TransAm Journal - Thu July 13, 2023

Day 65

Jeffrey City WY, 68 miles

Addendum: Big John reached out to me this morning in regard to yesterday’s post, he reminded me that there is a decent shoulder from the Kansas/Colorado border all the way to Pueblo. I stand corrected. Memory is a bitch, so is math.

It’s difficult to describe, no, impossible, the openness and the majesty of the high plains in Wyoming. It would take someone with writing skills far beyond mine. The answer is to see it for yourself. I now understand why painters paint.

I stopped at Split Rock National Historic Monument. Split Rock is a formation in the Rattlesnake Range that was used as a landmark when navigating the Oregon Trail. Migrants traveling west could see the formation for an entire day before reaching it. After passing the formation, they could see it for two days as it grew smaller and smaller behind them.

I made excellent progress in the morning. I covered 40 miles in 4 hours. That’s a good pace for me, then the wind came up. The last 27 miles took 4 hours. It pays to get an early start. I will be starting early again tomorrow. I anticipate a day, maybe two and I will be off the high plains and into the mountains, leaving the high plains wind tunnel behind me.

Perhaps I’ve written this before or maybe I just thought about writing it, but there are times when I wonder if my mother and father would be proud of me for what I’m doing. That question can’t be answered. It’s enough to know that my children are.

TransAm Journal - Wed July 12, 2023

Day 64

Rawlins WY, 44 miles

The wind blows from 9:30 AM til 3:30 PM… If you’re lucky. They don’t call this windy Wyoming for nothing.

I’ve been on the road for an hour now, I started this morning at 6:30 AM. There was no movement from the prairie grass when I started out, now the grass is just beginning to wave at me. I imagine it saying, “be patient, give me a couple more hours, I’m gathering strength so you can fully appreciate me…”

Another beautiful day. Once cycling gets into your blood, all you have to do is get on the bike in the morning to feel the joy. This trip across America is not an attempt to reach back into my youth. It’s more about making up for lost time. The fact that I love cycling so much but have spent the majority of my life working and helping raise three wonderful children is part of the reason I do this now. It’s also about the freedom. Freedom isn’t about flags, slogans or the elimination of taxes. We need to take care of each other, not live for ourselves. Freedom is about the ability to get on the road and see and feel this great country, and yes, meet people of every stipe and connect with them. I was reminded today (out of nowhere) of the John Mellencamp song, Jack and Diane. He had it all wrong. It’s not about “life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone,” it’s about living life fully for as long as you can, and finding the thrill in the most unlikely places, and where you least expect it.

Fourteen miles of today’s route put me on I-80, it was the only way to get to Rawlins. I do not like riding on the shoulder of an Interstate. (I rarely do it.) The shoulders are filled with hazards you can’t believe. I knew if I made it all the way to my exit without a flat tire I would be lucky, sure enough, less than a thousand yards from the exit I picked this up…

I remember back in 2019 when I did the Southern Tier (San Diego to St. Augustine Florida) I posted a photo almost identical to this one. This is a road hazard that tube tires have difficulty with. I wish that weren’t the case. I’m of two minds when it comes to tubes vs. tubeless. I’m going to reserve judgement, but I think a tubeless setup would have handled this no problem.

TransAm Journal - Tue July 11, 2023

Day 63

Saratoga WY, 67 miles

Traveling across the country by bicycle is all about the feelings you have. Trepidation, frustration, hesitation, elation, and at the end of the day, vindication.

My Morning started outside the Shell gas station talking to a USDA Fire crew. I asked them how long ago the fire that devastated the Willow Creek Pass area occurred. One of the crew told me that was five years ago. I was glad to learn that the forest is recovering well, according to the crew. The conversation moved on to my bicycle and my tour. The crew member I was chatting with commented that she had panniers for her bicycle that were the same as mine. It’s odd how you can be having a conversation with someone and only realize later what you should have asked. In this case, I should have asked what tours she had done, but I didn’t think of that until after they were gone.

It turned out to be a beautiful day for riding. The wind did come up and it was brutal at times. The wind lasted from 10 AM until 3 PM. Even still, I enjoyed the day throughly and managed to log 67 miles. I was elated when I began the day’s ride and discovered there was actually a shoulder on the road! Then, 11 miles out, it ended. I have to say that for the almost 400 miles of travel through Colorado, the state was kind enough to give me 11 miles of road with decent shoulder. During that brief period it was nice to be able to enjoy something other than “white line, white knuckle” riding. regrettably it was for only a short distance. The really good news is that once I crossed the state line into Wyoming there was a very nice shoulder to ride on and it continued throughout the entire day. So day one in Wyoming has already given me more than double the miles of good cycling road than I got from all of Colorado. Keep it up Wyoming!

I’m staying at a church here in Saratoga that hosts cyclists. It’s an amazing place. I’m floored by the generosity and the trust that goes in to providing this service. It is truly a marvel and it makes me appreciate the service they are providing. I am very grateful.

I’m no longer in “Colorful Colorado.” Wyoming did not have a welcome sign, so this is the best I can do!

TransAm Journal - Mon July 10, 2023

Day 62

Walden CO, 65 miles

A very quiet but beautiful day. Lots of riding again with no shoulder but today the traffic was light so I hardly noticed. The first 10 miles followed the Colorado River then the route turned north into a magnificent 25 mile canyon. I’m not sure if it was one canyon or a series. The pitch was gentle and the route followed Willow Creek almost all the way to the Summit. When I reached Willow Creek Pass at 9,683 ft. it was already noon. I’m not the fastest cyclist on the planet. (Notice I did not say what time I left camp. As I recall, packing the panniers required the use of a headlamp…)

Progress up the canyon was punctuated by several wardrobe changes. Down jacket and windbreaker. Windbreaker only. Down jacket, windbreaker, and rain shell. It tried to rain but couldn’t quite manage to do more than spit. The rain shell was primarily on to provide another layer of warmth.

Once over the pass I was in Colorado High Plains country. The wind was blowing. I had to use the windbreaker most of the day even though the sun was out. It was blowing with attitude. I would guess a pretty steady 30 MPH. Fortunately I was going north and the wind was out of the west. That makes for only mild resistance to forward progress but requires some effort to keep the bike from getting blown off the shoulder. Light traffic made this a matter of only mild concern.

When I got to Walden I called the Sherif to let him know I was planning to sleep in the city park. No problem at all. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be in Wyoming tomorrow night.

Addendum: I can’t take responsibility for spelling Sheriff with one “f.” Spell check gave me the option of that spelling and I took it, trusting soul that I am. The Sheriff might be a Sherif, but it’s unlikely he is a direct descendent of Muhammad’s daughter Fatima…

Beautiful hillside on the way up to Willow Creek Pass.

TransAm Journal - Thu July 6, 2023

Day 58

Frisco CO (And Surrounding Area), 0 miles

I’m feeling better. I’m going to rest for another three days then hit the road again on Monday. My plan is to reach Florence Oregon on August 12. That is 34 days of riding covering 1,755 miles. That’s a bit over 51 miles per day. I can’t say for sure if I will make that date, but I should at least be close.

When I was planning this tour, way back when, I was hoping to finish on August 1. While I may not hit the 12th, I’m happy with the way things are going.

I’m going to take a break from posting for three days. Not because I’m getting tired of writing, but it will be three days before I have another road story to share. If you’ve been following along, thank you, the story will resume on the 11th.

Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy this part of Colorado and get ready for the final stage of the tour!

Frisco is a cool town.

TransAm Journal - Wed July 5, 2023

Day 57

Frisco CO (And Surrounding Area), 0 miles

I’m still laying low. Whatever happened to me on Monday, I’m pretty sure I brought on myself. I let myself get dehydrated and I over exerted. (That was the day I spent looking for camp grounds that had no vacancies.) Some pretty serious congestion set in by Monday night. it’s just now beginning to break up. It will be a few more days before I can get back on the bike. In the mean time, I’ve been enjoying the town of Frisco as much as I can, and It is a charming town. I have a feeling I’ll be back in the winter to ski the major resorts all within a short drive of this town.

While I’ve been resting and trying to get healthy again, I’ve been planning out the remainder of my tour. I know the route of course, that is well established but I’ve been planning each day’s ride length and end-of-day stay. I should have that all sorted out by tomorrow. When I started the tour, there were so many miles in front of me I didn’t put much stock in where each day would end. I’ve been averaging a little over 50 miles per day up to this point. I want to push that up just a bit between here and the finish if I can.

It is really difficult not getting on the bike. When you’ve done it for so many days for such long periods of time, it’s difficult to stop. It feels like you are cheating yourself by not riding. There’s a good lesson to be learned there that I hope will carry-over once I complete the tour and resume my “normal” life. I will say that the last few days have afforded me some time to read a couple of good books. I read: Lincoln The War President, The Gettysburg Lectures by Gabor S Boritt, Professor of Civil War Studies at Gettysburg College and This House of Sky, by Ivan Doig. The first book will help me to plan a future “Civil War Tour” that I hope to undertake (not necessarily on a bicycle). I learned a lot about Lincoln and our country’s history. The book provided historical background that is enormously helpful when trying to put current events into context. The second book is just an amazingly enjoyable read. It is unique in its language, story telling, and its perspective on living in some of the most hardscrabble parts of America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The life led by early homesteaders in this country makes the effort required to ride a bicycle across the country pale by comparison.

I think a lot of people drive out from Denver to enjoy the 50 or so miles of bike path in Summit County.

TransAm Journal - Tue July 4, 2023

Day 56

Frisco CO (And Surrounding Area), 0 miles

Happy 4th of July!

The 4th of July Parade in Frisco was great. Frisco is ground zero for six Colorado ski resorts. Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Arapaho Basin, Loveland, and Vail.

My favorite entry in the parade was by the Summit Team. Not exactly sure what they are all about, but I love what they were doing today. They drove an old pickup truck up into the mountains and loaded it with snow. A fellow in the back of the truck was throwing snow balls into the crowd as the pickup made its way down the parade route. I look forward to coming back to Frisco when the snow is more plentiful!

The town of Breckenridge was founded in 1859. It was originally populated by miners panning for gold from the Blue River. The town was named after miner Thomas Breckenridge. The town was renamed Breckinridge after Vice Pres. John C. Breckinridge in hopes of gaining a post office. When Breckinridge (with an “i”) joined the Confederacy at the start of the Civil War. The residents changed the name of the town back to Breckenridge (with an “e”). It’s a wonder I can spell it at all…

The parade down Main St. was closed out by a 49’er and his mule train.

TransAm Journal - Mon July 3, 2023

Day 55

Frisco CO (And Surrounding Area), 0 miles

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be spending the next week in this area. I can’t think of a better place to lay-over. There’s going to be a big 4th of July celebration in Frisco on Tuesday with free live music. I’ll be there for that. Then on Thursday, there will be free live music in the Frisco City Park. I’ll be there for that one as well. I plan to take a few side-trips up to some nearby ski areas, including Copper Mountain and Vail. I won’t be adding these miles to my tour mileage, but when all is said and done, I expect I’ll cover plenty of miles over the course of the next four or five days.

Today I rode out to Dillon and Keystone and then back to Frisco. That took me over Swan Mountain. It was a surprisingly long and strenuous day of riding. I was carrying full gear because I was looking for a campground with first-come-first-serve openings, but there were none to be had. I’m back in Frisco at the Snowshoe Motel. I was surprised to see they had a vacancy, so I grabbed it.

Looking up at some of the ski runs just outside Breckenridge. Looks pretty Blue. Got to be some Black that you can’t see from this vantage point.

TransAm Journal - Sun July 2, 2023

Day 54

Frisco CO, 34 miles

Leaving Alma. Alma is the highest incorporated city in the U.S. at 10,578 ft.

I enjoyed the music festival in Alma last night from back stage! I pitched my tent behind the stage… Alma is a cool town. Definitely a hippie town. That includes the Mayor who was the MC for the festival. This is the town where old hippies go to retire, and that’s not a bad thing.

Today was all about making it over Hoosier Pass and crossing the Continental Divide. A momentous day for this tour.

After a slow descent on bad road surface I pulled into the town of Breckenridge. If you’ve ever been to Park City UT, Breckenridge is Park City on steroids. This is the town that Park City would love to be. The Main Street is a mile long with nothing by high-end shops and eateries. I stopped into the Breckenridge Brewery for a burger and a beer. When I found out the bar tender was a skier I asked him what his favorite ski areas are. He ticked off three or four, but I got the feeling his two favorites were Copper and A-Basin. I asked him about Breckenridge and he just shrugged his shoulders. When I look up at the slopes from downtown, all I see is Blue. I suspect there are some challenges hidden out-of-sight, but if they are there, you can’t see them from downtown.

As I was making my way down Main St., a man stopped me to ask questions about the bike. He was really interested in what it was made of, how much weight I was carrying and where the bike came from. I told him it was a Bill Davidson, made in Seattle. I told him Bill is the premier bike builder in Seattle. That leads me into another subject. I need to thank Bill and Marc once again for taking care of me on this tour. If they hadn’t provided me with the right cassette for this type of tour when I reached St. Louis, I never would have made it over Hoosier Pass!

I reached Frisco towards the end of the day and was fortunate to find a motel that wasn’t fully booked. I checked in for the night. I plan to spend the next seven days in this area. There’s lots of National Forest as well as Forest Service Campgrounds. This part of Colorado is a hiker, mountain biker, trekker paradise. Plus there are just a lot of people here enjoying the beautiful views and (so far) excellent weather.

I had to layer-up going over Hoosier Pass because it was windy and chilly.

Hoosier Pass. Elevation 11,539 ft. The Continental Divide… Check!

TransAm Journal - Sat July 1, 2023

Day 53

Fairplay CO, 0 miles (Rest Day)

The next week is going to be chill. I arrived in the Mountains of Colorado a week ahead of my schedule. Rather that keep going, I’m going to enjoy this place. Why not. The mountains have always called to me. Since skiing is my winter passion, this will give me the perfect opportunity to explore the mountains and resorts here and make some plans for future winter visits.

I’m staying in Fairplay for the night then I’m heading up over Hoosier Pass to Breckenridge. I’ll be crossing the Continental Divide tomorrow! Fairplay is right on the Middle Fork of the South Platte River. There are a lot of Anglers in the river here.

“It ain’t what you got, it’s what you make” —Song Lyric, Unknown Artist

What does that mean? I think it means the best experiences are the ones you make for yourself. This tour has been a joy, a revelation, and yes, an experience. The good news is it’s not over yet.

Talking to a local I learned there is a music festival in Alma, just six mile up the road from here. Heading up there soon. Probably will be there tonight instead of Fairplay.

The Historic Hotel in Fairplay Colorado. Fairplay is also known as South Park City, don’t let that confuse you.

TransAm Journal - Fri June 30, 2023

Day 52

Fairplay CO, 50 miles, climb 2,520 ft.

The elevation here in Fairplay is 9,953 ft. They sell cans of oxygen in the motel lobby. The sign says, “don’t let the elevation ruin your vacation.” I’ll try not to. I don’t mean any disrespect to persons that have health issues, but I’m certainly glad I was able to ride my bicycle here from Virginia without the need for supplemental oxygen…

Last night two riders joined me in the bunkhouse in Guffey. They were from the Neatherlands. They had come all the way from Silverthorn in one day. I was impressed to say the least. Since they were leaving bear country, they gave me their can of bear spray to carry. I promised I would give it to the first east bound cyclist I found once I got to Oregon.

I stopped in the town of Hartsel on the way here. That was going to be my destination for the day. It is not a big town. Restaurant, convenience store, coffee shop, that’s about it. They allow camping behind the restaurant but that wasn’t speaking to me today. I pulled into the espresso shop and had a double espresso and a vanilla bean milkshake, The owner of the shop was a gracious host. We chatted for a half an hour and then her husband and his best friend came into the shop and the four of us had a lively conversation. It turned out we had a fair amount of lumber experience in our backgrounds, oddly enough, we spent several minutes talking about lumber drying techniques. (I know that sounds boring, but actually it’s not, I’ll leave it at that.) The shop was fascinating. It turned out to be a combination, coffee shop, rock shop, and art gallery. I was impressed by the hand-crafted Indian art. The Talking Sticks were beautiful. Who can’t use a talking stick? Truly, a custom that performs a valuable service, I dare say our leaders could benefit from the use of a Talking Stick. I bought a Sterling Silver ring for $12. That won’t be a burden to carry, and it will be a nice reminder of my journey.

My ride into Hartsel was fairly windy. Without looking at the sky I decided to continue on to Fairplay. About five miles outside town the wind came up again but this time it brought some steady rain with it. It rained hard for another five miles. I was glad when it stopped. I didn’t mind they wind really, It dried out my rain jacket. I was wearing three layers so I was able to maintain my body temperature despite the wind. The wind was in my face at times, but not enough to take the joy out of the ride.

There was one thing trying to take the joy out of the ride however, that was the cars and trucks on the road. Hwy 9 to Breckenridge is not for the feint of heart. There is no shoulder most of the way, where there is one, it is mere 12” at most, hardly enough to even be called a shoulder. It seemed like yesterday a larger than usual number of drivers were intent on not giving the guy on the bicycle any room. Back at my espresso stop one of the guys told me he won’t ride his bicycle on Hwy 9 any longer. I took note of that comment at the time, but his meaning was driven home to me by the time I reached Fairplay.

Back on TransAm Day 1, I met Brett from Maine. He was on sabbatical and had only about 50 days to do the TransAm. That is world class riding when you are self-supported. I got a really nice text message from him this evening that he had made it to Astoria! He had completed the ride in 52 days! He averaged more than 100 miles per day and he doesn’t cheat on his stats like I do. He counted his rest days when calculating his average miles per day! Congratulations Brett. That is an awesome achievement! I wouldn’t mind riding with you some day, but you would need to take a bit more leisurely approach for me to be able to keep up with you!

The real highlight of my day came shortly after the rain stopped. I noticed a mother bird and her chicks poking around in the grass a few yards off the road. (I did some research over dinner and my best guess is that I was looking at a Hooded Merganser and her chicks. There was a wildlife sanctuary nearby.) When the mother spotted me she ducked into the taller grass further away. She was chirping at the chicks to follow and they were chirping at one another to know which direction to go. The grass was taller than the chicks. Three of the chicks started moving towards the road, definitely the wrong direction. Two of them got turned around and headed back into the grass but the one closest to me became frightened and didn’t know what to do. The chick was slightly in front of me so I pushed the bike forward to try and encourage the little fellow to head back into the grass. Just the opposite occurred. The little guy scurried all the way across the road and into the grass on the other side. A miracle in itself really, since it was a very busy highway. I knew this guy would never be reunited with it’s mother and siblings now that it was on the wrong side of the road, so I pushed my bike across the road and went after the chick. I found it hiding, silently, in the grass about 10 yards from the shoulder. I was able to scoop it up into my hands and after waiting for traffic to clear, take it across the road and into the grass on the other side where it belonged. It didn’t make a sound after I scooped it up and as I was heading back to the other side of the road, but once it heard its siblings chirping it let out a few of its own. I placed it in the grass a safe distance from the road and headed back to my bicycle feeling happy and a tiny bit proud of myself for giving Mother Nature a helping hand.

Current Creek Pass, 9,404 ft. My first real view of snow capped peaks.

TransAm Journal - Thu June 29, 2023

Day 51

Guffey CO, 32 miles, climb 4,377 ft.

Today dished out some wicked climbing, but I made it to Guffey before the Bakery closed at 3 PM, so that’s a very good day. To be perfectly honest, I am tired. I’m very happy to have shelter for the night, at the Guffey Garage Bunkhouse.

There were three climbs today. The first coming out of Canon City was 6 miles long. The second was 3 miles long, and the third was 2 miles long. I’m not sure what the grades were but I can report that at least half the time on all three climbs I was in my lowest gear and I never made it higher than the next one up from the lowest gear. Of course that actually tells you nothing because every cyclist is different. What I can tell you for sure is that if I had not gotten the 11-32 cassette installed in St. Louis I probably would not have made it to Guffey before midnight!

Do I miss the green vastness of Kansas and Southeast Colorado prairie grasses? I enjoyed them but I don’t miss them. Growing up in Seattle I am charmed by mountains. Today was thrilling because I’m back in mountains and it reminded me of home. Not completely. These mountains are different of course. More rugged certainly for starters but there are subtle differences. The type of rocks are very different, as are the trees. In the Pacific Northwest, the mountains are dominated by Fir and Hemlock trees, here I noticed mostly Pine trees. I stopped along-side the road today to look at rocks. I picked up a small rock that looks to my eye like it has flakes of silver in it. I actually have no idea if it is silver or not, so I threw it in my pannier to ask a rock expert first chance I get. It could easily be galena, pyrite, magnetite, or maybe silver!

Tomorrow will be another day of climbing but it doesn’t look like the climbing will be as difficult as today’s was. I probably shouldn’t be saying that, since I really have no idea what lies ahead of me…

My bunkhouse in Guffey. It’s a mile and a half (uphill) off the route, but totally worth it.

TransAm - Journal Wed June 28, 2023

Day 50

Canon City CO, 48 miles

”Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” —Albert Einstein

Someone asked me, “where do you get your quotes?” The answer I gave was, “here, there, and everywhere…” Take a look at the photo below for an example.

Here’s another one: “Naïveté is the mother of adventure.” —Rinker Buck

It sure is! Sometimes the less you know about what is in front of you the better. This is my second crossing and I’m still amazed at the things I don’t know and the things I learn every day. Possibly the biggest thing I learn, and relearn, is living with uncertainty. What will I eat, where will I sleep, do I have enough to drink, can I keep my bike on the road! These questions and many more pervade my mind throughout the day. As my bar friend back in Ordway asked me, very seriously, “what do you Mother expletives think of all day as you are pedaling down the road?” My answer was simple, “Nothing, and a lot.” Sometimes my mind is blank. When the terrain has me focused on the next mile to gain, my mind is focused on what is immediately in front of me. When the progress is easy, that’s when things get expansive. I think about what I’d like to write about when I get off the bike at the end of the day, or I simply take in the sights, sounds and smells with curiosity and wonder. It really doesn’t matter if there are answers to the questions that present themselves, what matters is experiencing the moment.

Finally, here’s another quote: As Abraham Lincoln once remarked about a peddler’s pantaloons for sale, “big enough for any man, small enough for any boy.” I hope you find something interesting in this blog, regardless of the size pantaloon your may wear…

Quotes happen.

TransAm - Journal Tue June 27, 2023

Day 49

Pueblo CO, 0 miles, Rest Day

I went completely overboard yesterday and found two books to buy. It could be I’m loosing my mind, I don’t know. I’m excited about both. The first is titled Lincoln The War President, The Gettysburg Lectures Edited by Gabor Boritt. I’m really excited about this one. It’s a paperback, so it won’t be hard to carry. Better than that, I did not know that every year on the anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Gettysburg College invites a noted historian to give a public lecture. These are serious lectures presented to an audience that has not made the study of history its life’s work. I’m excited because attending one of these lectures gives me a new bucket list item. The book contains seven lectures. I’m going to learn a lot about both Lincoln and our county’s history from this read.

The second book is hard bound. I know, what could I possibly have been thinking? It’s likely I’ll mail this one home. Sometimes you are browsing books and one simply jumps into your hands and there isn’t any way you can put it back on the shelf. At least that’s what happed to me yesterday morning with this one. The book is Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. Since I know very little about Norse Mythology but I do know it’s a fascinating subject, I decided to get it. Norse Mythology has had a surprising amount influence on our western culture and I’m looking forward to discovering more about that influence. I decided nothing could go wrong reading a book written by Neil Gaiman.

Today will be spent airing things out, resting, resupplying a few essential items and enjoying a good read over a cup of good coffee. Perhaps what makes today so exciting for me is that it is a very different experience than being on the bike. That said, I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike tomorrow morning. I’m going to have a light dinner tonight and hit the road early tomorrow morning.

I had a lively conversation with Tom. He’s a smart dude and he can play the Marxophone pretty well too!

TransAm Journal - Mon June 26, 2023

Day 48

Pueblo CO, 0 miles, Rest Day

People I have talked to in towns along the way have confirmed my suspicion that there are a lot fewer cyclists on the TransAmerica Bicycle Route than in pre-COVID years. It’s a shame really because almost all the towns along the route are small and could really benefit from the stimulus provided by people passing through. I wish I had kept a more accurate count, but my number probably isn’t far off, I have passed about two dozen people heading East since I started my tour. Going West, I’ve been passed by no more than a half-dozen people, and those were in the first few days out of Yorktown, none since then. I was told in one town recently that in the past, as many as 50 cyclists would be in town on a single day. That number is just hard to comprehend based on my current experience. I don’t want to make any rash judgements about the mind-set of people in the world we live in now compared to the one we lived in just four years ago, but I think it’s clear that now things are different. Social Scientists studying us years from now will have a lot of work to do to explain these times, economically, socially, and politically.

I have a goal on rest days, besides resting, it is to visit bookstores, bakeries, and bike shops. Yes, the places I visit have to start with the letter “B”. I also give acknowledgement to the letter “C” by visiting coffee shops. There is a river walk here in Pueblo that people are quite proud of, It’s about a mile long. I’m going to take that in later this morning. Don’t think by this that I have any preference for the letter “R.” It so happens there are two book stores only a short distance from the walk. One of them is an outlet for used books acquired from the Pueblo Public Library. That should prove to be a treasure trove. You may be wondering, does he carry books with him in his panniers? No, I don’t, but I am thinking about it. If you’ve been following these stories you know that I have bought one book already, and promptly mailed it home. It will be a fine read and a fine souvenir. You never know, I may find another.

The Arkansas River as it makes it’s way into Pueblo. Muddy from recent rains and Spring snowmelt. The Rockies got snow just two weeks ago. That’s not the only reason I started my tour in the East, but it is one of them.

TransAm Journal - Sun June 25, 2023

Day 47

Pueblo CO, 55 miles

Today I exited the Great Plains of the U.S. They stretch all across Southeast Colorado to Eastern Kansas. Kansas is noted for its abundance of Sunflowers and Black Eyed Susans. Oddly enough, yesterday here at the west end of the Great Plains, they were both on display in abundance. At times my panniers were brushing up against them alongside the road. This must be the time when they start to come into bloom.

By far for me the windiest part of the plains crossing was Southeast Colorado. I spent one night trying to sleep through sustained 30 MPH wind. At times I thought the rain fly on my tent was going to be blown away. I found out the next day at breakfast that a 30 MPH wind here on the Southeast Colorado plains is what locals call a “breeze.”

The small towns spread across Southeast Colorado named this part of the TransAmerican Bicycle Route “The Prairie Horizons Trail.” That is a great name, and fitting. When you are cycling this broad expanse of prairie you set your sights on the horizon and pedal, when you reach the spot you’ve been working to gain you look around and there are more horizons — in every direction. There are no trees here to obstruct your view, or obstruct the wind. Now I know another reason why people ride this route from West to East, besides the prevailing winds, traveling West to East provides a more-or-less steady downhill ride. In my East to West crossing I’ve gained about 3,000 feet of elevation since I left Kansas. The net is 3,000 feet. It’s a bit more when you take into account rollers. I definitely think it’s more of a challenge to do the route the way I chose to do it. That does not make me a better cyclist, it’s just the way things worked out.

The town of Pueblo Colorado where I end my plains crossing has an interesting history. It was established in 1842 by fur traders that built a fort of mud and logs and named it “El Pueblo.” It lasted just three years when the Ute Indians took over the fort and occupied it. Eventually just a short distance down river the town of Pueblo was established. It later became a hub for gold and silver mining, and soon the railroads that followed. Both the Santa Fe and the Denver and Rio Grande laid tracks through Pueblo. Pueblo to this day has a steel mill that is one of the largest west of the Mississippi. The Arkansas River runs through Pueblo. I have a lot to learn about our country’s geography, I had no idea.

Tomorrow begins my northerly traverse of the Rocky Mountains. The contrast in the landscape as I turn north I expect will be dramatic.

I have covered 2,743 miles. I have 1,554 to go!

The “Great Plains” are a challenge and a beauty hard to describe.

TransAm Journal - Sat June 24, 2023

Day 46

Ordway CO, 90 miles

Just when you think you’ve done your best, you somehow find a way to do a little better. Today’s 90 miles comes as something of a surprise to me, but I am happy to take it.

I really didn’t have that many options. The towns with any services in this part of Eastern Colorado are 30 to 40 miles apart. If you’re going to cover more than one town, it means stretching your legs. I’m happy my destination town today was at 90 and not 100. It was so hot today I had to stop at 85 miles and find shade or bad things could have happened. I found shade and rested for 30 minutes. The last 5 miles was a breeze. It was also getting to that point in the afternoon when it was starting to cool off just slightly, which helped a lot.

They say that desperation is the mother of invention, it can also be the father of stupidity…

Around mid-day I was stopped on the road-side hydrating and I heard a clank-clank, clank-clank, behind me. I looked back to see what was going on and there was a car approaching with no tire on the right rear wheel. I crossed over to the other side of the road because I wanted no part of that action. As the car was passing, I waved at the driver, I intended to tell him that his repair strategy (whatever it was) was not going to turn out well. I guess he didn’t see me because he just kept on going. Sure enough, five miles down the road, there he was stopped and going nowhere. The wheel had folded in on itself and the car was resting on the rear axle. The driver had managed to turn a $100 tire plus the cost of road-side assistance into a nearly totaled vehicle. I pulled up and asked him if I could make a call for him. He told me he had a phone (I was mildly surprised) and had already called a friend. He then asked me how far to the next town. (Trust me, cyclists know these things!) I told him four miles, but there were no services. The next town after that with any services was another 40 miles. He thanked me, although I’m not sure why, it’s not like I was giving him good news.

I pulled into my destination hot, tired and as I was about to find out, not smiling. I was drinking a cold water and a woman and her friend walked by and she said to me, “I’ve never seen a cyclist smiling.” I explained that was because I was hot and tired, then I smiled at her and said, “there, you made me smile!” We chatted briefly. I explained that hot and tired comes naturally after covering 90 miles in 90 degree heat. I think that made a connection.

After hydrating, I found the local bar and went in to order a Budweiser, I learned they had run out of the stuff. It was then I realized I was in Colorado, I asked sheepishly, “do you have Coors?” The bartender said, “of course, and it’s on tap.” I said “that’s perfect.” (I exaggerate at times to ingratiate myself.) After chatting for a bit with my bar mates, I learned that the beer I was drinking was being paid for my my new friends. In return I bought a pizza and shared it around. There’s nothing quite like a small town. The fellow sitting next to me had his dog with him in the bar (again, not something you’re likely to see outside a small town). It was a six month old Australian Shepard, Blue Heeler mix. One of the cutest dogs I’ve ever seen. We became friends instantly.

There’s a hotel in town but I didn’t like the fact that they had a sign on the door, “no bicycles allowed in the hotel.” I have chosen to sleep in the city park instead. There simply is no room in the word for that sort of prejudice… Besides, I never let my bike out of my sight, it’s my horse and my best friend on the road.

Memorial sculpture to John Egbers. Don’t drive distracted please.

TransAm Journal - Fri June 23, 2023

Day 45

Sheridan Lake CO, 78 miles

The 78 miles covered today checks the box for my longest day so far, and very possibly my longest of the tour.

It’s 5:30 PM Mountain Time. I’m in Colorado! I arrived about an hour ago. Got a sandwich from the convenience store and went to check out the cyclist campground hosted by the local Christian Church. Unfortunately there is no shelter from the wind and the biting flies we’re having a field day with my ankles. Someone told me the flies don’t bite in Colorado, I guess I’m not far enough west yet.

It is windy. I’m going to call it a steady 30 MPH wind with gusts higher. I found a spot that has a pergola which doesn’t help with the wind but will provide some help if it starts to rain later. This is the first time I have written a post in a wind storm. The good news is it’s not cold. I’m waiting for it to get dark, then I will pitch the tent and the rain can do whatever it wants.

I met a guy going east this morning. Big John. He’s only 6-8, so I’m not really sure how he got that name. He needed a bit of chain lube so I fixed him up. We chatted for a bit and he was full of good advice. Super dude. You can follow him here if you’d like.

Crazy Guy On A Bike Note: It’s a BIG site with lots of cool info and blogs. To find Big John’s stuff use the search box and search for “John Murphy.”

Big John has done nine tours. Makes my four look a little weak, but hopefully I have a few more left in me. I really liked his advice about getting some copper water bottles. He said us old guys don’t get enough copper. Another nice thing about copper bottles is that they freeze nicely in hotel room refrigerators so the next day you have cold water for quite awhile!

A bit further down the road I noticed a beautiful steel sculpture. It was outside a bakery. That seemed like a good place to stop. I went in and picked out a couple of baked goods and went to pay. The nice lady told me the family of the man memorialized by the sculpture out front buys whatever a cyclist chooses to eat there. No donations accepted. What a beautiful tribute. The man’s name is John Egbers. He was attempting to cross the U.S. in 24 days. He had made it 2,200 miles in 12 days when tragedy struck John. The sculpture says “We are all diminished by one.” A distracted driver took John’s life. If I were a person of influence I would see to it that a law was passed requiring all cell phone text messaging and browsing apps be disabled if the phone was moving at 20 MPH or more. The technology to make that happen is simple. All it takes is the willingness to allow ourselves to be separated from these two non-essential activities when we are behind the wheel of a car. Maybe some day.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the weather brings tonight!

There was no sign to welcome me to Colorado, so this one will have to do.

TransAm Journal - Thu June 22, 2023

Day 44

Scott City KS, 56 miles

Last night when I was planning today’s route, it seemed like today would be a good opportunity to attempt an “epic distance” day. There are of course many “epic” days on a tour of this length, but it is always rewarding to put in one day where you stretch your legs and see how far you can go… Today was not to be that day.

Yesterday morning, the sky was dark to the east and light to the west. When you see clearing skies in your direction of travel, it always makes you feel good. This morning the sky was dark to the west. Not a good sign, or a good feeling. My idea was to have a go at 80 miles, with towns at 31, 56, and 80 miles respectively. I got 15 miles down the road and that’s when the dark skies turned to dark skies and rain. By the time I reached the first town at mile 31, I was, to put it simply, wet. I pulled into a drive-in on the outskirts of town that had covered picnic tables. I ordered some lunch and sat down to wait out the rain. Kansas is not like Seattle, when it rains in Kansas, it doesn’t rain all day long and into the next day. I figured I could wait it out and sure enough, in less than an hour it had stopped and the sky to the west was inviting me to continue my ride. At this point my “epic distance” day was becoming less likely, in fact, it was now off the table. My goal became Scott City at mile 56. All things considered, not a bad day. I would still like to put in an epic distance day at some point, we shall see what tomorrow brings.

I’ve had a desire to describe what it feels like to undertake an epic solo long distance adventure like this one. I’m someone that enjoys writing, but I’m not particularly good at expressing feelings through words. I wish I were better at that. Perhaps too many years writing computer code has ruined any chances of being expressive when it comes to writing English. I might have had a chance at being a good writer if I had started writing for pleasure at a younger age. Not much I can do about that now. What does it feel like to be on the road, solo, days on end? It is exhilarating, sometimes frustrating, often a mystery even to the person that is enjoying the experience. Sometimes I’ll see things that I know few people see, and it chokes me up. The carnage on the road-side is appalling at times, so is the beauty. Listening to the birds is something that you don’t experience while driving. That alone makes the day a success, regardless of anything else that might occur. Imagine these things combined, while traveling for hours on end under your own power and perhaps you can get something of a notion of what it feels like to undertake an epic solo long distance tour. I’m going to have to rest my case there, but I encourage you to give it a try.

This post is about 450 words written in 90 minutes. That is a rate of 5 words per minute. For the record, that does not make me 60 times better than Gustav Flaubert…

I was told at breakfast this morning to be sure and stop at this way-side and check out the historical marker. I’m certainly glad I stopped. I probably would have driven by this if I had been in a car.

TransAm Journal - Wed June 21, 2023

Day 43

Ness City KS, 64 miles

I woke this morning at 5 AM to tremendous lightening and thunder. By 6 AM when the sun should have been up it was still scary dark out. It’s now 10 AM and things are looking better, the rain has ceased and the thunder all but ceased. West of here doesn’t look quite as bad. I’m going to try and make Ness City which is 64 miles west on the route. There’s a no-tell there if things fall apart. The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for the route, so I won’t try and ford where there is water over the road. Of course, that means I’m hoping for the best and I don’t have to turn around somewhere between here and Ness City. What did I say earlier, bad luck can save you from worse luck? If I run into any bad luck I won’t tempt my worse luck by doing something stupid.

It is really hard waking up and facing the day with the thought that you can’t get on the bike. After doing it for so many days, the thought of not doing it can be upsetting. I think this is a thing that people who cycle every day experience. It’s a good thing I would say. I spent the morning thinking of options but nothing really matters because everything depends on what the weather decides to do. I did do some laundry, so if I get rained on today, the rain will be falling on clean cycling clothes.

“He who will, the fates lead, he who won’t, the fates drag…”

The fates led me well today. No rain. Wind at my back most of the day. Dry pavement.

By-the-way, what is a run on sentence, well, I’m not sure, I suppose it’s words expressing multiple thoughts that are joined together with commas when instead they could have been expressed as separate thoughts, commonly referred to as sentences, I’m just guessing, but I’m pretty sure there are some people, possibly even people reading this, that have a much better idea what a run-on sentence is than I do, period

Kansas is not really like a pancake.

TransAm Journal - Tue June 20, 2023

Day 42

Great Bend KS, 70 miles

We all have days when we question what we’re doing. When you have a day like that, it’s always better to have a purpose behind it.

My immediate purpose is getting to the next town. The ultimate purpose is completing an epic journey. After that, there will be new challenges, but there’s no time to consider them right now.

I have mentioned my good fortune a number of times already. For the record, I feel fortunate once again. The wind is out of the south today, which makes riding west a pleasure. I can’t put up the spinnaker, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have a southerly wind. I’m told that winds in June are typically out of the south. The westerly winds usually precede a storm out of Colorado. I’m hoping I don’t have to deal with any of those.

It is really good to be back on a Brooks #17 saddle. At least for me, it is the most comfortable saddle I have ridden. I’ll be riding one of these from now on. When I can’t tour any more I’ll put one on my stationary bike.

I have discovered that my new thirst quencher of choice is iced tea. Not only does it taste good but it also gives you a nice kick of caffeine. Oddly enough, there are times riding mid-day when you can be overwhelmed by tiredness. There is a strong temptation to close your eyes. That is a very dangerous thing to do on a bike. Iced tea helps to alleviate that hazard.

I saw a sign that said “free water for bikers,” so I stopped. The water bottles were in a cooler of ice and there was even a bench to sit on. Next to the bench was a sign that said leave us a story about where your have come from and where you are heading. that was very sweet. I sat on the bench, drinking my ice cold water and wrote a little story. Before I had finished writing I noticed flies biting my ankles. They were nasty little things. They were leaving my SPF leggings alone, but they could bite right through my wool socks. My ankles itched for a good half an hour after I got going again.

As I was stopped at an intersection, digging through my pannier for a banana, a fellow pulled up in a pick-up truck and asked me if I was okay. (It’s always tempting to say “if I were okay I wouldn’t be doing this,” but that’s not truly how I feel about the experience.) I told the man I was fine. He asked me where I was coming from and where I was headed. I gave him the particulars. He said “I hope to do that some day.” I smiled and said, “if I can do it you can do it!” He seemed very pleased by that comment.

Finally today: For those of you that know the back-story about how this blog gets written, please don’t tell my alumni friends that I am taking editorial advice from an alumna that did not graduate from our alma mater…

That is one nice looking bicycle. It is an amazing machine.

TransAm Journal - Mon June 19, 2023

Day 41

Hutchinson KS, 75 miles

Today was my first real “mileage” day in Kansas. It was mostly flat, but not as flat as a pancake. I know, I’ve been telling people Kansas is “flatter than a pancake” but don’t believe it. There is one benefit to hills when you are going west, when you’re climbing the crest of the hill blocks the wind. Once you reach the top it’s a different ball game until you get to the next hill…

I should be able to reach Colorado in three days. I’m going to try and make that happen. It’s good to be back on the TransAm and I’m loving the new Panaracer Gravel/Road tires. They feel comfortable and they are sure footed. I’m running tubes in them but they can be set up tube or tubeless. I’m starting to think there is nothing wrong with tubes, perhaps it’s even better for a long tour. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this as I get more time on them.

I was poaching a campsite in a city park that closes from dusk to dawn. The County Sheriff was checking me out this morning but he was too late, the sun was already up. I waved at him. He stayed in his car and watched me pack up. After awhile I looked up and he was gone. I’m just not a very interesting fellow.

When I left Kentucky I went north to St. Louis, rode the Katy Trail, then dropped back down south and rode most of the Flint Hills Trail. By my calculation I covered 690 miles, If I had stayed on the TransAm through Illinois, Missouri, and Eastern Kansas I would have traveled 689 miles. That seems like a pretty efficient detour considering all the great stuff I accomplished along the way.

Tomorrow’s mileage will depend largely on wind and terrain, both of which I have no clue about at the moment…

It’s good to be back on the TransAm. It’s also good to be back on a B-17. Ron and Brutus had a used one they were saving for someone with exceptional taste, like me. I snatched it up. Now I can say I’m riding the saddle this website is named after. Not sure why I ever switched to a C-17, but today’s riding confirmed for me that I will never ride anything other than a Brooks #17.

TransAm Journal - Sun June 18, 2023

Day 40

Florence KS, 47 miles (Father’s Day!)

“You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.”
—No Country For Old Men.

In my case, remarkably good luck has improved the outcome of this trip time and time again. I can’t even really think of a case where I have had worse luck, let alone bad luck. I consider myself a very lucky traveler. I have no explanation for this other than the following observation. Be nice to people. Listen to what they have to say (even if you don’t think they are saying anything) and ask lots of questions. Sometimes it’s not complicated. Sometimes someone will come up to you and ask, “are you the guy riding the bike parked out front?” When that happens, you know you are about to get some good “intel” on the local scene or where you should go next.

My string of amazing luck continues. The owner of the local bike shop is going to open for me at 10 AM this morning because I need tires (again) and repair supplies. He’s going to do this for me even though he is normally closed Sunday and Monday. To make matters even more remarkable, today is Father’s Day and he’s still going to accommodate me.

I also enjoyed two firsts last night. A full-on mid-West firefly exhibition and a full-on thunder and lightening storm after that. I was okay. I set up near a covered structure and when the first drops of rain started coming down, I quickly moved my tent under cover. I knew it was coming because the wind picked up first, enough to wake me. I stayed dry and comfortable all night.

After I get tires and supplies I’m going to try and make Florence KS. It’s 47 miles from here. If Google Maps can find a way to keep me off gravel, I stand a good chance of making it. I have not found a “no gravel” setting when GM is in “bike mode.” I’ll keep looking. Yesterday when I decided to abandon the Flint Hills Trail and head for Emporia. GM insisted I get back on the Trail for another 9 miles, then once I got off the trail it put me on ANOTHER 9 miles of gravel. I had installed my emergency tube in the front wheel as a latch ditch effort to get me rolling yesterday and I did not have a patch kit in case that failed. I babied the tire on gravel, walking at times when the rocks were bad. The tire held, it must have been my excellent repair skills. To keep the tube from pushing itself out of the gash in the side-wall of the tire I folded a bill lengthwise and inserted it between the tire and the tube. I didn’t have a $1 bill so I used a $5 bill, those are five times better anyway. (GM tried to put me on gravel 2 miles out of town so I said no to that and put it in car mode. I was on a 12 foot shoulder all the way to Florence, best asphalt riding I’ve had to-date!

There is one restaurant in Florence and it was open. I was mildly surprised since it is Sunday. However, when I walked in a gentleman by the door told me it was a private party. I smiled, thanked him and walked out. (There was a Conoco a mile away so I had a plan B.) As I was heading out a young man stopped me and we chatted a bit about my trip. He was most kind and apologized for sending me away with no food. I told him a slice of pizza at the Conoco would do. That’s where I went. As I was eating my slice of pizza the young man drove up with dinner for me in a to go box. He explained that he went back in, told everyone about meeting me, and everyone at the party chewed the old man out for turning me away! It’s a beautiful thing. As an interesting side note, the town’s water is spring fed, the tower says the water is 99.967% pure. You bet I’ll fill my water bottles in the morning!

Ron the bike shop dude and his dog Brutus to the rescue!

TransAm Journal - Sat June 17, 2023

Day 39

Emporia KS, 71 miles

You’re never sleeping alone when you sleep in a cemetery…

I skipped the cemetery last night and I slept outside the Franklin County Visitor’s Center. I was at the “Not Lost Brewery” in Ottawa and met the owner of the bike shop in town. He gave me the tip about the Visitor’s Center. I like the brewery name, “Not Lost.” One can only hope I suppose. I spent the evening looking over my ACA maps and calculating when I will complete the second stage of my journey…

I’m viewing the ride in three stages. The first stage brought me to the end of the Katy Trail. The second stage will take me from there to the ski resorts west of Denver. This will get me over the highest pass on the TransAm Route, Hoosier Pass, over 11,500 feet. The third stage will take me through Yellowstone, the Rocky Mountains, Idaho, Central Oregon and on to the Pacific Coast. That’s a lot of riding yet to come, but I’m looking forward to it.

There are many rewarding aspects to touring by bicycle. Not knowing what is around the next corner is one of them. The thought of what lies ahead is both intimidating and exhilarating, full of discovery. Once the question of what lies ahead is answered and you get off the bike, the discovery continues. It’s a great way to live each day.

There are some aspects that are less rewarding. Like the blow-out on the Flint Hills Trail today. I tried to fix it with a dart but the gash in the side-wall was too big for a dart. So I then took the tire off the rim and put some dart material inside the tire over the tear and remounted the tire. The sealant tried its best to take care of the leak but it didn’t hold. I carry one spare tube for emergencies and I deemed this an emergency, so I folded a bill and put it between the tube and the gash, remounted the tire and was on my way. I’m still nervous about the whole thing so I decided to reroute to Wichita for another set of tires. That’s over 100 miles but at least it’s going in the right direction. To finish the day I rode to the town of Emporia, my total mileage for today was 71 miles. When I got to Emporia I discovered to my surprise that there is a bike shop. It was closed, but I called the owner and he is going to open up for me tomorrow morning. Another great example of how helpful and accommodating people are out here.

They still have some work to do on the Flint Hills Trail. I left the trail at mile 56 and diverted to the town of Emporia.

TransAm Journal - Fri June 16, 2023

Day 38

Raymore MO to Flint Hills Nature Trail KS, MP 20, 63 miles

Yesterday about ten miles outside Clinton I realized the rear tire was low again. It has had a puncture for several hundred miles that sealant just can’t manage. I had new race sealant (thicker compound) put in before I started the Katy Trail but that wasn’t holding either. When I stopped to check the air it was down to 20 lbs. That’s not good. I inflated the tire up to 80 and it immediately went back down to 20. I limped in carefully to Clinton and found the Community Center where I got off the bike to assess the situation.

The options appeared to be 1) patch the tire on the inside, re-inflate and hope for the best. 2) Put in a tube and hope for the best, or 3) find new tires. It so happens I need new tires anyway, This set has about 4,000 miles on them and they are 4 years old. they aren’t going to go much farther. If I were to continue west on the route, there aren’t any bike shops until Wichita, about 250 miles from Clinton. That seems like a poor choice for tires that need replacing. The nearest bike shop that had tires for me was 60 miles north. I wasn’t crazy about adding 120 miles and 3 days to my itinerary (out and back from Clinton). As I was mulling over all the options I was chatting with the (very) nice lady that runs the Clinton Community Center. She was fantastic. She said why don’t you call Greg and he’ll shuttle you up to Raymore to the bike shop. So that’s what I did. Greg said he was leaving in two minutes headed north and he’d pick me up and give me a ride. That’s how I ended up at Dave’s Bicycles in Raymore.

I arrived at Dave’s 15 minutes before closing and Dave and his crew got me all set up with new tires. The best part of all this, besides the help at the Community Center, Greg’s Shuttle Service, and the crew at Dave’s, is I now have a new option available to me for heading west from here! Thank you Dave for the awesome tip about the Flint Hills Nature Trail!

I’ve been writing about the Katy Trail, the longest rail-trail in Missouri (and the U.S.) but the longest rail-trail running east-west in Kansas is 43 miles Southwest of here. It’s the Flint Hills Nature Trail and it runs from Osawatomie KS to Council Grove KS, about 100 miles. It is the longest rail-trail in Kansas and it will be part of the proposed coast-to-coast trail system. I can’t pass up this opportunity. After I reach Council Grove I’ll make my way back to the TransAm Route.

A big shout-out to everyone that helped me yesterday. Great people, great towns. Perhaps leaving a blessing back at the Pour Poet in the morning was a gesture that was returned to me later in the day… you never know…

When I hit the state line there was no sign, so this was my “first step” off the bike in Kansas.