Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day 55 - July 28, 2013 - Florence, CO Rest Day

Miles - 0

We slept soundly in our garden room (which used to be the summer kitchen) at The Florence Rose B&B, and didn't wake up until my mom came to knock on our door at almost 8:30, which is when breakfast is served.  We enjoyed a delicious breakfast, and good conversation with the other guests and the owners of the B&B about cycling and the house.  There was another family staying there, and the father and son were doing day bike rides to different destinations while mom acted as their sag wagon - pretty cool!

Charlette had arranged for us to go zip lining at 3, with lunch at the zip lining place prior to that - we were so excited for a fun day off!  Prior to that, we wanted to drive some of the route and see what the next day would be like, since it would really be our first day of climbing in the Rockies, so we took off with the small and quirky town of Guffey as our destination.

The drive to Guffey was beautiful!  The mountain scenery is amazing, and more and more pretty little valleys kept opening up along the way!  Guffey itself is an interesting town - the mayor is a black cat, there is a guy who builds little shacks and rents them to cyclists - it's just unlike any other place we have been.

It was time to head back for zipping, and we enjoyed a huge lunch with the awesome group of people Charlette brought with her, most of whom we had met the previous night.  After lunch, we geared up for zip lining, and took a van ride over to the course.

After an awesome couple of hours on the zip line course with the beautiful Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, we headed back to the bar and restaurant, and decided we all wanted to hang out a while longer, so we had a few drinks, and spent the next 4 or 5 hours just hanging out shooting the breeze and having a blast.  

These people are so awesome, and we had such a great time getting to know everyone!  Thanks to all of them for making us feel at home and like we've all been friends forever!  This was by far our best day off, and this great group of people and Florence, CO will always hold a special place in our hearts!

Day 54 - July 27, 2013 - Pueblo, CO to Florence, CO

Miles - 26 by bike, 14 by car
Total mileage - 1,559

Par for the course - we got a later start than we wanted to from Pueblo this morning.  After a breakfast of cold pizza leftover from last night, we took off sometime after 9, and discovered that Pueblo isn't as flat as the rest of Eastern Colorado!  The route took us through the burbs, and the city park and zoo, which was nice.

A mile or two out of town though, we were tossed right back into the desert.  And into the biggest climb we had seen in weeks.  It was quickly apparent that we had not acclimated to the altitude, and we had to take several breaks to power up that thing.  But...we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the Rockies when we got to the summit.

It was getting hot pretty darn fast, and we were going through water like champs - another side effect of the high altitude, in addition to it being harder to breathe (especially for Mel with asthma), getting tired more quickly, and occasionally feeling a little lightheaded.  Luckily we had some extra Gatorade and a bottle of water, but it was all hot, and drinking hot liquid when you are already overheated is pretty nasty!

We had planned for my (Erica's) mom to come up from Southern California to meet us today earlier in the week, so we knew she wasn't far from Pueblo now.  She is going to act as our chase car in the Rockies, and entertain us for an indefinite period of time (until my dad gets too jealous of all the fun we are having, or she gets sick of us!).

After struggling uphill against a 10-15 mile headwind for hours, while only making it 26 miles, and after making a turn only to be faced with another climb up something called "Hardscrabble Pass", we decided to call it quits on a gravel side road.  We waited for my mom to arrive with a bike rack, loaded up all of our crap, and cranked up the air conditioning as we drove the remaining 14 miles or so to Florence, CO.  Oh, and just our luck, another storm was rolling in!

We had a quick dinner in a cafe in Florence called 2 Sisters, then I emailed Charlette - she and I had been in contact for a few months about her organizing a fundraiser for the Looking Out Foundation through Looking Out Across America, and we were going to meet up with her to hang out and get to know Florence a bit.

Turns out Charlette had gotten worried about us when the storm rolled in, and was driving up and down highway 50 to find us and rescue us from the rain - how sweet!  We met her over at the brand new bar she manages - Creative's Cork - and had a few beers and met some of the awesome people that Charlette knows before she showed us to the bed and breakfast she had lined up for us to stay in - seriously, we are not used to being spoiled like this!

We cleaned up at the B&B, then headed back down to the bar - Charlette had also lined up live music for the evening to keep the fundraising going, and entertain us and many of the locals - the place was pretty busy that night!  We enjoyed second dinner and some drinks at Creative's Cork while being entertained by the musical stylings of Chauncey Crandall.  We were taken over to another new bar in town, The Hamlet, who had also been raising money for LOAA!  We met some great people there too.  We actually ended our night there with a lot of the Creative's Cork crew, since they close earlier than The Hamlet.  Chauncey entertained us with some karaoke music, and many laughs were had by all!

We had decided by this time that we were having so much fun with this crew that we needed another day to enjoy this place and these people, so we made some rough plans to go zip lining near the Royal Gorge the next day, and would figure out the specifics in the morning.  The Creative's Cork crew graciously decided to just close the bar the next day to hang out with us!  We were exhausted - this was later than we had been up in weeks, so we passed out soon after getting back to the B&B.  

We had so much fun in Florence this evening - thanks again to everyone who donated to our cause, came out to support us, and made our night so much fun!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 53 - July 26, 2013 - Pueblo Rest Day

Miles - 0

We needed a rest day to heal Erica's knee pain, and Mel's shoulder pain, and various other typical cycling pains (mostly in the ass, hah!)

We slept in a bit, grabbed hotel breakfast, moved to another hotel across the street, then decided we were ready for lunch and to try and find some sweats to wear since we knew we were going to get cold in the upcoming mountains!

We hopped on the city bus, tried Kmart unsuccessfully for sweats (turns out that no one gets cold in the desert in the middle of July - go figure!).  We grabbed Chipotle for lunch, and headed back to the hotel.  

We were lazy for a good long while, then decided to check out Pueblo's river walk, which was only a few blocks from our hotel.

Pueblo's riverwalk reminded us a lot of the canal in Indianapolis.  It isn't on the actual river, they created this water feature I think, but it's a nice park to walk through on a summer evening.  We found a pizza place and ate overlooking the riverwalk, sat for a bit and enjoyed the fountain, then went back to crash.

Day 52 - July 25, 2013 - Ordway, CO to Pueblo, CO

Mileage - 52
Total mileage - 1,533

We headed to the grocery store to pick up some water before we headed out, and noticed that the "Bits and Spurs" cafe was open for breakfast, so we sauntered over to have a quick bite before getting on the road.  This place was definitely a small place for locals - we stood out like a sore thumb!  There were mostly older cowboys/farmers in this place, the decor was wooden planks with all of the local cattle brands burned into them, the floor hasn't been vacuumed in weeks, and there was a communal fly swatter to kill those pesky biting annoyances right on your table.  

Since absolutely nothing in these small towns is done quickly, it took over an hour for our small breakfast to be cooked, eaten, and paid for.  We knew we had a fairly flat ride into Pueblo today, but wanted to make sure we arrived before the weird afternoon thunderstorms could possibly arrive.

The terrain really changed dramatically today.  There was actual topography to look at!  And we finally got our glimpse of the Rockies (can you see their blue outline in the photo above?)!  We love these mountains, so it was a big morale boost to finally spot them...even though we were going to have to tackle them by bike in the coming days!

We stopped for "lunch" in Boone at one of those small town grocery stores where someone shops at Walmart in the big city, doubles the prices, and resells it all to the locals.  We ate a bunch of junk food since the selection was pretty sparce.  

We keep seeing these weird cactus-like plants that appear to be growing watermelons.  I'm sure they are not watermelons in the desert, but the look pretty similar!

We got rained on a bit as we got onto highway 50 to head into Pueblo, but nothing major.  It was a total shock to us to be back on a major highway with traffic flying by after being in such isolated places for over a week. 

After a quick drink stop, we finished the last 5 or 6 miles to our hotel in downtown Pueblo.  We experienced our first hills in over a week riding through Pueblo too...just a glimpse of what is to come!  It seems like we are always riding towards storm clouds!!

We had been communicating with a supporter who wanted to put us up in a hotel in Pueblo and meet us for dinner when we arrived - thanks Sue!  We checked in and showered up, then Sue picked us up for dinner.  We had a great time chatting and chowed down on some Olive Garden.  The big rain waited until we were driving to dinner, thank goodness!  We certainly appreciate Sue's kindness!! 

Pueblo marks the halfway point (in miles) for our trip.  Obviously, we are way behind in terms of time!  We will make it up somehow though.  Probably some more "cheating" somewhere...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 51 - July 24, 2013 - Eads, CO to Ordway, CO

Miles - 61
Total mileage - 

It was a cool start to our day today, and we were thrilled to check the weather and find that today's high was under 90 degrees!  It was overcast as we hit the pavement, and  stayed that was almost all the way to a small town called Haswell, which we were hoping had a convenience store that we could grab some lunch at, since it was really our only option for the first 56 miles of our ride!  And we thought the wind would be blowing in our favor today, but it was just our luck that it turned into a headwind or crosswind for the entire day - lucky us!!!

We lucked out in one way, and the propane store/gas station/antique store also sold pre-packaged sandwiches, other snacks, and cold drinks.  They also had a sweet Pomeranian to love on, and the most adorable 6 week old Border Collie pup!  Getting to hang out with animals always brightens our day.

The terrain is definitely different here than it was in Kansas - fewer farms, more cacti and scrub brush, more dust, and probably even fewer trees dotting the landscape.  We arrived at the one-house town of Arlington, and they thoughtfully put a pit toilet and picnic table in a little rest area for cyclists.  Some people even camp here, but without water or anything else around, it's a bit too primitive for us!

Sugar City was the next dot on the map - it was only 5 miles from our goal for the day, Ordway, but had a cafe so we stopped in for a quick sandwich and cold drink, and I may have had pie and ice cream too...

The stretch of road between Sugar City and Ordway might be the winner for the smelliest stretch of road on the trip.  Big feed lot full of cows that stretched nearly the entire 5 miles...and we were downwind.  Yuck.

We grabbed snacks at a truck stop in Ordway, and headed toward the hotel since storms were forecast for this evening.  We got settled, and not long after that heard thunder...full on storm rolled into Ordway.  These things follow us...they have been in a drought, and we arrive and bring the downpour!  The gutters were overflowing by the time it stopped raining.  We went out to try and hit up the grocery store (more food, seriously, some days we could eat everything in sight!), but they closed at 7:30.  The restaurant was closed too...I wouldn't survive in a small town!  Someone told us the VFW was having Mexican night, but we decided to pass.  We are some granola bars in our room, and are getting ready to pass out now.  50 miles to Pueblo tomorrow, with the possibility of thunderstorms, lets hope they hold off!!!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day 50 - July 23, 2013 - Sheridan Lake, CO to Eads, Co

Miles - 28
Total Mileage - 1386.3

So, it took forever to fall asleep last night, but the sunlight pouring in the curtainless windows in the church nursery that we slept in didn't let us sleep past 6:30 this morning.  The group of 3 guys who just graduated high school and had ridden 166 miles to get to Sheridan Lake awoke at 4am to make the 135 miles to Pueblo today.  Crazy kids...  Of course another group of four guys who stayed at the church had ridden 200 miles in one day to get to Sheridan Lake.  Also crazy!  There was a group of 3 girls with the 200 mile guys, and they got up really early to ride out into the sunrise.  We hung around for a bit with the 200 mile guys enjoying some coffee and getting a later start to our day!

After a quick breakfast at the gas station, we took off.  We weren't in a hurry, because we planned a short 28 miles today.  We got a little off on our city timing, and our options were:
1.  A 79 mile day to Ordway, CO, in temps in the high 90's.
2.  A 50 mile day to Haswell, CO - a town where you can camp in the park with no real services.
3.  A 28 mile day to Eads, CO, with all services.

We knew we weren't going to survive 79 miles in that heat, and a town without services or an appropriate toilet in the park didn't sound appealing either, so short day it was.  The ride wasnt difficult, and we pulled into Eads before noon.  After a lunch at the local diner, we grabbed a room at the one motel in town to catch up on the sleep we missed the night before.  Dinner was some sort of camp food and a can of green beans...delish!  Hah...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 49 - July 22, 2013 - Leoti, KS to Sheridan Lake, CO

Miles - 53
Total mileage - 1383

We got up on time and early today, and headed to breakfast at the Hi-Plains Motel. The motel used to have a restaurant, and the owner now offers a small menu of cooked to order items for breakfast. We ate a ton of food and left to go pick up the packages waiting for us at the post office. Erica picked up her shipment of Sheps, and my amazing mom sent us a package with camping food, GU packets, and the camera that we forgot back in Virginia. Thanks, Mom! 

We headed on down the road, hoping to make it out of Kansas before the end of the day. The weather was awesome early in the morning, with temperatures in the high 60's and only a small wind. It didn't take us very long to get to Tribune, KS, where we stopped for lunch at Burger Bar. The folks there were really nice and let us fill our water bottles with ice and water before we left. 
There wasn't much else to see for the rest of the day until we came to the Colorado state line, which we were thrilled to see.
The tiny town of Towner welcomed us into Colorado, but sadly had no services or anything to stop and look at. We had just 11 miles to our stop, Sheridan Lake, but of course, the winds picked up and blew right at us,and the temperatures were rising, as well. We took the opportunity to stop at an elementary school that had sprinklers on their lawn, and enjoyed just standing in the mist. Four miles later, we made it to Sheridan Lake, where the population is arguably 88 people, the lake has dried up, and the only place to eat is the gas station. We are staying tonight at Sheridan Lake Bible Church, with quite a few other cyclists on the same route.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 48 - July 21, 2013 - Scott City, KS to Leoti, KS

Miles - 25
Total mileage - 1330

Another short day, so we took the opportunity to sleep in a bit.  Turns out it was a good thing we did - there was a dense fog advisory and it was pretty chilly out this morning.

It was overcast as we left Scott City, and stayed that way all morning.  The wind was light, and almost a tailwind, so this made for some really nice riding conditions!  We even got misted on at one point.  

More of the same scenery today, but more of it for some reason - feed yards and oil derricks.  Traffic was light since it is Sunday, but we did get passed by a couple of oversize loads.  The drivers in Kansas have been the most considerate of all - almost all of them cross completely into the oncoming lane to go around us.  And almost all of the oncoming drivers wave at us.  Nicest people we've come across yet!

We got to Leoti around noon, and ate lunch with the after-church crowd at the one diner in town, The Route 96 Diner, and checked-in to the one motel in town, the Hi-Plains Motel.  Dinner came from a convenience store.  Leoti actually has a golf course, which we briefly entertained the idea of attending, but dropped that once the clouds burned off and the afternoon heat set in!

Tomorrow we will take advantage of our complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast at the hotel, pick up our mail, and get on the road early to beat the heat.  Temps are projected to be over 100 degrees tomorrow afternoon, and we would like to go about 60 miles or so to Sheridan Lake, CO.  New state, new time zone, woohoo!

Day 47 - July 20, 2013 - Dighton, KS to Scott City, KS

Miles - 30
Total mileage - 1305

Today was a perfect riding day - temps in the 70's, big puffy clouds in the blue skies, and a light cross/tailwind.  Gorgeous weather...we flew through the miles to Scott City and arrived before noon.

Along the way, we spotted an Eastbound couple on a tandem.  They stopped to chat for a bit, and found out they are in their 70's!  Way to go to them!  They shared our complaints about the terrible biting flies in Kansas, and didn't stop long to chat so we all wouldn't be eaten alive by these things...  There have been biting flies in every state so far, but by far the highest concentration has been in Kansas.

Kansas is a tough mental game...you pedal for miles and miles seeing nothing but the same old fields and pasture land. 5 miles feel like 20.  If you can't come up with other things to keep your brain occupied, it will drive you insane.  I'm tellin' ya...if this trail isn't throwing physical challenges at you, it's testing you mentally.

We were planning on doing at least double the miles we did today, until we realized we had a couple of packages waiting for us in a random small town only 25 miles from Scott City, and it was the weekend.  We have already forwarded this mail, so we really need to pick it up.  Which meant waiting until Monday morning.  While grabbing lunch, we decided to cut today and tomorrow short in order to be at the post office in Leoti, KS on Monday morning when it opened.  A tough decision to make when the cycling conditions are perfect, but we need some additional camp food that's in one of the packages for some towns in Colorado with limited services.

All we pass around here is cattle feed yards (also known as "cattle concentration camps", very sad), and those same old oil derricks.  Both are very stinky in their own way...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Day 46 - July 19, 2013 - Ness City, KS to Dighton, KS

Thankfully, the wind died down quite a bit overnight - it was only supposed to be 10 - 15 mph today instead of the 20-30 it was yesterday.  It was still a cross/head wind though, so not good can come of that!

Yesterday have us a serious beating - so much so that I (Erica) suggested sleeping in, which I never do.  We slept for probably an extra hour and a half, and I should have known better...

By the time we got ready to ride, it was just after 10am.  It was already hot, and we were worn down from fighting the wind yesterday.  This was not going to be pretty...

My bike computer stopped working a while before our trip, which is fine by me, since I am a number watcher, and each mile feels like a million when you watch every tenth of a mile tick by.  It makes the day feel incredibly long to me.  So after we had been pedaling a while, I am exhausted already, and ask Mel how many miles we have gone already.  We had no services for 31 miles or so to Dighton, and had planned to go 54 into Scott City today.  When she gave me a number that was less than 10, I nearly dropped my bike right there and put my thumb out to hitch a ride.  I was not doing well at all today...

We got about 15 miles in, and stopped at a historical marker for George Washington Carver's farm that he owned at a point in his life.  That was the line tree we saw today - our one piddly break from the blazing Kansas sun.  I laid down with my cooling towel on my face and really, really had to will myself to get back up.

About 5 more miles down the road, we see more cyclists in our mirrors coming up behind us.  It's always a treat to break up the monotony by chatting a bit with other cyclists while you pedal on.  These guys didn't chat long though, they were in tip top cycling shape, and doing long days, so they were quickly out of sight.

The last 7-8 miles into Dighton were a low point for me.  We didn't eat a proper breakfast this morning, just a protein bar, and I'm sure that had something to do with it.  I had my emotional breakdown, and uttered words I didn't think I'd ever say on this trip - "I just want to go home".  Yep, that decided it folks, Dighton was to be our new destination for the day.  Better get there before I do something really rash like tossing my bike into a  ditch, hitch hiking to the nearest regional airport and begging a ride from some crop-duster pilot to the nearest real airport to catch a plane home.  Yep, that thought obviously crossed my mind a few times...

We arrived incident-free into Dighton, and pedaled past the "Bowl and Diner" in search of other food options, but had to turn and come back when we found nothing but that and the Frigid Creme open.  No joke people, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.  So I ordered a salad in a bowling alley/diner.  It was surprisingly delicious.  The other two cyclists were also there, passing the afternoon eating and journaling, and there was a group if elderly ladies celebrating a birthday with homemade angel food cake.  The only thing they ordered from the diner was coffee (eww, coffee in the heat of the Kansas afternoon?).  The bowling alley was sadly not open for whatever reason.

We ate, then decided we would enjoy  some frosty treats at the Frigid Creme.  Then we found The Heritage Hotel, got a room, and laid down for a good long while.  They had an awesome laundry room, and when I went to put our closeted in the washer, there was the sweetest black cat in the lobby!  I told Mel she had to come out and per the cat, and that's when the cousins of the hotel owner came out to chat in the lobby.  They also brought out their other cat, a Siamese named Ted, and later their 3 dogs - 2 Daschunds and a Yorkie.  They were all so cute, and the lady and two guys running the hotel while the owner was out helping with the harvest were the nicest people.  

We chatted with them and enjoyed the company of the animals for probably a good hour, then finished some blogging in our room.  It was nearly 8:00 by this time, so we decided to see if the pizza place in town was still open, since the hours said it should be until 8:30.  But...it was closed (maybe for good, who knows).  Back to the bowling alley then...but it closed at 8 too!  Ahh well, good thing the Frigid Creme was open until 9, and sold food as well as ice cream...

We watched an American Pickers marathon until bed, then were awoken around midnight to a hell of a thunderstorm outside.  I knew this was good news for the farmers around here, since we heard it had been a very dry few years, and we were glad the weathermen were right for once and we had heeded the warning and taken cover inside for the evening, instead of in the city park.  Oh, and they were also showing The Goonies in the park, which would have been awesome if we could stay awake past 9 anymore, but would have royally sucked if we had stayed there and tried to sleep while most if the town partook in seemingly the only form of Friday night entertainment!

Hah, as I add this picture to the blog, I realize that Mel is also one of these people enjoying coffee in the middle of a hot Kansas afternoon!