Catching Up: I am now about 65 miles from Colorado Springs and tomorrow I will catch my first glimpse of the mountains and Pikes Peak (always warms the heart). I have steadily motored through Colorado. Although most people’s image of Colorado is the mountains it is actually one of the flatter states until then (hence the most boring to cycle). It is also a fact that basically from the start of Nebraska until now the land is constantly moving uphill, so every day is an uphill journey. Colorado the trend increases. I am sitting at 5800′ elevation now and will climb to 7000′ in Colorado Springs tomorrow in that 65 mile ride. So think a long 65 mile uphill ride. Doesn’t that sound fun?
Title Story: Yesterday I ran over a cactus. I have had no problems with flats this entire ride thanks to mountain bike tires and very good tires and tubes on the trailer. I didn’t even know that I had run over the pernicious little thing until the trailer started to list a little. I pulled over by the side of the road and both tires were flat. OK, one tire had four punctures and the other had two. I fixed them both and started riding and one promptly started to flat again. Luckily I found a town park (yes 95 degrees yet again) and some shade to fix it and eat also. I learned a lesson, the thorns hide and when I replaced the tube a thorn still in the tire promptly flatted it again. Now I am at seven punctures. I fortunately had enough patches (thanks Ross’ Bike Works!!!) and got on the road again, wherein I noticed my rear bicycle tire was slowly leaking, sigh. I pumped it up and pushed through the last 40k and got to the campsite worn down and tired after another 10 hour day on the bike. Yes, it rained for an hour. It seems to be a rite of passage every afternoon.
I pumped up the rear tire and went to find some dinner. I was coming out of the diner and chatting with Joy on the phone. I told her about the thorns and the ordeal and while we were chatting I noticed a thorn in the front tire. I innocently pulled on it and a very loud hiss started right away. I had to cover it with my finger to finish the conversation because I had to cycle back to the campsite a kilometre with a rapidly deflating tire the whole way. So the total count in the end was cactus nine punctures and a very humbled Mark at thinking I was going to come out of 2000 miles unscathed by flats. I was oh so close!
The Last Sunset: Tonight was the last sunset I’ll see on this trip until the way home. Once you move into the mountains sunrises and sunsets become fantasies. Turns out it was a beautiful one. The mountains have their own majesty, but it isn’t in the rising or the sinking of the sun.
Diners: I have fallen in love with small town diners on this trip. Let me be honest those are all I see for the most part the last couple weeks. The food is good, and the people friendly. One diner is in a town of 192 people. I was warned about it before the town. How does a town of 192 people keep a diner open. It isn’t on any thoroughfare let me tell you. I am convinced that rural communities must take better care of their businesses. In these small towns they know the alternative is a 25 mile drive to a bigger town and Applebees (actually that is the curse word people mention for chain restaurants). So, the town eats at the diner when they can, and it stays open, and then it is still there when they need it. Kind of like buying local on a different level. A similar battle to what I have fought in churches for the last many years in rural Canada.
Closing Thoughts: I don’t have much to say tonight. The last couple days have been grinds and the long uphill roads with the heat just wear you down. Elevation starts to affect your body (dehydration, super dry skin etc.) and the monotony of riding roads where you can see the next town five or six kilometres away become mind-numbing. I actually took to riding down a section of I-70 for about 30 miles today because the gravel road was just beating me down in the heat. I have started to see the factory farms and the cows etc. where grass is a concept they don’t fully comprehend. Rather alarming to be honest (pic below). I will catch up on some thoughts from the last few days this weekend from CS. My host for tomorrow night just called and he is going to ride out the road tomorrow and meet me and ride me into town with him. I’ll have some company for a few kilometres. That will actually be enjoyable.
When we take on any challenge in our lives there are many different phases. The start is hard and challenging but once we get going the excitement of the new begins. The middle is the grind, when we can still remember why we began but the end seems so far away. As we approach the end and can see the goal in our eyes, there are so many conflicting thoughts. Thoughts of accomplishment, thoughts of closure, thoughts of longing for more. I am nearing the end of this journey. It has been an awesome and in many ways unbelievable adventure. I honestly had doubts when I started that I could do it. Joy and I had said, well if I can’t do it I can always jump on a train. I am glad to be honest that I didn’t. My body is still tired, my butt is still sore and many days I just want to be home drinking my morning coffee with Joy on our deck chatting about the day ahead. My life though and my outlook on the world has been changed. The slow time of riding and the wonder of each new day have blessed me. My prayer life is better (traffic can do that), I have forgotten the last sixteen years at my corporate job and I think I can say I have started to discover my voice in writing. I can see a clearer path forward. I never could have found those things if I hadn’t committed and then taken that first pedal stroke out of my driveway. Beginnings and endings, both bittersweet in their own way.
With that until the weekend. Be well my friends!