Friday June 26, 2009, 62 miles (100 km) – Total so far: 2,270 miles (3,653 km)
The big news of the day is we saw some Rocky Mountains off in the distance! I don’t know how to express our excitement. I’ve been scanning the horizon for a few days now, wondering, “Will this be the day we see something besides FLAT?” Finally, we saw what I think is Pike’s Peak off to the right, as well as some other mountains ahead of us. Almost out of the plains!
We had an interesting chat last night with a couple of British emigrees to New Zealand who are doing the Trans-Am west to east. It was nice to be able to compare notes, although I’m a bit anxious after some of what they told us about the road ahead — especially in Wyoming. Once again, sleeping outside in a town park in Eads, we were invited to join in a dinner; this time it was a monthly potluck. By the time we were ready to settle in, we had already eaten at the restaurant across the tracks (a thunderstorm was threatening). But we had some dessert, especially watermelon. Watermelon is a great thing, except the two of us can’t justify buying one and tossing more than half of it.
The night was muggy, so we had a hard time dropping off. Then when we did, the birds (mostly a flock of grackles, I was told) woke us at the first pink in the sky with an amazing chorus of, well, every kind of noise I think a bird can make. I had a hard time getting my act together, so it was a late 6:00 until we started rolling. This was one of those days where there weren’t many services; heck, there wasn’t much of anything available! Just 23 miles of empty space until we hit a “town” (Haswell, and I’m being generous calling it a town) with an old-fashioned gas station with a cooler and a water faucet, then another 34 to the next town with a bait shop (Sugar Grove, and not much in the bait shop besides bait). So we were happy to make it into Ordway. Ordway is another dying midwest town, but it ain’t dead yet; two gas stations, a grocery store, and a restaurant. We’re staying at the Hotel Ordway, an old but lovingly restored hotel, the kind where the gents share one restroom and the ladies another on each floor, but you can mingle in the lounge. It’s pretty neat.
There were a few things to keep us interested today. First, the reappearance of hills.
Second, some water (there was actually a creek with water in it, and later on, a lake!). You could see the creek from a good way off, because there were trees. And occasionally there was a place so wet it had stand-alone trees.
The weirdest thing was another one of those “What the … ?” moments. There was a long line of auto carrier rail cars, on the rail line that we’ve been following for well over 100 miles with no sign of use. They ran over the hill and off into the distance.
And they just kept going, and going, and going. Once we crested this hill, they were down the next big hill and up the other side. It’s like a graveyard for unwanted car carriers. It went on for 11.6 miles (yes, I clocked it! there’s not much else to do besides pedal!) with five breaks for roads or driveways of 0.20 miles each. And for a mile or so, there was a siding and both tracks had these things lined up. It stopped for Sugar Grove, and then picked up for a short bit, but that was only a few hundred yards.
This being where the deer and antelope are supposed to play, there was one buck playing around the track. He watched me ride up and stop on the road bridge opposite, then headed back under the bridge.
Oh, I also saw my first jack rabbit. I can see where the jack-a-lope tales come from. The thing was big, and he jumped over the prairie grass instead of running through it. I thought it was more like a deer, but then I haven’t seen an antelope yet!
Oh, I forgot to mention the rain. It never came last night in Eads. We checked in in Ordway, and I went across the road to the city park where they have a set of sprinklers for the kids (and cyclists) to play in. Very nice, refreshing and cooling. Went back, showered, changed, and got ready to take my clothes outside to dry, and — you guessed it, an afternoon thundershower started pouring. At least today we’re safe and dry inside!