Saturday, July 30, 2016

Mind, Body, and a Few More Friends

Day: 34 (Pueblo, CO to... Best Buy... and back)

Average Speed: 7.8 MPH

Miles Cycled Today: 11.5

Miles Cycled Total: 2,255

Mood: Sick and Tired (Literally... not like "I'm sick and tired of my seventh graders not doing their homework!" Not like that. Sick. and Tired.) 

Mural on the Outside of Great Divide Cycle Shop in Pueblo, Colorado

Mind wakes up at the Bramble Tree Inn, quite possibly the nation’s seediest hotel. Mind is happy to be alive. Body starts to stir 30 minutes later.

Mind: Only 80 miles today. No big deal. Just 80 short miles. 

Body: Wait, what? We’re doing that again? Didn’t we just do that yesterday? And the day before? And the day before that? And the-

Mind: Stop whining. Put your damn cycle diaper on. 

Body: <sigh> Okay. Extra Butt Butter please. 

Together, they lethargically and methodically go through the motions and pack the bags. In the left pannier, sandals in the bottom, laundry on top, toiletry bag crammed in last. In the right, tent in first, followed by laptop, then sleeping bag, then air mattress. They move their luggage out of the room. Other hotel “guests” assess the value of the equipment. 

Body: I can’t believe they put us on the second floor. This sucks. I’m not in the mood for hauling a forty pound bicycle down open grate stairs. 

Mind: Just get it over with. And really, you need to stop compl-

Woman on Drugs approaches on stairs. She sways from side to side. The bags under her eyes carry just as much luggage as the panniers. 

Woman on Drugs: “Do you want to buy some tools?”

Mind: Did she just ask me if I want to buy some tools?

Voice: “Excuse me?”

Woman on Drugs: “I’ll sell you some tools. Real cheap.”

Mind: Do you want to buy some tools? is not one of the Usual Questions. Does not compute. 

Voice: "I’m not currently in the market for tools. I’m on a bicycle."

Woman on Drugs: "Ohhhhh." (she leaves)

Mind, Body and Voice: That was strange.

Body begrudgingly loads panniers onto Trek.

Mind: Body, you're in luck. You get an extended rest- Trek needs new tires before we head out, so we'll delay today's start. We only have to ride two blocks over to the bike shop. 

Body: Let's just walk there.

Mind: <sigh> Fine. 

Outside Great Divide Cycle Shop

At the Great Divide Bicycle Shop, Mind, Body, and Voice meet Janet. She notes that Trek's tires are shot, and that the chain needs replacing. She estimates two hours. Body is overjoyed. Mind is upset. Both agree to make good use of the time and look for a place to get a haircut. They wander Downtown Pueblo for an hour, and find three hair salons. All say they are booked. 

No one wants to touch Body

Mind: I need a new GoPro case. Maybe we should run to Best Buy while we're waiting. It's only five miles away.

Body: Please tell me we're not biking or walking. Please. 

Mind: We'll take a cab. 

Body: I love you. 

Voice talks to cab company. Dispatcher says a car will be there in 20 minutes. An hour later, Trek is ready to go. Cab hasn't arrived. It's 1 PM. Voice talks to cab company again and cancels car. Cab company is unapologetic. 

Mind: Looks like we're biking there after all. 

Body: That's bullshit. 

Mind: Sorry.

Body: Is it on the way at least?

Mind: No. Not at all.

Body: I hate you. I will punish you for this. 

After a lazy five miles to Best Buy, Body's anger does not let up. He summons his two cronies, Headache and Fever. He tells them to go pay a visit to Mind. He encourages them to bring a crowbar. They do so. Mind agrees to compromise with Body.

Mind: Okay, okay! How about we cycle 35 miles today instead of 85? Mom was supposed to meet us in Howard, Colorado, but I'm sure she'd be fine with a change in plans. We'll shoot for Cañon City instead. How's that sound? 

Body: We're not friends anymore. You're a liar. Just like Joop. I'm not going anywhere. 

Body has supernatural powers of which mind was unaware. While Voice talks with Mom, telling her about the change in plans, Body calls all the hotels in Cañon City and books them solid, making sure there isn't a single room available. It is now 3 PM. This ruse almost backfires on Body as Mind considers the original route again: 85 miles to Howard. 

Body comes up with another plan and calls his friend Weather and asks for a favor.

Weather: Hail storm? That's all you need? From which direction? The west? Coming right up!

Weather makes good on the promise.

Mind: You win, Body. You win. We'll stay in Pueblo. There's a Supercuts next door to Best Buy. Can we stop in real quick before heading back to the hotel?

Body: Do we have to bike there?

Mind: We'll walk.

Body: Fine. 

Bobbi at Supercuts is willing to approach Body. Mind and Body almost fall asleep during haircut. 

Body and Mind make it to the hotel at 4:30 PM. Fever and Headache gain strength. Mom will be there in two hours. Body, Mind, Fever, and Headache all agree to ask their mutual over into Room 111 while waiting for Mom. His name is Nap. 

Mind: Ignore the fly buzzing around Body. Ignore the fly buzzing around Body. Ignore the fly buzzing around...........

Nap shows up quickly. Two hours go by. Mind and Body come alive when the hotel door opens.

Voice: Hi, Mom!
A Visit from Mom

Fever and Headache wave goodbye. 

Body agrees not to be a complete asshole tomorrow. 


Found something rare in the west: Good Pizza.
And their shirts were fun too.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Cut a Hole in the Box, Put Junk in Box, Open Box

Day: 33 (Eads, CO to Pueblo, CO)

Average Speed: 17.5 MPH

Miles Cycled Today: 113

Miles Cycled Total: 2,243

Mood: Exhilarated 

Look at that mileage. Then look at that average speed. And guess what kind of day I had today. 

I know what you’re thinking… it was all downhill. But in fact, there was an increase in elevation. Granted, it was a slight increase, but still- the legs worked. There was very little coasting involved. 

So far, most of the phenomenal moments of the trip have happened off-bike- the interactions with people, a swim in a river, or the exploration of a tiny town- but today? Today was all on-bike. No characters needed. And It. Was. Fun. 

If you ever want to experience this feeling, here’s what you need to do:

Step #1: This is the hard part. Cycle for a really, really long time. Cycle through all sorts of terrain, weather, heat and humidity, road conditions, and traffic volumes. This is important so that you can appreciate the difference between a not-so-great day and a great day. I suggest doing this for 2,100 miles or so. 

Step #2: Get a good night’s sleep, and go at it freshly solo. 

Step #3: Scarf down a granola bar and an energy drink. Insert earbuds. Hope some motivating music comes through on Shuffle Mode. I started my day with this- ignore the ridiculous (hilarious) lyrics, and focus on that beat. Try pedaling slowly to that. Impossible. 

Step #4: Choose a day with perfect weather conditions. I suggest 85 degrees that is neither too humid nor too arid. Make sure you have a tailwind for the entire ride. It’s kind of like having a Little League coach who keeps slapping you on the ass, only without the awkwardness. 

Step #5: (and this will be the highlight of your day) Go through a construction zone where one lane is blocked off for two miles. Realize that you don’t want to hold up the traffic behind you, but that it is impossible for cars to pass. Don't pull over- there's no point since oncoming cars have to wait anyway- instead, try to do the speed limit. Pedal hard. Maintain 23 mph for the entire stretch. Receive nine high-fives from all nine of the construction crew members, especially appreciating the guy who stopped the steamroller to join in. When it turns back into two lanes, slow down and let the six cars that were behind you for that stretch pass. For the first time ever, appreciate the blaring of car horns and flashing headlights, as it’s clear that it’s a show of support from all, especially since they’ve all rolled their windows down and are matching the same fist pump that you’re giving them. 
Hills! Whoa!

Step #6: Take very few breaks, and don’t look at your mileage tracker. Just pedal, note the changes in the scenery, and smile. 

First Glimpse of Rockies (to the right just above tree line)

Step #7: Look up and see a mountain range that you’d never thought you would see… in my case, the Rocky Mountains. Lose your breath at the sight of them. Get off your bike and stare. Say “I’ll see you soon,” aloud (yes, that is quite dramatic and a bit silly, but no one else is around to hear you… so why not?)

From Google Images

Step #8: Arrive into a large city- a turning point in the trip. Enjoy the fresh diversity, the city nature, and a varied beer selection. 

Celebrated a Great Day Here- and Jamie's First Century of the Trip

Step #9: Be greeted with a bear hug from a traveling companion who runs into you on the street (David), and meet a friend for a beer at a local brewery (Jamie). Talk about and compare your days. 

Step #10: Write about it. 

Bye Bye Route 76. Hello Western Express.

Tomorrow, I'll be breaking off from the well-travelled Bicycle Route 76 and I'll be joining its younger, unruly cousin named "The Western Express." I'm headed into No Man's Land.

And I can't wait. 


I Always Obey Road Signs


Here's the Video from Yesterday when I Went to Find My Phone in a Storm

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Bend in the Road, a Bang on the Road, and Bland all over the Road

Day: 32 (Tribune, KS to Eads, CO)

Average Speed: 12.8 MPH

Miles Cycled Today: 63.7 

Miles Cycled Total: 2, 130

Mood: Chillin'

Mural in Leoti, KS. Cyclist Riding on a Piano? How Apt.

I found my toothbrush near the community pool. Sock #1 was not far away. Sock #2 was consumed by Kansas. The wind last night was sudden and ferocious, but I managed to collect most of my belongings and I avoided the hail 20 miles behind me in Leoti, where Jamie had tried to convince me to stay. 

We actually planned on doing another ride together today, but in order for that to happen I would need a Sleepy Jimmy handicap- so I went on to the tiny town of Tribune (crossing another time zone in the process). This way, I would be awake and packed by the time he got there. I should start practicing getting up earlier. September is looming. 

Virginia is Far, Far Away

It wasn’t long until signage told us we were leaving Kansas and we took the obligatory photos under the famous “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” sign. And even though Kansas was pleasant enough, I couldn’t resist making this short video:

Sabrina, David, and Jamie (left to right)
We also met two more westbounders at the state line, Sabrina and David, so our party grew exponentially. We all pedaled a few miles together, looking like the most non-intimidating gang ever. I mean, Sabrina’s bike actually has a horn on it in the shape of a turtle. And I have a Mini-Leatherman. I think a revival of West Side Story featuring touring cyclists would take the attention off of Hamilton. I’m gonna write that. 

Oh, Colorado! Behave!

Colorado immediately greeted us with something exotic: a bend in the road. This was exciting. And the landscape is beginning to show signs of change- the plant life is a bit more… shrubby. Autocorrect didn’t underline the word “shrubby” by the way, so I guess that’s a word. It’s really fun to say. Try it. Shrubby. Also, the sides of the roads are not quite dirt- rather, a sand/silt mix.

Signs of Change in the Landscape

I Didn't Do It!
But as with the other states, the first day always comes with an unwelcome snag. Our original plan was to put in a hundred miles to Ordway, but just three miles from the town of Eads, Bang!. Rear tire malfunction. The good news is it wasn’t my bike, but it might as well have been. What am I going to do?  Say “Sucks to be you, Jamie! Toodle-oo!”  and pedal off into a bad karma sunset?

This wasn’t just a flat, his whole tire was pretty well shredded. And while pretty much every cyclist carries spare tubes, very few carry spare tires. 

We made it to Eads, where Sabrina put all of us to shame by MacGyvering a piece of a car tire, shaping and expertly taping it to the two damaged spots. I didn’t even pretend to help. 

“I thought about packing a spare tire, but it was a bit heavy,” is all I could come up with in way of support. Jamie stared at me blankly. “Now what am I supposed to do with that information?” 

Good point. I went into the air conditioned gas station and edited the “Leaving Kansas” video posted above. 

And I checked the weather. A Big Mama Storm was due to hit from the west, where we were headed, and there weren’t many places to take coverage in the foreseeable future. All four of us cut our losses and called it quits, bummed to have to give up the tail wind that had been pushing us to 20 mph averages at times. 

The town of Eads is extremely bland. The restaurant is named “Restaurant.” The laundromat is named “Laundromat” (or “Lavndromat” perhaps), and the ice cream shop is named “Ice Cream.” There is no decor to speak of, and it’s one of the rare western towns that doesn’t take pride in its city park. 

We booked a double at the “Travelors Lodge” [sic] and enjoyed its luxuries, such as the fly tape in the corner of the room and the metal rod sticking out of the socket. Whomever was staying in this room prior must’ve been diabetic too, because they left their hypodermic needle cap behind. 

Dinner was at the Windmill Saloon (kudos for having an actual name, but they definitely made sure the decor matched the rest of Eads), where I unknowingly dropped my brand new phone in the parking lot. 

This wouldn’t be a big deal, except for that Big Mama Storm I’d mentioned earlier. It made a grand entrance just as I realized the phone was missing back at the hotel. I threw on rain gear and retraced my steps through the town, making the saloon my last stop. Check out the storm that I biked through, and listen to the dry glee of the ass who recorded this:

Dammit- he forgot to attach the video to the e-mail! I'll post this later. It's pretty epic. But here's what I looked like when I got back:

The street had instantly turned into a lake and my rain gear was no match for this torrent. I was drenched and cold. My unprotected phone (my fault, I know) was eventually found in the saloon parking lot. And it works! Mostly! Ugh. 

This mini-trek took it out of me, and as I opened my computer to blog the day’s events, I rested my eyelids for just a second. 

And then it was 8 AM the next day. The early rising cyclists had already left.

I’m heading out now to Pueblo, Colorado- 114 miles away. 

And the loner in me is quite eager to go at it solo. 

It’s truly fun to meet and cycle with people along the way, but it also comes with the understanding that we each have our reasons for starting the trip in the first place, even if we can’t quite put a finger on what those reasons are. 

All I know is that I’m not meant to be completing this side-by-side with anyone, no matter how fun it may be. A day or two here and there... fine. Different. Interesting. 

But I'm a lone wolf. 



This was a terrifying scene in the middle of nowhere.

Meet the Black Saddle, Care Package #2, and a Kansas Mountain

Day: 31 (Dighton, KS to Tribune, KS)

Average Speed: 11.9 MPH

Miles Cycled Today: 73.3 

Miles Cycled Total: 2,067

Mood: Blown Away

Trek Finds a Roomate

Ladies and Gentlemen… meet Jamie Norton (please read with a British accent):

Jamie Norton here….

So im sat minding my own business, drinking a milkshake, in some one horse town in Kansas. When a strange man rocks up,

“you Jamie Norton?”

Jamie Guest Blogs
Before i answer he snaps a pic of me, and tells me im a character on his blog. He knows pretty much everything about me and has been chasing me for 3 weeks.

“erm OK, interesting” i say, pretty freaked out, to make matters even stranger he says that people are urging him on to catch Jamie Norton like im a f—-in’ shiny Pokemon.

So one thing leads to another and lures me to a hotel and trys to liquour me up. I politely refuse the beer, to keep my wits about me around my apparent stalker. May leave in the night just to put some distance between us, and ensure im safe.

All jokes aside Jim seems a sound guy, and we’ll probably be running into each other over the next few weeks.

Okay, I’m back.

If that meeting sounds painfully awkward to you, then you have it right. Finding Jamie, calling him by name, and gleefully snapping a picture was like the end of a game of tug-of-war with a dog. You know, Rover’s really into it, but when you finally let him win he has no idea what to do with the rope. He just lets it drop to the ground and stares at it stupidly, nudging it with its nose. 

Smile. Or Else...
I guess that analogy isn’t entirely accurate though because Jamie had no clue he was playing. Seriously, check out the first picture I took of him- that is not a smile of joy. That is sheer terror. 

He was going to stay the night in that town, but it was only another 30 miles to Dighton, where we split the cost of a double room. It’s a new and different experience for me, having a riding partner, albeit for a short distance. Time goes by quickly, and someone is there to point out the things that you miss, like the extremely large bullfrog, dead and intact on the side of the road. That’s a new one. 

Jamie is also the first person I’ve met who is riding on the same saddle as me. Well, not the same saddle. I don’t think our two arses would fit and it would be quite a chore to coordinate the pedaling. But the same make and model: a Brooks B-17. Only his is black. And mine’s green. Therefore, mine is better. 

Not as Green as She Used to Be...

We agreed to split up in the AM- he’s up and out by 7:30, and I am happily comatose at that hour (even the hotel proprietor, Mark, commented with a certain reverence that he’d never seen a cyclist move as slowly as I in the morning). 

It was importan- hold on… my tent just blew away and I have to go get it out of the neighbor’s yard. As I’m writing this sentence, I am watching many of my belongings take a self guided tour of Tribune, Kansas. I need to solve this problem immediately. 

Okay, I’m back. 

It was important for me to get to Dighton because of a text I received from Amy, my longtime friend and colleague at THIS WIND IS INSANE. 

Okay, I’m ba- No, I’m not. 

Sorry… just chased my helmet and shoes across the city park. Socks? Gone. With the exception of the bike, everything is now in my tent. Including me. Half an hour has gone by since I wrote the last eight sentences or so.

Let’s just cut to the chase. Here’s Amy’s text, and my initial asinine response where I should’ve written “Thank You.” 

What I Meant Was "Thank You."

I panicked because Dighton was not on the current map I was using, and I figured she’d thrown a dart at a picture of Kansas and sent a package to whatever city it landed on. Also, Amy is our school’s biggest practical joker, and while the idea of riding a bike with an inflatable blow-up doll and a forty pound anvil tied onto the back sounds entertaining, I’m not in that mindset right now. 

But she did her research, and even made sure I wouldn’t hit Dighton on a weekend. She sent an uplifting package with a card signed from my “CVMS Family” that was… well… practical and fun. It cost me an extra hour though, because I sat in awe, thinking of the time and thought she put into this (I mean, her husband Dan even zoomed in on a pic of my bike to determine the correct tire size). 


I Just Ran Out Two Days Ago. For Real.

Yes. I Have Spare Tubes.

It's time for me to start dropping hints that I need a new Porsche. 

A late start means nothing though when you have metaphorical fuel like this. I even smiled when I was struggling through the first storm of today (as opposed to the tempest that’s currently raging over me). Check out the picture. Pretty cool because someone left a window open for me, and the storm (which turned out to be pretty violent with hail) was staying just to the left…err… south… of the route. 

That open window let in quite a draft though. 

As I grew closer to it, my speed started dropping. From 16 miles per hour, to 12. Then 10, 9, 8…

I heard later that the windspeed itself was much faster than I at 60-70 mph. 

My phone sent a loud emergency warning, and Jamie, safe in the town of Leoti, sent a text as well, encouraging me to cut the day short and stay with the host he’d found in town. 

7…6……. 5 miles per hour.

I’ve never been in wind like this before, and I came close to falling several times. Passing westbound tractor trailers created vacuums that would suddenly launch me forward, and oncoming eastbound ones created invisible walls that smacked me in the face. Both jeopardized my balance every time.

I was riding 4.5 mph on flat land at some point. I’m climbing a mountain, I thought. This is a what a Kansas mountain feels like.

Play to See Both Storms (including the current one)

Decisions, Decisions...

This lasted for ten very long miles. But just when I hit Leoti- when I was about to call it quits and take Jamie up on the offer- it was gone. No need to click any heels of any red slippers. 

And no need to stay in Leoti. 

Made it to Tribune no problem, and had dinner at the local pub, where a native name Mike paid my tab and left before I had the chance to thank him. Yes. Again.

Kansas, you were kind to me. But you were not the easy leg of of the trip I thought you'd be. You got some bite to ya'.

Still, I'll remember you fondly when I hit Colorado tomorrow. I wish I had the aches and pains I had back in Virginia, because I hear there's some pretty good, all-natural medicinal solutions there. 


"So tell me... what do you do for a livi- never mind. Got it."