Boondocking the Nation: 17 Days, 8300mi, 1 Motel
DAY 2 (Sept 4, 2010)
Sitting in an open air live concert in downtown Boulder, I can only think of how far I have come in this one day. I awoke in a hammock in the cool Missouri woods, the dogs barking at me a mile off when I set up last night commenced at 4:30am when I unzipped my down mummy bag and cracked the Velcro barrier exiting the hammock. Riding by 4:45, I set out into the dark back roads on an unfamiliar state with no idea of going north to I-70 or south to the more scenic Kansas 400, all I knew was…WEST!!! Down dark two lanes I twisted into the pre-dawn. I had enough fuel for another 100 mi, or until the sun came up.
After continuing through the German-settled river town of Westphalia by the Osage River, I took a quick rest to view the river fogs below the horizon’s orange ribbon of dawn.
A little history about Osage County
Meandering northwest, I made the capitol, Jefferson City, by sunrise and had my picture taken by a passerby at the state capitol.
His comment from the idling pickup truck “Virginia Aye? I will be there next week on business.” This reminded me of how far I am from home, but more importantly, how much farther I have yet to go.
I succumb to a toll road, the Kansas Turnpike, which gave me a stub with no prices listed. Expecting a $5- $10 Baltimore/NY Style charge at the end, I was relieved when the smiling attendant asked $1.25 please. “Now that I can afford” I exclaimed. Some time later, I came across another toll and almost asked “How many more between here and Denver” but stopped short. I’ll take em anyway.
I must admit I was slowly becoming impatient for the long flat stretched of nothingness I have heard about in prairie country. I should have been more careful with what I wished for. Soon, the turns in the road became non-existent or only at right angles when diverting around a field.
The acres of corn gave way to grasslands and large cattle operations…then back to corn.
I had never seen this specific strain of corn with its long fluffy top giving it a much different appearance to the feed corn to which my eastern eyes were accustomed.
The occasional town punctuated my 70mph drone across the grassland providing opportunities to stand on the pegs or stop for gas and a drink of water from my camelback.
A real "Fix-Me-Upper".
Magic Eight Ball for Luck
I had only apples, pear and a regrettably unhealthy McDonalds Sausage Burrito in a moment of frugal confusion brought on by a cunning billboard design team. Bastards!
Over each low rolling hill I’d climb, then down to see the frequent windmill assumably generating electricity for the pumping of water to cattle. The temperature rose quickly as the sun swung around to my face. I forgot to put on sun screen each time I stopped, remembering 20 seconds after I exited town and resumed my 70mph pace.
Never have I seen so many Sun Flowers
And more Sun Flowers
With sun-reddened nose, I would peer over the next rise, imagining the Rocky Mountains materializing in view but at 300mi, I knew it was wishful thinking. Stops for fuel broke up the trip and allowed my muscles rest from the stiff crosswinds.
As a geographer, I always get a kick out of locational oddities and imaginary lines.
For 300mi, I was forced by nature’s pressure differentials to ride at an angle skewed left of the horizon. Looking to the south before my head was jerked back, I cursed the expansive prairie winds yet reminded myself “This is what it’s all about”. It wouldn’t be a real trip without adverse conditions. I am reminded of a quote by Robert Pirsig in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”
“There’s nothing up head that’s any better than what is right here”
A classic toaster tank R75 in a small "Speed Zone" town.
I was an insect slaughtering machine!
My dreams of riding west, the arid deserts and rocky mountains ahead only to be unlocked by this crucible. I stopped at the “Welcome to Colorado” sign and a passing Illinois motorist with a Harley in the truck bed stopped and offered to take my picture with the sign. I gladly accepted and spoke with him about his past injury and how distance riding is out of the question now. He is going riding out in CO and it is his first time this far west as well. I accepted his photo offer yet regret not returning the offer. Like my inattentive lacking applications of sunscreen, I kicked myself 20seconds after the fact 5 miles down the road.
After endless distant highway miles with 10mi vistas, I crested a rise in the Arapaho and witnessed, for the first time in my young life, the Rocky Mountains. I let out a loud “Yippeee!” and pumped my fist in the air like any immature easterner would after 1500 miles and a lifetime of anticipation. I finally “Feel West”. I zoom out on the Garmin Nuvi GPS to see the entire nation, my nation, with my motorcycle icon left of center approaching the mountains of my dreams. As Christian, a buddy back east said, “Once you see them, add three hours of travel time till you actually reach them” He was absolutely right.
Eventually, after crossing through hours of Colorado which could easily be confused for Kansas, I meet I-70 and jumped on the fastest legal speed limit highway I have ever driven. The posted 75mph speed limit was sure to suck down my freshly filled gas tank so I kept at 70mph and enjoyed the view of the setting sun on the Rockies. What a feeling of accomplishment. The sun, which burned into my tearing eyes for the past desolate 150mi was obscured by clouds as I rolled into Denver. The golden arcs of a Rocky Mountain sunset, bright rays burn holes through the fluffy pink condensation aloft. “Is this real?” I ask myself, rolling past the Denver International Airport.
On 270, an eight lane wide race track, I spotted a rider broken down in the left shoulder adjacent the fast lane sandwiched between the jersey wall and speeding traffic. I stopped on the safer right side emergency lane to lend a hand but she waved me off. The car reversing up the fast lane was there to help her and I honestly would not have been able to frogger my way across the massive interstate. It would have been interesting to witness just how she made her escape though. Hopefully a passing police car would stop and help her.
An oil refinery off the roadside
20 minutes later, I turned into Boulder and immediately thought I was tricking my grumbling stomach into smelling fresh foods. No, I was not imagining things. The scent of exotic spices, sweet baked goods and BBQ pork all wafted through my helmet and I opened the visor to take it in. I crept up on the downtown, letting my nose guide the way. The culprit: a sea of vendors at a free outdoor concert, thousands relaxed taking in the mild summer breezes while enjoying local ales and roasted meat. I worked through town past the walking mall and parked uptown at my cousin’s apartment. I sent an “OK” message on the SPOT tracker, stowed my gear and put on more “civilian” clothes than boots and bicycle shorts. With crocs and a pair of convertible pants on, I walked the ½ mi to the downtown bustle to explore the night life.
People were everywhere milling about and I walked around for an hour in awe of where I am, the different appearance of the many young folks in comparison to back east, the smells of garlic pasta, Vietnamese dishes, fresh coffee and Nag Champa incense wafting from the cafes and open store fronts.
I walked over and checked out the concert then retired to the open patio of a coffee shop/bookstore.
Sitting in the metal chair sipping a Boulder blend, I people watch and write this journal entry waiting for my cousin to get off work at 10. They have a Tesla Dealer in town:eek1
An old church door walking back to my cousin's house.
After returning and meeting up with my cousin, we head out to a downtown bar and I get a few slider burgers for $5 and we chat till about midnight. I am tired but enjoy the company and immensity of the distance just covered.
Tomorrow I will take a day off from riding and day hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park. I hope the elevation doesn’t kick my ass...