Thursday, July 21, 2011

High Plains Drifter


Today was one of those days that we talk about when people ask us why we do this. Woke up before the sun today, got fueled up and out of town before 8, and made up another hour with the time zone change about 20 miles down the road. Despite temps already in the mid-70's, we roared out onto the plains cool, comfortable, and recharged with the morning sun low and at our backs.

Somewhere in Colorado, among gentle rolling hills dotted with grazing cattle, a grain tower off in the distance reflecting the morning sun, and with the bright blue sky above, the iPod gave me one of those moments. I *love* the Dixie Chicks' "Wide Open Spaces," and with all the various tuneage shuffling around in there, I had only heard it once so far - days ago. But right then, it sort of froze everything in time, and became one of those moments that will remain forever burned in my memory. I looked at Donna, she smiled back at me, and all was right in the world.

With my limited range, I had planned gas stops the night before based on the map, hoping those little dots had gas stations. As we worked our way westward, the elevations got continually higher, and the populations, lower. Before we got into Colorado, we were staring across dead-flat land that was way higher in elevation than the 3213-ft highest point in Pennsylvania we had just visited and posted below. Some of these towns had barely 100 people in them, yet they appeared on the map. Last Chance did too, with one fallen-down building and as far as I could tell, a population of approximately zero. My analysis was right, however, and when we left Brush, CO after topping off with just over a gallon each, we hung a right on State Route 81 and read the following warning: "No gas next 75 miles." There you have it. Had there been no sign and had we not topped off, we'd have been using the turkey baster.
You did figure out that's what it's for, right? That's another tip I had gotten from a good biker friend, (thanks, Scoop!) but fortunately never had to employ. Donna not only gets 50 mpg to my 40, her tank also holds a gallon more than mine. Sharing is caring! Leaving Kansas City the other day, I had expected to find gas at the lunch stop, only to be denied. We got back on the "big road," and sweated bullets hoping for salvation. At the next exit with gas, I put 3.25 gallons into a 3.3 gallon tank. Do the math: that's about a tenth of a mile. I'd rather not do that again.

Anyway, sure enough, 70-some miles later, we're pulling into Byner, CO for gas and lunch. We found a little restaurant, walked in, and quickly realized we were the ONLY PEOPLE NOT WEARING COWBOY HATS. You can't really take a picture of that. You're just going to have to take our word for it.
We got back on I-70 there (remember I-70?) about 45 miles outside Denver. Let me tell you how awesome it was for us to, almost suddenly, watch the snow-capped Rockies rise into view ahead of us after 1000+ miles of the country's heartland. Just an incredible feeling. We stopped at a dealership for a headlight bulb, and checked in just west of downtown Denver in Wheat Ridge. It's early yet, so we're in the Starbucks across the street while our laundry is spinning. We're going to be here tomorrow night again, so we're planning to spend the day crossing 12,000-ft. mountain passes. Should be more stuff for the "awesome" folder.

2100 miles so far. Weather is getting better and trending.

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