Saturday, 3 July 2010

The Rockies On The Horizon

Crossing into Colorado from Kansas initially offers little respite from the flat monotony of the prairie, but slowly it starts to take on it’s own unique character.

Highway 96, which carried us for 303 miles across these two states starts to divert from it’s regimented East West route that it’s adhered to through Kansas and takes on a more wandering rebellious track through Eastern Colorado.

Even the strict grid layout of the fields that we’ve become so used to start to look less organised and lush crops seem to be replaced with grazing cattle making do on rough pasture.

It is also immediately apparent that Colorado spends less of it’s budget on road repair. As soon as we crossed the state line the 96 highway took on a more cracked and weathered appearance and every five metres or so a crack would stretch across both carriageways like a rib. This would cause our wheels to jar and our bodies to soak up the jolt, which after a few miles starts to become rather tedious! I always thought ribs were for extra pleasure, but these type certainly weren't!

Soon the landscape turned quite barren, Kansas was now a distant memory and the high desert landscape was starting to dominate the skyline. This setting was more than apt for our first Ghost Town, Galatea; deer stood in the road and a few empty houses dotted the landscape, a car sat overgrown in a field giving a feeling of eerie abandonment. A spooky taster but I believe there are bigger ghost towns to come!

Another awe inspiring sight were the miles and miles of empty goods wagons on the train track from Arlington to Sugar City. I’ve seen photos of these from other Trans Am Bloggers so I know they’ve been laid up for some time. Anyone know why?

My first view of the Rocky Mountains ended unceremoniously in a First Aid incident! Whilst staying at Gillian and Mark’s cyclist hostel and small holding in Ordway, they asked me if I wanted to walk the dogs out in the fields so I could see the sun set on the distant Rockies, I of course jumped at the chance.

Whilst crossing the field I stood on a twig stump that had been cut short as part of a fire break;  there was a pop as the sharp twig pierced my Crocs and went into the sole of my foot. I limped back to the house feeling my Croc start to fill with warm blood, panic set in and I thought it could be the end of my Trans Am adventure. After a liberal soaking with iodine and a large sticky plaster the brave soldier was ready to pedal on. I never did get to see the sun set on the Rockies that night!

Leaving Ordway we struggled to find a Diner for an early breakfast stop, but instead the smell of fresh baking lead me to “The Family Bakery”. The toothless old lady running the place offered us free coffee and then we chatted to her whilst perusing the vast array of fresh pastries and donuts. Upon purchasing numerous sugar laden delights for now and “to go” we had to do a double take as they were only 30 odd cents each! This had to be the best donut deal in the west.

We met a few new riders during our early days in Colorado, Brian and Robin had met up on route, both Americans and both fast riders. Brian was riding with one sole purpose, not the usual charitable ride, pre university trip, retirement expedition or mid life crisis, no, Brian was on a shagfest! On arrival in a new town Brian would head straight to the pool to ogle at the female life guards and swimmers, followed by trips to any other place in the vicinity where females may congregate.

All we new about Brian was he had lived in Russia for 8 years and had just returned, occupation unknown, we wondered if this pedalling lethario was a Bond \ Bourne agent with a license to thrill. The one error in his plan was that his “Western Express” route across miles of desert would provide a drought in more than one sense of the word and have little chance of putting a dent in his full to the brim condom pannier! But maybe the free love of his destination, San Francisco, would be more than adequate a prize for his fasting in the desert!!

Robin on the other hand was a young tattooed fitness instructor and probably the more obvious choice for a cycling love God, but he was content with the challenge of the cycling and was keen to take on the mountains and head into the Rockies.

The closer we got to Pueblo the bigger the mountains appeared and our up and coming rest day would be well earned and vital for recharging our hill climbing legs.