Bike Ride to Maple City, Kansas

On the last Lord’s Day of the second month
of the second year
of the reign of Donald the Trump,
the word of my Self came to me saying,
“Self, let us arise and seek out the mysteries
of southeastern Cowley County.”

And so, we arose, aired up the tires,
oiled the chain and strapped on a full two liters
of hydration ration
and pedaled south and east,
against a southeast wind that gusted and blew
as if with purpose to thwart our seeking.

From near the top of The Hill of My Demise,
on the Way Made Straight by the WPA
in the Nineteen Thirties,
I looked as far to the east as I could see,
and set my goal on the farthest point I could see.
And I said to my Self, “That seems good to me.”
And Self answered back, “I agree.”

And so five good hills and a wide creek later,
we came to the top of that distant rise.
And I looked again to the east
to the farthest point I could see
and again set my goal.
And I said to my Self, “That seems good to me.”
And Self answered back with some hesitation, “I agree.”

And a few good hills
and many miles of the Williamson Ranch later,
we came to a bend in the road.
Believing the water tower I saw a few miles away
must be the way by which the good folk of Maple City
acquired their needs,
I intended to pedal on, due to the east.

But my Self said to me,
“In that way lies madness…
and at least three miles of gravel.”
And I yielded to self on the point and turned north,
though I stopped for a moment to take a picture
of what seemed to be an old school or an old church.
The purpose seemed not to matter as it appeared
neither souls nor minds had spent any time within
for many years.

We pedaled on to other distant hills
both east and then north,
and finally turned back to the west,
toward home and rest some seventeen miles away
along U.S. Highway 166,
wondering how we could be in such a fix
and have ridden so far and missed Maple City.

It is one thing to drive through a place so fast
at seventy miles an hour that you do not realize
the place has passed, or rather, that you have passed through,
but at the pace of an old man on a bicycle,
it hardly seemed that one could miss such a place
as Maple City, Kansas.

“Maple Log,” perhaps, or even “Maple Drive”
but it seemed such a pity that a man even half alive
with at least one eye open
could fail to discern his presence in such a place.

Having pedaled back toward Ark City at least
three or four miles ,
I saw a sign pointing south: “Maple City, 3 miles.”

Self, I believe though I am not certain,
attempted to cuff me roughly upside the head
and quite positively gave me a thoroughly reproachful look,
a gaze that I could not return
because of shame’s great weight.
Without waiting for further consultation,
I set my sight upon the farthest hill west
that I could see and continued pedaling.

It is not an easy thing to overshoot the horizon
but I have finally proved—
to both me and my Self—
that it can be done.
And, as it turns out,
have relatively little conversation between the two
on the way home.

And once there,
Google Image confirmed:
it is an old school, not a church,
and it does indeed occupy
terrestrial space
in Maple City, Kansas.

It was but an extra six or seven miles,
less than an hour of extra riding.
And though it left me tired and sore,
there are mistakes in navigation
that can mean so much more
than simple aggravation.

It has left me wondering
about wandering with some degree of care:
Is it worse to miss your destination
or never know that you were already there?

H. Arnett

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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