Riding through Flyover Country

Posted on 24 May 2010

People often refer to the Midwest as “Flyover Country” because it is the part of the country they only see from the plane when flying between the coasts, but it really is the heartland of America. The roads are flat and straight, but if you look around there are plenty of interesting experiences to be had.

Today I got an early start, pre-booked a hotel in Sioux City, Iowa so I had a target for the day and then hit the road. I travelled from Oklahoma, back into Arkansas, clipped the corner of Missouri then in to Kansas and Nebraska before crossing the Missouri river into Iowa. Here a sample of what most of today’s roads looked like


By pure chance I wound up on the road through Picher, Oklahoma which at the time I passed through seemed quite bizarre, after researching it further it really is quite a sad story. It started with what looked like huge sand dunes just off the highway, I was tempted to pull over and explore but kept moving. It was once I got into town that things got strange. Every building in town was abandoned, some with severe damage and they all had “Katrina” type markings spray painted on the facade. When I stopped for lunch I looked up the story of Picher and found that the Sand Dunes were in fact massive piles of mining waste and the markings were the result of the town taking a direct hit from a Tornado that killed six residents. The town was home to huge lead and zinc mines and apparently most of the bullets in both World Wars were made with lead that came from Picher. It is now considered by the EPA to be the most toxic site in the US and due to the contamination and the risk of the underground mines collapsing, the town is now closed and all the residents have been relocated. You can learn more in the Wikipedia article here LINK I never thought I would see anything like the sights of the Lower Ninth Ward again, but within 36 hours of leaving New Orleans I had found somewhere where just as ravaged but with an even worse prognosis.

I did see this guy on the road on the way out of town, possibly the last resident to leave


I’m happy to report that he was capable of moving fairly quickly when he wanted to and he safely made it across the road.

I then stopped for lunch at a tiny diner in El Dorado Kansas called “Job lunch” billed as the Best Little Veal Place in Kansas. I went for a loaded veal sandwich, with Pickles, Onion, Relish and Chili and it was quite good. I passed on the opportunity to have my first experience of Rocky Mountain Oysters and the Fried Green tomatoes that were also on the menu. I was chatting with the waitress who was heavily pregnant and apparently due in July, she mentioned that she was looking forward to having the baby so that she could ride her trike again, I commented would need to have someone who could watch the little one, but apparently when you live in a small town and have 14 brothers and sisters, child care is not an issue.

The two biggest challenges today were the wind and my allergies. Allergies haven’t really been a problem for me recently, but the grasslands of Oklahoma where more than I could handle and despite picking up some anti-histamines, i spent most of the day with my eyes streaming tears inside my helmet. As to the wind, there were strong winds out of the south all day running 20-30MPH. It wasn’t bad when i was heading North, but travelling on East or West bound roads meant battling a heavy crosswind which gets pretty tiring on a bike, you basically have to steer and lean into the wind constantly in order to travel in anything resembling a straight line.

Tomorrow’s travels will again depend on the weather forecast in the morning, but hopefully I can continue North.

1 Response to Riding through Flyover Country

  • Jeff says:

    Hey you are headed to Yankton! That’s where I go goose hunting.

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