I feel like I'm repeating myself by continuously blogging about how unexpected my life on the road is, but, honestly, at any point in time I have no idea what my life will look like about 12 hours into the future. My mind is continuously processing the new faces, names, roads, sceneries, weather patterns, house rules, etc. that I'm coming into contact with. Sometimes my mind steps back from this overdrive process, allowing that little voice in the back of my head to say "wow." It's a sensation of wonderment that I haven't experienced in years.
Today half of my ride was with a partner and the other half was solo. As I travelled through Eastern Colorado I was surprised to discover how much of an impact that imaginary line between these two states had. It went beyond the fact that Kansas was flat and Colorado was hilly. In Kansas, all of the roads were perpendicular, running longitudinally and latitudinally. Roads were not so structured in Colorado. They ran like creeks, winding around the wavy features of this spacious landscape.
In the first town I passed through, Eads, I found myself feeling a bit woozy. Being totally out of my element and in unfamiliar territory, I was unsure what the dizziness and lethargy I was experiencing could be attributted to. Perhaps it was altitude sickness? I reasoned with myself that the 3,000 feet of elevation from sea level I had reached may have been taking a toll on me. I was lucky enough to be accompanied by Celine, a nutritionist by training. She explained to me that I may not have been properly nourishing myself. After talking through my diet over the past 24 hours she helped me realize that I was running a pretty drastic calorie deficit. Thanks to her insights I went to a restaurant to replenish. At that restaurant I was served raw pancakes, stung by a wasp, then found hair on my plate, all in that order. I guess that's life on the road.
The ride became unforgettable as noon rolled around. First there was the segment from Eads to Haswell. I watched as a great storm cloud formed in the distance. The clouds grew blacker and blacker as I peddled West on this windy Coloradan road. For almost a half hour we veered around this huge rainstorm, experiencing a light drizzle for only a few moments. There was such an abundance of space in Eastern Colorado that we could watch the formation of a multple-mile radius rainstorm and it only occupied a fraction of the visual space.
My solo ride began at Haswell. Everything in this town of 69 people was closed. It was one of the least welcoming places I had visited on this journey. Meandering through the town I encountered misspelled "No Trespasin" signs which threatened to take arms against anybody who dared enter the property. While having a bite by myself at the gas station, a vehicle slowed down to ask for directions. They rolled down their window and inquired, "Excuse me, do you live here?" Wow. I'm not sure what kind of vibe I was giving off at this particular moment, but I couldn't believe that my look had somehow achieved Haswell status. That was quite an accolade.
The 20-mile, slightly downhill stretch from Haswell (named after the fact that it HAS a WELL) to Sugar City (named after the fact that there's SUGAR in the CITY) was incredible. I was just a spec, lost in space. At points I could visually confirm that there was not a human being within a 5-mile radius of me. This was isolation. A single tree in the middle of a desolate plain consoled me, letting me know that we were united in our solitude. I screamed from atop my bike, "I'm good!" It really didn't matter what I said, there was noone here to judge me. There was noone or no thing that cared.
I rolled into Ordway around sunset. I spent the evening in the home of Gillian, an awesome kiwi woman who hosts cyclists on her little ranch. As if I hadn't had enough surprises already, I was greeted at her home by goats, snow dogs and honey bees busy at work. She directed me to the local bar where SIXTEEN OTHER CYCLISTS that were spending the night at her house were grubbing. We spent the evening drinking $2 beers and singing karaoke. It was the closest thing I had had to a night out in quite some time.
We so enjoyed our time in Ordway that we decided to take an additional rest day there. Who would've thought that this little town of a thousand people would make me feel so welcome. At the end of the day I was given the greatest surprise I could ask for. For the past three months I had been waiting to see the mountains peering over the horizon. This brilliant sunset gave me my first glimpse of the Rockies. I stared in awe. The towering mountains halted the auto-pilot process going on in my mind. The Rockies were no longer a dream, they were my reality.