How To Almost Die On A Bike In Kansas

Death in Kansas Post pic

A steady stream of sweat poured off of my forehead as I continued to peddle down a lonely Kansas road…

The roar of incredibly intense winds was deafening and blew waves of heat at me without mercy. The warm, rubber hydration tube from my MSR hydration pack stayed pressed agains my dry, cracking, sunburned lips as I desperately battled to stay hydrated…

Dehydration was in full effect. There was no way around it in these conditions.  I had to keep drinking water, but in the back of my mind there was also the fear of the very real possibility of running out of water. I tried not to let my mind go there…

I just continued to grind against the wind and sip the hot water that sloshed inside of my hydration pack.

It was 9 am on June 11, 2013 and I was lonely, exhausted, and filthy as I continued to hammer down this desolate western Kansas road.  The morning temperature was already close to 100 degrees and insane 20-40mph headwinds had been battering me all morning since I left my makeshift campsite on the side of the road several hours prior.

Since leaving the Kansas City area days prior, I had been doing my best to survive the heat, loneliness, winds, and never ending same-ness that makes up western Kansas.  I knew one thing; I was ready to get the hell out of Kansas!


When you are overheated, dehydrated, and utterly fatigued your mind turns into mush. All I could do was tell myself to keep peddling. My rational thought process that would normally tell me to take a break, eat some food, etc was long gone.

Finally at about 2pm I was awoken out of the trance that I was in when I suddenly felt myself almost tip over. The 95 pound weight of my heavily loaded mountain bike tried to pull me down to the ground. Luckily I somehow caught myself in my weakened state. I had literally almost fallen asleep or passed out while peddling my bike down the highway in these mad conditions!

I stopped…

This was real. I could die out here. This was survival!

I foolishly took some of my precious water from a water bottle and poured it over my head. It felt hot.

Slapping my face a couple of times to try to snap out of it, I decided that I needed to get a game plan in place if I didn’t want to end up like the dead rattle snake that I had passed baking in the hot Kansas sun a few miles back.

I had to make it to Hays, Kansas today! Another night of camping in my hot tent on the side of this barren highway would not cut it. I had to get out of this oven.  I had endured these conditions for several days now, and I needed civilization.

As my head pounded from the heat exhaustion and dehydration, I felt claustrophobic and trapped inside the unbearable heat, cruel headwinds, and never ending same-ness of the landscape around me.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

I forced myself to eat some almonds, pop tarts, and a hot apple that I had in my pack.  From this point on I had to be sure that I stayed mentally alert.  If not, I could easily black out, fall off of my bike, continue to get cooked by the sun and never wake back up. That wasn’t going to happen to me!

Getting back on my bike I estimated that it was another 30 miles to the city of Hayes.  Under normal conditions I could easily knock that distance out in a couple of hours max.  But this was different.

Peddling on, I continued to get pummeled by the now 105 degree heat and harsh headwinds. I looked down in horror at the speedometer on my handlebars as I read 6mph on it.

The weight of my bike, my exhaustion, the heat, and most of all these bizarre headwinds had slowed my pace to a mere crawl.

I had to stay motivated. I couldn’t stop. I wouldn’t stop!

I found my mind wandering towards thoughts of being inside with some cool air conditioning with family and friends enjoying delicious food and lots of cold beverages. I just wanted to be comfortable. I wanted to escape this heat-oven that I was in.

Then I remembered my whole purpose for this journey. Raising funds and awareness for Neverthirst and their work to take clean and Living water to the poor in impoverished countries.  I began to feel like a spoiled brat.

I was having a hard week in Kansas, but I had chosen this. It was even a dream of mine.  Meanwhile, over 4,000 precious children would die today because they lacked something as simple as clean drinking water.  I could safely drink my hot water without getting sick from it.

As I continued to slowly inch down the road, I began to picture the faces of the children that I had seen in pictures and videos who were not as lucky as I am. They had true and desperate needs, and without our help they didn’t have much hope at all.

This fired me up!

Screen shot 2013-09-13 at 1.59.31 PM

Out on the horizon, I saw a water tower. It must be Hays, Kansas. Civilization! Life!

I immediately stood up and started peddling as hard as I could.  I told myself that I would not let up until I reached that water tower.

I hammered hard. My quad muscles screamed for relief as I blasted down the road and into the wind and heat.

After about 10 minutes I realized that the water tower was in fact much farther away than it seemed when I first caught a glimpse of it.

But I wasn’t stopping. I wasn’t sitting down until I reached it!

I growled out loud and continued to peddle desperately.

This was a defining moment.  I would always remember this day.  I was going to do this well!

After over an hour of standing up peddling with all of my might, I was finally truly getting close to the elusive water tower.

I peddled harder. I felt emotional as I pushed my body and mind to their extreme limits.  To keep my mind distracted from the pain of the physical exertion and keep the intensity up, I began counting my peddle strokes.  I found myself counting from 1 to 50 and then I would start over.  If I could just get the next 50 peddle strokes then I would be that much closer.

About 45 minutes later I finally pulled up next to the water tower that I had seen miles back.

I stopped.  My weary legs straddled my bike as my feet hit the ground.  I could see Hays, Kansas just about a mile away now.  There it was! Shelter from the heat, life, a shower, food, people, sanity.

Screen shot 2013-09-13 at 2.06.24 PMAs I peddled that last mile to Hays, I felt so grateful. Grateful that I had made it.  Grateful for life.  I could see now why this part of the country is so sparsely populated; it is really tough to merely survive out here.

Everyone who supported the Waging War On Normal Bike Tour For Water is making a huge difference in the lives of those that will now have access to clean water.  You gave more than dollars, you gave life!


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  1. Dear Robert,
    Great story of your trials and tribulations. All part of a long distance rider’s pursuit of adventure. I can’t wait for your story the first time you ride 100 miles into Death Valley at 116 degrees heat. Dry mouth, parched lips, tongue stuck on the roof of your mouth, sweat evaporating as fast as it hits the surface of your skin, sand everywhere and total desolation. Carry three gallons of water! Or, die! Yahoo! Please send you “reflections” of the ride so I can publish them to finish up my series with you. Life and light, Frosty

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