I was refreshed after Bennington. It was well with my soul. For a day I forgot any concerns I had at all and just enjoyed the ride. It was a beautiful one. Everything seemed to be lightened by splendor and majesty. It was like a painting. Picture perfect everywhere. The sun was shining and the colors of everything so brilliant and clear.
We rode 40 miles to Junction City before lunch. It was by no means very difficult. I think my muscles have developed since week one. I took the day breath-by-breath enjoying God's glorious creation. Tom and I stopped in the park at 6th St. and Washington (in Junction City) and relaxed for an hour. I could not have enjoyed the day more.
We continued north from the park into Ft. Riley. My grandpa was stationed there in 1956-57 and my Aunt Karen was born in Junction City. I have never been on a military base and I really had no idea what to expect. Some folks in Bennington warned us that we might not have access to the base because of increased security after 9-11. So, I called in advance and made sure it was permissable. Fortunately, we were able to enter after showing our state IDs. The base was beautiful and the people were buzzing around. It was sort of utopic from my perspective. Some people in a dog park, military personnel driving past us (each appeared to be on a quest or mission - even if that be just going home), families with their kids on playgrounds... everything was peaceful and serene. The army helicopter flying overhead didn't disturb the scene either. Everything seemed in its place.
When we made it through the base, we entered construction and traffic like we hadn't experienced since Denver. That should have been nerve-wracking, but I ignored the danger and pressed on. Traffic got even worse when we were inside Manhattan. We got honked at (in an aggressive, not playful manner) for the first time since Denver and there were no bike lanes or shoulders. We pulled over and called Teresa (my friend Jeff's girlfriend who just graduated from Kansas State) who gave us directions to campus and later to her house. We struggled for a while to get there, but arrived around 4:30 pm and settled in waiting for her roommate Zach to come home from work (he does research at his school regarding his major, animal sciences).
Zach was very hospitable. He's the youngest host we've had at 22 and he took great care of us. It was good to learn about him, his school, and his family's farm. We went out to eat at Pat's Barbeque, which was one of the more Manhattan-y places in town (you know, a place that is distinct in the city, not a franchise) according to his girlfriend. He bought us fried pickles as the appetizer and later at home he gave us access to his fridge (which Tom couldn't make use of because it was mostly full of beer and margarita mix ;) ). Zach was super friendly and I was glad to have met him.
The only thing I regret now is that I believe I short-changed Zach. Not in a financial sense, although he certainly gave me and Tom more than could be expected in that realm too. What I mean is, I did not engage him in any kind of spiritual conversation. I was afraid to breech the subject because I thought it might be awkward. Well, for crying out loud, I told him about a fairly personal (and awkward) health problem my youngest brother was having at the time. If that wasn't too much to bring up, why should a spiritual topic be. I don't know if he knows why we were riding our bikes across the country. I could have asked him how he was doing with his faith or if he needed any prayer. I will call him ASAP and tell him I'm sorry I wasn't open about that part of my trip with him and see what happens from there. I shouldn't be afraid to declare what I believe and why I live each day even if it might be awkward.
Zach bid us farewell and left for work early in the morning. Tom and I left late. I had to try to make phone calls to try and find a place to stay in Topeka and Kansas City. At that point we had no place to stay in the upcoming days. No plans whatsoever. We thought we'd have a place to stay in Kansas City for sure because a girl from church has parents there, but that sadly fell through (by the way, please don't worry about it Libbey. It was beyond your control and God still provided for us!). The night before, I felt a pang of fear about not having anywhere to stay in a big city. I did not want to get caught in the wrong part of town at the wrong time of day. Tom and I decided to try and stop in Shawnee, Kansas for Saturday night and Lee's Summit, Missouri the next night, so I got some phone numbers and we tried calling them in the morning. I left a lot of messages. I guess churches weren't really open that early. We were ready to leave around 9:30 am.
We rode to Manhattan, Kansas on Thursday, May 28, 2009.
Note: Did you know that Kansas is the number one producer of wheat in the US? I didn't. Thanks, Zach!