July 18, 2006
Today may go down as one of the most memorable days of the entire trip.
I slept in until ten and got breakfast in town – biscuits with gravy, and pancakes. Breakfast is my favorite meal when eating out – I really like to start each day out here with coffee and a good meal. I went to the library, updated the journal again, and wasn’t rolling out of town until after noon.
Do you remember how I said The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of my favorite roads in America? Well, you can go ahead and add Colorado Route 125 to that distinguished list. I spent all afternoon on this road, due north through the high mountains and woods of the Arapaho National Forest. The area was just such a pleasure to ride. I was expecting Bigfoot himself to stroll out of the woods. Then he’d invite me back to his cave, where he’d no doubt treat me to a few Sierra Nevada Bigfoot beers.
I climbed over the Continental Divide again at Willow Creek Pass, and the rest of the day was predominantly downhill from there – quite an exhilarating descent! I came out of the woods and into Rand – a real ghost town. There were two businesses in town, a restaurant and a store, and both were closed. The restaurant was up for sale.
The wind picked up, howling in my ears. With not another living thing to be seen or heard, it had a very cool, eerie, tumbleweed Clint Eastwood-esque feeling. The only thing to be seen in Rand was an old police car, set up with two dummies inside. Interesting.
Well I fortunately wasn’t in need of food, water, a bathroom, or anything like that – so I rode on out into the open range country. The terrain changed from alpine woodlands to flat, treeless, open countryside. It was similar to The Great Plains, except the mass agriculture was replaced by fields of scrub brush, and mountainous ridges enclosed the horizon. The landscape was taking on the character of Wyoming, which I’ll officially enter tomorrow.
Now out in the open landscape, I realized why the wind picked up… storms. Through the mountains and woods earlier this afternoon I’d been aware there were some isolated storms in the vicinity. It had even rained on me for about ten minutes back there.
Now I could see one or two storm cells to the east, and another right in front of me, directly where I was headed. I could see occasional bolts of lightning stabbing down to the ground, an amazing sight in this desolate land. I had something like 15 or 20 more miles to get to the town of Walden, all through the open country with no shelter and few homes. I stuck out like a lightning rod.
Just as all of this was sinking in, I met two eastbound girls. I told them that I’d just picked up my present tailwind back in Rand, so maybe they could hope that the headwind that they’ve been battling would diminish once they were beyond there. The conversation was brief, because we were all concerned about the storms and being on our way.
I went ahead and kept riding north with the storms all around, because that’s all there really was to do. I couldn’t wait them out because I’d be flirting with dusk. Depending on where the road goes and which way the storm is headed, sometimes it’s best to just stay on course. As a last resort I could make for a ditch and squat if the lightning got dangerous, but of course I really wanted to avoid that situation.
As I progressed it started to rain. I stopped, watching the clouds intently. Imagine, if you will, standing over a loaded touring bicycle, half a day’s ride from Wyoming in this open range country, able to see for miles and miles in all directions, and monitoring three separate storm cells in the spacious, dark sky. It’s like I could feel this highly pressurized pouch of adrenaline inside me, spitting out small intermittent leaks. Bohemian Rhapsody came on the radio.
The two cells to the east were shooting the most lightning, and it looked as though these were not a threat to me in my location. The clouds were so slow that they barely seemed to be moving at all, and those to the east were moving south/southeast, if at all.
But there was a storm to the north, down the road directly in front of me – the one that had started raining on me… wait, the rain stopped!
From my best observations, this storm was moving north/northeast – in the same direction as me. After it stopped raining, I rode ahead toward the storm, and sure enough, it started raining again! Ha! All I had to do was slow my pace, and stay behind the storm. That’s exactly what I did… moving forward in a dry spot with storms all around me, all the way to Walden.
Today had a great playlist on the radio as well: Grateful Dead – Cumberland Blues, Mr. BoJangles, The Beatles – Hard Day’s Night, Doobie Brothers – Blackwater, Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence, Animals – House of the Rising Sun, Bohemian Rhapsody (While observing the storm clouds), Don Henley – Boys of Summer, and Jethro Tull – Locomotive Breath!
Tonight I’m sleeping on a picnic table, under a picturesque gazebo in the town park. For dinner I had my old cheap standby – a pound of spaghetti, a can of tuna. There’s a black cat here picking my empty tuna can out of the garbage can.
Earlier there were a number of families at the park swings, having a great time and swinging really high. On the radio they said the low will be in the forties tonight. Today is July 18th. Life is good.
the Rand Police Department