Day 43- July 13
The HI-Plains Motel in Leoti (pronounced Lay-Oh-Ta) served hot breakfast to order free, which was awesome. Then we continued on. We were looking forward to reaching Colorado today though there wasn’t much service on route. We had some head winds. We crossed into a new time zone and then finally the Colorado state line.
It was strange though because the terrain was basically the same as Kansas, but it was almost as soon as we crossed over, the road became covered with grasshoppers. They would jump and some would fly about when we got near them. If they didn’t move, and we ran over them, they made squishy noises.
Right before the state line we stopped at the convenience store in Tribune for a quick drink, but unfortunately something happened to our Garmin bike device and it didn’t save our first 20 miles of the day. No use crying over spilled milk…
We got to Sheridan Lake (town) and went to the only thing in town- the convenience store. There were three bikers there going East. We tried talking to them, but they were not open to it and later they made several comments that struck me as being a bit air heady. Also, the convenience store had three ladies working there. Two were quite pleasant, but the third was rude. I asked how much the different ice creams were, as there were no prices, and she got very upset with me saying I had to pick one first.
We ended up sitting there for an hour hoping the winds would change. Finally we got the gumption to go. This next stretch to Eads (pronounced like Eeds) had no service. It was rough. After 80 miles we entered the city. There were two hotels right into town. One looked shut down so we went to the other one. When we arrived two men were checking out early. This is significant because we ended up taking their room later.
The receptionist told us she was fully booked the whole weekend due to a softball tournament, construction workers, and harvest workers. But then she remembered the two men and got the room ready for us. We had nice cold beers while we waited. The room was upstairs so we unloaded our bikes then carried them up.
Dad wasn’t feeling well as his sinuses were acting up. That plus the fact it was over a week since we took our rest day made us decided to spend it here. We relaxed and then went to the restaurant in the same block for dinner.
It was a family run restaurant and the daughter, going to turn 13 in a month, was the waitress and cashier. She talked to us for a bit about her school and sports she played. We asked about the specials since there was a few listed and she said there was only one left. Fine. Two of that. She looked at us and said, there was literally only one left. Dad got it and I picked something else. However, she re-wrote the special and gave it a higher price…that was odd. We went back and watched a film classic- Magnificent Seven. Relevant later. I highly recommend it!
Day 44- July 14
Rest day. The only thing we did was move rooms (due to the full house of this hotel) and get food from the grocery store.
Day 45- July 15
We got breakfast and I realized I left my water bottles in the first room. Luckily, they were awake and gave me the bottles so we got to leave at our normal time of 8. On the way out, we stopped by some information signs, one said that we were halfway through the Transamerica trail- that’s pretty cool!!
This route was also pretty barren when it came to service. After 20 or so miles we came across the first town, which supposedly had a convenience store, but to us it looked like an antique shop with vending machines. We stopped at the park and had an orange. Oranges are the best. They fill you up, but also have juice to combat the constant taste of water. This town, according to the sign, has the nation’s smallest jail. We didn’t see it. Also, among all the farms we saw we have yet to see sheep until here. That was actually pretty exciting. In a place flat and barren, any excitement is great haha.
We saw two bikers going East. One told us about a woman who host cyclists in Ordway (our destination). This day also seemed to have gotten really hot and with no shade still, the sun was just beating on us. Dad was still not feeling well. The next town was only about five buildings. They did have a spot for cyclists to relax- picnic table in the shade. Dad knocked on several doors for some water and only one woman was home to answer. It felt good having cold water. At the end of the day, our waters get so hot! We ended up falling asleep at the table for 30 minutes then continued on our way after eating lunch.
The next town was Sugar City, which had the promise of a cafe and a convenience store. We thought of cold drinks and a snack. The thing with flatness is that you can see a long ways away. Which is such a tease! One biker said you can see about 10 miles out so whatever you see, you won’t get to it for about another hour. I could see the town and then swoosh. I look down at my back tire and it was flat. I groan and internally cried. I wanted to never have a flat on this trip. I started unloading my things so I can flip my be over easily when Dad caught up. Due to our experiences with Dad’s flats in the beginning we got it done pretty quickly. I managed to hit a screw. It was pretty big. Later we wished we took a picture of it/kept the screw. It was actually impressive how it was in there.
As we started biking again, Dad realized one of his bolts from his rack was missing and he decided to fix it then. I was already a mile or so ahead when I realized he wasn’t behind me. I stopped and waited for 6 minutes. Due to Dad being unwell and the heat, I started thinking he passed out along the road and started to pedal back. I rode back a mile when I saw Dad approaching. We eventually made it to Sugar City. As I was still in the lead I looked around in desperation. The cafe said close and the convenience store looked as if it hadn’t been open in decades. I spotted the town hall and went inside. The woman, Dondi, said there was nothing until Ordway (another 5 miles, making it a total of about 60). She took pity on us and let us stay in the air conditioned building past closing, though I also think she enjoyed talking to us. We filled up our water bottles with fresh cold water then moved across the street to the post office’s lobby where we sat some more and talked to a few locals getting their mail.
Once we regained strength we ventured a block or two to see the gates to the now empty lot that used to hold the sugar factory. One local said during peak season it employed 300-400 workers. She also said the town used to be several thousand people, but now it’s only a couple of hundred. We continued on to Ordway. We decided to stay at the Ordway Hotel, which offers hostel like accommodations for bikers. However, once we got there we decided a private room as the biker rooms had no air conditioning. The deal was sweetened when she said she had a private room downstairs with a back door meaning we can have easy access to our bikes.
We took showers and went to the cafe/diner for dinner. Once again there was only one special left. I got it and Dad picked something else. Upon going back to the room we immediately fell asleep.
Day 46- July 16
It was a very late start. We were only going 50…..haha ONLY. Dad and I joke now that in the beginning of the trip 50 was a lot now we consider it a short day. We had breakfast at the cafe at 8:20. I was starving. Dad got the special and I ordered the 2×4. I ate it all!!! It was delicious. In all these small towns, the diners are full of older locals who know everyone. People come and go and there are hellos and have a good days. It’s nice.
We paid then went across the street to the grocery store to get oranges. I meet Gillian (pronounced Jill-e-in, though I’m not sure it’s spelled like that). She loves hosting cyclists and we have heard good things, but due to Dad not feeling well, we decided against spending the night at her house with multiple people on an air mattress….maybe. She made a point of telling me we didn’t stay with her. I told her the situation and she was overly helpful with giving us advice. She took our pictures to be placed on her site and we set off around 10.
As we rode, my bike started making noises. We stopped to look at it, but determined we can’t do anything at the moment and it didn’t look like it was hurting anything yet. About several miles later Dad gets a flat. Unlike his previous flats, this one was caused by a big bur. We continued.
50 miles to Pueblo. That was the goal. Pueblo has about 106,000 population. THAT is a big town. It’s as equivalent to New York City since we have been going through all these small towns. I’m pretty sure it’s the biggest we have entered the whole trip. Seems a bit silly, but I got a little culture shock. Almost into town, just like Sugar City, I get a flat. I made it over 2,000 miles and get 2 flats in 2 days. I hit another big screw. This time we took pictures and I kept it.
We found a McDonald’s- unlimited refills and free WiFi- and found a motel. There were several people there that asked us about our trip and were so surprised and in awe. When we started and we were telling people in Virginia, they just looked at us with an expression like “that’s nice,” but now that we have actually made it to the West, it’s legit. We then went to the Brambee Tree Motel. It was a bit sketchy, but did the job. We patched up our tires. My second flat had two holes because the screw went through it completely! I don’t have pictures of my flats as Dad took it with his camera.
Back to the Magnificent Seven, when biking through, the open plains with no farms reminded me of the old wild west displayed in the movie. Crossing through this country from East to West as our founders have done has been incredible. From the East Coast with history of the American Revolution to the South and the Civil War to the Mid-west and Western Expansion/Manifest Destiny now finally the West.
Day 47- July 17
We set off. I was looking forward to the day because we were finally leaving highway 96, which we were on since almost the beginning of Kansas, and those darn grasshoppers. Also, we were looking forward to the mountains- cooler temperatures and trees. Well, only one came true. We did eventually leave 96, but it was still hot, no trees, and grasshoppers. And we now had uphill. From Pueblo, it was a 30 mile stretch to the next spot with service. The shoulders were decent at times, but mostly narrow. We came to our first climb that allowed us to look at the valley and see the mountains more clearly. They appeared so far away that I wasn’t sure we would get to them the same day. But, we did. Our second climb was a slightly steep ascent that lasted about 2 miles. It was hard to pedal and we realized it was because of the elevation. We made it to over 6,000 feet. The highest we went in the Appalachian was about 3,500.
We reached the town of Wetmore and found their community center/library. We filled our water bottles with cold water and ate some food. A group of people appeared with picnic items. It turns out they hold a monthly picnic here with the church. They invited us for lunch, but we declined. We ended up lounging in the shade for another 30 minutes then continued the trip. Luckily it was only 20 more miles to our final destination (Cañon city- pronounced canyon). We stopped in Florence, 11 miles, for lunch then continued on 9 more miles. The ride into Florence was beautiful as it was slightly downhill and we had a tail wind, but this was offset by the cars.
We definitely were not in Kansas anymore with the nice drivers. Here, they barely move over. We had a couple of close calls. The last 9 miles was through residential areas so the cars were slower. We decided it was better to ride further in the lane to force cars to slow or go around otherwise they think they can squeeze by us.
We booked a room online in Florence and headed there when we got into town. It was super hot. The American Inn motel is quite pleasant. The owners let us put our bikes in their storage so we didn’t have to carry them upstairs. Our plan for this town was to go to the bike shop as our bikes have been making noises and Dad’s chain keeps falling off.
Day 48- July 18
Bike shop. Online it says open at 8. We got there a little before to make sure they looked at our bikes right away. The bike shop- Red Canon Cycles- is connected to a coffee shop- the Bean Pedaler. The coffee shop opens at 8. The shop opens at 10. What?! We looked around as this changed our plans. We ended up biking along the river trail for a bit then stopped in a diner for second breakfast. I was craving cinnamon rolls and they gave me quite a big one!!
Finally we were able to drop our bikes off. Hopefully, it will get fixed soon so we can leave early tomorrow to beat the heat. When we left at 7 this morning it was in the 70’s Fahrenheit making us think leaving around 5.30 tomorrow might be good. Especially since we have a major climb (gaining about 5,000 feet if memory serves me well). So it’s another rest day! Which is fine because of the bikes as well as give us time to adjust to the elevation further. To the credit of the mechanic, he did come at 10, he called to keep us updated on the progress of our bikes and made an effort to get them done as soon as possible.
Update on old friends: The New Zealand couple from my earlier posts are way ahead of us and we will probably never see them again on this journey. We have fondly called them the Bionic Duo. The Philly man from earlier is close to us and we will probably see him again. Many of the other riders have made major mile days such as 100 to 200 miles so we won’t see them. I have no word on the girl from North Carolina/Ohio who went road tripping to Colorado instead of riding her bike. The Susie from an earlier post (Kentucky- Hindman) has since finished his Transamerica journey.