Saturday September 13, 2014, 28 miles (46 km) – Total so far: 5,217 miles (8,396 km)
The morning is brisk to say the least. I’m pretty sure it was as cold, or colder, last night than the night before. This morning we are treated to more clear skies. I’m up early because the weather forecast, when I checked it in Saratoga a couple days ago, suggested that I would have some pretty full-on and unfavourable winds today. So even though it is just a short ride down to Walden, the plan is to get it out of the way before the wind picks up.
You can see your breath this morning. My frozen fingers fumble with the tent. They don’t bend or grip well when it is this cold. My lungs are raspy this morning, also. I can tell that tours 20 years from now are going to require some adaptations of some sort – or at least routes and a time of year where it doesn’t get below freezing.
Still, we are pedalling up the hill out of the campground by 7.45am. I’m wearing lots of warm clothing this morning! Several groups of campers showed up late last night – it’s a Friday night thing in a lot of campgrounds I’ve visited. The guy who is camping right up the end is standing by his truck making coffee. He sees me and does a double-take, then he says, “Where the heck did you just come from?” I tell him I was camping a few sites down.
He replies, “Oh. In the trees. You don’t have a car then?”
I reply, “Nah. They’re a bit much to fit in the panniers.”
He raises his eyebrows and says, “Shit. You mean you’re riding that bike on your own with all of your stuff. No way.”
“Yeah. I’m almost finished though. My trip will be over in just a couple weeks. Then I’ll be back to car camping with other people again.”
He then asks the standard six and offers me coffee. I decline but wish him luck with his fishing over the weekend. Then I recommence spinning my way up the hill out of the campground in the frigid air. By the time I make it out to the road, I’ve warmed up a teeny bit, but the wind is already 5-10 mph out of southwest. It whisks away any extra warmth. Brrrrr…..
The road heads on down the wide valley. I take a few moments to get a picture with the Colorado sign, but it’s too cold to want to mess too much with trial and error on the self-timer. So soon we are back to a nice descent to the North Platte River. It emerges from two rocky, rounded hills on the right and courses down willow-lined banks to cross the road before entering the canyon we hiked along yesterday. I see three bald eagles lined up along fence posts in a paddock to the left.
Because the river goes one way, and the road goes another, there is a climb between pine-clad hills that curves over a low prong of the Medicine Bow Mountains. I didn’t take enough food with me from Saratoga for the last two days, so I’m low on energy and feeling a bit wonky as I head up the hill. As you round the corner and then begin to drop down the opposite side, views of North Park come into view. It is a huge expanse of rangeland ringed in the far distance by mountains whose peaks are covered with fresh snow. The ride across the northern end of the park has some gentle undulations, but the greatest impediment to progress is the darned wind. It is mostly a crosswind, but it is already quite strong. The road is pretty busy, too, for not being really in between anywhere substantial.
I’m very disappointed to find that the grocery store on the way into town is out-of-business. No veggies for Nerd Em. When I roll into town, I discover there is now a Family Dollar, however. So I won’t starve, but I won’t get any fresh produce either. What I most desperately need is an antihistamine, though. Ever since I descended into the valley, I’ve been sneezing in a way that suggests my body is trying to wage World War III with some particularly nasty set of foreign intruders. As I climb off the bike, I commence a sneezing session so violent and extended that I nearly suffocate because I can’t breathe among all the sneezing. A woman getting out of her car laughs as she walks by, while I’m still sneezing, and says, “Oh my god. I didn’t even know that was humanly possible.”
Finally, after exhausting my entire stock of tissues in the handlebar bag, I think I might be able to make it through the store. I pick up some generic antihistamines (and consider just popping one right then and there), an assortment of food, and some degreaser and rags to clean my chain.
I ride up the street to see if the supermarket has merely moved. Walden is pretty much a one-street, six-block-long sort of town, and the supermarket has not moved in. It is just gone. But the town is pretty busy today. There are three ‘seasons’ currently happening for the hunter folks (muzzle-loading, archery and something else). There are also several motorcycle touring groups patronising the two local restaurants that have achieved decent ratings on Yelp. Consequently, there are a lot of middle-aged, outdoorsy, independent-looking men on the main street of Walden. Of course, it’s nice to look at, but I certainly am not in need of another one of those (I’m looking for veggies after all!), so I turn around and head down to the park. There is a football game going on at the high school field, and apparently, volleyball going on inside the gym. It’s all small-town Americana for sure.
I continue sneezing and sniffling as I stake the tent out to dry on the grass. I huddle behind a maintenance shed out of the wind, but in the sun. After eating a bunch of food, I clean the bike, giving an extended amount of attention to the chain, derailleurs and cables. The shifting problems persist – however many bike shop visits, replacement parts and afternoons of fumbling I’m up to now.
Later in the afternoon, I head down to the motel where I’ve booked a room. There is not a lot of choice, and you have to book ahead of time to get a decent room because it is hunting season. I’m not expecting my friend to come up until late tonight, so there is plenty of time to shower, relax and wage an immense counter-attack on my allergies. Of course, I’m really just fighting myself – but my body, with its collection of auto-immune diseases, seems to like it that way. Never mind… at least the shower feels wonderful – it’s my first one since Casper. Another day closer to the end of the ride….