Most of my rides since Chicago had been pretty lonely. I was fortunate enough to befriend a slew of Warm Showers and Couch Surfing hosts along the way, but most of my riding hours, and thus most of my days, were spent in solitude. Today was the first time that wasn't the case because of my new riding partner, Celine.
Some of you may be curious to know how I knew Celine. Well, the answer is that I didn't really know her. Before I left for this trip I posted in several online forums looking for riding partners. I received a few responses, but hers was the only one I received that didn't sound like it was generated by a robot. After a few Google hangouts we became virtually acquainted. She had a great attitude and was eager to ride, so I invited her to join along.
This mild Sunday morning would be my first ride as part of a team. We headed out of Janet and Orvin's home early, around 7:00 am. Celine surely benefited from the fact that I had two nightmarish rides immediately preceding her arrival because it meant that I was planning and riding very cautiously. This first ride together was rather uneventful. We rode about 50 miles to Hutchinson. Along the way I shared little tips and suggestions here and there. It was a relief to find that she was very receptive to these lessons learned. Plus, it was just sort of nice to have someone to talk to who appreciated the random cycling knowledge I had accumulated. Throughout the ride we rode close but were generally independent of each other. It was a smooth ride, helping to ease some of my Kansas woes.
Our destination was the Zion Lutheran Church in Hutchinson. This church had a few beds set up in its basement to accommodate touring cyclists. I was pleased to find that Erika and Adriel, the riders I had met in Newton just a couple of days prior, were at the church. They had chosen to spend a rest day in wonderful Salt City. The four of us basically had this church to ourselves, so you know what that meant...PARTY! I called all of my friends in Hutchison and told them that we were throwing down at the Zion Lutheran Church. The only problem was that I didn't have any friends in Hutchinson, Kansas, so the party never happened. Bummer. Instead, Erica, Celine and I spent the day hanging out at the park, reading our books and working out. It was really pleasant, sort of taking me back to the good times I had in Chicago.
That evening we all cooked ourselves meals and planned the next legs of our adventures. It turned out that we were all heading West on the TransAm, so we decided to do a group ride the following day. I was thrilled to have more company. Adriel, the most experienced rider amongst us, suggested that an early departure at 6:00 am would be ideal to beat the heat and avoid the wind. This meant waking up at 5:00 am. Such an early departure might be a struggle for me, but hey, the only thing you can do with good advice is to take it, so 5:00 am it would be.
Up until this point my ride had been an individual experience. It was now becoming more of a social experience. I welcomed that change with open arms. After putting on about 2,000 miles by myself, I was thrilled to have company. And what better way to celebrate new friends than by spending an evening in the basement of a Lutheran Church...pretty surreal...