. Less expected, but equally enjoyable, was an informative conversation about Colorado with a local cyclist, Mike. Mike had spent 20 years in Colorado. He had some great tips for when I get there. His eyes sparkled as he recalled Breckinridge. Looking forward to that part of the trip.

Civilization! Huzzah! Yipppeee! Woohoo!

Civilization! Huzzah! Yipppeee! Woohoo! 

Mike, from Kansas, then Colorado, then Kansas.

Mike, from Kansas, then Colorado, then Kansas.

Leaving this local shrine to the goddess of city/suburban living, I meandered through city roads that were reminiscent of home. I quickly readopted an aggressive city riding style. The one that proclaims, in no uncertain terms, that I have every right to be on this road as any car, and I can in fact take up the whole lane if that is what it takes to keep from getting run into the curb. Of course, that means I need to stop at red lights to have a consistent and justifiable position. Well, I guess that means I’m a hypocrite. Doh!
Weeeeeeeee! An overpass over the interstate in Wichita, KS

Weeeeeeeee! An overpass over the interstate in Wichita, KS

I had come very close to just skipping the bike store. I had been wanting to get a smaller front chainring to make steep ascents more manageable. It seemed unlikely that any shop would have a 26-tooth 5-bolt 9-speed front chainring in stock. Especially since 5-bolt chainrings have been largely replaced by 4-bolt chainrings. I figured I could just skip it and special order from a shop in Pueblo where I’d be in a week. But, I didn’t have anywhere to be for an hour, so I forced myself to go.

I told the shop owner, Byron, what I was looking for. He looked at the bike … went into the shop… grabbed a chainring… put it up to the crank… went back in the shop… got a strange measuring tool… measured the bolt spacing… went back to the shop to grab a crank tool… pulled the crank, installed the new ring, then reinstalled the crank. The whole operation was about five minutes. It was a fricking miracle. Also miraculous, the new ring just barely fit the front derailleur. For the gearheads out there, I’d say I have about 0.5mm or less of clearance from the top of the derailleur to the big ring, and barely a hair of clearance from the bottom of the derailleur to the chain when taut. It is an outrageously tight tolerance… but if fits! I’m going to keep the old chainring on me in case I’m getting carried away here.

All of this is to say, I have replaced my granny-gear with a great-granny-gear. The new chainring has 13.3% more mechanical advantage than the old one… which is going to make a huge difference on the steep hills. Bring it, Rockies! Great-granny said knock you out.

Byron from Heartland Bicycles performed a major bike transplant surgery from parts in stock in under ten minutes and only charged me $25. Amazing. If you've got a major job on the TransAm, detour to Wichita rather than waiting for Pueblo. This place has everything you need.

Byron from Heartland Bicycles performed a major bike transplant surgery from parts in stock in under ten minutes and only charged me $25. Amazing. If you’ve got a major job on the TransAm, detour to Wichita rather than waiting for Pueblo. This place has everything you need. 

The old 30 tooth granny-gear in my hand next to the newly installed 26 tooth great-granny-gear. This should make steep mountains quite a bit easier.

The old 30 tooth granny-gear in my hand next to the newly installed 26 tooth great-granny-gear. This should make steep mountains quite a bit easier.

I’m now chilling out with my wife who flew to Wichita to join me for my rest day. See you on the other side.