TransAm Days 44, 45, rest day, 47 and 48 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th of June

Tom writes:

Ordway to Pueblo: 101 kms

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Pueblo to Royal Gorge: 90 kms

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Royal Gorge to Hartsel: 83 kms

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Hartsel to Breckenridge: 69 kms

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Getting there...
Getting there…

Total distance so far: 3885 kms

 

We celebrated Jack well into the night (about 8.3o pm in all truthfulness) and headed off to Pueblo which is, holy of holies, a reasonably big metropolis.

A pleasant ride was capped by a pretty nice town where we wandered around the historical district while giving Lexa and Alphie a tune up at the bike shop.

I loved the old railway station which although no longer in use had been kept in a style reminiscent of how things looked in the late 19th century.

Some of the signs that they had reproduced were incredible, if thankfully slightly dated.

We also had one of the least inspiring meals of the entire trip, which is actually saying something.

A slopper is a perfectly respectable hamburger and chips which for some reason best known to the town on Pueblo is drowned and made soggy by a chili gravy.

In all fairness it wasn’t as bad as the pissed on raw shark we ate in Iceland but it is well up there on the growing list of things we won’t be repeating.

The day after we left the group for the first time as the consensus was to take a rest day in Pueblo while we felt strong enough to take an extra stage on the bike and continue on to Royal Gorge for our period of leisure.

Why this unexpected departure I hear you asking?

(Well I don’t hear you asking for obvious reasons. But I am sure you are all on tenterhooks).

Well, Royal Gorge has some of the best white water rafting in the country and we were all up for being all adventury and putting our lives at risk.

On the bus down to the river we were told of all the possible dangerous scenarios that may become us and what to do if we crash into a rock and are rendered unconscious.

As usual the end product wasn’t as scary as was painted up although there were hairy moments and a lot of waves smashing into my by now rather weather beaten (but still incredibly beautiful) face.

The gorge itself was its own adjective; gorgeous, with a clear blue sky, mountains all around and a small railway line running by one of its sides.

The story of the railway line incidentally is interesting in itself and although I can’t be arsed telling it now I will show you all a sign which grabs the gist of it.

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Here we are fighting the rapids.

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During the afternoon of our free day we cycled (boo hiss) the eight kilometres needed to reach the famous Royal Gorge bridge.

It turned out to be a tourist attraction par excellence.

By this I mean that the bridge itself was not built for the traditional reason of facilitating movement of humans, livestock and goods from point A to point B. Rather its sole aim was to be the highest ever bridge ever erected and through this become a way to suck money out of visitors.

For sure it is a great engineering accomplishment and even allowing for the extreme fear of heights that I suffer from, the views are genuinely stunning.

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But it seems to me that a bridge should have more of a purpose than this. It may well be sour grapes but my spirits were lifted markedly when a quick google search told me that Royal Gorge was now only in 14th place in the highest bridge rankings.

Hartsel was our next port of call and it has become a favourite in my eyes for its prison alone.

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Some individuals in the group have had the temerity to tell me that this might be a joke but I refuse to allow that seed to even start germinating in my brain.

The riding had been going steadily uphill since we left Pueblo, but steadily really is the operative word as it is to all intents and purposes is a case of very gradual climbing rather than the steeper slopes of the Appalachians or even Mallorca.

At times you are hardly even aware that you are going up even though the increasing thinness of the air tells you that you obviously are.

It has also become markedly more beautiful with the snow capped mountains of the Rockys giving a stunning backdrop as we pedal along.

This was the view at twilight from the barn in Hartsel where we were staying.

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We kept climbing onwards and upwards the next day too. Our next port of call was to be Breckenridge which is a ski resort of the highest class with all the swankiness and ridiculous prices that that entails.

Ami will be telling you all about what we did when we were there in a later opus.

On the way there however we rode over the highest point of the whole tour, Hoosier Pass.

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This means that we were a grand total of 3518 meters above sea level when this picture was taken and that from now on in, everything that awaits us is basically downhill.

My glass is nearly always half full. 🙂

Let’s be careful out there.

 

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A Song For Every State 5

Tom writes:

Next up Kansas and as you can hear, the quality of the production is very low.

But this lack of quality is in its way quite apt as it emphasises two of the things that we most associated with this particular state.

Wind and big lorries.

Here is my wonderful rendition of “Kansas City” (which is actually in Missouri) from the classic musical, Oklahoma.

And here is the original.

TransAm Days 40, 41, 42 and 43 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd of June

Tom writes:

Larned to Ness City: 105 kms

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Ness City to Leoti: 130 kms

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Leoti to Eads: 128 kms

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Eads to Ordway: 100 kms

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Total number of punctures so far: 6 (Ami 4 Tom 2)

Total distance so far: 3542 kms

 

Kansas (and a reasonable portion of Colorado it must be said) from a Trans Am perspective can be defined by a straight, windy and boring stretch of tarmac, namely our “friend” State Road 96.

We reached this shrine at a place that had absolutely nothing to recommend it called Rush Center and are still stuck on it now as I write this in Ordway, a few miles outside of Pueblo.

All in all we will be in its grip for a grand total of 533 kms, not being unfaithful and leaving it to dally with other lanes or streets a single little time.

The first day was uneventful as we trundled merrily along to a backdrop of farm land and the sound of large lorries rumbling past us from both directions. The wind was strong and from the side which was not optimal but better than it could have been.

We are seeing the racers coming through now. Doing this thing van supported I have the utmost respect for the guys we see from time to time who are crossing the country fully loaded. We will often fly by them due to our amazing physique (in our dreams) and lighter steeds and watch in awe at them struggling up the climbs.

But these people are more often than not taking longer to get across than we are. The racers are something else.

The Trans Am Bike Race is a self supported dash across the country. The record is something like seventeen days which is madness and makes our goal of 83 seem like the walk in the park that it most definitely isn’t. As most of the competitors are going east to west we see a steady stream of them pumping through, barely acknowledging us, not because they are wankers but because they are either using every sinew of energy they have to move forward or, more likely, that they are barely awake.

We have just learned that it has already been won this year by a woman, Lael Wilcox, which is an unbelievable achievement. More details here.

The 130 km ride from Ness City (where I looked in vain for a monster) to Leoti was the worst so far of the trip.

To start with it was bloody long. It was also bloody hot, blowing a gale mainly from the side but also from head on and to top it all I got another puncture. (Which sat so tight it took three people about an hour to change).

Add to this the growing number of lorries on this stretch, carrying in some cases loads that literally covered two thirds of the width of the road and you can get some idea as to why a few of our throng were contemplating giving up for the day. Ami was cycling in tears at one point.

We would like to thank Cody, a kid we met at our final resting point in Scott City, who seeing our plight and expressing a desire to bike the country one day with his dad, gave us each an energy bar to get us through the final 40 kilometers of the day.

Thanks mate.

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As many of you have probably deduced already, we crossed the border to Colorado and don’t worry, as soon as I get slightly better internet I will upload the Kansas song that we recorded. You will just have to settle for a picture of us at the time zone shift for now.

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And as for this, Kansas, somehow we doubt it.

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The landscape changed from farmland to some form of scrubby desert which led to fewer big trucks and with that nicer roads. We all feared for the next couple of days of riding but they were both comparatively good with more sympathetic winds.

In Eads we reached the mid point of the route and posed dutifully beside the plaque that informed us of this fact.

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Only 3400 kms left now. 🙂

And in Ordway we celebrated the 71st birthday of the groups calming influence, Jack, who will be presented presently. Ami found a small bottle of Swedish Absolut Vodka to help him on his way.

We even managed to get it on the road before he arrived which was mainly Dave’s idea and a lovely touch.

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Onward and westward

18th of June- Saved a Kitten!!!

Ami writes:

Yesterday when we were biking as usual I thought I heard a meowing sound coming from the side of the road. First I kept on going for a short distance, thinking that I had only imagined it all. But then I decided to turn around to make shore there was nothing there.

I thank my lucky stars I made that decision. Cause what I saw made me totally heartbroken. A tiny black and white kitten showed its little head among all the high grass. The fur was soaking wet and I gave it water from my water bottle and a slice of turkey from my lunch box. He crawled up in my lap and I couldn’t stop cuddling with him and kissing this little “fur ball”, while crying at the same time, thinking about what to do with him.

I tried to phone Tom but couldn’t get through to him. He was ahead of me and didn’t notice I wasn’t behind him until a while later. He came cycling back though, first thinking I was injured or had a flat tire. Then he saw me holding the kitten and did such a lovely thing- he cycled to the houses closest to were we found the kitten, to see if it belonged to anyone. And while he was away a miracle happened!

The owner, a woman and her two boys came driving along the road, saw me and recognised their kitten-  OMG wow!!!

She jumped for joy and so did I, since my thought was to bring him with me in my bike bag (don’t ask…)! I would have refused to just leave him there to die…

It turns out “Kitty” (that’s what they called him <3) disappeared the day before and they had been out looking for him without any luck.

So we were all very relieved that it all ended happily. Instead of being a day of sorrow this day became one of joy.

“Kitty” forever in my ❤ LOVE YOU AND MISS YOU ❤

TransAm Days 35, 36, 37, 38 and 39 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th of June

Tom writes:

Pittsburg to Chanute: 94 kms

Chanute

Chanute to Eureka: 103 kms

Eureka

Eureka to Newton: 123 kms

Newton

Newton to Sterling: 98 kms

Sterling

Sterling to Larned: 85 kms

Larned

Starting to look at where we are going, rather than where we came from.
Starting to look at where we are going, rather than where we came from.

Total distance so far:  3079 kms

 

So we are right in the heart of Kansas and the roads are long, straight, flat and to be honest slightly boring.

So that will be all for this post…

 

No that is not totally fair. There are wheatfields and cornfields and small contractions pumping up oil in the vain hope that the price of crude will go up one day.

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And I even found, the place where Rufus T Firefly came to power in possibly the greatest political satire ever committed to celluloid.

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In this kind of environment I find my mind wandering all over the place, to the extent that I almost become a danger to myself.

Today for example I considered the sex life of a rice crispy, whether your bum might fall off if you ever succeeded in unscrewing your naval and most intriguingly (and worryingly), how the loss of a vital father figure affected the behaviour and moral development of Peter Rabbit.

In Eureka, apart from sitting in a bath tub and checking the water levels, we ended up staying at the best location, hotels included, so far on this trip.

Karla’s best friends niece happens to live in this sorry excuse of a town and offered up her wonderful Victorian style house for us to enjoy.

And enjoy it we did, five bedrooms, our own shower and great conversation abounded.

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What else?

Well, Ami rescued a kitten in distress. I won’t divulge too many of the details as she is dying to write about the whole sunshine story herself, but let me assure you it is heart warming.

She also found one of the greatest signs in the history of mankind, almost in the same class as this one in Wroxham, England.

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Here it is in all its glory.

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And so: Loads more Kansasian miles to go, the same long straight roads but hopefully no major head winds, we have been lucky on that front so far.

But before I go, I nearly forgot a minor detail.

We reached our next milestone. 3000 kms are now on the board.

We have realised now that we count this trip in two different ways. Ami has a speedometer connected to her front wheel which works out distances after the number of rotations while mine is gps based.

Consequently we are at slightly different numbers as Ami’s counts every meter we go including small trips not associated with the actual route while I limit myself to the trip we are doing.

However it is worked out however we are over the magic number. Here is the evidence.

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And our spectacular location at the time.

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Pretty typical and representative for what we are cycling through.

Be good.

TransAm Days 32, 33 and rest day 12th, 13th and 14th of June

Tom writes:

Marshfield to Ash Grove: 77 kms

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Ash Grove to Pittsburg (no, not that one): 116 kms

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Total distance so far: 2576 kms

A largely uneventful ride (although bloody hot) took us from the unexceptional town of Marshfield to the even smaller and even less memorable hamlet of Ash Grove, which according to their Wikipedia page is famous mainly for some boy scouts who stayed there while cycling across the country. I wonder what that makes us.

I have a feeling I might be giving the impression that there is not much to see in the average rural city of the Mid West and if so that impression would also be a correct one.

They all seem to have wide main streets with closed down, dilapidated or in the very best cases, obviously struggling shops which are fighting tooth and nail for some sort of survival.

The only substantial sign of a thriving commercial life is most likely found in a Dollar Store (accepting food coupons) or or in the shopping areas outside of the central which are infested by the usual fast food outlets and if you are lucky, a Walmarts.

It’s a different universe from New York or Los Angeles.

The only exciting things that happened was that I found the road sign which inspired the naming of a half famous 60’s folk rock band,

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and going through another Walnut Grove.

This one sadly isn’t the one from the TV show either but it didn’t stop me from doing a little reenactment of the scene where Mary went blind. I will be posting it in due course on the sole condition that I really can get myself to sink that low. 🙂

Interestingly I learned that Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the original books, in reality actually lived for many years in the town of Mansfield, Missouri which is only about five kilometres from the Trans Am route we are following and not a million miles from this Walnut Grove.

Conspiracy or coincidence? You decide.

It was in the evening that all hell broke loose.

We were to stay in the town’s communal house which until four in the afternoon was being used for a kid’s birthday party.

We were waiting in a pavilion nearby in the pissing rain. It came as a total surprise as it had been scorching hot all day and inspired this lovely picture of our dear leader, Kim Jong Jared showering outdoors. Fully clothed, thankfully.

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Suddenly we hear some bad words emanating from the building and an irate man with a two year old in his arms charging away from the party through thunder and lightning to his car. People ran after him, first hindering him from getting into his car (he was drunk) and then subsequently wrestling the child away from him as they pinned him to the ground.

Our leader, Ron, was somewhat in the firing line as he was sheltering from the rain in the van that happened to be parked just where all the action was taking place.

He saw the little kid in the middle of all this and went in to assist whereby he gets bitten on the arm for his troubles by the nutcase on the ground.

It was a pretty nasty bite which led to ambulances being called and four police cars turning up complete with TV style cops and sirens. The man ended up getting arrested for assault.

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We talked to some of the other party participants and they said that the guy was known as the local hothead and that the reason that the fan had been hit by faeces in the first place was because Happy Birthday was being sung for his daughter while he wasn’t in the room.

Personally I just can’t get my head around the idea that someone would get pissed (drunk for you Americans out there) at a kid’s birthday party but according to those in the know this is apparently not uncommon.

What with serious injuries, dog bites and now human (if you define the word loosely) ditos we certainly are finding out why they call it Adventure Cycling.

People who know me will be aware that I am not usually susceptible to flim flam and old wives tales but you could have knocked me over with a feather (if said feather was attached to a brick) by what happened the next morning.

I had been strangely Tom like, that is to say bloody stupid, a couple of days before and dropped my mobile phone into a stream.

The battery wouldn’t charge and I was about to give up on the whole thing when people in the group suggested I submerge the thing in a bag of rice for a couple of days.

Sceptical though I was, I saw no financial reason or otherwise not to try it. And would you Adam and Eve it, it bloody well worked!

A jig was danced.

Here is a picture of the magic grains in action.

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On this day we rode in to Kansas and at almost that very moment the whole landscape changed.

All we are going to see now for ten long days are corn and wheat fields and long straight, flat roads that all look the same.

And we may well have real head winds that make you think you are standing still while pedalling like a mouse in one of those wheels.

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Otherwise we both looked unsuccessfully for needles

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(I’m running out of steam here) and we got photographed looking like true professional athletes on the Kansas, Missouri border.

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And on the rest day we went swimming.

 

Too tired now. See you all soon.