abandoned missle silo, kansas

Rails to trails, a nuclear missile silo and salvation through junkfood

Last Sunday I took a much needed ride. As I mentioned in the last post, we had a little drama in the Benjamin house and it had been awhile since I was able to take a really nice, long, all day bike ride. My Adventure Monkey was making those screeching monkey noises and rattling its cage inside me. It needed to be fed and fed well. Not just a few miles on pavement, but many miles on gravel to places that I have not been before. That is exactly what transpired. I am writing this on Tuesday and my Adventure Monkey is still napping happily from this ride. Here’s the story and images.

I went to the bike shop last week to purchase a few things and talk to Matt. I wonder if it bothers him that wannabe cyclists like myself show up to ask questions and discuss things for hours on end. I’m sure he has something better to do than entertain me. The discussion took many turns including gear, why cyclists shave their legs, the huge amount of hair on mine and a new route to take on my next ride.

Drawing on a county map, he showed me where an abandoned missile silo was along with the Rails to Trails trail. Hmmm, that would make a great bike ride, a little over 50 miles or so. That’s where I planned to go.

Taking Road 180 away from my house, I turned onto Road B and soon was in new territory since I don’t usually turn there. I bore easily and I was enjoying the unknown road. It was already beginning to feel like an adventure. It was 20 something degrees outside when I left, but about eight miles in I had to stop and take off my outer jacket. Clipping into my pedals, I realized I didn’t shift to an easier gear when I stopped and I suddenly found myself off balance and falling. It happened. I finally fell over in my clipless pedals. Luckily I fell into a soft bed of weeds and was fine, just a little shaken up and glad nobody saw that happen. I must have looked really stupid starting to pedal and then falling over. I think the little fall shook me up enough to release some adrenaline because after that I was riding pretty strong, or maybe I just wanted to get out of there before someone made fun of me.

rails to trails, salsa fargo

The Fargo on the entrance to the Rails to Trails on Road D

flint hills

lone tree, flint hills

rails to trails

 Rails to Trails entrance from Road D

rails to trails

I can almost see an old steam engine chugging down the tracks

It was pretty cool being high up on the ridge where old railroad tracks use to be. I could see for miles. It was beautiful. The gravel was pretty loose and it was wet which made it a little tough to ride in, but the scenery more than made up for that. I got back on Road D because I had another site I wanted to see.

After conquering a few sweet hills overlooking more miles of prairie, I crossed HWY 56 feeling strong. I must say the Fargo with the Brooks Champion Flyer Special saddle is a very comfortable ride. In fact I think only sitting on a lazy boy recliner getting fat would be more comfortable. In the past, my rear would always hurt after 30 miles and even at the end of this ride my rear and I were feeling fine. And the clipless pedals (which you clip into and become attached to the bike) helped me concentrate on pedaling more efficiently up hills. I was unquestionably enjoying my new Fargo, saddle, and clipless pedals.

I slowed to check the map and look over Matt’s chicken scratch which told me where to find the old nuclear missile silo. As I came to a stop, the side of the road had big chunky gravel and dirt clods on it and wouldn’t you know it, I forgot to unclip out of my pedal and I just laughed this time as I fell to the ground. Twice in one day – sweet. Hopefully I am done with that.

I kept riding until I came upon a mysteriously paved path in the middle of nowhere. I knew I was on the right track. I continued riding until I came to this…

abandoned missle silo, kansas

 What used to be a guarded fortress in the middle of the prairie

abandoned missle silo, kansas

 A NO TRESPASSING sign and an open gate – seemed like a good idea to go in and check it out

There was all kinds of evil and menacing graffiti spray painted on the walls. I could hear a door creaking in the wind. I felt an overall uncomfortable feeling there. I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to things like that but I had a sense of dread being there. It shouldn’t suprise me though since a weapon of mass destruction was stored at the ready here in the 1960’s and since its decommissioning who knows what kinds of things happened out there. After coming home and doing some research I found this article and remembered the high school boy from Council Grove that was shot and killed there by the land owner, tired of kids partying on his land. Hmmm, creeps me out even more now. His name was spray painted on the walls along with other disturbing graffiti. As I walked throught the pitch black tunnel I kept repeating “God is my God” to calm me down or protect me or both. I was glad to get out of those tunnels!

abandoned missle silo, kansas

A manway and lookout post

 abandoned missle silo, kansas

 The fargo on the way to the reinforced bunker

abandoned missle silo, kansas

 The bunker

abandoned missle silo, kansas

 The Fargo ready for launch sir

abandoned missle silo, kansas

 The Fargo next to the graffiti – “The Butcher is Vanquished”

abandoned missle silo, kansas

 A look into the missile coffin

abandoned missle silo, kansas

huge room with weird “windows”

abandoned missle silo, kansas

panorama of the building connected to where the missile was kept

abandoned missle silo, kansas

 An exit into the missile coffin area

abandoned missle silo, kansas

 creepy pitch black tunnel – I used my headlight as a flashlight and hoped I wouldn’t see any zombies

abandoned missle silo, kansas

 the tunnel turned here and kept going, I could hear a creaky door blowing in the wind

abandoned missle silo, kansas

walking down the creepy tunnel led to these flooded rooms

abandoned missle silo, kansas

 A look coming out of the creepy tunnels and I was fully ready to get out of there

abandoned missle silo, kansas

Where the missle would have stood when upright and ready to launch

abandoned missle silo, kansas

Inside the missile coffin

abandoned missle silo, kansas

There were a few of these manholes around the missile silo

abandoned missle silo, kansas

missile silo overlooking the peaceful prairie

I was completely creeped out by the old missile silo but was curious about them and found that people are turning them into houses HERE and click for more info and pictures HERE and HERE. Reading this, I see that this type of missle silo was called a coffin launcher. Hmmm, nice.

I rode back the way I came until I got to the Rails to Trails entrance again. I got on and headed west expecting to hit a side road at some point and ride towards home. Little did I know this railroad track didn’t cross any roads for quite awhile. I was little worried that I would ride all the way to Council Grove before seeing another road. I was mainly worried not because I am a wimp so much, but I had the urge to go to the bathroom, pretty strong urge too. There was as much privacy as I could ever wish for, but without paper or wipes, I didn’t want to chance it. I have seen what a dirty bottom did to my kids’ butts when they were in diapers and I wasn’t in the mood for that, ok enough of that discussion. From now on I will bring some wipes.

The Rails to Trails followed a ride through the hills and the scenery was really breathtaking. The farther west I rode, the more the trail looked unkept. Soon I was riding over branches and weeds and stopping to get some branches out of my spokes. At least the gravel wasn’t so loose since it was covered over a little bit. I finally took a muddy path off the trail to get on a road and head back home. Someday soon I am planning on starting in Bushong and riding all the way to Council Grove on the Rails to Trails trail. I bet that would be a sweet ride. It’s pretty flat but to be in the middle of the Flint Hills on an old railway is just cool.

rails to trails

Surrounded by limestone walls

rails to trails

A cut through the hills

rails to trails

rails to trails

rails to trails

rails to trails

flint hills, lone winter tree

Lone Winter Tree

In all my exploring and picture taking, I ended up riding for a long time. I should have brought double the food that I did. I was on an unknown road heading in the general direction that I needed to go to get home and I was starting to get very hungry. I happened upon Dunlap Road and finally knew where I was. I ended up in the town of Dunlap which is nothing more than a few lived in houses and many abandoned houses and structures. It struck me kinda weird that such a rundown town would have such a nice looking church.

abandoned gas station, dunlap, kansas

Abandoned gas station in Dunlap

old church

Dunlap’s Church

I finally turned onto Road 240 and headed toward Americus. I was close to a bonk. I was craving food and was feeling a bit tired and had that irritated feeling that happens when I need food and am about ready to pass out. I had ridden this far before, but I have had some time off and my body felt it. My wife called and was a upset because she had to take Mikey to the store with her since I wasn’t home yet. She had no sympathy that I was so close to death. I made it to Americus and dug into my trunk bag for money. I was so hungry and was craving salt. I ended up consuming about 700 calories of Cool Ranch Doritos, Snickers and Red Bull. I just let the cravings tell me what my body needed. After that dose of highly nutritious food, I rode strong all the way home feeling great.

The winter sun was setting early and I pedaled hard all the way home. I stopped only to shoot a few pictures of this most depressing scene of dead sunflowers in the winter sun.

dead sunflowers


dead sunflowers

Nothing like a long bike ride to make you feel great. Even while at work, I feel great just knowing I rode about 60 miles on my bike while everyone else sat on their couches watching football. I feel like a regular guy with a superhero alter ego. I do have the tight fitting outfit.  Click HERE for the route.

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EricRails to trails, a nuclear missile silo and salvation through junkfood

Comments 14

  1. Jenni in KS

    There are some gorgeous photos here and such an interesting story. I think I’m glad to be able to see your photos rather than exploring that creepy spot myself, though. It’s not a place I’d like to look around alone.

  2. Cindy

    I’m quite happy to live vicariously through you on your biking adventures! I have a problem falling off bikes, always have. Anyway, enjoyed this immensely and think I see an album cover for Elijah Tree! ;)

  3. Eric

    Thanks Jenni! Yeah, I would not suggest going there by yourself – spooky and dangerous.
    Errin we have perfect Fargo riding out here – miles of gravel and dirt roads. I am glad you see KS as scenic, Kansans always wish we could go ride somewhere else! Although being on the “front porch of the Flint Hills” is a huge plus.
    Cindy, glad you enjoyed it! Let me know when the CD is done…

  4. Matt Brown

    Hey Eric…
    Awesome post and pics. Also you are far from a wannabe cyclist and I always enjoy our conversations. And man you are crazy for going in that missile silo alone…I told you take a flashlight to look around but not to go in. Gives me the chills just thinking about it. That rails to trails section is currently my favorite piece of backroads to ride in Kansas.
    Matt Brown

  5. james

    Hello, Stumbled onto your blog. I’ve been doing a loop out of Alma going south and taking 56. However, the rail/trail looks better. From your pics it looks good. Do you know if it is rideable all the way to CG?

  6. Jim

    For those of you following Eric’s posts and how they may relate to The Dirty Kanza 200… we are giving serious consideration to adding this stretch of rails-to-trails to our 2010 route. Personally, I haven’t even seen it yet (other than these photo’s). But Eric, Matt and others have been telling me about this area since last fall. I can’t wait to get down there to check it out for myself.

    Eric… great photo’s, and great story. Thanks for sharing.

    Jim C.

  7. Eric

    Thanks again everyone! This has been a popular post. Maybe people like to read about me falling over – whatever it takes.

    Matt – I thought you said take a flashlight and check it out – which I did with the light on my bike – I just thought you must be a real bad#ss to not be freaked out by that place – and I couldn’t let you down.

    Thanks Gnat – looks like part of the rails to trails may be a part of the DK200 according to Jim.

    James – I am not sure but I am going to find out if it’s ridable all the way hopefully soon. It was a little rough and loose in parts, but a great ride.

    Jim – thanks, I am happy that people are reading and looking at pictures. Now to plan a New Years Day ride – anyone game?

  8. joboo

    very cool pictures!!
    i think that’d be a blast checking out this old stuff!!!
    i really like the sunflower pictures, does that make me weird?? LOL


  9. Meg Dickinson

    Eric that was so interesting! That would have totally creeped me out if I had been there by myself, but I think it’s totally awesome at the same time. If you haven’t already, you should take time to read Donald Miller’s latest book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.” The book is about intentionally creating a memorable life….and it sounds like you are well on your way:) Thanks for sharing your story and pictures with us.

  10. Randy

    Great story, great pics! I live in Rhode Island (about halfway between boston and new york) and i have to tell you, you have some beautiful open space out there.

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