Half a mile outside of town, a trucker enthusiastically waved at me from his high-flying perch. "Oh yeah," I remembered. "I forgot about this. Everyone loves to see a touring cyclist! Well, almost everyone." It would be the first of dozens of waves from passing motorists.
Most interesting was the dude on horseback. I saw him from a great distance, since the road is very straight and flat, but in keeping with the etiquette of strangers, we didn't actually react to one another until we were within 50 feet. I pulled to a stop and there he was, dressed like a modern cowboy and guiding his horse along the grassy shoulder of the road. He tipped his hat, and we talked for a while. He was on his way to Trinidad, having set out in the morning from the town of Kim, which is about halfway to Springfield.
About 20 minutes after that, as I was biking along, a car slowed down in the lane next to me and a woman leaned over from the driver's seat and offered me half a bottle of water. I smiled at her but shook my head. (I'm traveling with an entire gallon of water stashed in various containers already.) She waved and drove on. That was very, very nice!
Here are some clickable thumbnails for the day:
An unexpected discovery in the Comanche National Grassland: 3 bars of 3G signal the entire way. Hah!
The town of Kim did not have any decent services, and as night fell I realized I was still feeling pretty good, so I decided to press on to Springfield.
Hours later I was just stopping to refill my seat back water bottle, by pouring the large container into the small one under the pool of light in my bicycle headlight, when I looked up and saw a zillion bright stars, and spread across them the brilliant arc of the milky way. It's huge and luminous and I haven't seen it so brightly in a long time, and I wondered why it looked slightly different than my memory from before.
After thinking for a while I realized that I usually see the Milky Way during the spring or summer when I go camping - and now I was looking at it during the fall. Since the planet is at a different point on its path around the sun, I was seeing a different portion of the galaxy as it spins around to night. The explanation seemed obvious but I was surprised that I'd never considered it before.
Perhaps it's something about the open space of this grassland. It allows the mind to expand into it. Also, as I dictated this paragraph into the phone, while sitting in my bicycle seat, I could look to my left and see the big dipper beaming at me from low on the horizon, unmistakably bright and steady.
Past the city of Kim, I found that the terrain was more like I expected from my maps, and enjoyed a gentle downhill slope for quite a while. I stopped listening to my audiobook (Jingo by Terry Pratchett) and paused by the roadside to work the heat back into my shoes, and I did a 360 turn looking at the night sky. To my surprise, I could count at least 10 flashing lights indicating the flight paths of airplanes, mixed in with the static backdrop of stars.
Before this trip began, I had sworn to myself that I would only ride during the day, for safety purposes, and because then I could actually see the territory I was riding through. But this night-time experience was so pleasant that I've changed my mind. The temperature dropped to 43 degrees before wind-chill, and I piled on my sweater and thick gloves and levered open my Mexican coke (made with sugar instead of HFCS), and listened to The Goon Show as I pedaled lazy arcs back and forth across the empty highway. It was lovely.
By the time I rolled into Springfield, I was quite exhausted, having pedaled over 120 miles with a fully-loaded bike and (according to the suspect equations in my GPS software) burned over 5000 calories. Since I'm now way ahead of schedule, Day 2 can be a day off!