I am sitting comfortably in a recliner in the guest house of the Mayor of Nickerson, Kansas as I write this. I guess you can say we're staying in the Gracie Mansion of the Midwest. When I told my family where I was unexpectedly spending the night, they all had the same response: "Why am I not surprised?" I kind of expected that response; things usually have a way of working out for me.
My senior year of college, I lived off campus with three friends in a house on the Long Island Sound. When Hurricane Sandy hit our town in Connecticut, our house was rocked. The flood line settled along the door knob of the front door. Our university began setting students up with on campus students that had the space, dormitory lounges, and anywhere they could fit people. My roommates and I didn't know what we should do, but then I received a call from the Dean. I got to know the Dean fairly well over my four years there, but I was still surprised and (initially) disappointed to see the number pop up on my phone. When I picked up, I had no idea what the topic of conversation would be. I began coming up with excuses in my head for things I hadn't even done, but her call was of a different nature; she was wondering if my roommates and I would want to stay with the President of the university while our house was being drained and renovated. My roommates and I took maybe 30 seconds to deliberate before I said, "Absolutely." We lived with the President for several months and ended up building an incredible relationship with him; we still go out to dinner together every few months. I don't think I'll be coming back to the Midwest to do the same with the Mayor of Nickerson, but who knows.
When we arrived in Nickerson, we weren't sure where we were going to be staying. We would have been able to camp in the park, but the disgusting heat didn't make that option seem too great. It was fairly early when we got here, so we decided to hangout at a pizzeria.
After our second pie (they weren't that big...), a small giant sized man named Bo started talking to us from a few tables away. He said that he was also a traveler and that he was from Oklahoma. Bo had been training in Nickerson for the past week to become a minister. We talked about our trips and he asked where we'd be staying, which we answered with shrugs. He ran out to his truck and came back with a few numbers of people in the town that he had worked with, which included the Mayor and the pastor in town. He asked if we could pray together and he held our hands while saying a blessing over us. I was impressed by how quickly he was able to craft a great prayer tailored to us right off the top of his head. After finishing, he went to his table to resume eating and I stepped outside to call the number that I thought belonged to the Mayor.
I was greeted on the phone by an older man who didn't seem surprised by the nature of my call. I explained our situation and asked if there were any options for bikers in the town. He told me that I should talk to the First Lady (ok- he didn't call her that, but he should have) and passed the phone to his wife. She didn't ask any questions and gave us directions to their home. When we arrived, she was just finishing up giving a piano lesson to a student who "clearly hasn't practiced all summer." The Mayor and the First Lady were exceptionally nice and accommodating. They've actually hosted bikers on the Trans America since the inaugural year in 1976. I'd like to write more about our stay, but I'll have to make an addendum after the trip; we are waking up at 5am and I need my sleep. The heat is supposed to be brutal tomorrow, so we are hoping to beat it to our next town.