2021 Cannonball 550 - Day 3: The Angry Viking & The Shit-heel Locals

7:30 a.m. on Day 3, I lay in the plush bed of the Viking Motel in Lindsborg and listened to my alarm sounding. I finally just turned the damned thing off. My body hurt, and I had only gotten about 3 hours of sleep. I could see my bike next to the bed, and the thought of riding all day in the heat and the wind overwhelmed me. So, I pulled the covers over my head and went back to sleep. I woke up again an hour later. 

The Angry Viking in Lindsborg

I took my time loading my bike and made my way to the motel office. I had left my glasses there when I checked in and needed to retrieve them. I had a pleasant conversation with the owner and then rode across the street to Casey's to refuel. Unfortunately, as I was moving around, it became apparent that my left leg was not functioning well after navigating the miles of sand the night before. I got my breakfast and supplies for the day, then sat against the side of the building, trying to collect myself and come up with a strategy. Today was going to be hard. I was not where I wanted to be, and if the rest of the course was like the first two days, I wasn't sure if my body could actually finish. I recorded and posted my update. 

This update was rough. This was probably my lowest point. But, when I looked back on the race and talked to my husband, friends I spoke with while on the course, and my coach - I asked them if I ever told them that I was quitting. And I never did. I never said that I wanted out because I couldn't do it or it was too hard. In fact, it was the opposite. This is pretty amazing for me - I have been known to find any justification possible for not finishing things. So, this is why this update is tough for me. I knew I wanted to finish no matter what (my time goal was already blown - it was now about the finish), but I didn't know if my body would let me. 

Lindsborg is hours away from anyone that could come and get me, so I had two choices. I could sit and wait and always wonder if I could have done it. Or I could get on my bike and see if I started to feel better as the day went on. I chose the latter. And I was happy I did.

I made the executive decision to not go back and ride the small loop I cut out the night before. Instead, I would be honest about it and deal with the fallout if anyone gave me shit. But, for me to keep going, I had to do what I had to do at the moment. So, I rolled forward through Lindsborg. Unfortunately, there was construction in town, so the route on the GPS got a little wonky. I had to weave through the city streets to find my way back on the official route. In doing this, I came across the statue of the Angry Viking. This was so awesome. I stopped and took a picture of it and sent it to my sister and some of my cousins. When my Grandmother was still alive, my aunt brought her to Lindsborg for the Swedish festival. Seeing this statue made me think of her, and it made me smile. 

Once I got outside Lindsborg, the scenery was gorgeous. It was hot - in the 90s - and the wind was blowing hard. However, it was a tailwind. So, things were looking up for me. The stiffness and pain in my left leg started to work itself out. My mood started to change. I had left Lindsborg around 11:45 a.m., and I had 30 miles to get to Salina. My strategy was the same as Day 2 - just take it by town by town. 

A beautiful old church outside Lindsborg

Everything was going really well as I rolled into Salina around 2:15 p.m. The only minor issue was riding the levee that cut across town. Once I got up onto the levee, the wind became a 25-30 mph crosswind. It took a lot of strength to keep the bike upright and moving forward those few miles, and I almost blew off twice. Once I made it across town, I stopped at a Brahm's to get something to eat. I wasn't hungry, but I knew I needed to keep on top of my nutrition. I thought that I had been handling the heat remarkably well until I walked into the air-conditioned building. Standing in line, waiting to order, I immediately got dizzy and felt nauseous. Nothing on the menu looked good except for a garden salad, and I knew that wouldn't be enough calories to get me through to the next town. So, I ordered a chicken sandwich and the most giant ice tea they had and sat in a booth and spaced out. I'm not sure how long I sat there, but it was a while. When I finally felt a little better, I filled my bottles with ice and water and rolled on. 

I stopped in a park in the shade and recorded a live update on Facebook and Instagram since uploading with spotty service took too long. My mood was good. I had a positive outlook for the rest of the day. Then, I studied my cue sheets and route info and made a plan for the next stretch. It was a little after 4 p.m., and I had 30 miles to go to Abilene. My goal was to get there by dark. The wind was still in my favor, so this goal was achievable. 

The stretch to Abilene was uneventful and scenic. Day 3 was kinder to my body than the first two days, and I was so grateful for this. There was a short stretch of sand right outside Abilene that made my PTSD from the night before kick in, but it was short-lived and mostly ridable. I came to the Abilene water tower right at dusk. 

The Abilene water tower

When I got into town, I was actually hungry. So, I found a Sonic where I could sit outside with my bike, plug my phone into the wall, and order some chicken strips and a route 44 slush (I have a slush addiction, and after a hot day, this made me sooooo happy). First, I had an enjoyable conversation with a couple that had ridden there on their e-bikes for an evening treat. Then I talked with a young woman that gave me her napkins when my nose unexpectedly erupted with blood. 

I don't look scary at all.

After the young woman left, I sat alone, collecting my thoughts and preparing myself for some stellar night riding. While doing this, a large diesel truck with tinted windows and blue running lights circled the Sonic. The passenger yelled something out the window as it gunned its engine, but I couldn't understand him. So, I ignored them and went back to what I was doing. Then, about 5 minutes later, it happened again. I was starting to get uncomfortable, so I began to pack up my things. As I was finishing up, the truck came around for the third time. I decided that it was probably time for me to move on. So, I rode across the street to the gas station to get water and snacks for the night. As I was standing outside the gas station, situating everything on the bike, the truck returned for what was at least the fourth time. A local police officer was parked by me and was about to get in his vehicle. I stopped him and pointed out the truck as it drove by. I told him that they had circled me and hollered things at least four times. I asked him if I should be worried. He didn't seem overly concerned and told me that he thought they were just teenagers goofing around. He didn't believe that they would actually do anything to me. I still felt uneasy, so I texted my husband and Tiffany and let them know the situation, and if they saw my dot stop (and I hadn't let them know I was stopping) to touch base. Then I nervously rolled out of Abilene. It was around 10:00 p.m.

I started to relax a little once I got to the outskirts of town. I hadn't seen the truck for at least 20 minutes. I turned onto 2200 Ave. (a blacktop highway) and picked up the pace. After about a mile and a half on the road, I heard the sound of a loud diesel engine coming up fast behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw headlights from a truck - blue running lights underneath - coming towards me. I did my best to stay calm, but the panic attack inevitably took over. I got as far over on the shoulder as I could. There was a farmhouse on my right. The yard lights were on, but the house was dark. I rolled slowly, partially because I couldn't breathe and partly because I wanted to be near that house if they ran me off the road or stopped. (Just typing this makes my throat start to tighten again.) They slowed down and drove by me slowly. Once they passed, they hit the gas and sped up. I immediately stopped and called my husband. The panic attack had taken over. I couldn't move. I was paralyzed on the side of the road, and I didn't know what to do. Honestly, I don't remember that conversation. I know he wanted me to call the police. But, I didn't have faith in the Abilene police at that point. I hung up and stared ahead. All I could see were flashing red lights. It looked like a car had stopped on the side of the road and had its hazards on. I called Tiffany. I vividly remember saying to her, "I don't want to ride my bike anymore. I don't want to be out here alone anymore." (This was the only time I wanted to stop - all due to shitty people.) I told her that I thought they were stopped on the road ahead. My options weren't great. I had to get off that road. I could either go forward or backward. I chose forward. I put her on speaker and balanced the phone in my hand as I slowly rolled my bike along. The panic finally subsided when I saw that the flashing red lights were a stop sign at a busy intersection. The truck was gone. I hung up the phone and got to the next turn. 

The next turn on the route was onto a gravel road. Again, I stopped, took a deep breath, and got my shit together. After a few miles on gravel, I was satisfied that the truck was finally done with me, and I settled into my pace for the night. My goal was to camp at Milford Lake (32 miles from Abilene). The gravel and dirt roads for that stretch were packed and fast. During this stretch, I saw a ton of wildlife. It was truly awesome, in every sense of the word,  and is one of the main reasons that I love night riding. I saw multiple foxes. And had the pleasure of watching at least four owls swoop down in front of my bike and pick up their meal for the night from the fields surrounding me. 

I covered ground quickly, as it was primarily flat heading into the lake, and I was now partly motivated by fear. I got to Milford Lake around 1 a.m. The terrain got a little hillier around the lake, and the camping was not in a prominent place. So, I kept riding around the lake, hoping to find a good place to pull over for the night. The panic attack had taken a lot out of me, and now my spidey sense was up. My friend Joe B. and I had been messaging back and forth (he is a night owl like me), and he let me know that there was a campground and a hotel right by Junction City around mile 305 at the I-70 intersection. So, I kept riding. 

I got to Junction City and found the Motel 6 around 1:15 a.m. There was no one at the front desk, so I sat in a chair in the lobby and waited. After about 20 minutes, I finally called the front desk (while sitting in front of the front desk). It went through to the national number, and they tried ringing the front desk. It appeared that no one actually worked at the Motel 6. After another 15 minutes, the front desk clerk finally emerged. He apologized profusely, explained he was having stomach issues (something I didn't really need to know), gave me a screaming deal on a room with a huge bathtub, and sent me on my way. 

I knew I wasn't going to be able to sleep much that night. So, instead, I soaked in the bathtub and used that time to clean my bottles, reorganize things, and finally take a little nap. The next day was going to be challenging. The hills going into Alma were going to be the hardest yet, and it was going to be the hottest day so far. But, I had already gotten through breaking my face and now a scare with some unpleasant locals. So, I was up for the challenge. 

  • Day 3 = 100.44 miles w/ 2,566 elevation
  • Day 2 = 118.56 miles w/ 3,225 elevation
  • Day 1 = 89.95 miles w/ 4,285 elevation
  • Running total for 3 days = 308.95 miles w/ 10,076 elevation

Next installment spoiler...no hotels! I finally did it like I had planned! Stay tuned...


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