Julesburg to Sterling: Sprinting to beat the storm
Sunday June 6, 2010, 63 miles (102 km) – Total so far: 1,361 miles (2,190 km)
There’s a brief thunderstorm in the morning, so I wait until the roads have dried up a bit before heading off. I stop at the little supermarket in Julesburg to get food for today and tonight. The checkout woman asks where I’m headed. I tell her, ‘Colorado Springs, but just to North Sterling Reservoir for tonight’. She replies, ‘Watch out for the rattlesnakes. They’ve really started to come out. My niece lives near there and they’ve just had tons of them in the past two weeks’. I thank her for the tip. I’ll keep a watch out, but reptiles don’t really scare me, just lightning.
Outside of town the local airport is a happening place – there’s a bunch of people involved in some organised drag-racing there. Then it’s on toward Ovid which has a HUGE old sugarbeet factory that’s vacant and falling down. That industry’s heyday is long since gone. The town is quiet this morning, but there’s still a few blocks of houses, a post office, and supposedly a very good Mexican restaurant left. On into the headwind – it’s not too strong, but enough to wipe a few mph off the speedo. Sedgewick has some two-story buildings in a downtown that once held promise, but the highway and shifts in industry have passed it by. Not visible, but still out there to the north is an active, intercontinental ballistic missile field (the other one is up in SD) maintained by the Air Force base near Cheyenne.
I arrive into Crook, another small town with a bustling past and a quiet present. There are actually a couple little cafes and a liquor store here, but it’s Sunday, so they’re closed. However, there’s a big park with very green grass and a picnic shelter, so I stop for lunch. I first go next door to an ancient gas station to get a Coke. There’s an ancient man inside with a little dog and I can only imagine what great stories the man’s got. He’s not all that friendly though, so I don’t try to engage him. He does say that the water out of the park faucets is safe to drink though. I figure it must be okay, simply because he’s as old as I hope to live and the water hasn’t killed him yet. I refill my Camelbak and am pleased to find the water tastes good and is actually quite cold.
There’s not much traffic, but a few motorcyclists are out. I pass by a couple of them who have stopped on the side of the road at the edge of Crook. The guy calls out, ‘where you headed’? I reply, ‘the Springs’. He yells back, ‘So are we’! And I call back over my shoulder (not in the mood to stop for a chat right now), ‘I bet you get there faster than me’! Some minutes later they’ll pass me and wave and be long gone.
More of the same scenery, but further along the road you can see the Peetz wind farm in the distance with grazing cattle in the foreground. I’ve been watching the clouds building all day, too. Some of them have been developing since about 9am, and now there’s quite a few towering thunderheads off to the north and west. I’m wanting to camp tonight, but I’m thinking I’ll make that decision when I get to the turn-off. However, by the time I reach the junction with Hwy 113, I’ve already decided I’ll head into Sterling to camp at the commercial campground. Some of the thunderheads I’m seeing now are popping up really quickly.
My pleasant ride today ends here. At the 113 junction I start picking up considerably more traffic, including trucks. There’s no to little road shoulder and the traffic isn’t waiting to pass or giving me any room. I even get honked at a couple times, and not in a friendly and encouraging way. Plus, the headwind has gotten stronger. Uggh. As I’m getting closer to Sterling I see some massive thunderheads coming my way. If I don’t hurry up, I’m going to get wet. So I start to ride as fast as I can, but man, that headwind is impeding progress. By the time I get to the edge of Sterling, the storms are bearing down and I’m ‘sprinting’. It’s so frustrating because I’m going as fast as I can, but it’s just not that fast.
As I ride, I keep an eye out for building overhangs that I could dash under if needed. Unfortunately the commercial campground is out on the other side of the interstate, so I have to ride through town and over the railbridge with the storm growing closer and closer. I can even hear thunder now. Once I get past the interstate I’m thinking the clouds are spelling out HOTEL, not camping, so I head toward a TravelLodge for which I have a coupon. But it is closed, so I head next door to the Super8. The lady won’t give me any discount. But at this point, I don’t care, so I fork over $60 cash. It turns out to be a pretty run-down place, and I suspect it won’t bear the Super 8 brand much longer. All the other ones I’ve stayed in have been nice (and all run by Indian folks), but this one (run by an ‘American’) has seen better days.
It turns out to be $60 well spent, though. I’m barely into my room when that storm hits and drops marble sized hail. 10 minutes later the tornado siren goes off. There’s also a tornado warning out for the reservoir where I wanted to camp. The rest of the evening the TV shows are quite frequently interrupted by the emergency broadcast messages. The place I’d intended to camp has yet another tornado warning and a separate severe thunderstorm warning go out for it that evening. The tornado siren goes off near the motel once again, too. I’m soooo glad I changed my mind about the camping tonight.
Ave speed: 10.6mph Max speed: 18.2 mph
Elevation start: 3478 ft. Elevation end: 3935 ft.