Day 95 • June 4, 2012 • Glen Elder State Park to Beloit, KS • 20 miles
Yesterday we camped with our friends Joni, Steve, and Hannah at Glen Elder State Park. Joni is a childhood friend from Topeka who I hadn’t seen in years until we discovered she and her hubby Steve had moved to Boise about the same time we did. They’ve since moved on to Omaha but not before we both popped out kids that remain best buds. Joni vowed to track us down when we got near and they did just that, loading up the family truckster with the family, including dogs Joey and Boo, wonderful Dutch oven food, and plenty of cold, local beer. It was a feast without rival before or since and we had a great time hanging out.
A note about the beer: it wasn’t local in the sense that Coors and Budweiser are mass-produced only one state away, but came from Tallgrass Brewing in Manhattan, produced in small batches only a couple of counties away. Gretchen introduced me to my first Tallgrass brew, Buffalo Sweat, a few days earlier and Steve and Joni were packing Halcyon Wheat, a great after-ride beer, and my new favorite Belgian-style ale, Velvet Rooster. Before leaving Kansas I sampled most of the Tallgrass brews and they’re all excellent. Along with Free State in Lawrence, Kansas weighs in with some of my favorite micro-brewed beer.
We met our first and only touring cyclist in all of our time in Kansas today. He was taking a break from the heat, already in the low 90’s, in a convenience store outside of Glen Elder, heading west. We were avoiding the heat and generally goofing off, having just started the ride. He had come from somewhere in Virginia and had dire warnings about the route we were planning through Kentucky and Virginia, among them the scary dogs that will chase us down and the steep, relentless hills. He suggested a more northerly route through Ohio. This wasn’t the last time we’d hear these warnings.
Eventually we reached Beloit, a whopping twenty miles down the road, and decided we liked it there. We spoke at length with a resident at a rest area along Highway 24 about a recent discussion in city council to close the rest area to make more room for businesses along the highway. We both agreed this was short-sighted thinking, particularly in a town with the dubious distinction of having one of the only McDonald’s in history to be closed. For now it appears the council agrees, though maybe the McDonald’s would have fared better at this location. He pointed us to the city park which boasts a brand-new multi-million dollar public swimming pool and free camping. Like movie theaters, swimming pools appear to be a point of competition and pride between neighboring towns. This seems better than McDonald’s to me.
At the park, some fellow campers in an RV invited us to dinner at the local Baptist church. George and Elizabeth drove us into town where we had a nice meal of sloppy joes, Zoe’s first experience with this classic from my childhood. We exchanged stories of our respective adventures, theirs on long trips in their newly purchased but much used RV, visiting far-flung family. George also detailed his health plan for reducing cholesterol—the cornerstone was daily beer consumption. Unfortunately I don’t think I’d get the same benefits drinking big micro brews but I like the way George thinks.