Bike Tour 2012: Somewhere over the rainbow
Tonight we are camped out in a park in the tiny town of Seward, Kansas – population 63. Our surroundings have changed dramatically since our last post 7 days ago. We dropped 8,000 feet in elevation, traded in mountains for fields, and increased in evening temperatures from 25 degrees to a sweltering 70 degrees. All in all, we are relieved to have made it through the Rockies without any real weather issues, and excited to be exploring a part of the country that neither of us has ever seen.
When I say no “real weather issues”, I guess what I mean is that we weren’t forced to hitch a ride and skip any of our route. That is not to say that we didn’t endure cold temps, high winds, misting fog, and freezing rain. Both Don and I agree that the day we rode a measly 55 miles from Guffey, CO to Wetmore, CO was our most challenging. We didn’t make it out of Guffey and away from Rita’s cozy coffee shop until noon, when I finished writing our last blog post. We were told by multiple people that it was “all down hill from here” and it seemed to be true according to our map’s elevation profile. Unfortunately that was not our experience. Along with multiple steep little hills, we were faced with a constant head wind that made our ears hurt and our eyes water. We pulled into Canon City cranky, cold, and tired, and had only gone about 25 miles. After too long of a lunch break the clouds suddenly rolled in and the rest of the (uphill) ride to the small town of Wetmore was fraught with concern that we would be caught in the storm. We did catch one stroke of luck when we stopped in Wetmore’s only restaurant and were told about the community center that was available for bikers to sleep in. We took them up on the offer, met Alden, the gentleman who holds the keys, and settled into a warmer and drier night than we had dared to hope for.
The next morning Alden was kind enough to invite us into his home and feed us breakfast before we ventured out into the misty cold to continue our journey toward Pueblo. We knew we could expect warmer temperatures if we could just get out of the mountains and down in elevation. The ride to Pueblo was cold and wet, but this time we were prepared for it, and we made it to a great little coffee shop called Broadway Cup n’ Cork (and then Taco Bell) without much ado. As we rode out of Pueblo the clouds parted and we enjoyed a small slice of blue sky that would have to get us by until around noon on the following day. That night we stayed in the town of Ordway and were surprised to learn that there was a very kind lady in town named Gillian who puts up bike tourists in the trailer near her house. Once again, we were overwhelmed with gratitude that we would not have to face the very cold winds or freezing morning fog. We even got to take showers!
The next day was pleasant, if not a bit tedious. We ate breakfast at the quaint “Sugar City Café” for what seemed like no money at all. We could certainly get used to the prices in these small middle-America towns. We then biked almost 80 miles to a church in the town of Sheridan Lake where they have been hosting bikers for over 25 years. The church was probably one of our favorite hosting sites to date. We showed up during a service so we enjoyed our dinner in the nearby town park, happy to be back into temperatures that didn’t necessitate so much shivering. We were then invited into the new addition to the church, where we warmed up and snacked as little kids ran around us and the pastor and his family made us feel right at home. Once everyone left we were free to utilize the beautiful kitchen, clean bathrooms, and double-padded floor of the nursery. It was yet another restful, warm night.
Our upcoming rest day ended up feeling like two when my dear friend Susan and her mother Sandi came to meet us in Sheridan Lake and ride with us back to their home in Marienthal, Kansas. Not only was it great to reconnect with an old friend, but they also brought us homemade breakfast burritos, muffins, and coffee. Yes, we are spoiled. Susan ended up riding with us all the way to Leoti, not a small task considering she is over 4 months pregnant. The girl is unstoppable. We ate treats at the local Dairy King and then her mother rode the remaining 8 miles with us to Marienthal. That night we had a delectable home-cooked meal in Susan and her husband Bobby’s gorgeous farmhouse. We also fed chickens that look like ewoks (termed “silkies”), cuddled with many cute kittens and dogs, admired the Kansas sunset, showered and did laundry.
Our layover day with Susan was our best yet. We spent most of the day in the kitchen; Don and Susan cooked up one yummy treat after another while I worked on the computer and took regular breaks to consume food and play with Susan’s wonderful dogs, Andy and Anouk. In the evening we headed over to Leoti to participate in their first ever community bike ride. Twenty-five people showed up to ride around town, participate in a few activities, and generally just get the word out that biking is fun. We felt privileged to join in and offer our perspective, and excited to see that the town is embracing their many biking opportunities. From there we were taken on a unique tour of an organic grain mill (Heartland Mills) where we saw all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into something as simple as a piece of bread. It was highly impressive and very interesting. We also squeezed in a movie and some sleep.
We were sad to leave Susan and her family yesterday morning, but ready to hit the (flat) road running. We ended up pumping out a respectable 73 miles before 5:30, landing us in Ness City’s town park. The day felt a bit like a difficult 10-mile ride, and it left us lots of quiet time to think and reflect. The weather was ideal yesterday and today, with very little wind and bluebird skies. We had a warm, relaxing evening outside in our tent, and when we woke this morning we decided that today we wanted to get in even more mileage. We want to take advantage of this weather while we can. We didn’t end up biking until 10am, but then we rode 85 miles to tonight’s campsite. It was another flat, calm day and we especially enjoyed our stop at Sonic for slushies in Larned. We have 7 more days of riding until we take a rest day in Missouri, then 9 days until a rest day in Kentucky where we get to meet up with Don’s family, and then finally 11 days to our final destination. This trip is beginning to really fly by, so we are making sure to appreciate each unique day and every unexpected adventure.
An old fire station in the tiny town of Seward, Kansas