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.