I began the day in Goodland with anticipation and nervousness – I was only days away from Boulder, but I had my work cut out for me. Eastern Colorado is ground zero for the empty interior. I wouldn’t be through the high plains till making it to the Front Range around Denver and Boulder, and my access to towns for food and water would be severely limited compared to what I’ve dealt with so far. I was alright on the food front, but water… That was a concern.
I headed out of Goodland on Old 24 headed for Burlington right across the Colorado border. A farmer blocked me a bit though:
Goodland didn’t want this Goodlander to leave.
I was flying down 24, and I didn’t really know why. I was feeling fantastic. I guess it was coming out of a rest day?
Before long I made it to Kanorado, the last town in Kansas I’d be in.
I thought back on the good times in the state, from Almena, the Baileys at Prairie Dog, the interview I did in Hoxie, and of course, to my time in Goodland. I didn’t expect Kansas to be as good to me as it was, both in terms of the people and the riding. I was very happy to be wrong.
And then the Colorado border!
There’s something about riding into Colorado that is almost as monumental as making it to the coast, even though I’m only just over halfway done with this ride. I had finally entered the West, finally made it to a state I’d been dreaming of for weeks, and only days away from the Rockies… and Dead & Company. I was ecstatic:
But despite the intentional corniness the feeling was tempered by a true sense of satisfaction. I gave myself an “atta-boy” in my head and pushed on to Burlington, complete with wind turbines and piles of wood:
I stopped to eat some food and drink something cold outside a gas station, which was new for me (JOKE!). Apparently a tour bus had some problems with a passenger:
I hope that all worked out.
I passed the most elaborate VFW I’ve ever seen:
And then it was time to head in a straight shot north. I had to make it up to US-36, which would give me the clearest, safest route into Boulder. So 28 miles up 385 I went, and if I thought there was nothing in northwestern Kansas, I was corrected by cruising through eastern Colorado.
The air was getting drier, the ground was getting higher, and the vegetation and agriculture more tired and brittle.
But even nothingness can bring surprises. Like county dirt roads that have wooden signs with last names of families that live on them:
The crops in Colorado weren’t fairing as well as those in Kansas. Apparently the drought has been rough for the region, as I learned the next morning.
Most of the riding was a gradual climb in elevation. But 385 gave me some rolling hills to recon with, and I was fine with that.
I was still flying. It was great having a good day in the legs. Which made seeing the shift in agricultural activity happen much quicker:
Just as corn gave way to wheat in Kansas, wheat was giving way to cattle ranching in Colorado.
And the vegetation was changing:
Before long I made it to my destination for the night – Idalia, CO, population 88.
I was back on 36, the road I took into Norton before making it to Prairie Dog State Park days before. I felt like I was meeting an old friend again. It’s been the case since the C&O and GAP trails: I’ve noticed that each long stretch of a single road I’m on has its own character in my mind. I was happy to be back on 36, even if it was only for a mile into town. I’d be on it for quite the haul ahead of me into Boulder…
I stopped at Outback Feed and Seed in Idalia for a Gatorade and asked where I could pitch my tent. They told me I’d be just fine right behind the football field where there was a pump for water and a picnic shelter to boot.
I headed over there early in the afternoon and relaxed, soaking up the good feelings. It was my strongest day on the bike so far, and even though I didn’t know why, given the noticeable thin air getting into my lungs, it was a good feeling.
After dinner I set up the tent for the night, just in time for a thunderstorm to roll in. My tent is very waterproof and I wasn’t worried about it, but it started to pick up quite a bit. And the rain and wind was pummeling my tent which kept me awake longer than I would have liked. I checked the weather and learned about some severe weather:
I got a bit nervous – the bad weather was coming right through where I was. I considered breaking down the tent and heading to the Fire Station nearby for some true shelter, but decided to brave it out. Everything turned out fine. There was serious hail and flash flooding in areas nearby, but my tent was barely wet the next morning.
That next morning was the beginning of the most surprising, testing days that I never imagined coming….