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Where I Am

In tent
Essential #1: inflatable pillow, in soothing blue. Essential #2: pizza—vital nutrition for the road, and the box makes a good tent blogging desk.

I write this morning from the otherwise empty city campground on the west edge of Olsburg, Kansas. I camp here for no other reason than that this is where I tuckered out yesterday, after eleven-plus hours of biking from Lincoln, Nebraska.

Homestead Trail, southbound from Lincoln.
I am entirely unmagical, but when I ride, I think my shadow has an aura.
Giant dinosaur selling fireworks in Cortland, Nebraska. The north wind was making his arms move, right arm up, left arm down, then vice versa, as if the fat green T-rex were saying, “I’m gonna get you, and then I’m gonna milk your cow!”
Lots of shady stretches on the Homestead Trail. Trees along the route make me feel like I’m going faster.

The trees give way to an open stretch north of Beatrice. I know the terrain and climate are different, but coming out of the trees here reminds me of coming down the Mickelson Trail into the wide open range at the southern edge of the Black Hills on the way to Edgemont.

Cliffs of the Big Blue River!… or, more accurately, rock where generations ago men dynamited this area to ease the grade for the iron horse and today’s aluminum horse.
Welcome to Kansas—first time I’ve ridden a bike here.
Pony Express monument in Marysville, Kansas. I might have matched horse speed on a couple of downhills… but now I’m sending this dispatch to readers out west and all other points of the compass instantly, no oats necessary.
An apple and a bike ride a day keep the doctor away. Lunch in the Marysville City Park.
I could have taken U.S. Highway 77 south…
…but then I wouldn’t have had the Zenith Road and this shady spot all to myself.
When I breezed into Marysville on a lucky daylong tailwind, I thought I might be able to make it to Manhattan by sunset. But there wasn’t a lot of shade on the roads south from Marysville, and after a morning of easy going on the zero-grade rail trail, gearing up and down the hilly gravel (you can’t see the hills in this picture, but trust me and my legs—they’re there) in the Big Blue River Valley wore me out.
So at 5:30 p.m., I pitched my tent in Olsburg. I worried that, on a beautiful summer Saturday, I’d come in to find the place packed with campers and I’d have to go begging for a backyard. But the campground was empty, and I had the Greenwood (and its heated bathhouse! and intermittent hot water in the shower!) all to myself all night.
The one thing I forgot: tent stakes. So I whittled.
While packing, I considered not bringing these two spare straps. Everything I needed (except tent stakes) was already secure—why weigh myself down with two extra ounces of extra straps? “Oh, you never know,” I thought. I kept the straps in my triangle frame pack… and sure enough, last night, I found a use for them. Pizza box wouldn’t fit in my stuff sack; properly secured, it rode nicely on my rear rack.
Olsburg bonus: a gravel trail off the highway so visitors can walk or bike through nature (and the new six-house subdivision) the half-mile to the city park and pool in beautiful downtown Olsburg and back.
The park-to-park trail includes this scenic bench, from which one can gaze upon the tin pond north of the campground.

Wind is from the north again, but I probably won’t ride as far today. I’ll go south on the gravel to Manhattan, where I’ll stop to buy tent stakes, then see if I can reach Council Grove, where I read there’s another bike trail.