Don’t let the initial shoulder fool you: Baggs, WY to Craig, CO
Thursday July 25, 2013, 45 miles (73 km) – Total so far: 3,209 miles (5,164 km)
I am standing at the state border. The sign says, ‘Welcome to Colorful Colorado’. It’s false advertising up here in the northwestern part of the state. The landscape falls away before me in muted colours of brown and sage green. The most colourful thing I can see is all of the broken glass at my feet scattered about the welcome sign.
I lean my bike against the sign support. I take the requisite photo. I then lean against the pole, slipping down it slowly until I’m in a squatting position with my back against the wood. I gaze down into Colorado. I don’t know why my heart is not in this. I still have a month to ride. Many cycle tourists would love to be able to have that much time to tour.
I sigh. I lean my head back. The focus of this tour was Nebraska and Wyoming. I only loosely plotted a course through Colorado before the trip. All of my pre-trip research time went into the other states. Even my trip notes end in Baggs. I guess, in a way, I feel like the trip is already over. The Colorado bit is just the cinnamon sprinkles on top of the latte of a ride. Or something like that. Maybe I’m just not willing to give up the good shoulders and lack of people in Wyoming. Whatever the case, I take one last look at Wyoming and think about what a fantastic two months I’ve just had.
Then we push forth – the crew and me ready to ride another 1000 miles or so. Colorado welcomes us with a nice shoulder. Thank you! Good shoulders are rare in this state. This only lasts for about 10 miles, then it’s back to the old shoulder-less road. This section of road also has no extra lane width. When a semi passes, it takes up the entire lane, from white line to centre striping.
The traffic is light to start, but increases as I progress south. At one point, the road climbs up a moderate hill. As I’m climbing, I’m watching the opposite lane. Sure enough, an RV comes over the crest, closely followed by an oil tanker. Gaining on me from behind is a flat-bed semi. I bail.
The road verge slopes steeply down to a drainage ditch, so I can only get a few feet off the road. Even this is hard work to keep the bike upright, so I just lay it down as I lean out of the way. I’m hoping I don’t get a flat from something thorny. The truck heading up the hill has slowed way down. He’s probably only doing 35-45 mph when he passes me. Of course, he passes by me as the vehicles in the opposite lane are passing, too. The guy on my side actually has his wheels on the very edge of the pavement.
I’m less than 20 miles into the state, and I’ve already had to bail off the road. Yeah, I remember why I’m not so fond of the riding conditions in this state. The semi-driver is a good guy, though. As he passes by, he flashes his left turn signal, then his right, then his left again. This is a trucker gesture of “thank you”. I lift my arm and wave in recognition.
There are more hills to climb before the road finally descends to a creek. The road follows this drainage into Craig. In the final mile before I get a shoulder at mile marker 111, I do another self-preservation bail. There is a short stretch of straight-ish road ahead. I can see a semi and a following car at the beginning of the stretch, as I round a corner.
The car pulls out to overtake the semi. No worries. But then the *&*#er decides to pass the truck without speeding up. Crap. He’s not going to get around that truck before he gets to me. I start to brake. And dive for the edge of the road. To myself I’m screaming, “What the F is he thinking!! Speed up!! Speed up!! He’s not even going to get around that truck before the corner!!”
Then, all of a sudden, the car driver brakes hard and dives behind the truck about 100 feet ahead. I’m already off the road, in a sagebrush bush at this point. And then the guy has the nerve to honk and flip me off. What the (all capitals expletive here)?! He’s the one who screwed that up. If he’d actually accelerated to get around that truck, it would have all been fine. I didn’t do anything wrong, and I’m actually not even on the road when he passes by. (Granted, I’m only about one foot off the edge). I grumble down the road for over a half hour. I pedal furiously, pushing very hard, stomping out my anger through the pedals. Consequently, our average speed for the day is pretty good!
After a meal at Wendy’s (protein! – burger, baked potato and chili!), I cruise around town and buy a bunch of food at the supermarket. My supplies are almost non-existent since I haven’t shopped since Laramie. I head out to the east of town to the ex-KOA. It’s acceptable but expensive. Yep, welcome to Colorado!