5:30AM: I woke up from the couch of some crazy lady in this tiny town in
Colorado. I tip toed over my friends sleeping all over the floor. I hit the road before sunrise. 30 miles into the wind to La Junta, CO; home of the closest sports bar in a significantly large radius in Colorado. I arrive 30 minutes before kickoff at 10AM. Just enough time to hit the bathroom for a homeless shower (wash face and hands, brush teeth, comb hair and beard, apply deodorant, and of course change underwear). I walk to the bar to order my massive $1.75 Natural Light on draft, then locate a TV with my Auburn Tigers on. I sit down to a 16 inch television surrounded in an unbelievable amount of John Elway memorabilia and listen to the obnoxiously loud Latin music playing on the jukebox… I couldn’t be happier. Just another average day on this bike adventure.
So yesterday we hit a pretty big checkpoint on this trip. We completed the first of 3 sections: The Mountains.
So I suppose I will do a brief recap of the most memorable scenery and towns of the mountains section.
We started in Seattle, WA on the water. The third day of the trip was probably our hardest day yet climbing Stevens Pass. Rode down into the apple capital of the world: Wenatchee, WA. Climbed up a huge canyon to reach the plains of central Washington. All we could think is this must be what Kansas is like. Hit the mountains again in Spokane, WA. Rode through the panhandle of northern Idaho. Sandpoint, ID being the biggest and best stop. Then through a mountain river valley to Missoula, MT. Next through a stretch with multiple mountain climbs to arrive in Helena, MT, the capital of MT. Then a dry, hot, flat section through Bozeman, MT and Livingston, MT. From there, due south through a beautiful windy river valley to Gardiner, MT; the northern gate of Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone offered lots of wildlife and geysers; some truly amazing sights. Then south through the Tetons; an area that our group agrees on being the most spectacular. Next to Jackson Hole, WY for a good long break before the Wyoming desert. It might not be towering sand dunes but there are sure as hell no trees and enough cacti to make an Alabama boy grow to hate what was a funny impulse buy at Home Depot. Next crossed into Colorado with an instant scenery change to red rocks and mountains. Through the mountains to the front range of Colorado. South through Fort Collins, Denver, Colorado Springs, and finally Pueblo. Then here I am, just east of Pueblo at the beginning of the second section… The Plains.
So speaking of the various towns we have been through, I figured this would be a good time to give out my very prestigious… Town Awards.
Best Tiny Town: Leavenworth, WA. Tourist town with some amazingly cool locals that make everybody feel like they have known them since 2nd grade. Spent 3 days there.
Best Medium Size Town: Missoula, MT. Home of the University of Montana (Go Grizz). Top notch outdoors scene featuring a great kayaking wave in the heart of downtown. Spent 7 days there.
Best Big City: Denver, CO. When I arrived in Denver I stashed my bike and gear at a friend’s house and basically hit the streets homeless for over a week. Amazing music scene, one of the top 3 bars I have ever been to, and all the people were so awesome. We never went one night without somewhere to stay due to the kindness of strangers and didn’t get bored for one second. Stayed there for 10 days.
Honorable Mention: Jackson Hole, WY. In the Tetons and everyone there is from the south.
Worst Town Award: Seattle, WA. Our first day there I realized nobody was nice at all. So I came up with a game. While walking around I said a simple “How’s it goin?” to nearly every single person. I got a response an average of 1 out of 10 people.
How bout’ some stories and tidbits from the road??!? Yeah? Ok!
Jackson Hole, WY. Got to play bass guitar and jam with a bunch of guys for the first time since I left home. Our crew said they had never seen such a big smile on my face… I miss my job.
Did the first extreme tubing trip of my life in Jackson. I have kayaked forever but this is a whole different ball game. Just wide enough for tubes and big enough rapids that need to be navigated. Freezing cold… Intense… Awesome.
Squeeze got half-hit by a car while I was walking beside him.
Hitch hiking at its best: hitching through the McDonalds line after the inside closes early.
My buddy Richard took us on an awesome hiking/cliff jumping adventure on a lake in Jackson. The Appalachian Trail thru-hikers were somehow the slowest hikers there so we got to playing this game we used to play on the trail: tell the day hikers that they are about to walk up on this crazy awesome wildlife and see how they react. It’s hilarious when people start into a mild sprint while trying to get their oversized camera ready to snap the big shot.
Nothing beats cheering for the hometown team when you’re traveling through that team’s town. For that short period of time you are nothing shy of die-hard. We got some of that in Jackson. Our buddies we were staying with worked at a golf course in town. Their boss, the golf pro, has a son on the PGA tour… Keegan Bradley. We watched him go from nothing to winning a major over the course of a weekend. They mentioned his dad and Jackson Hole multiple times. We were treating the win like our football team won a super bowl and we had never even heard of this guy prior to Jackson Hole.
We did our first night ride of the excursion. Started at a gas station with multiple coffees, red bulls, and 5 hour energies. Then attached every light apparatus we could find to our bikes in various places. We rode through a mountain valley with a full moon. We looked like a UFO with all our blinking multi colored lights. Probably freaked out some cars driving by at 2AM.
Boo Boo and Raw Dog worked on a farm driving tractors to raise funds for a week in Pinedale, WY. Boo Boo got to play around with a silenced AR 15 while he was out there… Does that really exist?
Broken gear update: bike rack, digital camera, tent, iPod. After a significant monetary investment I’m back to normal. Taking donations for the unfortunately broken gear fund…
Met an absolute animal in the Wyoming desert. Best quote he graced us with:
“I’ve got two heroes in this world… Fidel Castro and Jack Kevorkian.”
Animal #2 the same day: “Larry, you like sports?” “Well I learned how to play handball in prison.”
It’s really amazing how quickly $600 dollars can go down the drain… It’s quite easy if you’re interested in giving it a shot. Go grab your iPod and digital camera, then proceed to the nearest body of water. Just drop em’ on in there and congratulations! It’s that easy.
7PM. Rawlings, WY. McDonalds. 2 guys playing World of Warcraft. Appear to be homeless other than the laptops. Don’t look away from the screen once. 11AM. The next day. Same McDonalds. You guessed it. They obviously have not budged an inch in the past 16 hours and appear to have no intentions of going anywhere. I know because I asked the cashier. God Bless America.
For any of those such as I looking for that get rich quick (legally) job, I have found the answer… Working on an oil rig in central Wyoming. Ready for this? 3 months… $100,000. I’ve been told “you might lose a finger or 2” but I’ve also been told if you “keep that head on a swivel and you’ll be just fine.” Next summer anybody?
However if you’re looking to lose more money as I spoke about earlier, here is a $300 option… Park your car at a Wendy’s in downtown Denver. $40 cab ride across town to get home upon realizing your car is towed and $260 to get the car back from towing. Is it just me or are those numbers unbelievably insane?
But perhaps it’s worth it considering you will be parked next to what I have ranked the #3 bar in the country. Ever see the Grateful Dead in concert? No?
Head on down to Sancho’s Broken Arrow for the next best thing. Complete with wall to wall photos and concert posters to a juke box that supports nothing but the best live Dead. The bathroom even has a massive mural of Jerry in which you can see yourself due to his shades being made of two mirrors.
I guess I’m good luck for baseball teams when I come thru their town. When I was on the trail I went to a Baltimore Orioles game and they won in the 9th inning. I made it over to a Colorado Rockies game and they also pulled it out in the 9th inning… Call me the closer.
Denver Cruisers: This is insane and I’m still trying to figure out how the city allows/supports this. Bless them for it though. Basically it’s a bicycle pub crawl every Wednesday in downtown Denver with a costume theme. Didn’t know what to expect. We show up to the first bar and there are about 1,000 people dressed up as angels and demons with 1,000 bicycles accompanying them. When it’s time to ride over to the next pub everybody cruises in a massive pack 6 lanes wide. Police and firefighters waving the whole time. One guy had a keg attached to the back of his bike. By the final destination there was no less than 2,000 riders and bicycles.
Riding on the highway one day we came across a “no bicycles” sign. Upon not being able to find an alternative route, we continued to ride. After a cop passed us and appeared to be preparing to turn around, we exited off the highway. After exiting we couldn’t turn any direction but straight up a mountain on a different highway. So logically we went backwards down the highway to avoid the mountain. Only to shortly be passed by another cop giving us a “what the hell?” look. After he was out of sight we quickly jumped a highway fence into a neighborhood to escape… Riding a bicycle can become very stressful.
We had our craziest day of bike riding shortly after that. Somehow we ended up on a bike path by a river, riding a dirt country road for 28 miles, a mountain bike trail for 9 miles, hitting a set of BMX jumps, and dropped into the pool of a skate park. Slept in a random gazebo that night. Best day of riding so far.
So now we come full circle to a side story of the story I began this blog with… The crazy lady we stayed with last night. After she had gotten all of us to her house, she informed us that she found out “her man” would be unexpectedly coming home at some point. She told us that we all had to be part of an elusive lie so he wouldn’t get angry that she invited all of us. She comforted us by letting us know that we had nothing to worry about… only that he was 6 foot 4, does cocaine while he drives his 18 wheeler, and is tied to the mafia. I immediately regretted my decision of calling the couch… considering I was the first person this giant was going to see upon walking in the front door.
Good read? Hope ya enjoyed it. More to come. We are at mile 1,791 here in La Junta, Colorado. 209 miles to go to our half way point in Dodge City, Kansas.
Going to be a celebration… Kansas style… If there is such a thing. Maybe a big corn dinner? Until next time… Get out there. Adventure. Do it. Nobody is going to make you. And you know you want to.