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Day 17
June 20th, 2007
Country Manor Motel                                                      
Montrose, Colorado                                             
 
I was up early, because I really didn't know how far east I was going to ride today.  But a early start would help no matter the final distance.  I was walking through the living area when I saw Uncle Phil squaring away some items.

"sure I can't talk ya into riding east on 50 with me?"

"nah, I'm gonna ride south and work my way to New Mexico, and if I feel good, pick up 40 and go the distance home.  I don't really hafta be back till Sunday, so having 3 days to get east is a luxury to me."

I went to the kitchen to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for later.

I was loaded in just a few minutes and was ready for the road by 6:30am.  The weather was once again perfect.  I wanted to get on the road early, to avoid the long construction zone between here and Gunnison.  "I don't believe those boys will start work out there till about 7:30 or so, and I'll slip past."

I fired up the 1300 and let it idle up, or should I say "idle down."  I spent the time talking with Uncle Phil who was a few minutes behind me.  "I gotta wait around for the office to open up, then I'll be outta here."

"ok bro, guess I'll see ya in the Blue Ridge?"

"For sure, good Lord willing."

"yeah, but he always seems to look out for us middle aged long riders, I know he has for me."

"stay in touch, and have a good ride, stay outta trouble Guy"

"you know I will, love ya bro," then I toed down into first, eased out the slag driveway, and headed east on U.S. 50.  As I was riding out, I wondered if the trip east would be as interesting as a car bomb scare in Oregon, cell phone adoptions, and possible child abductions I encountered on the ride so far.

The morning was cool, temp in the 40s but I was ready for it.  I started the ride with warm gloves and thick sweater under the Roadcrafter to ward off the chilly Rocky Mountain air.  The Eastern sun shined brightly in my face, and the Oakleys had to work overtime.  I was good on gas till Gunnison so decided to combine a gas stop and sandwich break there.

Traffic was much better then yesterday, but it was early in the morning.  The long construction zone near Blue Mesa was not yet operational when I came through.  Crews were just arriving as I passed by.

The 60 mile ride to Gunnison was so so.  I've done it a number of times so it was nothing to get excited about.  I came in the city and found a good con store to fill up and take a break.  I went inside for a Mountain Dew and baked chips.  Unfortunately, there were no tables, so I had to stand outside and use the paper rack.

I called Debbie and few other friends in Prattville.  I sent my niece a text message with a pic of Crater Lake.  About that time a guy on loud Triumph entered the parking lot and accosted me.  He started jabbering non stop and looked homeless.  Old shirt and tattered coat, runny nose, and teeth and face so bad he looked a refugee from some kind of experiment gone wrong.

"yeah I knew a guy that rode from Delaware to California, in 36 hours."

"Really"

"yeah, then took 2 days off and went to Washington."

He was a local guy, and I don't know why he stopped at THIS store other than he saw me out front.

I jumped back on the Honda and took off, fleeing east as fast as I could go.  "man how do these people find me?

U.S. 50 to Monarch Pass is one of the better rides in the area.  I've done it several times and always enjoy it.  On this morning the Honda begged me to give it a little rein.  The road has a truck lane running all the way to the crest, it is smooth and clean.

I tabbed the GPS to keep me posted on the elevation changes and started leaning hard.  The Honda swiftly settled in on 70 mph for the run to the top.  With 2 lanes to work I had plenty of room.  The ride reminds me of the run on I-90- Montana to Idaho state lines.

The curves were long sweepers and I made use of both lanes, there was no traffic behind me, or none that could keep up anyway.  As you can see from the video I took the tangents, and had a lot of fun.  I went around the few slower moving vehicles effortlessly.  The numbers on the ambient temp gauge and elevation meter whirled in opposite directions.

I had a great ride to Monarch Pass, and at the top I pulled in for the customary pictures.  A small gift shop and cafe operate there, along with a tram to a high peak, that I've yet to see move.




























                         Striking a "handsome" pose at the Continental Divide

I offered my services to a couple at the Continental Divide sign.  They were taking pictures of each other, when I asked if they wanted a couple picture.  Later a guy on Suzuki Bandit arrived and I took his picture.  He was from Idaho.































                    I met this rider from Idaho at Monarch Pass


Now that I was at the top, I figured it was time to dress for the trip out of the mountains, to what I was sure going to be hotter temps.  I took out the textile gloves and removed the sweatshirt.  The ST was parked facing down a slight slope, and as I was closing the left saddlebag, the ST rocked and rolled forward, almost halfway off the stand, I ceased what I was doing, grabbed the bike, and saved it.


































                 Looking across the Continental Divide from Monarch Pass

Dressed down for the warmer temps, it was time to get back on the road.  The downhill run is single lane and I had to behave, it was not as much fun as the uphill.  Temps shot up and the elevation went down as I rode on to Salida.  Riding east, the mountains steadily began to space out, and the valleys grew bigger.  

My last ride on US 50 east was not much fun, I remembered the battle I had with rafting busses moving up and down the Arkansas River.  Today was more of the same.  The road itself is good, but just too many cars and buses to do much with it.

I overtook a Suzuki V Strom rider near Texas Creek and we rode together for 10 miles or so. 

Canon City was another maze of urban sprawl and shopping centers, temp was in the mid 80s now but it felt like a fall day in Alabama with the low humidity.

I topped a hill coming out of Canon and for the first time in many, many miles, no mountains were in the distance.  Stretched before me was the Great Plains of America. The 1300 settled in cruise mode we and started the long trek across the Plains to the Mississippi River, and home.

By the time I found my way to Pueblo it was lunch time, and to my good fortune I saw a Favolis, and for the second time this tour had a pasta lunch.   It had been 2 weeks since my last run, and I really felt bad by now.  "I'll be home soon and back to running, a few more days is not gonna matter."

I had a plate of pasta and meatballs and mulled things over.  I called Debbie and she said, "still hasn't rained here, I've never seen it this dry."  I had just left the Southwest, and could talk about dry but didn't.  I called Mike McGough who just landed a second career job, he retired from the fire department 2 months prior. 

"So when ya start the new job?"  "A couple of weeks.  Didja hear about Chief Hollon and Pigford retiring?" 

"No I didn't, when they gonna do that?" 

"Both going out in the next couple of months." 

"Dang, soon none of the old school is gonna be left around there."  I was the second to retire out of the boom hiring period of the late 70s and early 80s.  All of the current leadership in the department are from that era.  "Everyone was kinda afraid to retire till you pulled the trigger and showed them how its done."  I laughed, " well I saw no need to hang around when I could be doing what I pleased, but I wanted to go out on top."
 
"So you did."

I put a few notes in the Axim, and checked email.  It was a nice lunch.  Other then a few photo ops I'd pretty much been riding non stop since I left Montrose.

Finished lunch, I had to get back on the road and complete the ride through Pueblo.  U.S. 50 is choked down with traffic in the city, filled with shopping centers, con stores, and tire shops.  Typical stuff you find in a busy city with a interstate exit.

East of I-25 the landscape and culture of Colorado changes dramatically.  Front Range country.  Sparsely populated, expansive, and mirror flat.  At last I came to SR 96 and left 50.  The GPS told me it was still a long way to Ness City, Kansas, but that was ok, because like my first ride here in 01, I was in the mood to RIDE.

In Ordway, a town with a railroad and grain elevator off to the side, SR 96 made a couple of steps then shot me east like a pipe bomb.  A grain truck, with smoking tires on the left side pulled off the road to an empty lot, "Dang, he musta just run off a recap."  

It had been 6 years since my last ride on 96 and I wanted to see what had changed.  Not that I could remember much, but I might see something out here to kick start my memory, but alas, not to be.

There was something about this road, it seemed all dimensions but length had been pulled from it, and the only thing that mattered was straight.  The land wasn't capable of hiding anything out here.  The 1300 hummed along at 85 mph, and on this empty and laser straight road, I was powerless to do anything about it.























   
"There was something about this road, it seemed all dimensions but length had been pulled from it, and the only thing that mattered was straight."


The wind, absent for the last 8 days or so, was suddenly back as a tailwind.  It pushed the ST along making it even harder to keep under 85.  
The few cars I came across were easy prey for the 1300, I passed them without even slowing down on the approach.

I was down to 1 bar on the gas gauge by the time I came to Eads, a small place with off a old gas station trying to be a con store, and some kind of repair shop across the highway.  Three HDs and their riders were in the parking lot when I came in.  Off to the side in the shade 2 bicyclists were repairing a flat tire.  My last ride on 96 I noticed a number of bicyclists on this road.  All riding west.  I later learned this road is one of the main routes used on a well known cross country bicycle tour.
































                                                                                 Eads, Colorado


After filling up the 1300 I went inside to buy a drink.  For a speck on the map this was a busy place.  Two middle aged ladies tended the counter.
"Hey how y'all doin?" as I came in.

"pretty good"

I chatted with them about Eads for a few while I ate my ice cream sandwich.

One of the ladies, not much taller then the stool she was sitting on told me-

"But you know what?"

"What?"

"Eads is gettin too high pollutin if ya ask me"

"do whaat??"

"too high pollutin, everybody coming here from the cities, buying up land, and tryin to change things."

"oh you mean "highflautin."

"yeah, however how ya say it"

Finished with my ice cream I went outside to see what was going on.  The HD riders sunburned and tired looking, were about to continue their ride east, we spoke for a minute about riding, and they advised they were from Jefferson City, Missouri and had been as far west as the mountains.  They reminded me of the guys on the movie "Road Trip." Shortly after, they took off.  "I'll catch those jokers somewhere up the road."  

With conversation options dwindling, I went over to the cyclists next.  "hey where y'all from?"  "Yorktown, Virginia."  "I've seen a number of y'all west bound, some kind of rally going on?"  "No, but this is a popular road for cycling."  "Why?"  "Low traffic, and towns along the way are friendly and supportive."

In just a minute they had the tire mounted and took it across the street the repair shop to air up.  I wish MY tires were that easy, but the principal is the same.

Back on 96 the road to Kansas was just as straight and open with a full tank of gas and satisfied tummy as prior to my stop.  The wind continued strong at my back and I trimmed the screen up just a little to cut it from my chest.  The purple line on the GPS rolled under my icon just like the real thing passing under my tires.

I wondered what was going to happen to Eads, such as it is.  How much longer could the store hold out? I don't know how many called Eads home, but from the looks of things, it wasn't many.

SR 96 is the kind of road that makes me think of things that may have been dormant for awhile.  When I came through here in 2001 I was just beginning this life chapter.  My son was in college and established, he was doing well.  Debbie and I were in our 3rd year of empty next, and to be honest, had adjusted well.  What a great ride I had into Salinas that day, (you can read about it here) and today looked to be just as good.  

In the realm of time, 6 years is a blink of eye, but for a middle age guy, it can be significant.  Now retired over 2 years, I measured the differences in my present life as opposed to back then.  My son has a nice career, Debbie is good, everything is better! But that was tempered with the fact I've lost 3 uncles, 2 close friends, and my mother since 2001.

Finally the welcome to Kansas sign appeared, and a few miles later I stopped for a break at a big con store in Tribune.  Been here before, that time it was a tour in 2002.  I've crossed the USA so many times on back roads, you could dump me off at any one spot in the country and I'll not be far from a familiar road or location.
 
It was hot, and a Gatorade was in order.  I was gearing down when I noticed a truck driver getting in his rig.  He had the whitest legs I'd ever seen.  "Damn who turned on the spotlights!"  Just like that day in 2002 the store was a busy place.  I picked up a drink and some Fig Newtons, and got in line behind a high school girl to check out.  She looked like a volleyball player on her way home from practice, because she had on knee pads of some kind.  She was buying a soda, chips and a candy bar.  She swiped her card, and a few seconds later the clerk, "Didn't go through."  "Why not?"  "I don't know it just says declined."  "But my mother just gave it to me?"  "I'm sorry but not nothing I can do."  I stepped up, "here just put it with mine."  "oh mister thanks so much."  "Its ok."  The gesture cost me about 3.50, but I did my good deed for the day.
















 
The towns along SR 96 are what Kansas is about.  Places like Leoti, Scott City, and Dighton.  Simple towns with hard working people, I feel at home when I cross the Great Plains, and appreciate the values here that seem lacking in so many other places across America.
















 
 

                      This old gas station was somewhere in Kansas


I met a west bound farm implement that had ALL of his lane and some of mine.  I moved to the right and gave him ALL the room he needed.
Today was summer solstice.  The longest day of the year.  From now till till Christmas, the days will grow just a little shorter than the previous.  I was sad about that, as I disfavor the daylight shortened days of mid winter.























                              Summer solstice on the Great Plains 


The afternoon shadows were creeping in and the wind began to die down.  My original goal for the day was a state park called Goodman, just south of Ness City, on U.S. 283.  It was a short ride from downtown to the park, but when I found the turn off I discovered a long dirt road to the campground.  "Don't think so, I'll keep riding east, and try for Great Bend."

Ness City was a peaceful, low key town.  The houses off Main Street were neat with flags hanging from the porches, and the shops in the downtown area were closing down for the night.  I took the ST through town in a soft manner, because I didn't want to disturb the scene.
























​                                 Kansas town on SR 96.  Note the cobblestone.


I was a few miles east of Ness City, cruising along at 75 mph when something told me to check things.  I looked to my mirrors and saw my bed roll was not where it was suppose to be!  I quickly slowed, and found a driveway to a oil field pump at the highway's edge.  I stopped and got off the bike and found my bed roll had fallen off the luggage rack, and barley hanging on by bungee cord.  I was lucky it was not back out on the road somewhere. 
 
While tightening down my bags I noticed the strong scent of oil coming from the near by pump.  A cool wind had replaced the hard blowing gale from earlier in the day.  I looked around at the miles of farmland surrounding me, most sporting a green moving dot known as John Deere.  It was a picturesque scene.

The final few miles into Great Bend was nice, and I arrived on the west side of town looking for a place to spend the night.

If you compared Great Bend to the previous towns on SR 96, it was a thriving metropolis, but in reality it was a farm city with just a little more of everything than previous issues of a Great Plains community.

"Its getting late, I did good today, no need to keep pushing.  Time to find a motel."  I checked with the GPS and followed directions to a cheap local place.  The cost of a room was only 25 dollars, and looked ok.  Unfortunately, the unit was full.  I back tracked down 96 to take a closer look at the motels I passed on the way in.  Most of the motels seemed to be on the west side.

I saw the Travelodge, "hey ain't I got a discount for that?"  I was also drawn to it because it had a Applebees across the street.  I went to the office and asked for the best rate, and was quoted 40 dollars.  "Ok, I'll take it."  I was a officially off the road after a 522 mile day.

The ground floor room seemed to be neat, and I was able back the ST right up to the door almost.  I threw my stuff on the nearest bed and started to unwind.   It had been a good day, and a 500 mile ride tomorrow would put me Cape Giradeau, and home the following day.

The local news was coming out of Wichita when I powered the TV up. A construction worker fell 50 feet from a scaffold, was in the hospital and not doing well.  I thought, "You know you gotta long way to go when you're the anchor man for a Wichita TV station."  The noise kept me occupied while I showered and readied for supper.

I stepped out of the room for supper at the nearby Applebees and the sun was still high in the sky.  The longest day of the year was living up to the billing.  

The restaurant was no where near busy so I took a seat at one of the high top tables that afforded a good view of the TV.  I wanted to watch FOX News but all I got was ESPN.

A waitress with curly hair and big round eyes took my order for a chicken sandwich.  "So where are you from," she asked.

"Alabama!"

"Oh so in town on business?"

"Nooooooooo, so people actually do business in Great Bend?

"well I guess not, but its not like folks flock here for all the tourist attractions.  You just don't come to Great Bend"

"I didn't come to Great Bend, I'm just passing through on my way home."

"oh ok, like you're going to Topeka or something?"

"well I'm actually goin home"

I was putting a few notes in when Uncle Phil called from Tucurmari, New Mexico.

"Man I was on 518 and got pounded by a storm.  It was a tough ride."

"ah man I hate that, because that is really a nice road."

He was in eating in a cafe just like me.  He said, "I'm prolly gonna shoot for home tomorrow, but we'll see."
I wished him luck and told him to be good.  Then I went back to making notes.

It was almost dark when I left Applebees, and had to walk across the busy street to the motel, cars whizzed by without checking up, "man folks around here are in a hurry." It was 9pm, and the sun was had just slipped under the land.  

"Hola, Amigos"  I said to 2  Mexican guys hunched over the engine compartment of a old Ford 150 pick up truck.  They raised, looked over to me, but didn't respond.  They said something in Spanish to a guy in the car, and the old Ford turned over "errrrr, errrr, errrr, but never fired off.  They yelled something else and the noise stopped, then all 3 gathered around the raised hood.  I stepped past, not saying anything else.  It is has been my experience, Mexicans are very timid around strange gringos.  I didn't take it personally.

I left the AC on high when I went to supper and now it was too cold, I corrected things, and got ready for bed.

I took the GPS out, and looked over the tomorrows ride.  I was 100 miles east of my planned stopping point for this day.  That was a good thing, but it still meant a long ride to Cape Giradeau the next.  I hate I-70 so much I'm willing to add a day to the ride to avoid it, thus I'll be riding Missouri back roads across the state to the Mississippi River before turning south for Alabama.  Despite being 100 miles to the good, I still have a long ride.  Riding across Missouri will be slow.  The Zumo said I was looking at a 500 plus mile day, after all, I'm only halfway across Kansas.

"Early start tomorrow."  I set the Ironman for 5 am, to be on the road by 5:30am.  "I wanna be in Fort Scot by lunch."  The weather guesser said the weather would not be a problem, but I should expect to see more clouds.

The 3 Mexicans were still fooling with the old truck, but I was too sleepy to let it bother me, I fell asleep with the tv on.










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Footnote- Uncle Phil had a routine ride home the next day from New Mexico on I-40.  Going the distance in one swoop.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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