Monday, July 13

Next Stop: The Rockies

Needless to say, Kansas flew by. We had gnarly tailwind the whole way through which allowed for us to pass the state in just four days. A couple days back, Kevin and I ran into Trevor and Will, two other cyclists that we had run into at the Rodeo back in Missouri, but left when the two of them had gone off route for a few days to make use of a hostel in Hutchinson, KS. Since running into them just outside Hutch, we've stuck together and have been riding four strong.

Trevor and Will just graduated from Philips Academy, back in the New England Area, and have proven to be great cyclists. If it weren't for them, I don't think I would have been able to find the motivation to make the long distance rides we've been doing. After putting in 200 miles in two days, Trevor and Will pushed me to make the next three days centuries as well. So in five days we put in over 560 miles. The trick? Some combination between later riding the usual, a strong tailwind, and of course, the help of the time change again - getting that extra hour is fantastic.

All in all, Kansas made for fabulous riding. Besides the tailwind carrying us through, we also noticed that the cars and semis are super friendly going way over into the other lane to pass. So friendly in fact that we pretty much rode four or three wide the whole way. I usually took the outside because I like to live dangerously... Actually, I took the outside because I was the one who would drop back when a car was making the pass. Since I have the trailer, it's easier for me to slow down and drift in behind the other three rather than have someone have to slow down the length of my bike and trailer. Serious, it makes sense on the road.

Earlier this week I had my three favorite rides. Each evening, around 6/7pm, we would put on our reflective gear, turn on our obnoxious flashing red lights, light up our headlamps and headlights, and ride into the night, capturing the greatness that is the sunset, a wonderful cool breeze, and great conversation. And of course, on a road where cars comes by in 30 minute intervals, it made for a great and safe time. Sometimes we'd even ride shirtless, which I would have to say is my favorite way to ride in the cool of the night.

Two of the days in Kansas, Will's mother and sister came up from Oklahoma City acting as the SAG wagon(Support and Gear) just like Grace and Ash were doing a couple days before. Again, I was showered with Gatorades, waters, fruit and snacks in all shapes and forms - it was fantastic! I would try to make my own dinner plans, as not to interfere with their plans, yet Will's mother consistently prepared food for me and Kevin, and practically forced us to eat... ok, maybe not force, but definitely insisted.

Last night, the four of us got hit by a huge storm - it was awesome! It was coming from the west and we could tell there was another city between us and the storm, so we tried to beat it there, but found we were nothing compared to the strength of the storm. It made sense, we again had a huge tailwind pushing us forward, but when our tailwind hit the force of the storm headwind, we had nothing on it. I remember seeing the speedometer change. 25. 22. 17. 12. We were hit square in the face with some really strong winds that almost knocked us over. After that, we turned our bikes around and rode to a bridge we had passed about two miles back. Once there, we huddled as the storm passed by, blowing dust everywhere until a bit of rain came. For the most part it was crazy lightning, but eventually cleared up allowing us to continue.

It's been great riding with multiple folks (for more than Will's mother's cooking), though we are all preparing our goodbyes, as after today we'll each be parting ways. Trevor and Will are riding the Trans American proper, so once at Pueblo, CO they begin to head north, riding into Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. And I'll be leaving Kevin soon because I have to keep a faster pace for the Rockies in order to make it to my brothers wedding early August. So we're all trying to make the most of our final days together, though they are all out riding as I sit in the library.

Today I'm in Ordway, CO. Pueblo, where I'll rest for the night, is just 50 miles further. I can see what appears to be the outlines of the Rockies on the horizon, though their image is so faint, I don't even think they would turn up on a picture. Regardless, tomorrow I'll be thick in them, working my way up to 12,000 ft. It's crazy to think, but in the back half of Kansas, we were all at a higher elevation than we were in the highest part of our route through the Appalachians. There we were, riding as flat as could be, yet we were actually gaining elevation the whole way. It was just stretched out enough that we couldn't even tell.

Oh, and about that twitter mention of hitting a dog. I did indeed hit a dog. This was just before running back into Trevor and Will west of Hutch. Most folks complain about the Kentucky dogs on the route, though I found them to be quite tame - if anything just loud and obnoxious. I can no add my piece and say that the Kansas dogs (actually just this one) are the problem. Usually you can hear the dogs approaching, giving you time to make a decision on how to react - take your foot off your pedal, pedal faster, grab your water to squirt at them, grab your pepper spray to get them, whatever. They usually start barking before they're near. Not this time. This time it was right at my feet when I noticed it. And it was not happy. Thankfully, I did have time to react, but my options were limited.

I had just finished my water, so the water option was out. The dog was too close for me to grab the pepper spray, not enough time, so the pepper spray was out. The dog was right there and I couldn't really pedal much faster to escape it, so pedaling was out. Instead, I unclipped my foot and cocked my leg for a kick. Just as I did that I caught sight of a second dog too. Trouble. It was as I unclipped when I also realized that the closer dog, unlike most dogs who run at your heals, was not going to remain at my heals but instead run in front of me.

At the same time my front wheel went over the dog and I released my cocked foot, kicking the dog out from under the frame, keeping it from taking the hit from the back wheel and trailer wheels. The dog spun a bit in the road and I found it difficult to reclip back in to continue pedaling. Before I could get going again the dog was back for round two, more vicious than ever. I braked and hopped off my bike to charge the dog, yelling loudly all the while. The charge scared the dog away, though I didn't get away without a scratch, as I slipped and hit a knee on the blacktop when jumping off the bike (my shoes have plastic bottoms) causing a bit of a knee bleed. I don't even know where the second dog was at this point, but my adrenaline was pumping so much I didn't care. "Bring it, Dog!" I was ready.

After realizing the dogs were gone, I looked up and saw that the owner, standing in his garden, had seen the whole thing - no thanks to him. I yelled that I was sorry for hitting his dog, but admonished him to do something about his vicious dogs (probably using language that wouldn't convince him anyway) and rode on, ready for a bear. No bears were ahead, just Trevor and Will. And then, as I said above, the next couple days were great.


Fritz said...

Nate - it's fun to read your stories about the people you meet and the adventures you have. But how's the mission of your ride going, namely educating people about Sojourners?

How many folks have you sold on the cause? Do you find that the people you meet are generally receptive to the plight of asylum-seekers?

Nate Crimmins said...

Great question Fritz. I'm saving that sort of thing for the final post. I'll be sure to use your questions as a rubric.