Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Maps and reality don’t always match up"

(Bob's bike travelogue continues from yesterday's post "Western Kansas is so refreshing!" This one is from Colorado, some 2000 miles from home.)

"Welcome to colorful Colorado"

Lamar to Trinidad CO 137 Miles

by Bob Eberlein

Lamar, CO – I get up early, and have my jam and bread for breakfast. I still have a little bit of leftover chocolate milk and this poured over ice is a nice variation from water. Outside is cool enough for a sweatshirt; Lamar is about 4000 feet so it gets a little colder at night. It is a little after 6 when I get on the road, and it is a very big road. I am not sure how it got so big, as I thought I was basically in the middle of nowhere. But big it is, and mostly trucks at this time of the morning.

By whatever process the road got so big, it gets small by intersecting with an interstate onto which most of the trucks disappear. So I am back to a pretty ordinary road with a decent, but gravel strewn, shoulder. The land is actually not that much different from Kansas, pretty flat with some extended up and downs. The wind, out of the north, has been shifting around to the south. The complete reversal is surprising to me, but I guess there are no big bodies of water to give any consistency to the day’s winds up here.

Santa Fe Trail

I stop in Las Animas for second breakfast then continue on with only about 20 miles to go before my planned lunch. Too short, I know, but it seems better than too long. Lunch is early at La Junta and it has turned warm so I tank up on liquid at a Carl’s Junior. I take my time catching up on email in the restaurant and move out. It is 80 miles to Trinidad and that seems too far so I plan to just ride and then stop when I feel like it. I am getting tired of having to make all these goals, feeling a need to relax.

On the map the ride from La Junta to Trinidad looks pretty pleasant. There is a river and a railway and we just follow upstream along what I hope will turn into a nice river value. Little towns dot the route. This is the Santa Fe Trail and that will also be fun.

Maps and reality, of course, don’t always match up and that is definitely the case here. The terrain out here is interesting. It starts out very plains like and slowly, on the horizon, mountains emerge. I love watching the clouds on the edge of the earth and seeing if any turn out to be mountains. This is, of course, what the people traveling the Santa Fe Trail would have been doing, and I am moving much faster than them. Traffic is light and the road is narrow and straight.

Of course the interesting terrain is only one part of the experience. The road runs through scrub brush and dry grasslands. On each side of the road is a low barb wire fence, and there are railway tracks on the right. The towns that dot the route are, at best, a few broken down houses and there are actually only two of those. The rest are either abandoned or apparently did not ever exist. The sun is high in the sky.

I had planned to stop for lunch along the road but there is no place to stop, no trees to seek shade under. I finally come to a few trees by the roadside with a gravel access area and pull over. It smells like drivers have been doing their duty here from time to time, there are flies, and there are mosquitoes. The poop and flies I understand, this is what I would find at similar spots in the Mediterranean and the two go hand in hand. The mosquitoes are a bit of a puzzle, for there is no water in sight.

I eat a few cookies, snatch down some water and move on. There are consistent markers along the side of the road. They started at 72, with 79 miles to Trinidad. So I know how far till the road ends. At mile 27 there should be a town. I clamp down and just ride. The road never changes. It is not really hot, but it is warm and the water in my bottles does not taste great. I count down the miles till 27, and before I hit 28 there is a sign for a town. Off the road is a building that looks like it might not be abandoned, then again maybe it is. There is also a house just ahead. I go to the house to try to get water. No one answers the door but there is a hose in the front yard and I fill my water bottles from it. The water tastes awful.

I continue on, now knowing that I really do need to make it to Trinidad. I am hot and thirsty and my feet hurt but I press on. There is no pleasant place to stop and finally, as the afternoon wears on, I lean my bike against a post and hide in the shadow it casts. It is not much, but it is better than the open road. I eat a few more cookies and drink some water then move on.

There is a military training ground off to the side of the road and signs elsewhere saying that land is not for sale. Apparently the army wants to expand the facility. I continue along and see a big building down a road. It seems like a factory in the middle of nowhere and I am puzzled. It turns out it is a prison, a good location for that.

Finally my milestones go under 10. I am counting each of them carefully, just trying to get to the next one. The road finally emerges into land that is cultivated. There are irrigation ditches and now there are trees. At this point I am tempted to just stop under the trees and fall asleep. The shadows they cast from the low sun are completely refreshing. 4, 3, 2, 1 and finally the highway I am on ends. Now I know there are 7 more miles, but I hope something will appear sooner.

My hopes are never met, the road just continues to wind on. More ups and downs, some of the downhills pretty big, and I just let the bike go, numb to the exhilaration. Finally the vestiges of a town appear. There are some businesses, a movie theater or something like that, and eventually a little sign saying Trinidad, elevation 6000 and some. Here the road forks and I am at a loss which way to go. I expect entering a town to be intuitive, but this is anything but.

I stop in the shade of some U-Haul trailers and get my computer out to look at Google maps. Based on this I take the road up the hill. Houses, a dentist, not much on it but I continue along. Just as I start to enter what looks like a town I notice a Motel. I stop, that is the end of this day, thank goodness.

137 miles today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bob, I wish I could have this kind of trip with you (if I could bike!). You had so much fun!
Next time, you may consider to having that double-seat bike (What's that called?) with you, carrying your wife and making another long trip! She may help you to make many many pictures!
Keep going!!!
Your friend Rongrong