Day 47 – Rest Day in Pueblo CO

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.

Linda treated me to this wonderful breakfast. I also got some pastries from Hopscotch, a local legend in the baking world. Brioche with orange zest, yum.
There are lots of murals in downtown Pueblo – I’m assuming a modern reflection of the Mexican American history.
Pueblo has a Riverwalk downtown with cafes and restaurants. So nice to see a thriving downtown with culture, good food, good music, good beer 🙂
Mural detail. Wish I could do that.
Same mural, different section. Hmmm there’s a story there but I don’t know it.
I found myself at the train museum, downtown in Central Pueblo. The wheels on this one are almost as tall as me. This thing is no small engineering marvel and the engineers that drove them must have been smart and gutsy or they’d be dead. Imagine this thing, full of boiling water, hurtling through the mountains with a full load behind it. Amazing, really.
Detail. When in doubt, use more rivets.
Nearby I watched another one of these go by from the Union Street bridge. Over 100 cars each time, maybe double?
On the Colorado Center for Metal Arts building.
Downtown has lots of cool building from the late 1800s. On Union street, many are antique shops.

 

There are also many grand old homes here.
Obviously haunted.
Kerry and Chuck. Kerry has been such a gracious host – she’s one of those folks who seems to be always taking care of others.

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.

Day 46 – Ordway to Pueblo CO

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.

This storm rose last night and I opted indoors again. Glad I did, it dumped buckets again with fierce winds to boot.
I stayed here at the Ordway, run by Tom and Carol. Tom grew up here and knows a lot about the area. He worked “in the city” as a line cook for many years – Phoenix, LA, SF – but settled back here to escape the BS. They often host cyclists and have a great deal for hostel rooms. This picture looks right out of Poltergeist. Boomers next door has some mean huevos rancheros too.
I had to take this photo because it was my first glimpse of the mountains. Don’t even know if you can see them in it but they’re there, right above the road where it meets the horizon.
Wild sunflowers by the road. Some rolling hills beginning to emerge too.
Grasshoppers are everywhere and have been for that last few days. When you walk in the sage they all jump along out in front of you with each step.
Some of the same I saw earlier, though they’re more pink here.
I just love old storefronts, what can I say. They have character.
Speaking of character, their neighbors will not be outdone. These are from a little burg called Olney Springs. Don’t miss the face in the tree. Not sure what we’re shhh-ing about. Shhhh, don’t tell them, but the neighbors have a purple bottle-tree.
Why the sign? And why put it 20 feet from the port-a-potty? Not sure if it translates to the photo but I laughed out loud when I saw that sign.
Approaching Pueblo I saw tons of wild watermelon? Squash? They seem to prefer the roadside for dropping their fruit.
We’re in coal country again, although I suspect this came from Wyoming. If you zoom in you can see the coal cars stretching to the horizon.
Burning the coal in this railcar will release about 200 US tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.
As I was standing by the railroad contemplating emissions, I was passed by two big Vestas trucks – giant nacelles, the hubs of zephyr turbines. Renewable power passing coal – there’s progress afoot!
It’s been so long since I’ve taken a picture of a decorative manure spreader. I’m sure that you’re missing them. At some point in US history, there sure was a lot of manure spreading going on in the Midwest whereas nowadays it’s focused in Washington.
Custom low rider bike built by a local mechanic from junk parts. (Pueblo outskirts)
Fountain creek as I cross it on the way into downtown Pueblo. This flows into the Arkansas so it must be even bigger than this. No doubt high due to rains the last couple of days.

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’!

Day 45 – Eads to Ordway CO

Tomorrow, I will see the Rockies.

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.

Today’s Trip

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:

Pretty steady climb

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.

The swimming noodle aero bar (TM). Just hold on to the handlebar bag for stability and you’re tucked in.
Sometimes it’s the little things that catch your eye. Do you think I’d notice this from a car?  He’s about an inch and a half long & the photo doesn’t do it justice.
I passed through Haswell which looks kind of ghost-townish. It still has a post office and a few homes though.
Haswell is apparently home to the smallest jail – quite a distinction.
I met Scott and Louise who are traveling fro Portland OR to Portland ME.

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.

Richard’s retired and is a serious cycle-tourist. He’s done a TransAm and a lot of other loops around various parts of the US (including Alaska).
Wish I had this in my park as a kid. Sugar City CO
The coupling was beautifully worn and textured.
You could do a pretty great photo book of nothing but roadside memorials. It’s disturbing how many of them there are – rarely do I go a day without seeing one.
Roadside memorial detail

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.

 

Day 44 – Scott City KS to Eads CO

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

 

Before dawn I passed this cemetery outside of Marienthal.
Lots of Biels in this area.
I pulled into Tribune KS before 9:00, already almost 50 miles today. In case you’re wondering what all these little towns look like on the prarie. Not that there aren’t differences but there are a lot of similarities. I bought food for dinner here  because it has a grocery store, the first one I’ve passed since leaving Scott City this morning, and I planned to stay in a little burg without one.
Kansas has somehow gotten even flatter.
Gordon is headed for Virginia and Mike is bound for Key West. We chatted until the black flies got unbearable. They look just like house flies but they light on you in droves and if you let them stay they bite.
Yee haa, I’m in Colorful Colorado.  Oh and time for a shave.
Must be a show or rally somewhere. I literally saw 100 or so big muscle cars all headed east.
This farm looked too desolate for words. With that and the muscle cars I was wondering if Mad Max wasn’t so far off.

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…

I crossed a single ridge and, boom, the ecosystem suddenly changed. I’m in the West! Sage! Cactus! Railroads! Oh, well they have those back east too but not like this one.
My prarie schooner.
I swear I did not set this up.

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 stopped in to cool off and poke around. 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.

If I were on the standard TransAm route I would be at the halfway point. But I’m actually more like the 60% point and turning off in Pueblo.

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.

Day 43 – Bazine to Scott City KS

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.

Turkey vultures on the Bazine water tower. I think I’ve seen turkey vultures and red-wing blackbirds in every state so far.
My only wildflower pic from today – made by David’s kids.
Walking around old Bazine
Late evening – barn and outbuilding from Bazine limestone

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.)

Kansas
15 minutes down the road, in Kansas.
You’ve now crossed into Ness County, which is in Kansas.
Your shadow is now shorter, but it is still in Kansas.  This picture looks more boring than it actually is. Sometimes the soybeans are on the right, and the wheat is on the left.

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.

 

Ford Falcon, about 1960 vintage. It was a small car in the era with a “mileage maker” engine.
I dug this old car and was taking a picture when she came up. She bought it used, with 800 miles on it but has had it for 42 years since.
It runs great!

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