Polar Explorer Eric Larsen
Day 2: KansATHON
Eric Larsen
26 June 2020 | Kansas
We woke early from our roadside / dirt pile camp eager to start riding. The morning was as pleasant as the prior evening and the sun seemingly flip flopped one horizon for another. Purple and orange clouds glowed brilliantly in the East.

The headwind of yesterday had shifted 90 degrees and became a much more manageable cross wind. I gave Gus a crash course on drafting as we started pedaling. The miles ticked away as we rolled steadily forward.

One of the challenging aspects of these adventures is coming up with a route. Basically, I begin the process by looking at potential hiking and paddling routes within the state. My arbitrary parameters I place on these adventures is that they have to be continuous traverses - no skipping or hopping over sections. Once I find the various trails, I look more closely at the map and try to determine if any are near a boundary of the state. If not, that’s fine - at this point I’m simply trying to assess all my options.

Next, I start looking for a compelling way to connect the trails, roads and waterways that can start at one state border and finishes at another. This often takes a while and involves a lot of additional research as I try to understand the challenges of the route, opportunities for camping, availability of public land, access to drinking water, permits, water levels (and more) of each potential ‘leg’. Finally, I string them all together in a route.

Often, there are a few different options that could work but one always seems to come to the forefront. In Wisconsin, I wanted to end in Milwaukee so I paddled the last leg. In New York, we biked into NYC (which was amazing).

For Kansas, the major limiting factor was the hiking opportunities. Luckily, I found the Flint Hills Trail - the longest trail in Kansas. To hike the FHT, would also mean that the water ‘leg’ would be last. But to get to the Kansas River I would have to leave the FHT and veer north - hiking along roads to Topeka.

Because of our later start yesterday, we set a goal of making 120-130 miles to keep on our schedule and reach Council Grove in three days total. We rode 60 miles by noon, but the weather began warming up eventually getting to nearly 100 degrees. The sun was baking us and at one point I felt the onset of heat exhaustion. Taking a few extra drinks, I was able to push through. We set the goal to take and extended break in Albert to rehydrate and refuel. Our body core temperatures were dangerously warm as well.

Albert didn’t have much - only one gas station (kind of) but it did have a nice park and we relaxed in the shade knowing we could hammer out the last miles easily once we were rested. Within 20 minutes, however, the skies darkened then opened up with a torrential down pour. How lucky we weren’t riding!

An hour or so later, the skies were clear and we pushed hard to reach a total of 128.1 miles.
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