Prairie View

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

You Can't Do That in a Skirt

That was the sentiment of some who participated in last week's Bike Across Kansas (BAK).  Several young ladies from our church and community proved the sentiment wrong.  One of them proved another sentiment wrong--that you can't do it in bare feet.  Cindy M.  made the whole trip without shoes. 

"Leroy's Girls" was the informal name given by other BAK riders to the Amish-Mennonite girls in skirts.  The names we use are Arlene, Frieda, Holly, and Cindy.  The first few days Krista was with them.  Leroy H. has participated in this ride for years, and he made it his business to organize training activities (long bike rides mostly, I presume) and look out for the girls in other ways, both beforehand and during the ride.   In a van pulling a trailer, Leroy's father William hauled the whole group, which also included young men, and their bikes to the starting point.  I didn't hear for sure, but I presume that he also picked them up at the end. 

This year's ride began at the Colorado border, as it always does, and ended 558 miles later at Fort Scott on the Missouri border.  Elevation at the westernmost overnight town, Johnson City, is 3,339 ft. above sea level.  Scott City, the easternmost overnight town, has an elevation of 2,979.  Although the difference in elevation is not very dramatic, starting at the western border supports the wisdom of working with the topography of the landscape.  This allows the bikers to travel "downhill" all the way. 

In the more level areas of the state, the descent away from the Rocky Mountains is both more substantial and less noticeable than this year's route suggests.  The 2017 BAK, for example, featured a route from Tribune to Leavenworth that began at 3, 612 ft. and ended at 840 ft.  The 2018 BAK was a southern route and included many more hills than people know about who only see the Pleasantview area southwest of Hutchinson.  Each full day's ride in 2018 covered a distance of 66 to 83 miles, with one day offering an optional loop that made it a 100 mile route. 

On the second full day of the ride, the closest National Weather Service station (Dodge City) recorded a high of 104 degrees with a south wind at  35 MPH with gusts to 49.  The 24-hour average was just shy of 21 MPH.  Doing anything outdoors in such conditions is unpleasant, but biking with such a headwind in such heat must have been truly miserable. 

This must have been the day when Holly took a tumble and bruised the shoulder that took the brunt of the impact with the pavement.  She also injured both wrists. This occurred when a line of bikers took a cue from the flight patterns of geese and lined up behind the leader who broke the force of the wind for everyone following.  This works well if everyone maintains a sharp focus, but a moment of inattention can cause collisions.  Holly is a hardworking, plucky gal (she's been my student and household helper), so, as expected, she persevered and finished the ride, despite the aches and pains. 

Leroy reported that the group from here, in general--and apparently noticeably--maintained their good cheer throughout the ride.  Leroy heard an observation from someone about the "light in their eyes."  To  me, later, he made a general observation that "we" know how to have fun while we're doing hard things," unlike many who know only how to grit their teeth and persevere.


My cousin and age mate, Landon Beachy, participated in BAK this year.  He's done the ride across Iowa in the past and ridden across the USA twice.  He's also done the fundraiser ride for Rosedale Missions, and I don't know what else.  Besides that, he carries his bike along on the semi he drives for a living, and rides his bike often when he's stopped for the night.

Also along on this ride were several Helmuth brothers, nephews of Paul Yoder from our church.  One of them, Ron, also my age mate, was in church on Sunday, as was Landon.  Both Landon and Ron were born here, but moved away when they were young--Landon to Iowa and Ron to Ohio.  Ron's family home at his birth was the same home where I spent most of my childhood.  My grandfather A. J. Beachy, bought the farm from Ron's grandfather, Dan Yoder.  Dan had bought it from Bryan Tedder for his married daughter and her husband, Elvon and Bertha (Yoder) Helmuth, and A. J. Beachy bought it for David L. and Mary (Beachy) Miller--my parents.


Landon and Leroy both told me about a Mennonite bicycle manufacturer from Montezuma, KS (along the BAK 2018 route), thinking that I might like one of their RANS bikes.  I had been musing aloud about the possibility of buying a bike with my retirement gift money, and Hiromi took the initiative to ask each of them for information on how to get the kind of bike I would like.  My first--and decidedly unsporty--priority is to get something that will not result in sore "sit bones" for weeks after a ride.  I also want tires that won't spring a leak upon every encounter with puncture vine thorns, which are present in great abundance in our area.  I have no aspirations of entering any long distance events or ever doing anything competitive.  I just want to be able get around the section without getting stranded, either by bicycle malfunction or great misery. 


Later . . .  I've looked at the RANS bikes website and see that they're definitely beyond my gift money price range.  I'm happy though to learn more about these bikes because it will surely be helpful in making a good decision--whatever I decide to do.


Somewhere online is a video that I've seen of Hutterite women playing ice hockey in skirts.  Those ladies must be like the ones from here who biked across Kansas.  They don't have time for the naysayers who say "you can't do that in a skirt."  Watch them make a liar out of such naysayers. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Name Trivia--The Presidents

Many of the last names of former presidents are now--or perhaps have been for a long time--also given names, usually for men or boys.  Here are ones I thought of without consulting a list of presidents:


Can you think of others?

Later:  I've thought of three more:


Still later:  I looked at a list of presidents and found one more:


That total of 16 is slightly more than 1/3 of the 46 presidents who have had their last name used as a given name--common enough for me to have heard of it.  I can't quite imagine some of the others joining the list.  Hoover?  Hayes?  Garfield?  Polk?  Bush?  Coolidge?  Harding? Taft?

Friday, June 08, 2018

Resident Nighthawks and Bees

In the past I've enjoyed watching multiple nighthawks overhead during fall migration.  I learned to recognize their buzzing call, and admired their white-banded slim-winged, erratic flight.  Fast and powerful describe their flight as well.

This spring I'm witnessing something different.  Sometimes I hear the buzzing call from a large dense-canopied tree on our property.  While they're flying overhead, I sometimes hear a vibrating, humming sound.  I can't think of a better way to describe it succinctly, but I've observed that it happens with sudden dives.  I assume that it's a result of air passing through the wing feathers in a certain way.

I think the Nighthawks may be nesting on our property.  If so, they are certainly welcome guests, given their insect-eating habits.  I know now to not even try to look for a nest in a tree.  They lay eggs in a shallow scrape on bare or gravelly soil. 

Most of the insects that Nighthawks eat are caught during flight, a maneuver facilitated by the bird's wide gaping mouth. Apparently no hunting takes place in the dark, but dawn and daylight are the most common hunting periods.  Mid day hunting is common too. 

Common Nighthawks are known to nest in Kansas, as is true also of most areas of the United States.  They winter in South America. 


Several days ago, I witnessed another phenomenon that I had never seen before.  I was first alerted to something strange when I heard a loud insect-like buzzing sound while I was working in the garden.  I looked in the direction of the sound and saw a great cloud of insects hovering in flight.  They were clearly larger than flies, but I couldn't tell for sure what they were.  Because I suspected that they were bees, I was not eager to wade in close to find out. 

I alerted my beekeeper brother Lowell, who came over later and confirmed that bees had apparently taken up residence between the interior and exterior walls of a badly deteriorated shed-like building which we've always called the "sheep barn," since our sheep used to seek shade and winter shelter inside.  Right now its main function is to provide a windbreak from the south for our raspberry plants in the garden. 

Lowell's explanation of what I had observed made good sense.  He said that the cloud of bees were a swarm that had exited other living quarters.  Initially, the swarm had probably clustered in one giant glob and hung there for a time (I've seen this before).  Then scouts had gone out from the cluster and found these new living quarters "on Trail West Road." After the scouts reported back to the cluster, the queen and all her workers and drones took off for our place.  I first saw them as they were hovering near the wall and then, one by one, finding their way inside the wall.  After a short while, the buzzing was over.   I stayed clear of the area, just to be safe. 

Lowell plans to come back after the bees have had some time to settle in, and after his son Joseph returns from music camp and can help make the bee capture and move them into one of their hives. 


I've never claimed the citizen-scientist label, but I hope I can continue to make mindful observations of the natural world.  Doing so provides me much pleasure.