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The Herald May 26, 1989
Cross-Country trip nearly ended too soon
Rusty Forrest left April 14 on a cross-country trip from Rock Hill to Salt Lake City, Utah. This is the last report he filed from the road before returning to Rock Hill this week.
Day 19, Tuesday, May 2 -- 76 miles from Hoisington, Kan., to Plainville, Kan.
This was an uneventful ride where the wind came at me from all possible angles. I saw lots of cows, oil wells, and Kansas farmers. The last 43 miles were totally without facilities. This part of Kansas is desolate but beautiful. Seventy-six miles held the average without taxing my rapidly aging body.
Assessment: Every mile I ride is more thrilling. I planned and waited for this trip for a very long time, but as it happens, I find myself wondering if it's true. Such is the nature of grand adventure.
Wednesday, May 3 -- 36 miles from Plainville to Hill City, Kan.
On a very chilly morning with a glorious tail wind, my bicycle broke down. I was climbing a hill when the pedals made a loud pop. Just that quick, I had a half inch of slop in the crank arms. Later disassembly by a local bike man revealed that the threads in the bottom bracket shell have disintegrated. My bike is destroyed and this trip is finished.
Assessment: Someday I'll take another trip. I can buy another bike when I get home, but I can't replace such a friend. Tonight I mourned the loss of my uniquely personal long-distance bicycle. We have seen 9 states together, and there will never be another one like it.
Thursday, May 4 -- Hill City, Kan.
As I mentally try to figure my way home from this town, the locals insist, "You're gonna ride that bike out of here." The people in this town rallied to my cause in the greatest display of caring and "pull togethership" that I have ever witnessed. Via word of mouth, lots of people stopped by the bed-and-breakfast inn to offer suggestions. By five o'clock this afternoon, my bike was repaired free of charge 10 miles from here with a bead from an expensive space-age welding rod that bonds any metal to any other. The Kansas farmers are used to repairing things that are hopelessly broken. This is the first bike repair of this type I have ever heard of, and it will take me many pages in the future to properly thank and praise the people of Hill City, Kansas.
Assessment: I am emotionally exhausted. My plans have made a complete 360 degree turn in 24 hours. I have made true friends I will never forget, and it will be hard to leave Hill City.
Note: In my old cut-up hardcopy of the newspaper column, this one day is missing, and I don't know why. But I remember exactly what happened, so I'll fill in this gap 20 years later.
Friday, May 5 -- 33 miles from Hill City to Norton, Kan.
This was the windiest day I have ever been outdoors. There was a high-wind warning in effect. A clear day, but the wind was roaring. The road signs were twisting on their poles. Three times the wind blew me completely off the road, and when my bike left the pavement, both tires immediately went flat. There was a nasty sand thorn on the roadside I found out later they call "puncture vine." It took over 8 hours to go a little over 30 miles.
Assessment: Not a good day.
Saturday, May 6 -- 64 miles from Norton Kan., to McCook Neb.
The wind died down but today I was wracked by mechanical problems. The sand thorns ate 4 more inner tubes and exhausted my supply of spares. The thorns look like miniature longhorn cow skulls, with two stiff points maybe a quarter inch long. Traffic often forces me off the pavement, and instantly one or both tires go flat, picking up three or four of these little monsters. Also, my crankset assembly came unscrewed at the side away from the Kansas weld, but was tightened up at the end of the day by the bike man in McCook. I've got at least one more day of riding. If the crankset bearing comes apart again, I can finally declare this bicycle and this trip to be mechanically over.
Assessment: From a mechanical standpoint, I'm living on borrowed time. My bike is a worn-out, patched up mess. I'm way behind schedule. Such is the possible nature of grand adventure.
Sunday, May 7 -- 64 miles from McCook to Imperial, Neb.
This day was another typical Midwestern climb into the wind. My re-repaired bike seems to be holding up well. I was physically capable of another 10 or 15 miles when I hit town, but the next motel was 40 miles away. Out here you don't make small decisions, you only make big ones if you are riding a bicycle. The proverbial "next town" is always hours away. I'm now living on Mountain time. I must be a long way from home.
Assessment: If all goes well, I'll do lunch in Colorado tomorrow. I talked on the phone tonight with a good friend in Rock Hill who told me I'm living out a fairy tale. He's exactly right. I have already had more blessings on this trip than I can count.
Monday, May 8 -- 86 miles from Imperial, Neb., to Sterling, Colo.
This day offered a 20 mph crosswind for a long ride up the "ramp", the gradual climb to over 4000 feet at Sterling. Late in the day I watched a thunderstorm form and grow directly ahead of me. I forgot all about being tired as adrenaline had me standing on the big chain wheel and desperately pumping up my slack front tire every 5 miles. I beat the storm to Sterling by two minutes.
Assessment: The last 20 miles of this day reminded me of a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." I won the race against the storm. It could have easily gone either way.
Tuesday, May 9 -- 103 miles from Sterling to Fort Collins, Colo.
A miraculous tail wind on a downright cold day pushed me across a 103-mile void between motels. It was 50 miles to one cafe, 40 to the next.
The view out here on the high plains is fantastic, and I reckon I have seen a million square miles of land without a building. Here I sit at the base of the Rockies, already about a mile above sea level. The "Foothills" consume to view to the west.
My bike seems to be holding up, and the last two days have surprisingly put me back in the mileage ball game. Salt Lake City again looks reachable, but I face the greatest athletic test of my life--towing these loaded bags over the Continental Divide.
Assessment: I admit that I'm nervous. Cameron Pass awaits, elevation 10,276 feet. Will my body perform at 10,000 feet? Will my patched-up bicycle stand the strain of relentless climbing? The jury is out.
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