1984 Bike Tour: Day 36 – Can’t stop cycling

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Sunday, June 17, 1984
Tribune, Kan., to Ordway, Colo.
124 miles

Locator map

I’m reprinting the day-to-day journal entries of a cross-country bike tour my friend and I took in 1984. More about the TransAmerica Tour 1984

Gene’s Journal

Sunrise in Tribune, Kansas

Most of western Kansas and eastern Colorado was closed this Sunday, so we did the only thing we knew — we kept pedaling.

After I patched up two flat tires just after sunrise, we rode out of town and back to the flat terrain. Everything was closed in the first town in Colorado — Towner. Same at Sheriden Lake. At Brandon, the road dropped into a wide valley. Near Chivington, we stopped at the site of the Sand Creek Massacre where troops under the command of Colonel Chivington (imagine naming a town after this butcher) massacred about 150 men, women and children of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.

At Eads, we finally found an open restaurant and hung out there for an hour. We decided to press on to Haswell, making it an 80-mile day.

Hot and dry

It got hotter than hell as the hours passed by, but we were more comfortable in the slight breeze caused by our moving. At Haswell, I felt I had arrived at the end of the Earth. It was almost 6, and it felt hotter than earlier. We stopped at the city park and couldn’t find anything open in town. A motorist stopped and gave us a gallon of water; he carried it in case of emergencies out here. We were a little suspicious, but gulped it down after the water coming out of the park spigot tasted like a cross between iron and sulphur.

Haswell town limits, from Wikipedia
Haswell town limits, from Wikipedia

We decided we couldn’t stay here. The next town was about 40 miles away. Nothing to do but jump on our bikes and start moving. Luckily, the terrain seemed to be to our advantage and I imagined a breeze to our backs. Route 96 (below) was deserted and my mind wandered all over as I kept my bike to the left of the white line. Later Bruce and I rode side by side as we pedaled into the sunset past open country. At one point, we saw some pronghorn antelope not far away.

We hit Ordway in a cloud of dung-dust hanging over the stockyards at sunset. The air seemed to glow orange. We stopped and had a couple of beers at a KOA, then rode into town to the Hotel Ordway, a bed and breakfast that offered discounts to bicyclists. For $3 we each got a room. Later, we returned to the KOA for pizza. We were too brain-dead to consider other options.

Headline: June 17, 1984
Nationwide study states the academic achievement
of American schoolchildren in reading and mathematics
not only lags behind that of schoolchildren in Japan and Taiwan,
but also does so from virtually the day they enter school …

Bruce’s Journal

Actually, it’s Monday morning and I am sitting in the lobby of the Hotel Ordway in Colorado. It’s also a hostel, and we got a room here (no sheets) for $3 apiece. It was fine. There’s a philodendron in the lobby that has been growing in a rather small pot for more than 40 years. It climbs a wall and then snakes all over the ceiling in every which direction. The former owner had gotten it as a present during the war [WWII] and it has grown in the hotel ever since.

Route 96

We are 100 miles inside Colorado, having come 128 miles yesterday, our best effort yet. We are only 50 miles from Pueblo, roughly halfway on our trip. We hadn’t intended to go so far yesterday, but circumstances called for it. We were planning to do 80 to Haswell. Our directory showed a city park with water there. In Kansas, that meant a nice place; not necessarily so in Colorado.

Run-down park

The place was right on the road, run-down, and the water smelled worse than it tasted. We pulled in, tired and thirsty, at 6 p.m. To further complicate matters, it was Sunday, and Sundays can be terrible days to travel in the back country [because nothing is open–no stores for food, drinks, etc.].

For example, we went 60 miles that day, from Tribune to Eads, without finding any services. No open cafe or store. No water… So when we finally got to Haswell, thirsty and parched, there was nothing but bad water and what little water we had in our bottles. No bathroom. No shower. The only store in town was closed. A fellow did stop, though, and gave us a gallon jug of water. We didn’t realize at the time how helpful that was.

So we decided to press on, to do 40 more to Ordway. We figured we might make it by dark. Actually, we made it in a blinding two-hour pace–20 miles an hour. We had a slight tailwind and good, flat road. We were in the Arkansas River valley, which is in the high plains, which is extremely close to being desert.

Dry plains

The Kansas wheat fields gave way to plains of dry green scrub and grass. There is very little moisture in eastern Colorado because, supposedly, the clouds are robbed of it by the mountains to the west.

But it was beautiful in the plains. The sun was low and it was peacefully quiet. We saw jack rabbits and antelope as we followed the train tracks to our right. One train did pass, and that is always a kick for me. The engineer blew his whistle and waved. Trains are everything to these small agricultural communities here.

So we made Ordwell by 8:30, pulled into the KOA grocery and got two Coors to celebrate. The hostel rooms turned out to be cheaper than a KOA campsite. We ate a frozen pizza and two more beers. Not what you would call a highly nutritional repast. But we will load carbos this morning at the local Dairy Bar.


Day 37: Well-housed in Pueblo

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