Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Day 25 - Dodge City, KS to Great Bend, KS
Gettin' the Heck Outta Dodge! This morning we had to get the heck outta Dodge. But as we left Dodge, we learned a few more things about this interesting town. On our route through Kansas so far, we have passed several enormous feed yards. These feed yards have a typical capacity of 20,000 head of cattle. The cattle enter the feedlots weighing 600 to 700 pounds and are fed to a weight of 1,000 to 1,200 pounds in about 140 days. At any given time, about one million head of cattle are on feed in this region. What we hadn't yet seen was where the cattle go after they leave the feed lots. They go to slaughter.
Leaving Dodge City, we passed two of the world's largest beef-processing plants. Excel Corporation processes about 6,000 head of cattle per day, six days a week. National Beef processes 4,000 head of cattle each day. Combined, these two plants process more than 8 million head of cattle annually. That's a lot of beef. Over 1,000 semi-trucks service the community daily. I think most of them passed us today.
There was another Dodge City sign as we left town, so that made a great place for a group photo. It was far easier to reach this sign than the first one we saw as we entered town yesterday. As we crossed Hwy. 50 to get back in the eastbound lane, I took another photo of our group of cyclists walking their bikes across the highway... they were all "gettin' outta Dodge."
In addition to the beef-processing plants, we passed several other industries on our ride today. Koch Nitrogen Company was on our right a few miles out of Dodge City. I suspect they supply much of the nitrogen used in fertilizers throughout the Great Plains. About 18 miles out of Dodge, we entered Spearville--Home of Windmills and the Royal Lancers. The Royal Lancers is the local high school girls' basketball team, but the windmills are 67 wind turbines known as the Spearville Wind Energy Facility. Constructed in 2006, these turbines supply 100.5 megawatts of electricity, enough renewable electricity to serve the annual energy needs of 33,000 homes.
After Spearville, we rode to our SAG stop in Kinsley, KS. Kinsley is noted as "Midway, U.S.A." It's exactly (I didn't measure, so I'm taking their word for it) 1,561 miles in either direction to San Francisco and New York City. While it's not our halfway point since we're riding further north to Portsmouth, NH, it was an exciting moment to know that we've cycled to the middle of the continent.
Kinsley is also home to the Sod House and Museum. Yes, a sod house AND a museum. Of course I went inside. The row and row of display cases contained a wherewithall of everything old, antique, and yesteryear. I was amazed at the variety: farm implements and matchbooks, license plates and clothing, shaving blades and typewriters. You could spend all day in this place and not see everything. But, you had to see the Sod House. It used to be outdoors until they recently built a structure around it to protect it. It's a replica of what the Kansas pioneers built. I like my house in Bothell which is not made of sod.
After Kinsley, we rode on at a good pace until we reached Larned, KS. We had passed a couple of small towns already that had nothing in the way of stores or restaurants and I needed caffeine. Larned is a bit larger, population 4,236 as of the 2000 census. So, I was pleased when I spotted SCRAPS, the coffee shop AND scrapbook store. Inside, I met Lacey who made a delicious iced white mocha with English Toffee. (I told her I'd put her photo on my blog. Hi Lacey!) I asked her all about Larned, the good and the bad. She shared about small town life and how one of the biggest problems facing Larned is the local hospital closing. After leaving the downtown, I realized Larned was a little bigger than I imagined since it had a Subway, Sonic, and a few other fast food restaurants.
With only 20 or so miles to go, Chris, Chuck and I resumed our pace line with 2 minute pulls and cranked through the town of Dundee, the outskirts of Great Bend, and then into Great Bend itself. (Unfortunately, I missed the turn for the Kansas State Oil and Gas Museum. I'll catch that next time.) Our hotel was close to the downtown Main Street, so after checking in and getting my bags, I decided to keep riding another mile and check out the downtown area. Like many of these older small towns, it features a main street with brick buildings, a large courthouse, and plenty of little shops. I stopped in the bike shop and chatted with the locals about our ride through Kansas. They assured me Eastern Kansas was going to be more enjoyable than Western Kansas and especially more than Eastern Colorado. I think I believe them. Kansas is growing on me.
Tomorrow is a fairly short ride of 64 miles to McPherson. There's a water park there which should prove to be a great way to cool off post-ride.
For more photos of beef processing plants, wind turbines, sod houses and museums... and me, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100275
For more information about the Ride for Impact and to donate something... anything... and make a difference for urban poor around the world... and to let me know that you're really enjoying this blog... visit http://www.rideforimpact.org
Cumulative Miles: 1869
Cumulative Flats: 5
Elev Gain: 558 ft
Max Elev: 3147 ft
Avg Climb: 2%
Max Climb: 12%