July 9, 2006
I slept late and went to the small diner next to the motel for breakfast, where I had my usual pancakes and coffee. I didn’t leave and start riding until about 11:30. I tried my radio, and for some reason it worked just fine again, even though I was sure it broken the other day. Highlights of the songs I heard were Spencer Davis Group Gimme Some Lovin, CSN Carry On, CCR Hey Tonight, and that new Black Horse and Cherry Tree song. Did you know that the lead vocalist on the Spencer Davis song was Steve Winwood, at a mere 15 years old? And believe it or not, I heard John Denver Rocky Mountain High on my first full day in Colorado! I can’t see the Rockies yet, but I know they’re close.
Today’s ride was mostly through more empty nothingness. The only difference between here and western Kansas is that I’m now riding through some very gentle foothills, and gradually gaining elevation. I can’t see the mountains, and the land is mostly flat, so you can see for miles in all directions. It has the effect of being on a plateau, and the vegetation has changed from wheat fields to scrub grass.
When I enter the towns in Colorado, the usual signs that say “City Limit” now also have the elevation, and everything is at 4500 feet or so. To put that into perspective, the highest peaks in the Appalachians, Mount Mitchell and Mount Washington for example, are just over 6,000 feet. The Blue Mountain ridge in Pennsylvania sits at about 1,500… and here I am at 4500 in the flat, wide parts of Colorado. The highest peaks of the Rockies are around 14,000 feet.
The weather called for scattered storms today, and I observed some of those storms around me as I rode. The storms mostly passed to the north. Somehow I was lucky enough to stay in a dry corridor until around 4pm, when I saw a fat column of rain approaching from the west.
I was headed straight for it. At this time I was five miles east of Ordway. I rode hard and fast straight toward the cloud, hoping to reach town before it did.
I came to a gas station just as it started to rain significantly, and within five minutes it was coming down hard, with high winds. I made myself comfortable at a little booth inside the station, enjoying some snacks. The guy behind the counter had the local weather alerts playing on two TVs. “There’s a tornado in Pueblo,” he told me. Great – I’m headed that way! I guess not anymore.
So I spent one or two hours there in the station, watching the local news channel. People who had seen the tornado called in to the TV station with their reports. Pueblo is 45 miles west of here, and the storm was moving east at 10-15 mph. Tornado warnings, flash flood warnings… whoo-hoo. There was a mini flash flood on the road out the gas station window for a just few minutes.
So there’s an old building in town called The Ordway Hotel, and I headed over there when the rain died. It’s an old rooming house type-place, so fortunately the room was cheap. I’d put in 60 miles before the storms hit, and thought I may as well call it a day.
I checked in and watched a PBS program that had a little something about the Appalachian Trail, and headed out to get something to eat. The storm had passed and there was a rainbow in the sky – the nastiest storms must have passed to the north. I almost regretted that I didn’t continue riding.
It was Sunday evening and the only thing open in town was a bar. There were only three people inside – the bartender, a lone guy sitting at the bar, and a woman playing the Megatouch machine. On the TV they were playing a DVD of what appeared to be ABBA’s greatest hits videos, at a high volume.
I had two bottles of Bud and a small personal pizza, and got the hell out of there. Nobody really talked to me or tried to start a conversation.
I fell asleep relatively early. Life is good.
storms to the north