Pedal the Plains – A Day to Day Perspective

Alan Cavin

Day 2 -Saturday
I caught the shuttle back to Fowler at 5:30 AM.  Before I retrieved my bike I enjoyed a breakfast hosted by a local church group – breakfast burritos and fruit.  After changing shoes and “gearing up,” I found my riding partner Caroline and we got our bikes out of storage, aired up the tires, and rode out to the south and southeast, headed eventually (for me) back to La Junta.
We saw some vast prairie – the shot of the mountains in the distance reminded me of what the pioneers may have seen as they traveled west in their Conestoga wagons.  At one stop we came across a tarantula and saw several on the road.  Someone said there was a tarantula migration going on, but we didn’t see but one more on the road.  We did pass the colorful outhouse on the road and then saw it later at the event area in La Junta.

There was an artist painting the dinosaur on clear plastic stretched between two trees.

My riding partner for the day Caroline and I stopped at Hirakata Farms for some melons.  We had fresh cantaloupe at virtually every stop!  Caroline decided to tackle the century option – the turn off was at 57 miles of the 58 mile route.  I couldn’t see getting that close to the end and then turning to do another 40 miles!
After checking my bike in to the bike corral and changing into some walking shoes, I signed up for a massage and then shuttled to the hotel.  I showered and caught a shuttle back to the entertainment area to see what was going on.  Unfortunately I didn’t find a whole lot.  A band, the above mentioned artist, and a few booths.  I picked up some SWAG and since I had a football game I wanted to watch, I shuttled back to the hotel for the evening.
Day 3 – Sunday
I was up early Sunday to catch the 5:30 shuttle and beat the crowd.  I was one of the first in line for the breakfast while I waited for Caroline.  She had opted for the “indoor camping.”  I’m not much in to “roughing” it, although sleeping in a  tent out on the ball field would have been tougher!  The breakfast line was pretty slow so we didn’t get away until almost 8:00.  And Sunday was the longest day at almost 72 miles.  And it promised to be hot before the day was over, and it delivered!

Of course, I didn’t feel so bad when I saw this guy – he rode this Penny Farthing “high wheel” bike all 3 days! It is quite a sight to see him start on it and even more to see how he brings it to a stop!

Our first stop of the day was the Las Animas fair grounds. It was 19 miles of pedaling with the wind at our back. We averaged an amazing 17+ miles per hour! When we turned back to the west and headed towards Bent’s Old Fort, the average plummeted! Susan and I visited the Fort back in 2008 with the Trailmanor Owners group. It was a very enjoyable visit and an interesting tour.
Since Caroline had seen it before as well, we took advantage of the aid station and headed back on to the road.
We made it to the shady lunch stop then headed north on a road that looked like it would never end. And all we could see either east or west was brown fields – as far as the eye could see! Again, I imagined the pioneers coming across this land and wondering when the flat and heat would end. They couldn’t see any mountains from here at all!
We did pass a little farm with an interesting inscription on the barn. And despite the heat, wind, and seemingly never ending road, we both agreed that, yes, we were lucky to live in Colorado!

But eventually it did come to an end.  We rode across the finish line in Ordway where we had started 3 days earlier.   We got a nice medal as we crossed the line.  We heard there was homemade ice cream somewhere, but when we tracked it down we found we were too late.

I finished with 71.9 miles on the Garmin, riding time of 5 hours and 24 minutes.  This “flat” route has 1400 feet of climbing.  Due to the educational stops and a lengthy lunch, we were on the road for 7 hours and 13 minutes.  But we had a respectable 13.3 MPH over the time we were moving. (the Garmin pauses when the bike stops!)

I grabbed a quick cold shower at the gym and hit the road. I had to drive back to La Junta to fetch my backpack with my laptop in it then make the 2 hour trek home.  Caroline took off quickly as well so she could get back and retrieve her dog from the sitter.
I’ve been fortunate at most of the rides I do to have a friend or two to ride with.  It helps pass the miles with a little conversation and have someone to share the love of cycling with.  Caroline has ridden with me on a number of rides this summer and has been a regular “sweep” for the rides I’ve led at the Chick-fil-a weekly group rides.
Some things I wish I’d done – or not done
I always look back at a ride – or a trip of any kind – and think about the things I wish I’d take time for, or the choices I wish I’d made differently. One of the problems with this ride was that there were no reasonable accommodations (at my age I don’t consider tent camping reasonable any more!) in the two host cities of Ordway and Fowler. So all the hotels were in La Junta, the significantly larger of the host towns. As a result I missed the festivities in the host towns due to the logistics of getting back and forth. I didn’t miss it enough to camp in a tent in a ball field, or even in a gym packed with snorers (Caroline did and said she wished she’d had ear plugs!). We’ll see how that works out in future multi-day rides. I have my eyes on a 7 day ride next summer, and eventually, before I get old (well not much older at least) I might even consider attempting a Trans America route! That is a whole other ballgame!
Another thing I regret is not taking enough pictures! Many times on a ride I’ll see something interesting but before my mind clicks and says “take a picture” I’m past it. And I’m not one to stop and go back! After all I have a destination and a target arrival, and don’t want to be deterred! On the second day we saw a sign on a fence in the middle of nowhere that said “Ride Random Stranger Ride.” I saw a mail box that was a very good replica of a John Deere tractor! Wish I had pictures of those!
The few people I talked to along the routes and the volunteers at the host cities were all very friendly and welcoming. I need to learn to not be in a hurry and engage folks more. That is, in fact, the whole model of Pedal the Plains – to meet and learn about the people who farm and ranch on the plains.
I always meet an interesting person or two on a ride. Caroline was late starting the first day so I was on my own for the short 24 mile ride from Ordway to Fowler. I was at the lunch stop and 3 ladies sat in the open space around me at the table. I found out that they were all from Kansas, had done many ride together, and one had actually done a couple of TransAmerica rides. The funny thing was I kept running into them – on the road, at rest stops, at breakfast the next day, and so on. It would have been interesting to know more of their stories.
I’ll try to be better at conversation and photography in future rides. After all, it will give me more to write about!
Bent Fork 2016-5 - October/November 2016

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