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.