July 8, 2006
I must have been bitten by the ambition bug last night, because I woke up early today, and was on the road by 6am. I cranked the big gears all morning long, making an effort to cover significant distance with efficiency.
The early hours were mostly cloudy, so dawn was slow to break. To my appreciation, it remained shady and cool for quite a few hours. The wind however was out of the north/northwest.
Today I’m blasting through the last of the true Great Plains, which I was in the midst of yesterday. A grassy, treeless landscape stretched in all directions. The main features have been fences, grain elevators, large sprinklers for crops, and train tracks. I watched a train pass in the distance to the north, and could see the whole thing stretched along the horizon at once, from engine to caboose. Without stopping and getting off the bike, I counted 84 cars on it. If I were here two hundred years ago, I’d be seeing huge herds of buffalo thickly blanketing the land, like ants swarming on the sidewalk. Think Dances With Wolves.
By 8am I’ve covered 25.5 miles, and reach the first town of the day. The only places that are open are two gas stations, and I go to the bigger, busier looking one. I’m not disappointed, because they have hot sandwiches, and it’s occupied by the typical old guy regulars. I get two egg and sausage biscuits, and coffee. There’s a flag blowing across the street, confirming a northwest wind.
At 9:30 I enter Greeley County, and the Mountain Time Zone. I reset my watch, and it’s 8:30 again. This is a big psychological boost, and it’s novel to think that it’s 10:30am back where I’m from in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Also when I ride due straight west and cover some distance, I’m always gaining more daylight than if I were to stay in the same place. That’s pretty cool. At 9:15 I hit the town of Tribune. Again, the only thing worth noting in this small town is a gas station. I get a whole 24oz. loaf of white bread (Pan blanco por Pan Blanco!), and 32 ounces of Sunny D. I’ve covered 47 miles already.
At 11:00am I enter the state of Colorado! Ahhh… here’s another milestone. The Great Plains are dwindling behind me, and in no time I’ll be in the Rocky Mountains, and “The West.” There’s a lot of beautiful country ahead of me. It seems as though I’m here so soon already, more than halfway across the continent, on a bicycle. My radio died on me today. I tried changing the battery, but that didn’t do any good, so I don’t know what’s up with that. One of the first and only songs I heard today was Pink Floyd, “Time,” a personal favorite. So long, Kansas!
Just past the border I met some eastbound cyclists from England. They told me that Troy and Melissa Clough, who I met back on July 3rd, are only about a quarter mile ahead! Now I’m questioning that estimate of a quarter mile, because I wouldn’t catch up with them today, and I was moving along pretty good.
The next town I came to was Sheridan Lake(Population 66), but it was virtually a ghost town. Of the approximate 1.5 businesses in town, none were open. I was in need of at least some water, so I found a church with an outside water hose to fill up. I also ran it over my head and washed the salt and grime off my face. The morning clouds had dissipated and it grew quite hot.
Another small, empty town I rode through later was called Chivington, named after Colonel John J. Chivington, commander of the First Colorado Calvalry in 1864. He massacred a band of Cheyenne just north of here in that year, and reportedly told his soldiers beforehand, “I don’t tell you to kill all ages and sexes, but remember our slaughtered women and children.” So I guess that makes him a poster boy for that ugly chapter of our nation’s history. After the natives were driven away, the first settlers here were old fashioned cowboys, driving huge herds up from Texas, coming to the countless acres of open prairie for grazing. As for me, I ride a steel horse. Chro-moly, technically. A chro-moly horse. With Japanese components.
It was only something like 3pm when I came to Eads, CO. I was growing weary and stopped at a gas station for a break, buying some Coke and snacks. From there I watched some clouds approach out of the west that I’d been monitoring for the last hour or so. There was a fleet of small flat clouds, escorting a big ol’ mothership cloud. I knew that this could only mean rain, and maybe storms. Since I was tired and already had quite a few miles logged, those clouds combined with the fact that there were barely any towns or services beyond here was all the persuasion I needed to get a room.
It started raining soon after that, and kept coming down all night long. Life is good.
Now I unleash today’s pure statistics upon you. Stat.
total elevation gained: 1,590 feet
average speed: 13.6mph
total riding time: 7 hours, 53 minutes