Today is one of the best days on the trail. Riding on the other side of the road are more TransAm racers. I accidentally break my Aspire glasses. Rolling hills make for an easy ride. Then, I am set off with muffins and directions to visit an opera house that is being restored.
Day 23, June 17, offers the possibility of riding a century - 100 miles. However, an opportunity pops up to cut this goal short.
5: 13 ready to roll out
Waking up 4 am and getting out at 5 am. Mark’s mentality of eat as many calories as possible slips into my mind; a gooey honey bun and chocolate milk makes its way onto the bike. However, they are only going to be eaten while riding the bike.
6:57 morning clouds
Drinking small amounts of chocolate milk throughout the day
7:07 begin eating the honey bun
8:34 - TransAm Racers on the Road
Meet a TransAm cyclist. Notice something peculiar about the picture? You may have noticed that he is on MY side of the road. He crossed over to ask where I was from, why I was on the trail, and more questions being curious about me. This is someone racing across America taking time to learn about other travelers.
9:02 AM - TransAm Bike Tourer
Meet Rik who recommends the church hostel in Hutchinson. He marvels at the rolling hills of Missouri and the diversity of the American landscape. One of his comments is about the kindness of people out in the countryside.
10:56 AM - A flower shop for cyclists
Meet Judy and Terry who see me roaming around the parking lot. “We are open for you and all cyclists.”
She tells me about an opera house in Greenfield that is being restored by one of her friends. There is a café on the first level and a hotel across the street. This project seems worth going off route by only a few miles.
Meet my super hero.
Donncha Cuttriss, age 45, 210 miles a day from Cork, Ireland.
He is cycling in trainers or sneakers as Americans call them. His handlebar bag is filled with wild flowers for a good reason, "You may never know when a lady may come by."
Notice the lack of a helmet?
Americans are often obsessed with creating an elite culture of cycling that limits the accessibility of the sport. What inspires me about the TransAm Race over another competition like the Race Across America is that these athletes are out here by themselves for the love of the sport.
At the time, Donncha is in the top ten in the race.
Tour of the Greenfield Opera House
Mark Greenfield, MO on your map. I’ll wait…click here for the coordinates.
I cycle around the town square and get pointed towards the opera house. A group of men that look like carpenters and sailors wave me in through the windows. Their welcome made me feel like a hometown hero.
Instantly, an older gentleman pays for my lunch as he heads out the door. Apparently he was a state Senator in the past. Thanks!
The story of the opera house begins to unfold.
Restoring Small Town America
Jack is a retired naval officer who knows that retirees have the power and money to breath life back into small town America.
The opera house that he has decided to restore with another business partner used to lay in ruin. A café, art gallery, graphic design studio, tech company, and bakery already call the first floor home.
The historic opera house has a separate "whites only" and "blacks only" performance space. A picture of the main stage shows the space that was available for performances. Up another set of stairs, the "blacks only" theater is like an attic space that is dimly lit and cramped.
Creating a retirement community
A lake to go sailing, art gallery, opera house, hotel, who would not want to move here? That is the idea behind Jack's grand vision for Greenfield, MO. The cafe and gallery have already attracted paintings from local retirees that are worthy of being in a small museum:
Restoring Small Town America
Jack shared that at one point in his life he was thinking of buying a house on Pike's Place in Seattle. Many retirees may share the dream of living in that dream part of time.
Imagine this instead, taking a portion of your money and buying a house that meets your needs. The investment that you saved moving to a smaller town can now be invested directly into that area.
Retirees moving back to small town America could bring half a million, a million, or three million dollars with them.
The skills they used throughout their lives could also be taught to the next generation. In turn, millennials can teach retirees how to keep up with the ever advancing technologies of the day.
Jack is one of the first people who has inspired me to mix every generation to create a solution that can breath life back into these dying towns.
The tour did not stop in the town center. He then drove me and a teenager who is working for him to a working mill and the lake in town.
The vision of the town is to discover something that is not often found in these places. For instance, fresh pastries from the bakery:
The day ended with Jack inviting me to spend the night at his house. I gladly accepted. In the mean time, Annalisa decided to do a century and make it to Pittsburg, Kansas to meet Taylor and Mark.
Every time I venture off the official trail it seems like the harder path to take. Yet, every detour has left me with a memory that will last a lifetime.