Seneca, KS to Marysville, KS
42.4 miles/1,941 ft
So, good news and bad news. The good news is that the mud has dried up; bad news is that the dust is back. In a big way.
I started off from the campground and backtracked into Seneca (about 1 mile) to drop a postcard, grab breakfast, and see the Pony Express Museum, which was supposed to open at 9am. I stopped in at the Sweat Pea Bakery and had a $1.00 Americano and the sweetest cinnamon roll I hope I ever come across for as long as I live. It was great, don’t get me wrong. But, man it was sweet.
While I was eating, a woman came up and apologized for interrupting me. She introduced herself as Dana, then told me she was Carla’s cousin (remember Carla with the butter knife?). Carla had asked her to look out for me in case I needed any help in Seneca. So that was random, but comforting, and I thought, how very sweet of both women.
Coincidentally (?) the Seneca Main Street jukebox was playing “With a Little Help From My Friends” as I was leaving town.
I sat in front of the Pony Express Museum listening to the Main Street jukebox until about 9:10 when I read the fine print on the door that said “By Appointment Only.” I thought about calling the number, but didn’t know how long it would take for someone to get there, and as it was warm already, didn’t want to sit around much longer.
Unlike yesterday, the magic cumulus didn’t appear today. Some clouds formed, cumulus and cirrus, but much too far to the south and east to do me any good (as I was headed west).
Headed north of town to take the back road (a little longer than the highway, but it goes by the Pony Express Station sites and is much quieter, and I am, after all on a mountain bike). Turned west and ran into a headwind. The wind played all day long, sometimes in front, sometimes on the side, sometimes disappearing altogether. Never, it seemed, behind me.
Which brings us to a good place to explain the title of this piece. Two months before I left Davisville to start this trip, I crashed (on my cruiser! On grass in the green belt!) and broke my left collarbone. As a result, I was not able to ride much at all the last seven weeks before this trip. That worried my partner, Lisa, or at least concerned her. Or maybe made her think ahead and preempt any guilt or culpability that might appertain at a future inquest. In any case, I assured her that I had trained plenty up to that point, and that the first week or so would be rough, but that I’d be up to the challenge physically. All, that is, except for my butt, because when you stop riding a bike, the butt goes first. Legs, arms, neck, hands, they come back quickly. But sitting for seven or so hours on a bike seat takes some getting used to, and you have to re-familiarize, as it were, every time you’re off the bike.
Now, if you think about it, sitting in or on anything for that long is not really comfortable. That being said, saddle discomfort is a particular bummer because, well, if you can’t sit, you really can’t ride for very long.
Well, thirty minutes into today’s ride, I started to pay the price of not training in the saddle. It made the day a little extra long, not just because it interrupted my bike-daydreaming by focusing my attention in the moment, but also because I used every downhill to stand and get some relief, which slowed me some. The good thing about saddle discomfort, though, is it’s not a linear progression of pain. A lot of pain one day does not necessarily mean even more the next. Of course, it also doesn’t necessarily mean less. We’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings.
On the way to Marysville, I passed two Pony Express Station sites: Ash Point and Guittard’s. The first had a stone monument; the second, nothing. I had hoped for of a sign of Guittard’s, as it had something of a reputation (see, e.g., https://ponyexpressride.com/quick-facts-3/mile-120-guittards-station-2/). The lack of a marker made me really glad the mud was dry, because I rode a lot of dirt today that would have mired me two day ago, and would still have been a problem yesterday. No Pony Station is worth that trouble. Even more so (less so?) an unmarked spot on a map.
I rolled into Marysville around 3:30, pretty dehydrated (too dehydrated to notice how much) and underfed (ditto). Marysville allows camping in their park. No charge, though donations accepted. So I picked a spot, ate and drank until I could think reasonably clearly again, and set off to look for the local Pony Express Museum.
That was the plan anyway. While I was trying to stabilize my system (I was coherent enough now to realize it needed stabilization), a woman approached and apologized for bugging me. She then introduced herself as Betty: Carla’s mom. Seems Betty was in Marysville getting her hair done, and Carla had asked her to look out for me, and so before she returned to Seneca, where she lives, she took a turn through the park and saw my orange bike and stopped to say Hi and asked if I needed anything.
I love this family!
Anyway, Betty told me that the museum people in Seneca were the Koch’s, who were the folks Carla had told me to look up if I needed anything. So I guess I should have called the number on the museum door after all. I feel bad about missing that opportunity.
Marysville has an interesting history. It sits alongside the Big Blue River, the first real river emigrants had to cross. A man named Marshall set up a ferry here in the early 1850s (his wife’s name was Mary), so there was something of a town. And it was the last town until Fort Kearney on the Platte River. I have some notes about it at https://ponyexpressride.com/?s=Marysville. Bottom line is it is mentioned by everyone who passed through here and bothered to write . . . Which does not include Pony Express riders, because on the whole, they weren’t the scrivining type.
By the time I arrived at the museum it had just closed. But one of the volunteers, Chuck, told me he lived on a farm and had chores to attend to, but said he’d rather talk than work, so he sat down, by which motion I gathered I was supposed to sit. Chuck had a lot to say and told me all he could about Marysville, the museum, his time in Scotland, the painting of the stables in the post office (which he walked me over to see) . . . Clearly, Chuck really didn’t want to go back to the farm and his chores.
“You know what created the Pony Express?” he asked? “Hollywood.”
“I thought it was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.”
Shrug. “Like I said, Hollywood.”
At length he confessed that he could not figure out why the hell anyone would be stupid enough to ride their bike the length of the Pony Express Trail. I told him he was in good company, as Lisa (who joined Instagram to follow my posts with the username “marriedtothenut”) and my sister Dana (“sisterofthenut”) felt exactly the same. Chuck got a kick out of that.