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Stay-cation takes local bicycler to Stafford County and to Quivira wildlife

Brandon Case
Pratt columnist and his trusty bicycle made a stop at the Kids Fishing Pond, Quivira National Wildlife on a recent stay-cation in the area.

Kansas residents may need to re-imagine this year’s vacation, especially if the COVID-19 pandemic lingers into the summer.

Since, outside of a few hot spots, Kansas has numerous locations where the pandemic hasn’t been raging (at least based upon current figures), perhaps this is a good year to consider a stay-cation. Some may even want to base their destination on the KDHE map of COVID-19 cases.

Here’s my experience from a recent, one-day staycation.

Life in a time of coronavirus demands flexibility, and no less was that the case for my stay-cation.

My wife had planned to join me, but opted out due to recurring back issues. Also, before leaving, I changed the route from a Gyp Hills loop to a northeasterly route, with a turnaround point at Pretty Prairie, due to a forecasted mid-afternoon change in the wind direction.

Ultimately, the bicycle ride/staycation ended up going to Quivira National Wildlife, exploring the dirt roads and wonders found there. The southerly wind was just too good to let go of.

This was mostly a social distancing stay-cation, although an older man in a silver pickup truck got inside my six foot bubble, when he aimed his car at me just north of the Stafford County line. I don’t know if he fell asleep, had vision issues, or simply didn’t like bicyclists. I didn’t get a chance to ask him. Fortunately, he veered away at the last minute and so I write this tale.

After a homemade lunch in Stafford City Park, I headed for the peace and tranquility of Quivira, where I had my closest encounter (besides the truck) with other human beings, briefly visiting with a family of three from Hutchinson at the Observation Tower. Mostly, we stayed six feet apart.

Visitors to the Kids’ Fishing Pond at Quivira in the near future mght see, as I did, two Canadian geese families floating there, with the babies kept in line by mom and dad. I also witnessed a bit of high drama outside the public restroom facility near the pond, as a brown spider dropping down a thread got nabbed by a jumping spider.

I also had an interesting experience on the return trip. About a couple miles south of the refuge, a black pickup truck driving toward me slowed down enough so that it wouldn’t raise a cloud of road dust as it passed. As I waved at the occupants, I noticed that they were both wearing hazmat suits. Who knows where they had come from or where they were going.

The last 15 miles of the ride were pretty rough for me, due to, in retrospect, not getting sufficient nutrition (I avoided restaurants and even convenience stores) and possibly not drinking enough water. The end result was that I bonked, which is a cyclist’s term for that state of being where your reserves have been depleted, and you might even be a little disoriented.

Before pedaling the last ten or so miles home, I laid down on the ground for at least half an hour near some evergreen trees. Not long afterward, I lost my cookies (or, in this case, it was a granola bar and water). I felt better after that; anyway, I was at least able to ride home.

Subsequently, the best advice I can offer for others’ stay-cations is to make sure to consume sufficient food and water, or risk lying on the ground, not caring about whatever insects may be crawling around.