Despite the nasty head/crosswinds in western Kansas, we made it fine to Wichita with our gimpy van suspension. It’s a good thing we were visiting friends and family because it was high 90’s and very humid. Sleeping in the van without independent air conditioning would have been miserable.
Our first visit was with Steve and Stacy, a law school buddy and his family.
They live in a development that has absolutely no need for a commercial fireworks show. In his area they can only buy fireworks for three days around the 4th and they don’t let the opportunity go to waste. Every third house or so was massively stocked with fireworks and the evening of the 4th sounded like the start of World War III. As one would predict with too much gun powder and too much faith in the quality of the manufacturers, we had a couple minor incidents that could have ended poorly. Fortunately, the only casualty was one of Stacy’s copper mule mugs, which by the look of things gave it’s life in service as it jumped on top of a mortar that shot sideways under the startled spectators’s chairs.
When we left Wichita headed for Kansas City, we stopped at the Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve. The preserve is roughly 10,000 acres of the little remaining tall grass prairie in the U.S., which used to cover nearly all of the Midwest.
Saturday night we went with my uncle to the Red Sox, er, Royals game. The bottom-dwelling Royals kept it close for a few innings. It helped that David Price tied a major league record by beaning three consecutive batters and then walking in a run. The Sox finally broke it open late and left the Royals in the dust, including scoring 7 runs in the top of the 9th. For us it was a great game to watch!
The next morning we headed back to Lawrence, KS to visit my cousins and aunt and uncle. I was hoping for a kite-boarding lesson, but the wind was too light. Instead, we swam in the lake, then my cousin and I went for a mountain bike ride while Sara went for a kayak paddle. Biking in 95 degree heat and high humidity was not quite as bad as I would have expected, but it was still pretty bad. The trails along Clinton Lake were quite good with a mix of mildly technical rock gardens, flowing trails, and some roots. Despite being nearly all along the lake contour there were some short steep sections I couldn’t cleanly ride.
Sunday evening we had a nice family dinner with my aunt and uncle and the cousins. My uncle made a beautiful brisket in his smoker, which would have been delicious if we had waited a couple more hours for it to finish. We sat watching the temp creep up, but it didn’t quite make it by the time we all needed to eat. The replacement BBQ ribs were equally delicious!
On Monday morning we managed one more ride with my cousin on the Lawrence River trail right near downtown Lawrence. The loop we rode was about six miles of super well-maintained one-way single-track along the river. They have bikers ride one direction and walkers/runners go the other way and it seems to work out well for multiple use.
We managed one other visit with a friend Monday as a guy I met through the FBI moot court program (where prosecutors went to help train new computer examiners how to testify) lives in Kansas City on the Missouri side. He is very supportive of our adventure and wants us to start our own YouTube channel! We had a good time visiting and comparing the van to his travel trailer.
Monday afternoon we were back in the van and well on our way to Maine. We checked the weather reports and saw the overnight temps were supposed to get back down in the 70s so we toughed it out in the van. I don’t think we actually saw anything south of 79 and it was obviously still very humid. We parked along the banks of the I&M Canal near Morris, IL and ran all of our fans all night. It wasn’t great with two panting humans and two panting dogs, but we managed some sleep. It definitely confirmed that we need to stick to cooler climates for our #vanlife adventures!