Surrounded by gold

golden-magnolia-colors-14733_staatsIn this morning’s bright light, I stood under our magnolia tree to take in the colors, smells, and sounds.  The leaves have turned a beautiful shade of gold, mixed in with some rusts and browns.  The tree and the ground below it have that distinct smell of fall – old, musty, and dry.  And as I photographed, the leaves were coming down all around me.  The wind would rise, a rustle would develop, and I could hear the sound of leaves floating in the air, touching other leaves as they made their way to the ground.  By the end of the day the area under the magnolia was a sea of leaves, yet there are still some holding tight until the next windy day.

Across the state of Kansas

We’ve just returned from our bicycling trip across the state of Kansas.  In eight days we rode our bikes from the western border of Kansas and Colorado to the eastern border with Missouri.  Along with our 800 friends on the Biking Across Kansas (www.bak.org) trip, we were up to the challenges that Mother Nature dealt to us, along with the not-so-flat countryside of northern Kansas.  The 500+ mile trip was a test of our stamina as we battled the winds that blew incessantly almost every day on our trip; from the 40 mph headwind we encountered north of Oakley to the 25 mph side winds near the Colorado border.  Smiles broke out whenever the winds were blowing favorably at our backs.  We biked through the summer heat in the 90’s, were refreshed by the cooler mornings in the higher elevations of western Kansas, were “evacuated” from our tents when a severe thunder and rainstorm was bearing down on us one evening, and we appreciated the cloud cover that kept us cooler on one of our longer days.  We enjoyed the golden sunshine that caused the acres of wheat fields to glow, and we watched as they marched across the horizon as the wind blew through the fields.  We rode through the small towns that grace the rural landscape across Kansas, both the thriving towns and those that are barely getting by.  The people along the route welcomed us with open arms, excited to share their stories, their history, and their pride in their towns.  The community of riders renewed friendships and formed new ones.  We laughed after we rode through a dust storm that caused our faces and skin to turn brown as the dust clung to our sweat and sunscreen.  We swore at the early hills that grace “flat” Kansas, yet we learned to challenge those hills — to ride with abandon on the downhill side, and know that once you climbed the uphill ahead you’d probably find yet another set of hills on the vista before you.  It was a wonderful week of learning new things about myself and about my original home state of Kansas.