I haven't had any armadillos come nosing around my tent, but I have been dodging their road-side carcasses for the last couple hundred miles along the southern border of Kansas. They outnumber dead skunks and raccoons and snakes by at least ten to one. Rarely do I go more than a mile without seeing one. They are either very dumb or are in great abundance, though I have yet to see a living version. Its only in the last decade that they have invaded the state, moving northward from their native Texas and Oklahoma with the warming climate.
Even well into September the temperature has been creeping into the nineties, sapping my energy and welcoming the armadillos. Hundred degree temperatures in the summer months are so common that along with the influx of armadillos, there has been an influx of ice-dispensing outlets.
The heat may be a contributing factor as well to the declining population of human critters in rural Kansas. I have camped behind abandoned farmsteads the past few nights. Abandoned homes and businesses are a common small town site. Cedar Vale, just south of Highway 166, looked like a frontier town that had suffered an epidemic or nuclear fall-out with all the wooden homes and businesses that hadn't had a coat of paint in years and the many homes that were boarded up or had all their windows knocked out with front doors swung open and rubble piled amongst the surrounding overgrown weeds.
It was sad and unsettling biking past all this disarray down a narrow residential street to the town park to fill my water bottles and give myself a wash. It was as if a band of outlaws had taken over the town and driven all the good folk out. Whoever remained hid in their homes. The town didn't look as if it had ever thrived, but it brought to mind the once prominent river town of Cairo, Illinois at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, that Janina and I passed through last January. It was in a similar state of decline, more dead than alive, half or more of its residences vacated. All those who remained in either town could offer a heart-rending commentary on what life had been before and what kept them there.
The Carnegies in the region too are in disrepair. The Carnegie in Arkansas City had been replaced and was closed down, waiting for its next reincarnation. It was as magnificent as any building in the town and had a prominent, central location, but clearly needed some tending to.
The same could be said of the Carnegie in Coffeyville. It was presently a photography studio, but was falling apart, one side of the front steps in collapse and maintenance needed all round to restore it to its full former glory.
The Carnegie in Winfield had also defected to the business sector, but its two tenants, a dance studio and a dentist, seemed committed to maintaining their building's majesty.
Less than twenty miles north of Coffeyville, the Carnegies in Independence and Cherryvale, just eleven miles apart, still served as libraries. The larger town of Independence had built a huge addition to their Carnegie, a whole new building alongside it. The majestic original entrance, up the steps through a pair of pillars, was no longer in use.
The Carnegie in the much smaller Cherryvale was much as it was when it was built, other than its designation as a storm shelter with a special entrance to its lower level in the back. It had also had an old mail box placed at its entrance for book returns and new wiring added to its lone light post out front, the Carnegie symbol of enlightenment. It was a quaint library in a quaint town with cherries stenciled on sidewalks throughout the town.
I'm less than sixty miles from Missouri, with just two more Kansas Carnegies on my route.
My Sunday riding was enhanced by listening to the broadcast of the Dallas/St. Louis NFL game. The Topeka radio station station was part of the Cowboy network. It took a while to become accustomed to the broadcasters continually referring to their team as "The Boys." They had plenty to be excited about with "The Boys" overcoming a 21-point deficit to win the game, the largest margin they'd come back from in team history. The Monday night game is the Bears and the Jets. I've already been able to pick up the Bears station WBBM once the sun has gone down and the radio waves carry for hundreds of miles.