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Osawatomie to Pittsburg—The Trail of Death and the Unique Road

I rode five days from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Bentonville, Arkansas. Tuesday, July 2, was the hardest stage. High humidity, 90-degree temperatures for most of the ride, and a hard south-southwest headwind all the way… but hey, I didn’t take vacation to sit around all day waiting for perfect weather.

I broke camp in the John Brown Memorial Park and headed south out of Osawatomie around 7 a.m.

John Brown looks like a cyclist. Those boots would be good in the tall grass against ticks!
Sure, John, bring your rifle! It’s light, and cars will give us wider berth.
Bridge over the Pottawatomie Creek, which gives Osawatomie the second half of its name. The first half comes from Osage, for the Osage Indians.
(In case you’re not sure what this Church of God is about)
(In case you’re not sure what this Church of God is about)
Hot day for farming…

Turns out I’m riding the Trail of Death. Maybe Google could have marked that on the map. (Turns out this sign south of Osawatomie is near the end of the historic path of the two-month march several hundred Potawatomi Indians had to make in 1838 when Indiana kicked them off the former homeland.
Almost there! I stopped and scooted this turtle the rest of the way to the grass.
Most of Tuesday’s route was straight south, but every now and then I got an easterly jog for a break from he headwind.
Coming up: the Big Sugar Creek!
Strange: the Big Sugar looks more brown than sweet… and I’m pretty sure that’s not chocolate washing out of the pastures.
Mound City’s Food Fair Super Market has a tiny deli counter in back. They sell chicken nuggets for ten cents each. I briefly considered spending five bucks and filling my handlebar pack—the nuggets would have stayed hot all day! But I restrained myself: four nuggets, plus a pint cup of yogurt and blueberries (!!) reduced to half-price for quick sale. Mmmm, bargains!
If I were biking back, I could cruise through the fancy neighborhood south of Mound City and have this supper. Mmmm!
By noon, my trusty Timex said it was 103 degrees. The thermometer was probably off, as it had been sitting in direct sun all morning… but hey, so had I!
Banana break by a shady shelterbelt. Everybody, plant more trees!
I should learn more about what plants are edible. Getting snacks from the shelterbelts would be a great bargain!
Take the Unique Road!
I didn’t take as many pictures in the afternoon, because I was riding the pavement, US Highway 69, for the last leg from Fort Scott to Pittsburg, and shooting from the saddle feels safer on quiet gravel than on busy four-lane. Plus, I was winded—headwinded! I took a shade break and water break every half hour. The big paved roads don’t have as much shade as the gravel back roads, but I still found some pleasant spots.
I got one last break from the big highway, the two-lane business spur of 69 north of Pittsburg that goes through Arma and Franklin. I saw not much business in Arma and even less in Franklin (Franklin is unincorporated, so they probably prefer it that way), but Franklin does have a really nice park for the kids and a walking track (6 laps is one mile). The Franklin park also has this pecan tree to remind me that the wind could have been worse: the tree survived an F5 tornado in 2003.
That 2003 tornado flung this piece of metal up into the sturdy pecan tree. The Franklin locals have preserved that debris as a monument to Nature’s wrath. (In arguably related news, I managed not to wrap my bike around any trees.)
iPhone panorama: A great thundercloud loomed up from the west and gave me some welcome shade for the last few miles into Pittsburg. The thunder and rain were still a good hundred miles away.
I rolled into the Pittsburg Super 8 mostly dead. I wrestled my bike into my room (not eager to come inside, I guess), took a long shower, put on loose shorts, and walked with uncharacteristic slowness to Casey’s for a blue freezie drink and Panda Express for chicken and chow mein. On the way to refueling, the car wash offered this sign, this moral imperative, this reminder of what we can get from riding bicycle on unique roads.