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TransAmerica Trail - Kansas

Old 05-13-21, 04:47 PM
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engineerbob
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TransAmerica Trail - Kansas

I'm planning to ride from Denver to Saint Louis this Summer. But with the number of businesses that have closed over the past year, I'm a bit concerned about what I'll find. If you live in or near any of the following Kansas towns, please tell me about food and lodging availability. If you can offer a spot to pitch my tent, I'd appreciate it.

Bob

Horace, Kansas

Tribune, Kansas

Selkirk, Kansas

Leoti, Kansas

Marienthal, Kansas

Modoc, Kansas

Scott City, Kansas

Dighton, Kansas

Beeler, Kansas

Ness City, Kansas

Bazine, Kansas

Alexander, Kansas

Nekoma, Kansas

Rush Center, Kansas

Timken, Kansas

Albert, Kansas

Heizer, Kansas

Great Bend, Kansas

Hudson, Kansas

Sterling, Kansas

Nickerson, Kansas

Hutchinson, Kansas

Medora, Kansas

Buhler, Kansas

Hesston, Kansas

Newton, Kansas

Elbing, Kansas

Burns, Kansas

Cassoday, Kansas

Rosalia, Kansas

Eureka, Kansas

Neal, Kansas

Toronto, Kansas

Coyville, Kansas

Benedict, Kansas

Chanute, Kansas

Shaw, Kansas

Walnut, Kansas

Farlington, Kansas

Girard, Kansas

Pittsburg, Kansas

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Old 05-14-21, 05:14 AM
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I can't offer current on the ground info for any of those locations, but I can offer some advice. I have camped in the town parks in many of those towns without issue. I have done similarly in other towns across the Great Plains and other areas of the west. I generally never had trouble finding an impromptu place in small towns. I typically didn't ask permission, but did sort of feel out the locals for whether I'd be run off (I never was). It looks like many of the towns you will pass through are on the TA. For places on the Trans America or other well established ACA routes the maps are a great guide and the addenda will be updated frequently as the season progresses. It might be worth buying the relevant ACA TA maps if you don't have them. Download the latest addenda before you start and again as you get closer to various sections.

I'd think that most of the places I stayed on the TA or the ST would not be very subject to closure since they were not really open to start with. Many were picnic areas or other little town parks. Restrooms or other facilities may be a bigger issue, but you will figure out a way to deal with the current situation as you go. For sure that is the easiest part of the country I have found to improvise free camping in little towns. I generally just pitched my tent in the town park. I'd ask the local cops if the town was big enough to have cops, but it almost never was. I'd usually buy something in the general store or whatever store there was and say something like, "I am riding coast to coast. Do you think anyone would bother me if I pitched my tent for the night in the town park over there?", Alternately, I might ask folks I ran into if they knew of where other cyclists might have camped when passing through. If really stuck, librarians, clergy, cops, and firemen are good people to ask about a place to camp. I have had librarians call around and find me a spot and the other three offer one that they had jurisdiction over or knew of.

I really doubt that Covid will have much impact on any of that. I have heard that it has had an impact on the ability to fill water bottles or to use restrooms many places. Some reported needing to buy bottled water frequently. I don't know how much it has impacted the frequency that you will be offered hospitality, but I'd guess there will be an impact. I imagine there will be some return toward normalcy as compared to last year, but it may be slight.

When do you plan to start? How well the addenda will be updated will depend on whether some of the TA coast to coast traffic has passed through there yet.
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Old 05-14-21, 08:57 AM
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Thanks, staehpj1 .

Last year, I joined the ACA and bought the maps. And I've looked at the online updates. That being said/written, small towns have been hit hard. I recently drove from Colorado to Texas on US-287, and saw many closed businesses.

Asking locals, has always served me well. While traveling by motorcycle a few years back, I asked a cop about camping options. He directed me to a park adjacent to a boat ramp, and then told me to ignore the 'no camping' sign since he was the lone officer patrolling it.

Tentatively, my wife and I plan to get on the road in mid-June.
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Old 05-14-21, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by engineerbob View Post
Last year, I joined the ACA and bought the maps. And I've looked at the online updates. That being said/written, small towns have been hit hard. I recently drove from Colorado to Texas on US-287, and saw many closed businesses
Yeah, definitely likely to be an issue for restaurants and lodging. Probably regular commercial campgrounds as well. I'd think not so much for impromptu places like town parks and church yards.

Tentatively, my wife and I plan to get on the road in mid-June.
Not sure how many coast to coast TA folks will be there by then, but some will, so it will be worth getting the latest addenda as you go.

Good luck and have a great trip. Some folks managed even last year and I'd guess this year will be better. Sure a few more businesses will have gone belly up, but otherwise some level of normalcy will be starting to occur.
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Old 05-14-21, 11:05 AM
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I live on the other side of Kansas and I haven't been out west recently but in general most small towns will have a gas station and that's it. If you're a middle-class looking white guy then you can probably get permission to pitch a tent in a church lawn or public park. (I'm not saying this because I think it's right I'm saying it because it's the reality of those towns.)

A lot of those towns you listed aren't even really towns any more, they're unincorporated and probably just a collection of houses and there will be no services. Tribune-Leoti-Scott City-Dighton-Ness City-Rush Center are all the county seat and basically the only towns in those counties and should have a gas station and maybe a restaurant and they're all about 25-30 miles apart until you get to Great Bend, which is a bigger town. Generally it gets more populated further east but then once you hit the Flint Hills after Newton you'll have a long stretch from there to Eureka, about 70 miles, where you won't be able to count on finding any services in those smaller towns.

The Newton Bike shop used to be famous for people crossing the state but it shut down a couple years ago and only does online now. I believe the Newton Fire Department took over their role of hosting touring cyclists but I may be mis-remembering.

Also, I apologize for the wind. Hope you get lucky and it's mostly southwest.
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Old 05-14-21, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by ksryder View Post
Also, I apologize for the wind. Hope you get lucky and it's mostly southwest.
I expect that. Unfortunately, it will probably be present during the return to Colorado. Uphill, too.
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Old 05-14-21, 12:37 PM
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I used to call my regional tours the "support family restaurants" trip.
They used to be my favorite part of riding in the great plains but they have been slowly dying for the last 10 years.
Now it's the "Casey's General Store / Dollar Store / Grocery Store Deli" tour.
I don't seem to interact with the real characters much anymore. You have to eat cheese burgers in the local bar for that experience.
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Old 05-14-21, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by engineerbob View Post
I expect that. Unfortunately, it will probably be present during the return to Colorado. Uphill, too.
I don't see the uphill as being a big issue, however depending on your thoughts of wind - an alternative could be to go north from St Louis to Omaha and take Amtrak back. Don't have to decide right away, but if you have a lot of glorious tailwinds going to St Louis, and have second thoughts it may not be too tough to make a reservation and cycle up to Omaha instead...(or even take a train from St Louis to Chicago and different one from Chicago to Denver).

My experience coming through these smaller towns has been most the mom & pop motels still open as well as some (but not all) businesses, e.g. a lot of cafes closed. However, typically at least something if only a small market, a Dollar General or at minimum a gas station. I still haven't made reservations or explicit plans in advance. Instead depending on the wind I see how far I go and where I end up.

Prior to pandemic, in 2018, I took a trip across the plains the other direction (Abilene to the Canadian border mostly following US-83. I liked to spend night in motel if I could but carried a tube tent as a backup. Was able to find inside accommodations every night but one. In that place there was a hotel in town, but it was filled with construction workers making a new gas plant. Talking with proprietor, they were willing to let me pitch my tube tent in the back side of the hotel.

I haven't been across that part of KS/CO since the pandemic started, but I've crossed lot of small towns in West Texas and Panhandle. Driving more than cycling unfortunately. However, they seem to be almost as open as they were prior - though in some cases that wasn't particularly open.
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Old 05-14-21, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by engineerbob View Post
I expect that. Unfortunately, it will probably be present during the return to Colorado. Uphill, too.
I recall the wind usually being out of the southeast whenever I was there in the summer. So I'd expect it to be more favorable for the return.
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Old 05-14-21, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I recall the wind usually being out of the southeast whenever I was there in the summer. So I'd expect it to be more favorable for the return.
Weatherspark can give you a profile of typical wind directions. Here for example is Garden City, KS as a proxy: https://weatherspark.com/y/5270/Aver...tes-Year-Round

With that said, on the plains you can get stuck in a weather pattern for several days. I've crossed the plains W-->E on six different trips and S->N once. On two of those trips I distinctly remember multiple days of headwinds coming out of the east. Having a southern component to the wind is fairly common except for times when a front is coming down from the north.
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Old 05-15-21, 01:56 PM
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Since I'm in Vermont, I'm confident I know nothing about any of those towns, however, if I were in your cycling shoes, so to speak, I would google the towns and call up the appropriate local churches, police departments, and libraries (librarians know a lot, and usually like research).
Good luck.
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Old 05-20-21, 09:16 AM
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ksryder : You nailed it.

I drove (I know, where's my sense of adventure?) from Pueblo CO to Cassoday KS earlier this week. County seats have resources that smaller towns lack. I stopped and spoke to anyone I could, and got a feel for many things, including the positive attitude that locals have about the money brought in by cyclists. As I headed east and the population density increased, it seemed that the traveling experience, and by extension the riding experience, wasn't as good.

At one county seat in Kansas, I went to the city hall and asked about camping. I was told that I could camp in the park adjacent to the municipal pool and that I could use the bathrooms there. "Just let the Sheriff know you're there." And that was the tone of my interactions until I approached I-35 from the west.

I spoke to a gentleman in Eastern Colorado who was riding from Pittsburgh to San Francisco. He had a great attitude and probably never let anything bother him. When I expressed some concern about the limited sight distances in the Missouri Ozarks, he told me how beautiful the Ozarks are.

Bob

Last edited by engineerbob; 05-20-21 at 11:23 AM.
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