Kansas

Buff3y blasts out of the mountains and onto the high plains beyond the Rockies of Colorado and onto Route 50 running eastward straight across Kansas towards Dodge City. Each day brings with it a lovely thawing drop in altitude and a luxuriant rise in temperature; a great relief after the chill of the high-Colorado.

South East of Salida, Pueblo is the last Coloradan city of any size. It sports railway sidings, buildings belching smoke and a plethora of inner city vacant car-parks and I roll out through suburbs that are best left behind as soon as practical. The fashion accessory of the season appears to be a lovely square plastic anklet (silently sending out its location information to the county sheriff’s department) matched with the obligatory urine-soaked tracky-daks. I stop at a gas-station (i.e. place where one buys petrol) on the way out of town and a couple of these anklet bedecked individuals are involved in some petty dispute which could end with anything. Discretion being the better part of valor it’s best to scoff down my Grade-F-barely-fit-for-human-consumption hot dog and get the hell out of there.

I ride out onto Route 50 and into the void that is central Kansas. Route 50 is a secondary highway that runs straight past field after field. My path is straight, the road mostly flat and the shoulder wide so have got to be pretty happy with that. On a few days I have also had a following breeze so the biking is comfortable.

Surging down out of the mountains and onto the high plains eastwards from Colorado towards Kansas.

The outer suburbs of Pueblo are where the American dream comes to die, inside this boarded up house.

Highway 50 is where the action is; the Santa-Fe trail out across the middle of Kansas. Forget Highway 61 or kicks on Route 66. Route 50 is where it all happens!

Beyond Syracuse I pass a landscape covered not with wheat or cows but with the parts of huge wind turbines. General Electric is manufacturing turbine blades and pylon tubes the length of a large semi-trailer. Row upon row of pylon tubes stretch out as far as the eye can see. Every 30 minutes or so an over-sized semi-trailer convoy passes me carrying one of these huge turbine blades or a section of a huge support structure. Yes, there is decay and the result of urban drift away from many of these towns. But there is also something of the future being created right here.

‘I can see the future and it’s a place about 50 miles from here’ (Laurie Anderson)

Those unfamiliar with the work of Laurie Anderson should, of course, have a listen before they shuffle off the mortal coil of their drab and wretched lives. If they did, while they bicycled across the vast empty spaces of Kansas they might be imbued with the same sense of something rich and strange that I have right now. They might share in and relish the void but also the disconcerting ‘alone-ness’ of being out somewhere between the nodes, between the silos, between the Wendy’s Burger outlets. There is a gas-station every thirty miles or so and the little towns start to all look the same.

The road now heads south to Oklahoma, Tupelo and Paris Texas.

“THIS AIN’T THE DAMMED LAKE ROAD. STAY OUT.” Best not venture down this particular road if you know what’s good for you.

“COWBOYS WIPE THE SHIT OFF THEM BOOTS BEFORE YOU COME IN HERE”. Here-here!

Not entirely clear why there is ‘open mike’ at this gas station, in the middle of the day, out in the middle of nowhere. Best avoided.

Oh the sublime joy of tucking into a Thanksgiving meal. Especially after all of the service station burritos and burgers, this is a god-send. I give thanks to the lovely and generous motel lady in La Junta.

This is the ‘fly-over’ zone. Con-trails cris-cross the sky of flights going somewhere or anywhere else. ‘They fly so high. They’re specks!’ (Laurie A). Oh they miss so much not being down here on Route 50.

Hopes and dreams all come-a-cropper. Out along Route 50 there are more than a few of these architectural statements from the late 19th Century that the future has something grand in store. Boarded up.

An even grander statement of confidence in the town of who-cares-where. Boarded up.

A little cafe out along US 50 somewhere (with bicycle).

The great cathedrals of the Santa Fe trail, the huge wheat silos out here on the high plains. You can see looming in the distance announcing the next little town.

Southern Colorado (in Winter)

Well, it’s not easy being me, as no one in particular said ever. Charged with the heavy responsibility of having to head off on the long-road periodically to service my legion fans on buff3ysbicyclingblog.info, I find myself back in Colorado resuming the ride south through the USA. And for reasons best known to someone of more perfect mind, I’m doing this during the northern Winter.

I’m heading south through Colorado and then towards New Orleans in Louisiana and there is a little bit of pedaling at altitude to be done before I get through the Rockies and down below 1,000m then on to the delta.

The road starts at the curiously named ‘Luxury Inn’ in Silverthorne situated just to the west of Denver then heads south through the remainder of the Rocky Mountains, now with the addition of snow and wind chill.

Silverthorne to Pueblo Colorado

Not a lot of road-shoulder to work with up on the 3,500m across Hoosier Pass

South of the ski resort town of Brechenridge, the 3,500m Hoosier Pass turns into a bit of a nightmare when a snow storm rolls through and the temperature plummets. I am far from having the touring leg condition back and it is a very cold and miserable ride (then push) up and somewhere near the top the water-bottles are frozen, the hands are numb and the vision starts to blur. Just beyond the peak is the tiny hamlet of Alma where the owner of the general store phones a friend who runs an AirBnB around the corner. This is heaven-send as this particular cyclist was never going to make it the 10km down to the little town of Fairplay.

Magnificent coffee and breakfast in the town of Fairplay just beyond the 3,500m Hoosier Pass. Lovely lovely coffee and delicious ‘high country special’ (mass of eggs, sausage and hash-browns).

When riding into Salida (pronounced Sa-ly-da for some odd reason) you can smell the pot oozing out of the funky little cafes. I drop into the 142 Bar which is an equally funky beer-sampling place where you tap your card and pull your own glasses from a wall of 25 craft beers. I guzzle up to the limit and head for a cheap motel. The alpacas just outside town look pretty chilled out as well.

This town is referred to as the southern point of the Rockies in a brochure and there is an enticing road that leads south-east that will get me off the 2,000m high road and down through Pueblo and into the plains of Kansas and Texas so that is clearly the road for me.

Back on the Long-road

Colorado to Florida (Nov 2019 – Jan 2020)

Well it is off on the long-road yet again for Buff3y the Hardcore Adventure Cyclist. I’ll be winging my way to Colorado on Sunday to resume the ride southwards through the Rockies. Will then be heading south-west into Arizona and then swinging south-eastwards along the Mexican border then on through the southern part of USA to Florida.

For the army of followers out there, will start the blog updates from Sunday after my arrival in Denver. Cannot guarantee that the Spanish pop music will not re-emerge nor that fatigue-induced delirium will not lead to more dodgy postings. You have been warned.

The Co-Motion is having a break and I’m taking the Hilite titanium Pinion 18 speed bike out for a little 3,000km spin. Have reduced the pack size and am now trialing a semi-bike-packing set-up, dispensing with the front panniers, hanging smaller light-weight packs from the rear rack and sporting the Ortleib frame pack, handlebar roll and handlebar bag.

Photos from the bicycle touring vault:

I’ve been scanning a bunch of old slide photographs and found some from bicycle trips in 1993 (China, Tibet, Nepal and India) and 1997 (Netherlands to India). Here are a few that I quite like:

In Lhasa, Tibet in 1993. Spent a couple of weeks there getting used to the altitude before the ride across the plateau (4,000m over four 5,000m+ passes)

Barren road across the Tibetan passes 1993.

Inside a Tibetan monastery.

This is the first bike I toured on. A Japanese ‘Cannondale’ knock-off, got me across four 5,000+ passes from Lhasa to Varanasi.

The mountain bike in Tibet 1993. Ride across the Tibetan plateau and down into Nepal and India. The derailleur snapped so did a good bit of it in one gear (then chased down a Canadian chap who had a spare one in his pannier)

In Azerbaijan in 1997. Bike was a Bianchi road bike (with foam suspension on front). I had spray painted black and brown because the Turks convinced me that it would be stolen when I went into Georgia. It didn’t get stolen in Georgia.

I snapped this off the back of the bike in Nepal in 1993; an explosion of green framing this little girl’s face.

Road-scape in western China 1997.

Road-testing the horses at Kashgar market in far -western China. One of the great markets of the world for mine. These guys were just charging up and down to kick the tyres on a new horse.

Colorado

It has been 6,000km and three months since I dipped the wheels in the frozen Arctic Ocean in far northern Canada. Three months of following the magnificent Rockies day after day. And this day I pack up the bike and head to the airport in Denver finishing this leg of the trip. Sad to be joining the throngs of sheep standing in lines to get processed onto a flight. But this is the sad reality of finishing a bike trip – the surrender in returning to drab wretched reality.

The Colorado leg was a quick blast through some lovely mountain scenery over one or two big passes culminating in the final day’s ride up and over the Vail pass and a plunge down to Silverthorne, the last town on this trip. Stayed at the Ladder Ranch as I crossed into Colorado from Wyoming then down to the Colorado River two days before and blew a front tyre out coming down a track at a rate of knots, the first real bike issue of the whole trip. Had the opportunity to stop over in Steamboat Springs earlier and stay at the charming throw-back motel, The Rabbit Ears Motel.

So it is finished for the next month or so while I attend to some business in Australia etc. I’m a good bit skinnier than when I started out. I’m feeling fit from the 8-10 hour rides each day, eating three times my usual food and drinking litres of water each day. It is always an adjustment going back to a relatively sedentary life.

Hmmm, but I do have this return air-ticket to Denver…….

Wyoming gets all philosophical like along the road just south of Rawlins.

Landscape starts to ramp up a bit out of the Wyoming arid basin into the Rockies again.

The Rabbit Ears Motel had the advantage of a hot-spring just across the road.

The Rabbit sign at night. Hauntingly beautiful.

From the top of the Vail pass, a big rise on the last day of riding came to 135km with 2,000m of climbing. Happily there was a bike track for the ride over this pass.

Not sure why the brilliant SPAM in a packet has not caught on. Gone are the twisty-open cans to access the magic gunk.

Wyoming

The trail now dips southeast into Wyoming. Away from the forests and the tourist fleecing activity of the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks I ride into the badlands of the arid Wyoming basin. The locals say that the rivers and streams that go into the basin don’t come out and water supply becomes a bit of an issue at times as some of the reported watering holes turn out to be dry. Yet the arid landscape is very beautiful if you are into barren voids. There is a photo below of one of the majestic storms that careen across the basin each afternoon. As one of these storms bore down on me one evening I actually had to hang onto the tent (again) against the wind and capture the water off the tent to filter and drink (which I’m glad no one caught on camera).

Grand Teton National Park just south of Yellowstone has some lovely scenery.

In Grand Teton National Park

The best coffee in a long time is in the lovely trekking, coffee and brewery town of Pinedale in Wyoming.

Washboard shakes things up a bit.

Not a lot out here apart from a few ‘tax cows’.

Saw this lovely Co-Motion tandem heading into the basin at Boulder.

Colter Bay to Lava Mountain Lodge 86km

Lava Mountain to Camping 103km

Camping to Pinedale 50km

Pinedale to Atlantic City 160km

Atlantic City to A&M Reservoir 126km

Reservoir to Rawlins 90km

Montana

Into the relatively wide open spaces of Montana.

Missoula is a funky little craft beer lovin’ city with loads of cycling credibility so I perch myself at the bar of a brewery in the centre of town to enjoy some cool and refreshing IPAs. Montana is proving to be a good place to find a nice beer and lashings of lovely huckleberry smoothies. At last out of the column of trees that was Canada I stretch out and surge out across the prairie. Wisdom further south marks a cultural change to something more akin to ‘the West’; well, my image of it anyway. I avoid the gun show that is in town for two days (a sad affair in the community hall charging $5 to get in) and ride on for Jackson (Rosa’s Cafe), then over a small pass and and a roll of 20km down into Dillon, a brewery town boasting a university.

South of Dillon I decide to cut across the north of the Blacktail Mountains on a quiet dirt road towards Yellowstone National Park and after an afternoon’s riding without a lot of water, find a bridge with a pretty rank river that can at least provide some water for boiling. Curtis who is riding towards Denver at a rate of knots arrives with just enough time to set camp before a storm that has been threatening to arrive for most of the afternoon hits with full force. These things are building up during hot summer days and this one soon turns into an electrical storm the likes of which this boy has not seen for some time. The pre-storm winds take on biblical proportions and I’m soon hunkered down in the tent hanging on for grim death, watching the lightning flashes through the flimsy sheeting as they all too gradually flash across the sky. Having Curtis there at least increased the chances of the lightning barbecuing someone who was not your worthy correspondent – thanks Curtis.

Then it is across the border into Idaho momentarily and a lovely little lodge/bar/cabin property called Squirrel Creek along the Ashton road just west of the Teton National Park. Am hoping back onto the ‘great-divide biking route again now so on sighting the bike-friendly sign (refer photo) your correspondent cruises in for an afternoon of gas-bagging and imbibing with the owners and some guy who just seemed to be there to drink beer. Then off into Wyoming and the Yellowstone and Teton National Parks.

Wide open spaces of Montana

Lovely garden decoration with a water feature emanating from the front grill.

Rosa’s Cafe in Jackson, Montana.

Biker heaven, this way?

Squirrel Creek is a great place to sit on the porch with the owners and locals and chew the fat while re-hydrating on a large amount of beer.

Grave Creek Camping to Columbia Falls 95km

Columbia Falls to Polson 99km

Polson to Missoula 112km

Missoula to Hamilton 75km

Hamilton to Wisdom 122km

Wisdom to Dillon 112km

Dillon to Storm Camping 89km

Storm Camping to Island Park 89km

Island Park to Squirrel Creek 81km

Squirrel Creek to Colter Bay 90km