Right after I posted last night we were put under a tornado warning. What fun. The sky was creepy. About 30 minutes later four eastbound bicyclists showed up. Theo, Emma, Kevin, and Chase left Oregon on May 1. They encountered impassable roads at their first mountain pass. Snow.
Despite the crazy weather and crashes they are all in good spirits.
I had some pancakes for breakfast then headed west on Highway 96. I’m in no hurry and the nearest town is Eads, about 30 miles west. With temperatures in the high 60s and a tailwind I was tempted to go long but the previous three days were hard so I decided to camp in the town park in Eads. Three free nights in a row.
About half way to Eads I stopped to chat with Gary and Michael, eastbound riders on an epic adventure. They started in San Francisco, rode to Los Angeles, then banged a left on US Route 66 through the Mojave desert, across Arizona, up to the Grand Canyon, through the Utah parks, over two 11,000-foot passes, then into the Front Range on 96. They’re riding to Yorktown then up to Maine. In Maine they’ll bang another left and re-cross the country. Nothin’ to it.
Last night they were caught in a hailstorm and considered themselves lucky not to be hit by baseball-sized hail that fell not far from their location.
We traded info and stories for a half hour then headed our separate ways.
My route took me downhill out of Sheridan Lake then back up over 4,000 feet shortly after our roadside chat. The last mile into Eads was through a one-lane construction zone. I busted my butt to get through as fast as possible. The drivers behind me were mercifully patient.
In Eads I checked in with the Sheriff and made sure the sprinkler system was turned off in the park.
The next few days will be increasingly hot. I’ll need to be careful not to overdue it.
Upon arriving in Leoti, I pitched my tent in the town park (my repair worked!) and went to take a shower in the adjacent mini-hospital. The nurse in charge wouldn’t let me use the shower, presumably out of Covid concerns. (I was wearing better protection, an N95 respirator mask, than the hospital staff. Go figure.)
I was dispatched to the swimming pool where I took a very cold shower. I felt rather like George Costanza when I was done.
I had dinner at the town bakery, where I ate in 2019. When I left for the bakery the skies were partly cloudy when I returned they were black.
I quickly got into my tent then all hell broke loose. Big gusty winds and a mighty rain ensued. I hoped that I set up the tent properly and that it didn’t leak. Yes on both counts.
After an hour I took an Advil PM and re-emerged. I could see the next wave of storms bearing down. Back in the tent I went. Another raging storm came through. My tent held firm and dry. With ear plugs in and eye mask on I fell asleep until 3 a.m. It was still raining, but not inside my little sanctuary.
I arose with the birds and twiddled my thumbs until the town diner opened at 7. It had a big circular table where ten large men gathered to discuss whatever men discuss. Every single small town has this.
Back at the park I was packing up and about to leave when Bob Eakins rolled up. Bob and I met in Monticello, Utah in 2019. He had just finished riding from Sacramento and was DONE, exhausted mentally and physically. It made me wonder what I was about to get myself into. I felt the same as Bob when I arrived in San Francisco.
Bob is riding west to east from Pueblo. I thought he was well to the east by now but he rides relatively short days. A bit surprising considering his relative youth – he’s 65.
After an hour he returned to his motel room and I headed straight west on Kansas Highway 96. Into a headwind of course. I was working hard, curiously taking big gulps of fresh air.
The farms on either side of the road went on forever and the sky was picture pretty with puffy white clouds. Every so often one of the clouds would block the sun and the temperature would drop. Aah.
I arrived 23 miles later in Tribune where I stopped for lunch. Chicken strips and green beans. Fine dining.
Tribune is in Greeley County. I lit out west on 96 and soon passed the small town of Horace. Go west young man indeed.
The wind was more of a cross wind after lunch but I still seemed to be working awfully hard. A reward of sorts came when I left Kansas and entered Colorado. I will Kansas no more forever. (Except on the 50 States Ride, of course.)
In Colorado the road had expansion joints, what every cyclist’s ass hates. Thankfully they didn’t continue for more than a few miles. I was passed by oncoming farm equipment that looked like Transformers.
I arrived in Sheridan Lake, population 88 if you count the pets, and chatted with the clerk in the town gas station/convenience store. She grew up in Towner, which I had passed through a few miles previously. Towner’s population is 22.
On the way into the store I waved to a bicycle tourist coming from the west. He and I are staying at the Sheridan Lake Bible Church which has hosted bike tourists every summer for many years.
My east bound friend is Mike, from Switzerland. He’s a fascinating man. He trekked in Nepal, visited Cambodia and Vietnam, flew to Los Angeles, then flew to Denver where he bought a bike and a Burley flat bed trailer and set out across America. Mike had a catalytic converter business in Europe that he sold in 2005. There’s no future in it, he rationalized. His mother’s side of the family developed the Schindler company, a manufacturing conglomerate. Among other things they make escalators and elevators. I wonder if my 2018 bike tour friend Martin who worked in elevator repair in Switzerland worked for Schindler. It would be an interesting coincidence.
Ernie, the pastor of the church came by and chatted for a long time. He has all kinds of stories about bike tourists who’ve stayed here. Imagine living in the middle of nowhere and meeting people from all over the world.
Mike is camping outside despite the threat of bad weather. He doesn’t like to sleep on the floor. He knows a thing or two about bad weather; he sailed across the Atlantic twice.
For those of you who think I’m a little old to be doing this, Mike is 85.
I’m now at 4,071 feet. I gained about 700 feet today. Gotta gulp that air now.
Corey and Mark are accustomed to taking days off about once per week, but since they’d met met me they ridden nine days in a row. So today we took an off day. Sort of.
We ride about 29 miles from Sheridan Lake, Colorado to Eads, Colorado. The winds were light and just off to the side. Although still on Highway 96, we no longer had the endless gradual climb of the last several days. Instead the road was gently rolling. Wheat fields were gradually replaced by cattle ranges covered in sage brush. It’s green here only because of high levels of rainfall in recent days. The road also, incredibly, curved a few times.
Corey got us started by making pancakes. I made coffee. Mark melted butter. Somehow it all came out fab. The food was supplied by our hosts, the Sheridan Lake Bible Church.
I followed Mark for most of the day as Corey lingered over his photography.
We saw an antelope today. Mark said that he spooked it and it bounced away. I saw it after it had calmed down.
Our route took us eight miles south of the site of the Sand Creek Massacre where several hundred native Americans, including women, children, and the elderly, we slaughtered in a surprise attack by the Colorado Volunteer Cavalry. White settlers in their lust for land and gold signed and reneged on treaties then ambushed a native settlement. Reparations were granted to the affected people but, of course, were never paid. The remaining Indians were moved to Oklahoma.
This area of the country is also where white settlers slaughtered millions of bison for their hides, leaving carcasses to rot in the blazing sun.
As I rode through hundreds of thousands of acres of nearly empty prairie this week, I couldn’t help thinking how utterly insane it is that white settlers couldn’t co-exist with natives and with animal life like the buffalo and passenger pigeons. I felt the same way last summer riding across North Dakota and Montana. White people won this land though massacre and disease and duplicity. What an ugly legacy.
The weather was amazing today.
After arriving in Eads we briefly considered riding another 60 miles to Ordway. We checked out the town park here and decided to stay the night. The grass here is perfect, a sure sign of an irrigation system. The grounds keeper told us he’d make sure the sprinkler system would be turned off while we were camping.
Tomorrow we hope for tailwinds and cool temperatures.
I barely slept at all last night in my new tent. It withstood high winds and rain. I did not withstand neighborhood noises (the bird calls here remind me of Sydney Australia) and my messed up left knee. Because of the steady climb we haven’t been able to glide much. Just a constant grinding away. Tonight I’m putting in ear plugs and taking Ibuprofen PM. I’ll be dead to the world.
Leoti has a small bakery where the male breakfast burritos and brew coffee. That was enough grub to fuel our morning.
Heading west again on Highway 93, we encountered the same old, same old. A straight road that climbed a one percent grade with uncanny consistency. The calm winds of the very start of the ride soon gave way to 12 – 15 mph headwinds. I decided to just listen to my body. It said 9 mph. And do The Mule and I rolled, well behind Mark and Corey.
They are at the halfway point of their journey. Both are having hand discomfort. Mark taped a kitchen sponge to the left side of his handlebar. Corey fashioned cushions for both hands out of a pool noodle. I am not making this up.
We finally encountered our first east bound TransAm rider today. Adam is from Wales. He started in Seattle, rode to, then up the Columbia River. Then he picked up the TransAm Route. Adam confirmed that the route is open through the Rockies with snow on the ground at higher elevations. As you might imagine he said it was beautiful.
So Mark and Corey are good to go. As for me, I know of one road closure from a rock slide on my route in Utah. I’ll be checking with state DOTs for more tonight.
Along our route we passed a grain elevator along the parallel railroad tracks. I’d have taken a picture of the train waiting to be filled but it wouldn’t fit into the frame. Mark estimated that it had about 200 identical hopper cars.
We took a snack break in Tribune, Kansas. Then hit the road for another 22 miles. Fortunately the wind had died down but the uphill grind still wore me down.
We crossed into the mountain time zone soon after lunch.
Soon thereafter we posed at the Colorado state line sign.
Tonight we are staying at the Sheridan Lake Bible Church. No showers or bed but air conditioning, bathrooms, and a well stocked larder. No complaints from me.
We are now sat 4,079 feet, meaning we climbed another 700 feet today.
Miles today: 52
Total miles: 1,219
I haven’t had a day off. Tomorrow we plan on riding only 28 miles.