On To Pratt, Kansas

Hank – After checking out of the hotel we rode over to the Big Well Museum. The museum chronicles the well, which is the largest hand-dug well in the world, and the aftermath of the EF5 tornado that wiped out Greensburg in 2007.

The well is pretty cool. It goes down 109 feet and is lined with a rock wall that’s two feet thick. Stairs take you much of the way down. The bottom is littered with coins that people drop. The well was dug to create a large water supply to fight fires and make Greensburg attractive to the railroads.

Marge, who is 80, works at the museum. She’s lived in Greensburg all her life. She told us that Greensburg had never had a tornado before so when the news said one was coming she didn’t believe it. Her daughter called her twice to come over and get in her basement. She went after the second call. The tornado hit right after she got in the basement. She had gone past her uncle’s house on the way. He was still home. He was one of the few who died, she says, because he probably didn’t believe a tornado would hit here. Marge’s mother, who was 90 at the time, was living in an apartment on the south side of town. She’d gone to bed at 7:00 pm. She woke when the tornado hit. It damaged the opposite side of her apartment building. Marge went to check on her in the morning. Her mom was using candles for light and she told Marge all about the bad storm with all the rain and hail that knocked out the power. She had no idea it was a tornado. Wow!

Marge also shared some family folklore with us. Apparently, her grandfather helped put Greensburg on the map when he and two friends went to a nearby town, got the postmaster drunk, and convinced him to move the post office to Greensburg. I don’t know how that works in official channels but that’s the story she was told as a child.

We said goodbye to Marge and rolled through Main Street. Before the tornado it was six blocks of businesses. Now it’s one.

We headed east on US Hwy 54 and arrived in Haviland around 11:00 am. We pulled into what we thought was a gas station/convenience store. It was a gas station/mechanic shop. We met Cindy and chatted with her a bit. She was amazed to hear our story and said she’s always wanted to visit the Pacific Northwest. Kathy invited her to come to Spokane and visit and we could take her and her husband out for a bike ride.

We went into town and stepped into the Origins Coffeehouse. I had a bagel and Kathy got a cup of tea. A guitar is sitting out for customers to play if they choose. I reminded myself of some chords and strummed a bit.

Back on the road and we continued leaning against the side wind coming from the south. While we made good progress, the ride seemed harder than it was. There was nothing to see in Cullison so we pressed on to Pratt.

We were pretty hungry when we arrived. We ate at Club D’Est, which was pretty good. Barbara, our wait person, told us we should visit the local museum, the Pratt County Historical Museum, and then go see the Hot and Cold water towers. That sounded good to us.

The museum was just a block away. We met Tim, who is a WarmShowers host and thought maybe one of us was the cyclist he was expecting. Tim volunteers at the museum. I had forgotten to check WarmShowers for the last two days. Sadly, we already used our points to get a free hotel room for the night. Otherwise, we could have stayed with Tim and his wife, Faye. Near the end of our museum visit Tim had an idea. The cyclist they were expecting decided to ride through, so how about they pick us up for dinner? That sounded great to us. We left the museum near closing time and then rolled by the Hot and Cold water towers, which I think are pretty funny. Then we checked into the hotel and cleaned up.

Tim and Faye picked us up at 7:00 and they took us to The Legends Sports Bar where they insisted on treating us. Tim and Faye have done to the Pacific Coast, Northern Tier, and Southern Tier routes together. We spent the evening sharing bike touring stories. They were a joy to hang out with. After dinner they showed us around town a bit, including the middle and high schools were they used to be principals of. By the way, Tim is president of the museum association so he does a lot more than occasionally volunteer there. They dropped us off at the hotel and wished us well. We meet the best people in this country.

By the way, the museum is very nicely done. It includes a history of each town in Pratt County, a huge selection of Native American jewelry, and a history of Pratt Army Air Base that operated during WWII. From the outside you get the impression you’re entering a small museum. It actually encompasses a surprisingly large amount of space.

Kathy – Our 39 mile ride was not to hard. We had a nice side wind that slowed us down somewhat but didn’t affect our spirits. The sun was shining brightly and temps rose into the mid 80s. We replenished our sun tan lotion often. Enjoying this heat after all the cold weather we have had recently.

Since arriving in the state, Kansas has provided us a nice 10-12 foot wide clean shoulder (thinking the wind blows everything off the shoulders) and some of the most friendly drivers we have encountered thus far. Almost every car and semi-truck moves over into the left lane before passing us to ensure we have plenty of space between us. If it is a two lane road, as long as there is not any oncoming traffic they move over to the opposing lane when passing by us. We only have ten states left, so Kansas may get the top spot for the most courteous drivers. Thank you Kansas! 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♂️

The Big Well Museum in Greensburg, Kansas was pretty cool. The well is huge! I am fascinated that it was dug by hand. A lot of hard work went into building this well.

The story of the Greensburg EF5 tornado that destroyed 95% of the town back in 2007 was extremely interesting. As we rode around we saw so many empty lots with concrete driveways only leading to grassy-weedy areas. It’s crazy to think how Mother Nature could stir up an almost two mile wide tornado with 205 mph winds, and it remain on the ground for 29 miles (65 minutes). Truly hard to believe, but it did happen to these wonderful people here.

I really enjoyed our time talking with Marge. She survived the tornado due to her daughter and grandsons who persuaded her to come and get in their basement. She barely made it in time. She said they closed the basement door and then the tornado hit. Once they came out of the basement Marge’s daughters two-story house was now a one-story house with all the windows and doors blown out. Marge’s house was completely destroyed. Marge’s uncle was 79 years old and died during the tornado. His home was a few blocks from Marge’s home. When she went to see it after the storm she said there was nothing there. No debris, nothing. Only a concrete slab was visible were his house and two other building used to be. He was found a distance away from where his home was. I’m so thankful Marge went to her daughters home that night.

Only 12 people died. They relate this low number of deaths to the advance notification that people had. The tornado siren went off for 20 minutes before the tornado hit which allowed people to take cover. The siren only stopped blaring when the tornado hit and knocked it off the building. Not many died, but many were affected by this massive storm. They lost so much. It’s been 12 years and rebuilding is slow. Hopefully the community will continue to heal and grow. Wishing them all the best. 💗💗💗

We rode into Haviland, Kansas later in the day and met Cindy at the gas station/mechanic shop. What a nice gal! It was so fun to chat with her. I really hope she (and her husband) take me up on my offer to stay at our house in Spokane sometime in the future. I promised if we went for a bike ride it would be an easy one for her. Cindy…we will be back home most likely the beginning of August, so come on up to the Pacific Northwest for a visit! 💗

As we plugged along with our windy ride we finally reached our destination, Pratt, Kansas. What a great town! The museum was truly fantastic. So much historical information, wonderful displays and outstanding artifacts. I was pleasantly surprised at just how big this museum was. If you are ever in Pratt, Kansas…go to this museum, you will not be disappointed!

After checking into the hotel and cleaning up we met up with Tim and Faye. It was super sweet of Tim and Faye to pick us up and treat us to dinner. We tried to half the bill but they were having none of that. So we enjoyed a delicious meal and lots of great conversations. The time went by way too fast. We could have talked cycling stories and other stories with these two all night. Tim and Faye are truly unique and good people. They are very involved volunteering within their community. They stay healthy and active in mind and body. And based on how many people in the restaurant greeted them, they have a wealth of family and friends to enjoy time with.

We only had a small snippet of time with Tim and Faye, but we hope sometime down the line our paths will cross again. We offered for them to come visit us in Spokane. We would absolutely love to host them and possibly enjoy a bike ride together. We are so grateful for the ride, the yummy dinner, the great conversations, and the town tour. Thank you so much Tim and Faye, we are so appreciative! We hope to see you again! 💗

Our day was filled with so many wonderful memories, people, and activities. We visited two excellent museums, had a somewhat tough windy ride, and met so many amazing people from Kansas. Feeling extremely thankful and blessed right now. 💗💗💗

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