Monday, July 22, 2013

Ottawa, KS

Day 65: Monday, July 22, 2013
Topeka or thereabouts to Ottawa: 73 miles

If yesterday was made for cycling, then today was made to forget. At least, most of it.

Joe had mapped out a route for me to take to Topeka, and then on to Ottawa. Unfortunately, I didn't take notes on the part after Topeka. And that led to major suck.

oldest boxcar shed
This wooden boxcar was the oldest I'd seen
that had been converted to a farm shed.

Topeka is the capital of Kansas. You wouldn't know it from the roads. Joe routed me down the main north-south artery. It was four-lane, narrow, with no shoulders. I tried a parallel street a couple of blocks over. There was little traffic, but that's probably because the pavement was so bad. I tried the sidewalk. It was terrible, too.

loco and pea-patch
Santa Fe locomotive 3463 fights its way through a Topeka pea-patch.

Santa Fe boxcar shed
This Santa Fe boxcar will never make it home.

Joe had mentioned a bike shop, so I stopped on the way out of town to get directions to Ottawa. I figured that someone who works in a bike shop would know the roads.

Well, sorta. Despite an abundance of hills, the roads were good, as far as they went. Or, I should say, as far as he went. Hilly, yes, but lightly traveled and interesting. And then I encountered the Pavement Ends sign.

Gravel is gravel, right? Not quite. There were three miles of loose, coarse, bumpy, dusty stuff that kept me on a zig-zag path searching for the smoothest track the entire time. But I had to dodge only three cars and their clouds of dust.

After the gravel, it was fifteen miles east to Ottawa. Night was falling, but the road was flat and the wind was good. Too tired to seek out a campground and set up a tent, I picked out a cheap motel, grabbed a late supper at Burger King, and zoned out.

moon over cornfield
The setting sun illuminates a full moon
on the last leg into Ottawa.


  1. Hey Bret, try this: Next time you are in Wifi range, go to Google Maps and turn on the Bicycling layer. It looks to me like the entire time you were struggling through Topeka and environs, you were always parelleling a bike route. :(

    1. I think I have the bicycling layer on. Trails show up as green lines, and yes, some of them were close to the route I picked. There was one that went right by that gravel mess. Unfortunately, not all the trails it shows are suitable for biking - especially loaded touring. Sometimes, I would ask someone about a trail that looked like it would go my way, and they would say it's not worth bothering with. Maybe I should have been more proactive and checked them out for myself.

  2. Well, I wondered when I used Street View to look at some of those trails. I thought, either the Google Street View is old and out of date, or someone is doing some wishful thinking when they mark them as bike trails. For the most part, they look like Rails to Trails that may not have been converted yet.


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