I got up early and quickly packed up, grabbing the snacks Ellie had put out for me the previous night. I quietly ate breakfast to avoid waking Warren, but Ellie was already up and we chatted as she gave me a big breakfast of cereal and toast with peanut butter. With 200 miles ahead of me, I was going to need all the calories I could get. With that in mind, my plan was to catch the father-daughter bakery that Ellie recommended to me right as they opened at 5:30 AM. Can't go wrong with more carbs and calories! I got there as they were setting up for the day, but I had my cinnamon roll before too long.
With that final boost of energy, I was truly off on my 200 mile day! For the past few weeks, I had been meandering all around Colorado and even backtracking progress I had already done. But with time going by quickly, and a deadline to finish my trip before the next semester of school began, it was time I needed to really crank out some miles. Today was going to take me across Eastern Colorado from Limon across to Kansas. It was going to be the most significant progress I would make it some time. On the map below, you can see Salida, Colorado circled on the left. I rode into Salida on June 24th. Today was July 13th! Over the previous nearly three weeks, I had only made 150 miles of progress east. That needed to change if I was going to finish within a month...
This trip was the first time I had been to Colorado, at least that I can remember. Prior to riding through the state, I had always pictured Colorado as this awesome mountain state, which is absolutely true for half of it! However, eastern Colorado should be associated with Kansas far more than the mountains the rest of the state is famous for... My GPS displays the elevation profile for my planned ride and it's just a flat line for 200 miles...
The goal of the day was to reach 200 miles in one day. I had reached out to a Warmshowers host the day prior in Scott City, Kansas and they said they would likely be able to host me. That was the perfect distance for me as I would just barely make 200 miles before arriving at their house.
Luckily, despite being in sparsely populated Kansas, I would finally be returning to a traditional cross country route, which would have more cyclists on it. This also meant I would be more likely to run into hosts used to cyclists and it would make my nights easier. If you look at the map above again, you can see my route coming down from Limon, Colorado. Where I abruptly turn east is where I joined up with the Transamerica route created by the Adventure Cycling Association. This is the most popular route for coast to coast trips this time of year and I was hoping to see some other cycle tourists as I hadn't run into any since Salida, where I left the route previously.
You'll also notice on my route that I may have made a total of 5 direction changes all day and that was it... Long straight roads is Kansas' bread and butter. But it still took me much longer to get into Kansas than I imagined.
It's hard to explain the feeling of looking at my GPS after riding 50 miles and knowing you are only a quarter of the way done with the day... It didn't help that I was riding into a headwind all morning!
There are different rationales behind whether one should travel from the West Coast to the East Coast or East to West. Those that argue for traveling East to West say that it's safer because the morning sun isn't blinding drivers while you're riding and you're less likely to be hit. They also say that you will be more fit by the time you hit the huge mountains of the Rockies and then the Sierras. For me, I just liked the idea of riding from my front door, so my direction was always going to be West to East. However, the main argument for that direction is that the prevailing winds across the US go from West to East and you're more likely to catch tailwinds going that direction.
I did not experience those prevailing winds today.
If it's hard to convey the feeling of being only a quarter of the way there after 50 miles. It's even harder when after traveling 100 miles, you're only halfway there... The wind kept dragging at me as well. With my bags strapped to my bike, it hampers my riding even more than normal. If you listen to any road cyclist long enough, they'll complain about the wind, even without the extra baggage. I can now fully appreciate why...
Right around this point, I had managed to get onto the Adventure Cycling Association route and was hoping the wind would subside. After all, I was supposed to be getting the prevailing winds behind me, right? In reality, the wind might have been an even more dead-on headwind... It was time to take a break.
I had been munching on the snacks left for me by my hosts Ellie and Warren, but I went through those bags of nuts and trail mix pretty fast. It was time to get some alternative sources of fuel...
Throughout the day I would drink several varieties of energy drinks from Starbucks Triple Shots to Redbull, and while I can't vouch for their health benefits, I can certainly vouch for their effectiveness at doing as they're advertised. They really kept me going. Which is good, because I'm sure part of the reason the ACA suggests this route for cycle tourists is because there is almost no traffic. But there is also almost nothing between towns and some of the "towns" on the map have nothing there and everything is closed up. So if you go past one town you may have to ride another 20 miles or more before you can get more food or even water. You also have to be careful because if the next town on the map is a ghost town, there may be no resources at all.
Experiencing this, when I saw a gas station combined with a fried chicken restaurant, I took that as a good spot to rest for a little bit, get some real food, and go to the bathroom. When you're in these extremely small communities, I feel pretty safe leaving my bike and all my gear just out front of the store. Everyone in the area knows each other and it's unlikely anything gets taken. However, when I came out of the store this time there was someone waiting by my bike. When he sees me come out, he comes over and introduces himself.
Doug Struck was a reporter doing a piece on cross-country travelers for the CS Monitor and he wanted to interview me. Under almost any other circumstance I would have been really happy to sit down right there and give him an interview. However, I still had a 100 miles to go that day and I didn't want to make my host stay up later than necessary if I ended up arriving late. So we exchanged contact info and I agreed to interview over the phone with him in a day or two when I had more time. Before I took off though, Doug drove ahead in his car to capture some photos. Here is one he took.
On the road again after my break, I soon received a message from my host that night who unfortunately would not be available as their work had just called on them to fly out that day last minute. This wouldn't be the end of the world as I would just stay in a hotel that night instead. I had my family scout ahead while I rode to make sure there was a town with a hotel somewhere around 200 miles because many of the "towns" that had "amenities" just had a gas station and that was it. Luckily, there was a hotel in the town after Scott City (my original destination), which just meant a little extra riding for the day.
Almost 200 miles in, I finally reach Scott City. I am absolutely beat... Luckily, there is a open restaurant where I sit down and order the biggest and most caloric thing I can find on the menu, a large fish and chips!
I must have looked absolutely terrible too because a guy a table over asked me how I was doing and what I was doing. I explained I was crossing the US, and yesterday was my longest ride ever, although now it was being topped by today. Really, that's all the conversation we had with each other, but when I ordered my pie as dessert, the waitress said that he had paid for my fish and chips for me! He had left several minutes earlier and didn't say goodbye or anything, so I couldn't thank him, although I was very thankful. People really take a lot of pity on you when you're crazy enough to bike the US...
After the pie, I just had another 20 miles or so and I rode them in the dark. I crossed time zones during my ride, so I didn't end up arriving at my hotel until 11 PM. However, I did eventually make it and managed not to fall down as I stumbled in and received my room key. I got to shower quickly, which was refreshing. The WIFI didn't work, which might have bothered me at almost any other time, but I was so tired I didn't care and I went right to bed. I had another fairly long day of riding ahead of me tomorrow...
HERE IS DOUG'S ARTICLE WHERE YOU CAN FIND ME QUOTED! https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2021/0813/By-bike-and-by-foot-Americans-discover-their-country-and-themselves