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The Trip to Colorado

June 15, 2014



It was just barely dawn.
I headed north on Hwy 283 to Laverne where I bought coffee and gas... then continued north to hit Hwy 160 west. The junction of these highways was at quite a scenic spot -- bluffs or moonscapes -- and I was really wishing for a good camera so I could share it with someone. And there were wind farms that stretched for miles.

Once on Hwy 160 west, it is mainly desert plains and the towns are sparse. It was not long after heading west... near Ulysses, Kansas... that I began seeing bicyclists headed east. The first one I saw was a guy on a reclining bicycle... (did he have a smile on his face?) And then... another cyclist... and another... some were being followed by vehicles with dot com addresses on the windows... some vehicles had bike racks on top, carrying several bikes.

After many miles of seeing this cross-country trekking, I came upon a group of vehicles... and people who were obviously associated with the event. I stopped and asked about it.

As it happens, this was a cross-country race... quite well known in the cycling world. Cyclists come from all over the world just to participate in it. It began (if I remember the details correctly) in southern California and ended in New York City. There were solo competitors and there were also relay teams, that switched out between cyclists... (I guess eating and sleeping in the cars while the others peddle ahead of them-?). I was told that the guy on the reclining bike was the solo leader. And so... I can say that I saw the entire race from the leader to... well,... to those who were still peddling further behind a hundred miles and more... further west.

This long stretch of highway is not very scenic... and I would not recommend the route to anyone who had any concerns about a vehicle. I drove the 65 mph speed limit -- to the T -- all the way. It was just... something to get over and done with.
This had one drawback... the wildlife was playing daredevil on the road.

At first I thought... "Don't they see me coming?? Why do these birds sit right in the middle of the road?? Why do those rabbits wait until I'm just about where they are before they decide to dart across the road?? Are these animals trying to get me to slow down??" -- Then I realized... this is how they played! This was a game of bravado -- seeing how long they could wait before jumping out of the way -- or before darting across the road at the last second. This was a game!

I considered slowing down - but, no -- I wanted this long drive to end as soon as possible. I doubt it would have changed their game no matter how fast I was going... they would still wait until that last second to take flight... or to dart across. By the end of this long stretch of prairie I counted -- 3 birds, 1 rabbit -- that, well... that had been losers in this game.

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I made the mistake of not getting gas in Springfield, Colorado. I thought for sure that there would be a couple of small towns ahead... and I still had a half tank of gas. (I had an atlas, but no really detailed Colorado road map). By the time I drove through Kim, Colorado the only road sign I saw said,
            "Trinidad -- 167 miles" ...
and by then I was down to a quarter tank of gas. The only gas station I saw in this little ranching hamlet was closed. It was... after all... Sunday. It just couldn't be true... there had to be more towns along this road. No town for 167 miles??

I drove all over that town of dirt roads hoping for signs of civilization... gas... groceries... but there was nothing... and no one. If I had to go back to Springfield for gas I likely wouldn't make it. I found my way back to the highway and... saw people!! Church was just getting out and there were several people in the parking lot milling around in conversation. Also in the parking lot... was a large box-type delivery van full of monitors of the bicycle race.

I was really hoping to get a Colorado map... and so I stopped and asked the guys hanging around the van... "could I see your map of Colorado?" I got a staccato reply in sparse English with a heavy Italian... or was it German?... accent. I don't think anyone in the group understood "map"-- or were they just being dodgy about their private map...

Shrugging... I looked around the parking lot... hoping someone would look eager to assist a traveler with questions to ask. A nice man and woman passed near me...
"Do you live in town? Is there a gas station open somewhere?"

The man offered -- "Well, the gas station is closed today -- but there is a gas pump. Yea... that guy there has a key to it." -- Then addressing a tall man wearing a large white hat who was in a serious conversation with another man... "Hey, Randall" -- (I'm not sure of this man's name) -- "Hey... can you help this lady get some gas?"

"Sure. Give me a minute. We'll go. Just follow me. It's not far."

In short time he was leading me along a dirt road to a lone gas pump on the edge of town. He used a key and a credit card to start the pump... asking me how much gas I wanted. I did some quick math... at $3.99 a gallon... and blurted out... "maybe twenty-five dollars worth or so." And about the time I finished saying that... the pump stopped abruptly. He said, "The default is 10 gallons. How about 36 dollars."

I still hadn't finished doing my math... how much would 10 gallons cost??... but did not argue with him... he wanted $36, I gave him $36.00. I think I remarked about how ironic it was that he'd saved me just as he was coming out of church... that I'd never have made it back to Springfield on a quarter tank of gas. (He kinda looked a little like a hero with his wide-brimmed white hat and good Sunday clothes, too.) Seems the deal about the pump was that... it was someone's private stock and they had cards to give locals access to gas... being as far out as the town was.

One of the pieces of advice I got from my son before leaving on this trip was -- to never let the gas tank get too low before filling up... to not run the risk of running out of gas. What great advice this was!! Never again will I let the tank get low on gas.

By the time I arrived at Trinidad, Colorado I was so glad to have finally made it to civilization again that I just kept on driving. I knew I was going to follow Hwy 160 all the way to Durango... and so I just kept on driving (stopping for coffee several times, and for gas.) By the time I got to Durango I realized... "Hmmm... I don't really like this driving in the mountains stuff."

I knew where the Target Tree Campground was... somewhere a little past Hesperus... and headed there for the night. I found a site near a water spigot and a latrine... signed in... and then slept!!




June 16, Target Tree

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