What is it about rest days that seem to turn my brain and body to mush? I suppose it’s all those miles across the plains catching up with me but it’s odd to feel more tired on the rest days than the ones I ride. There’s something there too that I remember talking with Richard and Tash about back in MO. Exercise doesn’t tap you out, it gives you more energy. I know I need the rest too because today, just toodling around Pueblo, when I stand quickly in the pedals my legs scream for mercy. OK, mercy today legs for tomorrow we climb and perhaps contemplate ”what is pain.”
The folks from Springs Mountain Sangha have been so great to me. Kerry and Linda have hosted me to meals, given me rides, and a place to stay and it has been lovely to be welcomed into their community.
I attended the Koan study with the Sangha last night where we read and discussed this short story: (BTW for those of you not familiar with Koan work, read 3 or 4 definitions on the web and you’ll have an idea of it. I didn’t really like any of the ones I found but then, its kind of the nature of koans to not be nailed down. At least that’s my incomplete understanding, having had little experience with koan work.)
When Dongshan was dying, someone asked him, “you’re unwell. Is there someone, after all, who isn’t sick?”
Dongshan said, “There is”
“Does the one who isn’t sick take care of you?”
“I’m actually taking care of that one.”
“What is it like when you take care of that one?”
“Then I don’t see that there is any illness.”
That may bring up lots of thoughts and feelings as one reads it and the really interesting thing about discussing it with a group is to see how it was received by different people. At first, I had a very definite idea of what it meant to me (engineer brain, kicking in to solve problem. Ha!) Sarah, the Sangha’s Roshi (congrats on becoming Roshi, Sarah!) had us take it apart one line at a time, which really opens it up. As people discussed it I felt my own reading of the lines changed and the meaning broadened. It was a very interesting experience and many thanks to Sarah and the group for sharing it with me.
Today I explored Pueblo, just following my nose as I did a few errands around town. It’s a really interesting place, having been a crossroads for a long time. Did you know Pueblo was known as “Steel City”? Apperently it used to be a big industry here. Now the town has a definite vibe to it – western, green chiles, bolo ties, boots, desert, art, sun. I see solar panels on many buildings, and they even have a coffee shop that roasts their beans using the sun.
I focused downtown as that’s where I’m staying and I didn’t want to spend much time on my bike seat. So here’s a few pictures from my meandering.
I did some review today of all the miles that I have to go. I was getting concerned that I wouldn’t make it home by mid August – my original plan. But I was suprised that, if I follow the ACA “Western Express” route from here, I’ve only got about 1,575 miles to go to get home. Only. So that’s about 24 days of pedaling if I can keep to an average of 65 miles a day. Seems doable which is good because I miss Megan and Jonah. All the other pains can be overcome, but that one is persistent and the only way I can ease it is to get home. That provides the constant tension these days between wanting to hurry on home, and slowing down and soaking up all that this trip offers while I have the chance.
Tomorrow I start into the Rockies for real and we’ll see if my legs are up for my first pass. I may wish I was back in Kansas again.
And just like that, I see mountains! From my new vantage point in Pueblo, there, to the west, the Rockies rise. Still murky forms in the monsoon July air but I can clearly make them out, even see snow on the north sides here and there. I’ve been elated all morning, just seeing them slowly emerge and grow.
And as if there was any doubt about it, we are truly in the West. I had huevos rancheros for breakfast with an amazing green chile sauce, and I saw my first roadrunner. as I was poking around railroad cars near the river (again I fail as a wildlife photographer). We still follow the Arkansas, which oddly is bigger here than farther down. Tom, who runs the Ordway Hotel said that a lot of the water disappears into a rift not far from here. Apparently much of it goes down into the Ogallala aquifer, the massive water supply that sits below Kansas and Nebraska.
I got a late start today but still reached Pueblo by 1:00 or so. Today was only a 50 mile leg and it’s gotten much cooler so no need to beat the afternoon heat.
Tonight I’m headed to spend some time with the local zen sangha. One of their members has graciously given me a cushy pad to crash in for a couple of days. Thanks, Kerry! Rest day tomorrow to explore Pueblo and rest up for the coming climbs. Big slopes a comin’!
Well, I think I will. It’s possible in Pueblo and even though I knew that today that I wouldn’t see them, it’s hard to not scan the distant horizon looking for their first appearance. I’ve taken dozens of trips by car across the plains, following I-70 across Kansas to Denver and beyond, and I can’t help but start looking for majestic, Coors-can worthy, peaks high above the horizon. And though I know it doesn’t work that way, I look anyway because I love these mountains.
My love for the peaks of Colorado started in the 5th grade when I was lucky enough to have a chance to go there as part of an Environmental Education Program offered through my school. A bunch of us piled into a big orange school bus with sleeping bags and outdoor gear and made the 2 day trek from Rolla MO to Brekenridge CO. All that week we went for hikes, learned about the local species, and soaked up the pine-scented clean air. It was the first time I heard that Colorado had a water crisis (yes, even in 1975) and it sparked my interest in trying to protect the environment. Well that and Frankie, one of our camp counselors who I, and every other boy on the trip (and probably some of the girls) developed a huge crush on. The point of the trip for my teachers was to engender concern for the environment and it worked. I came back home with my only souvenir, an image of a mountain climber silhouetted against the setting sun with the slogan “Get high on mountains” on the front. I wore the hell out of that shirt. So this little story is, in part, why I feel connected to this state, and why I’m looking forward to getting into the mountains soon.
I “slept in” today until 5:00. Luxury. I’ve planned out my next couple of days to stay with some friends, or friends of friends, in Pueblo, so no need to rush the last couple of days to get there. It felt good reach today’s destination early in the day, have a chance to nap, and catch up on a couple of biz items for home.
Sweet Mariah smiled upon me again today and I had a lovely breeze at my back all morning.* There’s also been little traffic since Leoti KS, which has been great. But it also means I need to keep vigilant because it’s easier without the traffic to get careless and complacent about the cars and trucks that remain. But usually I hear them coming from about a half mile behind me so it’s not that much of an issue. Just don’t get too lost in my thoughts.
I’m already at about 4500 feet elevation having climbed almost 1800 feet on my way to Eads yesterday. I didn’t really realize it, it was so gradual but check out this elevation profile from yesterday’s ride:
Yesterday I finally perfected my aero-tuck too which helped some. I salvaged a swimming noodle from the side of the road and made some pads so I can rest my forearms on the bars. This makes a huge difference in how hard you have to work against the prarie gusts. Plus it gave this engineer something to tinker with geek out on while otherwise bored by the scenery.
Some riders want to stop and chat and some just go on their way. I had a nice chat with Scott and Louise (you can follow them here), and also with Richard, who’s retired and from Eastern Oklahoma.
Tonight there are thunderstorms due in shortly so I opted for the local hostel. It’s in an old Hotel in downtown Ordway. I’ve got some more exploring of Ordway to do this evening.
*For those of you tuning in late, we do not say the four letter word that starts with “W” here. It’s working for me so I’m not ready to put my superstitions down yet.
I’m excited today because I am officially in the West. I have seen cactus, sage and the air is bone dry. Suddenly it feels like I’m making progress again.
The $50 hotel last night felt like the lap of luxury. The short day allowed me to rest, catch up on my laundry, stay cool, and sleep well. 4:00 AM seemed like a new normal today and my neighbors at the hotel were leaving as I was. Seems like the local trade specialists travel a lot – the guys next to me were boiler technicians and I suspect they were up to beat the heat just like I was. The quickie mart was crowded by the time I got there at 4:30, with the now familiar crew of ice-bucket-sized coke drinkers stocking up for the morning.
At first the breezes were blowing hard. Then as I pedeled in the dark, they subsided gradually until they were practically gone by dawn. It was cool and overcast which kept the sun from really being a factor until late. I caught a lot of lucky breaks this morning and Mariah smiled on me again. This time she turned around completely from yesterday and was blowing from due north. I couldn’t believe how much difference that made to the truck suck coming from the east-bound semis. With the breeze in the north, I couldn’t really feel them going by. Then, even better, she turned again to give me a push from behind that lasted, in varying degrees the rest of the day. Otherwise I couldn’t have made the progress that I did.
Can We Stop Burning Stuff Now?
I spent a lot of time this morning contemplating climate change and how important it is that we do something about it. (Some of my thoughts here are rated adults-only you if you’re reading to kids, you might skip on down to “On to Other Matters”) My sister-in-law Allison forwarded a link to a NYMag article that has caused quite a stir. It’s not for the faint of heart so be prepared before you click. It paints a scenario that is pretty bleak if we don’t take any significant action, which we really aren’t. As I’m riding through Kansas in 102ºF heat, it’s pretty easy to believe that extreme heat is getting more and more common, and today’s headline from the New York Times that an iceberg the size of Delaware broke off of a major Antarctic Ice shelf, didn’t calm my nerves. It seems that we’re seeing geological phenomon on a time scale of human lifetimes. I know that it’s not accurate to directly correlate local weather with climate change. But when you continue to see an aggregate of unusual phenomenon, record high temperatures, multiple “100 year floods” in a few years, higher storm surges with regularity, you begin to switch from concern to panic.
The article is clearly somewhat alarmist, but I think that’s appropriate. As it points out, the calm, deliberate culture of science works against it in this case. When has science ever had to scream and yell to be heard? What if a meteor the size of the moon were found to be headed directly on the path to earth? We’d all gather around the telescope, take a good look, and get down to the business of doing something about it. Right? Well science HAS done that, and it HAS seen the meteor, and it IS hurtling toward us and those of us in the US are squabbling about whether we caused the meteor or not. OR continuing to deny that that scientist’s telescope works.
I found it inspiring that Al Franken called Rick Perry to task on this very point. Perry was arguing that we really need to be sure and hey lets have an open discussion on the matter and review the results. Franken pointed out that’s exactly what we’ve already done and 100% of peer-reviewed scientists agreed on human-caused climate change. There were even converted skeptics in the course of review of the data.
So I don’t mean to go on a rant here – I’m likely preaching to the converted. But if I’m not, let’s talk because our children’s future is, quite literally, at stake and no one is really getting anything done about it.
As I rode today I was thinking about all the trucks going by, burning gas, bringing corn to feed cattle that we don’t need to eat and to sweeten drinks that we shouldn’t be drinking. I see people leaving their cars running in parking lots because it’s so hot they can’t stand to get in them if they don’t. We know that every minute that car runs, it makes the problem worse. You’ll need more AC tomorrow because of our actions today as long as we keep burning stuff to stay cool and to get where we’re going. We Know This. It is not uncertain and we need to be a lot more concerned abut it because it is going to take a lot of work to turn this ship.
So that’s exactly what I was contemplating – how the hell do we turn this ship? How do I personally, have the biggest impact that I can. Is it to focus on one small place and try and make it better? Or should I go help Al Franken try to get people’s attention? Do I go back and run my business or try to perfect the cost-effective solar-powered air conditioner? I really don’t know, but I’ve got about 30 more days or so to think about it before I get back and need to start making choices. And we all know that it’s those choices that get you to tomorrow, and determine whether you’re stuck in Kansas or on your way home.
On to Other Matters
I had planned to stay in Sheridan Lake but the black flies drove me out. I still felt fresh and it was only another 30 miles to Eads. I’m glad I kept going…
This is in the town of Chivington which should be renamed. Chivington was in command during the Big Sandy Creek Massacre when over 100 Cheyenne and Arapaho were killed by US troops in 1864.
I’d planned to camp out but a cloudburst hit and sent me running for cover. I was so busy typing this, I didn’t see it coming! Another cheap hotel. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be dry.
One of the nice things abou a blog is that you can leave loose ends.
After I posted last night, I had dinner and did a little more exploring around Bazine to see what I could see. David had mentioned that a few feet under the topsoil here is a layer of limestone that is uniformly about 8 inches thick. Early settlers found it easy to dig up, and cut down to size so you see limestone fence posts, limestone bricks everywhere (also in nearby Ness City). I even saw an 8″ think stone fence.
I had to make a few minor repairs to the bike – the handlebar tape had started to unravel, and I lost my right shifter cover. Gorilla tape for the bars and med tape for the shifter and I’m good to go. After that I crawled in my tent next to the high school and listened to the faraway dogs bark for about 5 seconds before I konked out.
The alarm immediately notified me that it was already 4:00AM and time to beat the heat again. I got up but missing the gusto of yesterday. The getting-up-at-4:00 AM “honeymoon” was a short one and by Day 2 the “new” was gone out of it. I tried to summon some positivity out of it but really today felt kind of like just putting in miles. I guess there need to be days like this to make you appreciate the wonderful ones, which have been many. The silver lining for me is that I’m approaching another couple of milestones that let me know that I am, in fact, making progress (even if it doesn’t look or feel like it). I’m coming up to the Mountain Time zone border, and the Colorado border (not the same, oddly; one county off).
Kansas has been, and continues to be tough. After big miles and 100º+ temps again yesterday my body was complaining from various places; and the scenery just doesn’t provide much distraction. The Kansans I’ve met here have been very nice, open, curious about me and other cyclists, and very courteous on the road so I have no complaints about them.
I was so tired of the unchanging scenery that I did an experiment – take 4 photos, 15 minutes apart (using a timer) and see what you get. Here, take this a multiply by 7 hours and you have my day. (See my strava route below for the 2 turns I made today.)
The other thing that was difficult today was… Oh crap am I still griping? Well, maybe I’ll just get all my gripes out in one post while I’m in a sour mood. Anyway, today the gusts took a turn and were coming from the southwest, giving me and other westbounders* a lot of trouble. AND the truck traffic seems to have doubled or tripled on Rt 96. The shoulder is good, and I watch my mirror constantly for approaching traffic, but even when the trucks pass on the other side of the road, the air they push or pull can be huge.
*Damn I keep forgetting to get a pic of Howard and Victoria, aka ‘the Australian couple’) a lot more work to do for every mile.
This phenomenon leads to what I’ve come to think of as “Truck suck” and the “Truck duck”. Truck suck is the (beneficial) pull down the road that you get when a big truck goes your way. You’d think it would hit you like a wave in front of the truck but really it hits as the end of the truck goes by and pulls you along. Sometimes it’s kind of great and I can shift up one or two gears with the increase speed I get. Truck duck is what you do to avoid the opposite effect. When a big truck passes the other way you get a blast of air in your face that slows you down, sometimes by a lot. Cattle trucks are particularly bad at this because a) they are very non-aerodynamic and b) they smell like cattle. So I duck low to minimize the impact on my momentum and save some of that hard-won bike speed. Think of it as the cyclists equivalent of diving under an oncoming ocean wave so that it doesn’t push you back to shore. Only in this case the wave is bigger, hot, and often stinks horribly. Welcome to the glamour of cycle-touring!
I see from my notes from this morning that the only other things I wrote down was something profound about how bad my butt hurts today, and that I have found the worst coffee ever, and it is in Ness City KS.
OK, no more griping. I did run into some nice people today.
I’m resting early tonight, splurging on an air conditioned room and I think beer and Mexican food is in my future. So no doubts I’ll be in better spirits tomorrow.
"If I had my druthers, I'd ride a bike" Jim's low CO2 trans-am cycling trip