Day 39 + 40 (July 6th &7th 2016) Ordley – Pueblo – Pueblo State Park CO; 55 + 10 miles

We finally have another rest day! After long days of crossing Kansas and eastern Colorado, the rest in Pueblo is much needed. Even though the majority of the rides were flat, constantly having to pedal without break is tiresome and really fatiguing. Though it was worth it, because we’re finally back in the mountains! Tuesday we were able to faintly see the outlines of the Rockies, but after yesterday’s short 55 mile ride (one of the more enjoyable rides), the mountains are clear and focused, and absolutely beautiful. Although I know it will be challenging to cross the Rockies, I am really full of excitement to see the sights.

Even though today is an off day, we still have to ride about 10 miles to the State Park where we’re staying tonight. Wish it was a true zero day, but 10 is better than 100!

An interesting tid bit about riding in CO is the number of grasshoppers in the street we encounter while riding. There are so many of them that as we ride along, they jump spastically out of the way. There are hundreds of them, just jumping and flying around in every which direction, hitting our bikes and legs. Some even hitch a ride, only to jump off into our faces when they come to the end of their free loading. It’s like parting the Red Sea as we ride through the hoards of them.

Yesterday was a momentous day for me, as it marked the 15th anniversary of me getting hit by a car. It was definitely a traumatic summer for me and one I will never forget. I never thought I would get back on a bike after that incident, and if you were to tell little 11 year old Emilie that in a few years I’d be halfway across the country on a bike, I’d call you nuts. But here I am, and couldn’t be happier to be doing it! The crosses we so frequently pass on the side of the road denoting someone killed by accident serves as a staunch and sobering reminder of what could’ve been, and also reminds me to never take this blessed life for granted. So here’s to another 15 (hopefully more) years car accident free!

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Day 38 (July 5th 2016) Sheridan Lake – Ordway CO; 88 miles

Colorado is more like Kansas than Kansas. Well, it’s more how I imagined Kansas to be. We can see miles and miles ahead, more so than we were able to in KS, and the sun is so much more intense and hot. There also are no trees in sight to provide valuable shade. Trees, in fact, are very sought after and ones close to the road not surrounded by shrubbery are very valuable. We did, however, encounter some rolling hills towards the end of today’s ride. After going up one such hill, we looked out at the horizon, and lo and behold, we had our first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains! Though faint, we were able to see the behemoths from miles away. Can’t wait to get to them soon!

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It was another long day, just shy of 90 miles. It was made longer by a continuation of flat tires. Molly was the latest victim and encountered a few issues changing the tire. We stopped to help (I wasn’t of much assistance) and with a few people, we were able to figure it out. In addition to mastering the art of snot rockets, Sheena has also perfected changing tires quickly and efficiently.

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New Jersey was poorly represented today after an irate driver with NJ tags cut off Helena and Catherine (nearly hitting them). He jumped out of his car and ranted an incoherent slew of curses and vulgarity at them before driving off. People can be the worst.

5 miles out of our destination we stopped in a cafe in Sugar City for a much needed break from the sun. We got a few treats, including cinnamon buns. They were fresh from the oven and delicious. So delicious, in fact, we got a few to go for breakfast tomorrow.

Today we’re staying in Ordway in a hotel to celebrate the official half way point (wow that flew by!). The owner, Carol, is extremely friendly and welcoming. She made us a delicious and plentiful 3 course dinner. She must’ve known that we were hungry, cause the portions were heaping. And we didn’t let one crumb go to waste.

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As a side note, today is a very special day for me because one year ago today I took home Addie! I miss my little honey bear and wish I could celebrate our adoptaversary together, but I’ll have to wait 3 short days for that.

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Day 37(July 4th 2016) Dighton KS – Sheridan CO; 100 miles

Happy 4th of July! Though I didn’t celebrate one of my favorite holidays in a typical way, it’s definitely one I’ll never forget. Today was a day of milestones, 2000 miles, crossing another time zone, and (most importantly) entering the most anticipated state – Colorado!! And what’s more patriotic than crossing the country by bicycle?! It was also the day Sheena’s bad luck returned, but I’m sure she’ll divulge further in her corner.

 

The end of Kansas was just as it has been. We started out early (way before sunrise) and entertained ourselves by chasing a red light. We thought the light was stationary, signifying a building, but after nearly half an hour, we realized that not only was the light moving, but it was in fact a cyclist. We figured it was someone we didn’t know because we were the first ones out, so we grew excited to meet a new person. After almost an endless cat and mouse game, we finally caught up to the mysterious cyclist, only to come to the conclusion that it indeed was one of us! Murphy somehow stealthily snuck out before us. She left us quite disappointed, sorry Murph but it’s true!

We had dinner with the amazing community of Sheridan Lake. We saw the town’s parade and they invited us to join them for dinner. It was a pot luck full of tasty dishes. The community was extremely welcoming and friendly. They were having a fireworks display after dinner, but after 100 miles in the heat, we all were too pooped to partake.

Colorado welcomed us with swarms of nasty biting flies and a second flat of the day for poor Sheena. But the 100 miles of riding was worth it to finally make it into Colorado, a huge inspiration for doing this trip!

 

Day 36 (July 3rd 2016) Larned – Dighton KS; 97 miles

Another boring day in Kansas. Started with some chilly eerie foggy weather that gave way to a sunny and hot afternoon. I continue to seek entertainment through podcasts. The highlight of our ride was getting a train conductor to blow the horn as he passed. Such excitement!

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The worst thing about Kansas is being able to see a city miles ahead and having to pedal the hour with it in view, taunting us. But at least it’s flat! Though I’m starting to miss the scenery of the mountains.

We are currently celebrating the 4th a little early by setting off fireworks. No one blew off any extremities, so we all lucked out.

Today we rode 97 miles, tomorrow is even further. But we hit Colorado!

Day 35 (July 2nd 2016) Nickerton – Larned KS; 62 miles

This morning I was still riding the high of playing with giraffes. Unfortunately, the dull endless miles of Kansas wore me down thin. We started out later than normal due to bursts of downpours in the morning. We avoided the rain and had favorable winds (two days in a row!).

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The ride itself was 62 miles on pretty much one straight road without any towns in between to look forward to. I kept myself entertained by listening to a podcast called Serial. It is pretty interesting and prevented me from losing my sanity.

A few miles out from Larned, we met a guy who pulled over and gave us water. He said he did the TransAm a few years ago and could relate to our road weary sentiment towards KS.

We’re staying the night in the beautiful house of a Methodist pastor, Bethann. We are very lucky to be spending the night indoors, as a bad storm just passed through. There were flood and tornado warnings, so spending the night in a tent would have not been ideal.

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Tomorrow is another long (95 miles) and likely boring ride through KS. But soon we will be in the much anticipated Colorado! Oh, and only one more week until I am reunited with Addie (and my parents, of course)!

Day 34 (July 1st 2016) Cassody – Nickerton, KS; 80 miles

Today has redeemed Kansas, in my eyes. Everything about today worked in our favor. It stayed very cool, the sun stayed away, and (probably the most important), we had a significant tail wind the entire ride. It was so significant, in fact, that we averaged 16.4 MPH and were able to ride just under 70 miles before noon! The threat of storms approaching also had us quicken the pace. It worked and we outran the dark and gloomy clouds. We stopped and talked for a while with a mother son duo, Nina and Spensur. They are riding Eastward for the cause Hairdressers with Heart, in which Nina donates her hairdressing expertise with cancer patients undergoing treatment. They were not thrilled with battling the brutal headwind and later told us that the storms we so stealthfully avoided followed them their entire ride.

We took a nice break in Newton and enjoyed some delicious sticky buns. We then basically flew into Nickerson. My dad gave me a heads up about an exotic animal farm just out of town that has giraffes. In case anyone doesn’t know, aside from Addie, giraffes are my favorite animals on the planet. We stumbled upon a pen of ~7 giraffes (including 2 babies) and spent a decent half hour with them. We could go right up to them and pet them and everything. There was an extremely friendly one who would follow us, pose for pictures, and lick us. It was awesome to be surrounded by them in such an unlikely place! The owner later came out and chased us away, apparently we had to be a part of a tour to see the giraffes. Whoops!

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All in all it was a great day and I hope the upward trend continues through KS!

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Day 33 (June 30th 3016) Benedict – Cassody KS

If I ever decide to change my profession and get into horror novel writing, the events of last night will serve as a perfect plot line. This is by no means a reflection on the residents of Benedict, KS. They are extremely friendly people and are some of the most hospitable people we have come across on this journey. The town itself came to be in 1866 due to a railroad passing through the territory. The town has an older population, with over 50% of its residents being over the age of 45. Because of its low and shrinking population, there are a lot of unused homes in various states of decay. This adds a rather ominous atmosphere to the tiny town. The town is also bordered by corn fields, giving me flashbacks to the film Children of the Corn. Due to these feelings, I had a general unease towards spending the night in the town.

The night started out fine, went to bed at our normal time and slept relatively soundly until around 2am, when I thought I heard something tinkering with my bike. Ready to combat a bike thief, I opened my tent to check on it. Nothing was messing with my bike, it was a figment of my imagination, but what I did notice was a light in a tree flickering on and off every few seconds. This only added to my general overwhelming sense of anxiety. I got back in my tent and was in and out of sleep until around 3am, at which time I was awoken by lightening. Luckily for me, I put the rain fly on just in case a storm developed. I went to close the fly, at which time Sheena asked if we were going to be safe in the tents in a thunderstorm. I told her of course we would, it’s not going to be anything terrible. In no less than 3 minutes did it torrentially start to downpour. Again I didn’t think anything of it. Almost immediately, the wind picked up in such a violent manner that my stakes uprooted instantly. For the next 10 minutes, I was stuck in my tent in the Lightning, thunder, and hail. That I could handle, but the wind was violent and aggressive. It whipped the tent around and if I hadn’t been in the tent, it surely would have sailed away, which is the only reason I stayed in the tent. I checked my phone to make sure it wasn’t actually a tornado, at which point I noted on the radar that this storm appeared right on top of us out of thin air! I couldn’t believe it. After thinking I was going to die in the tent, the storm stopped. I talked to Sheena as soon as it was over to make sure she was okay. Thankfully she was, and we came up with a game plan. Because I was so on edge and nervous that another storm would develop, we decided to scurry over to the neighbor’s workshop, in which he invited us to stay in earlier. Because my tent was already unstaked, I dragged it across the yard as quickly as I could as it was still lightening and wished to avoid getting struck. Once we were settled inside, we realized that the walls of the workshop were lined with saws, axes, and other tools that could be used to murder two unsuspecting cyclists in a cliche manner. Luckily for us, we survived unscathed and hot tailed it out of town in the morning.

The ride itself was fine, more hills than anticipated, but they were gradual and manageable. The wind couldn’t make up its mind, so we were hit from all angles. The scenery was beautiful. The popular picture Microsoft uses for its background looks exactly like the rolling hills of Kansas. We came to find out, however, that that picture was actually taken in CA, not KS.

We are staying indoors in Cassody tonight, which is great because they are calling for storms tonight. I’d rather avoid a reoccurrence of last night at all costs!

Day 32 (June 29th 2016) Pittsburg – Benedict KS; 80 miles

Kansas has proven to definitely be easier terrain than we are used to. Granted, we were spoiled with nice tailwinds this morning. We were able to cruise through 60 miles by 11 am. Because we were making such great time, we took a nice nap under a tree. When we woke up, the winds had shifted and the 16 miles into Benedict were a little more difficult, but we still arrived before 2pm.

Benedict is a small (very small) town with a population of 75 people. Riding through town was definitely a culture shock, as I have never seen anything like it. It was almost like it was plucked out of a Stephen King novel. A local pastor, Joe, was kind enough to let us stay sin his home. Due to Sheena’s animal allergy, we opted to camp outside. Pastor Joe cooked us a nice dinner and will be making us breakfast in the morning as well.

Day 30 + 31 (June 27/28th 2016) Ash Grove MO – Pittsburg KS;

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Yesterday started out great with a delicious pancake breakfast made by Alec’s parents. We suffered through some early morning hills which quickly gave way to FLAT!! Western MO definitely made up for eastern’s poor welcome. We were able to cruise along at over 15 MPH without worrying about a hill halting our progress. The official end of the Ozarks came upon our arrival in Golden City, MO. I have to say, I was expecting much more from a city with such a grandiose name, but it left me a little disappointed. Riding into it, I was anticipating an Emerald City-esque atmosphere, but with a population of 700 odd people, I had too high of hopes. I guess we’ll have to wait until Kansas for a tornado to sweep us away to meet the Wizard.

Speaking of Kansas, we finally arrived! We are all a little unsure of what to expect from the state, as we have heard good and bad things from it. Sure we’re done with mountains, but the monotonous flatness of the state may make us miss the climbing and descending. We also heard horror stories about head winds, but we have a plan for those. Because the winds are the worst after noon, we are planning on leaving super early and resting during the windy part of the day. Sure we won’t get much sleep, but we haven’t been getting much sleep as it is. Which reminds me, due to our lack of sleep, Sheena and I decided to get a hotel room to really take advantage of our off day. We were able to sleep in today and take a nap here and there in air conditioning. After a month on the road, we forget about the luxury of simple creature comfort and the benefits it has on mind and body.

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Sheena’s Corner:
Emilie and I riding our bikes.
Emilie: “oh god, I can see the light.”
Me: “the death light at the end of the tunnel?”
“No, the one at the end of the street.”
“Oh… I thought we were seeing the light again…”

Another fantastic decision made to get a hotel room so we can sleep in on our day off!

I am still waiting to see a live and whole armadillo, because I’ve never seen one before… I’ve seen plenty of dead ones in pieces.

It was so great cruising on flat land with little wind at ~18mph for hours.a.png

Day 29 (June 26th 2016) Hartville – Ash Grove, MO; 75 miles

Today started out like yesterday, but ended like Friday. The hills got steeper as the day progressed and the sun grew hotter. It definitely didn’t help that it was an awful night sleep in Hartville. No one had a restful night. Between trucks with ridiculously loud engines circling the block, herds of loud teenagers, and an animal in the throes of death at 3am, it was a difficult and exhausting 75 miles into Ash Grove. But we persevered.

The Ozarks are still trouble makers, but we’ll be in flat Kansas in no time. The one thing I noticed in Missouri (besides ruthless drivers that like to run us off the roads) are the crazy amount of bugs. Riding down the road you can see them
zipping all over. From flies, to bees, to beetles, you can’t escape them. As I type this, a fly is banging repeatedly into a window. Some are kamikazes and fly directly into us. Usually it’s just an annoyance, but when going downhill really fast, getting hit by 4 bugs in a row really hurts. Thankfully I have sunglasses to protect my eyes. One bug had the misfortune of being splattered against the lense. The sunglasses don’t work, however, when the bug flies into the glasses and gets stuck. Luckily I kept cool and collected and didn’t fly off my bike.

During the ride, my chain came off and got stuck in my gears, making my bike inoperable. Thankfully, Alec was right behind me and jumped off his bike and came to my rescue. His 19th birthday is coming up, and his awesome parents came down from Kansas City with a barbecue to celebrate. It was absolutely amazing and perfect after today’s ride. They are also making breakfast and I can’t wait for that!

Tomorrow is our last day in Missouri. Hopefully Kansas greets us kindly! No pictures from today. Scenery was beautiful though!