Hey now - -
I know that most Americans live in suburbia and have mental images of the Grand Canyon and the Tetons when they think about touring, but Kansas and the other Great Plains states have incredible scenery and opportunities for the cyclist - or should I say the observant cyclist?
I've biked across Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota twice, and Nebraska a bunch of times. The most obvious human feature on the Plains is the grid - the township and range land ordinance plan under which lands where sold by the federal government and which has produced the straight roads running north-south and east-west. This grid tends to ignore the subtle curves in the landscape - plowing thru all with its rectilinearity. County roads have the greatest likelihood of divergence from this rule, state highways less, and US routes tend to be razor straight with cuts and fills eliminating any natural roll in the landscape.
Of course, creeks and streams don't follow the grid - and on rare occasions - a road will follow a stream valley. The challenge for the cyclist is to discover these out-of-the-way routes. I don't think that the Trans Am route does this particularly well. But an additional challenge for the cyclist is to search out those things that make the Plains beautiful. Enclaves of natural prairie - wildflowers - and birds. The Plains are a major flyway with spectacular birds populations depending on the season and a wide variety of hawks year round. Most of the small towns are struggling with population loss and economic decline. Many have lost more than 50% of their residents since 1950. There is much to see in these towns, even if they appear desolate, and even more to learn by listening at the local cafe.
On the topic of night riding - I couldn't disagree more. Even in the hottest months of summer - it's easy to get in an eighty-mile day by cycling at dawn and in the evening. No place has better sunrises and sunsets than the Great Plains where the entire sky becomes a magnificent palette. There is usually very little wind early in the day - and winds die down towards sunset. In 1988 - a year of record highs - I biked across Nebraska using this approach - doing 2/3 of my riding in the morning - and 1/3 in the evening. Given the long days it was no problem.
For cyclists riding coast to coast - don't you want to see the entire country - rather than ride through at night?? Here are a few routes that are especially beautiful - -
Hwy 92 - from Broken Bow to Arthur - perhaps the most beautiful ride in the Plains!
Hwy 12 - in northern Neb - the Niobrara valley is lovely
Hwy 4 - in southern Neb - a rolling route thru farmlands
Hwy 44 - from the Missouri River to the Badlands - incredible vistas
Hwy 20 - from Mobridge to Buffalo - very remote, stunning views
Hwy 18 - from Junction City to Nicodemus - rolling farmland
US 160 - Elk City to Meade - Flint Hills then a quiet ride in the High Plains
US 64 - Alva to Kenton - very light traffic, rolling, strong westly winds.
Enclosed is a pic from central Nebraska -
Best - J
On Ken Kiper's pages he makes a special mention of the hospitality of people toward bicyclists in Kansas.