After Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri interstate, I was ready to find some backroads and scenic routes. I didn’t care that I happened to be in Kansas.
I didn’t find any secret windy roads, but I was surprised by the beauty the state offered once I got off the I-70.
Last night I rode a hundred miles through the darkness with the goal of reaching the Tallgrass National Prairie Reserve, in mid-Kansas south of Topeka. I camped there overnight hoping to catch the sunrise. Working on video in the comfort of my small tent, I was startled to feel movement underneath me. Spider? I’m not one to go out of my way to smash insects, but I had gotten word from a friend that the very venomous brown recluse is a fairly common occurrence. I didn’t know if they were the type to be doing push-ups underneath the tents of innocent campers, but I didn’t want to take any chances, so I slapped the moving object with the palm of my hand. And again. And again.
Whatever it was, the thing wouldn’t die. It kept moving around. No spider is that strong, right? Holding my breath, I could hear the familiar sound of small teeth grinding, not just coming from under the tent, but all around me as well. Mice? Prairie dogs? Moles? Whatever they were, they were noisy. I decided to ignore them, figuring they were likely harmless.
I slept through my alarm and missed the sunrise by ten minutes. It turned out to be not such a great disappointment after all: a controlled burn four days earlier had wiped out the entirety of the tallgrass. I was told that this procedure is performed every year to stop the spread of invasive plants.
Populus section Aigeiros, the cottonwood, is the state tree of Kansas. A volunteer at the prairie reserve told me I would likely find snails underneath rocks at the base of cottonwoods. So far I’ve checked about twenty trees. Specimens found: 0. Lay people are really bad at predicting where snails are going to be.
I got some comments from concerned readers apparently disturbed by the seriousness of my last selfie. Here is a less serious picture: