Day 23, 4/18: Tulsa, OK to Coffeyville, KS (88.4 miles)
Day 23 was definitely one of our longest and toughest days. The rain from yesterday continued and was forecasted to last until noon, so we decided to have a later departure. We got to sleep in and it actually stopped raining around 9am. Our original route was to go east to Afton, Oklahoma and we were supposed to be staying at a campground that night. However, to avoid the projected rain and setting up/sleeping at a wet campground, crew made a last-minute decision to go north and cross up to Coffeyville, Kansas instead (yay for an extra state!). Missy called around and Pastor Nicole from First United Methodist Church in Coffeyville generously offered to let us stay there overnight on such short notice.
We ended up leaving Tulsa around 10am and it started raining again about 5 minutes after we left – a few people decided to rack because of the slippery roads. The first 20 miles of the ride were along a bike path and after a patch of glass on the road, 3 riders got flats (2 of whom had yet to get a flat!). After the first rest stop when it had stopped raining, some riders unracked but then it started pouring again minutes later and everyone got soaked. Biking in the rain along country roads with no cars was actually quite enjoyable once you embraced the fact that you’re just soaked, and we saw some interesting animals in the fields along our route, including 2 llamas, 1 camel, and a goat that sounds like Usher.
After stopping for a rest stop, the cold wetness began to kick in and became less enjoyable. The route also narrowed to a part of the freeway with no shoulder, so all but 5 riders decided to rack for the rest of the ride. The remaining 5 riders found an alternate country route and soldiered on for the last nearly 40 miles without a rest stop, finally passing through the Oklahoma-Kansas border around mile 80.
The first group of people riding in the van made it to First United Methodist Church around 5pm. Pastor Nicole and her husband met us at the church and then welcomed us into her home for showers, laundry, and dinner. For dinner, several riders had the genius idea to do make-your-own-pizza bagels to eat more of the hundreds of bagels that were donated to us the day before – they were delicious and we made quite a dent in our bag full of bagels. The group of guys actually riding got somewhat lost riding into town and didn’t make it in until around 7pm. We had a great time chatting with Nicole and her husband and also loved playing with her adorable cat Midnight. That evening, we all passed out on the super comfortable couches at the church after a loong day.
Day 24, 4/19: Coffeyville, KS to Joplin, MO (75.5 miles)
The next morning, we got a photo in front of First United Methodist before leaving and thanked Pastor Nicole profusely for all of her kindness and for hosting us so last minute. Her generosity continued with securing us gas donations from one of her parishioners at Clough Oil Co, almost $80 worth. Although it wasn’t raining like yesterday, it was definitely misty during the first part of the morning. Our route took us back on track to our original destination of Joplin, Missouri and we raced there to beat projected thunderstorms and to make a lecture event at Missouri Southern State University. Eric almost caught up to Robert’s Flat King title by getting 2 more flats, and Mary officially wins the flat competition as the last one remaining without a flat! 😀
We rolled into MSSU around 1pm and gave 2 talks – one to nursing students about R4WH, insect-borne disease, and vaccines and one to undergraduates about global health/public health in general. It was fun getting to talk to different audiences and they asked great questions. We then headed over to Immanuel Lutheran Church where we were staying that night around 3pm. For dinner, crew got awesome taco donations from Festival Mexican Restaurant as well as Sonic donations from a friend of the pastor’s. Andy’s Frozen Custard also graciously donated 5 frozen custards, which were delicious. Immanuel Lutheran was a great place to stay and we slept very comfortably in their youth center that night.