We were excited to see mountains, and we got them, eventually. Eastern Colorado is not surprisingly a lot like Kansas. We had the opportunity to ride alongside 20+ miles of decommissioned railcars, designed to haul automobiles, parked in the middle of nowhere. A testament to the current economy I suppose. All I can say is that there are some talented train yard artists out there; some of the work on display belonged in a gallery.
It wasn’t long before we spotted the sign you see here. We took it as a healthy perspective - only later did we find out that this area had suffered a disastrous fire less than two years ago. The reconstruction is still in progress. We had a chance to visit extensively with a lady that lost her previous home in the blaze. Actually, she hosted us! Her name was Gillian and we had the pleasure of meeting her through the super awesome clerk at the library. Once at her place she put us up proper in her 5th wheel, a setup especially for folks doing work exchange and cross-country cyclists like us. Speaking of work exchange, Gillian introduced us to helpx.net, a site that allows you to connect with folks around the globe. Work and Travel in New Zealand anyone? We had the pleasure of doing some work around Gillian’s place, which is great since we are rarely able to repay our hosts. Clancy and Joe dug and backfilled the electrical trench you see here. I got off easy and helped Gillian install some sliding glass doors. Ah teamwork. Also worthy of mention, her place was a wildlife refuge of sorts, home to dogs, goats, horses, and a large number of injured and recuperating turkeys and geese. Gillian was indeed an awesome lady and quite the adventurer herself. She had traveled all over the world and sailed extensively. We had quite the time socializing and cooking spaghetti in her house that evening.
The next day we rolled into Pueblo, Colorado. We had been in contact with Chris and Danny, attendee and pastor of a local church that was happy to put us up for the night. We scurried through a sketchy section of road construction as nightfall was closing in, arriving at the church just in time to join the potluck in progress. Let me tell you, people pulled out all the stops for this dinner. We sampled everything from cornbread and chili, to pasta, to more than our share of desserts. Funny how food seems to find us (or is it the other way around?). After overstuffing ourselves we enjoyed a bible study before watching a couple VHS movies and proceeded to crash out from fullness and exhaustion. It had been a number of days since our last rest day so we opted to lay low the next morning. We watched a De Niro flick over an extended breakfast and eventually filtered outside. Clancy explored Pueblo on bike while Joe and myself took advantage of the library. A lazy day felt great for the legs.
In the morn we mounted up on our rested steeds and started making our way north to Denver where we planned to catch the Amtrak to San Fran. The scenery did not disappoint. We were surrounded by mountains for the first time following the Ozarks and boy did it feel good. In addition to the terrain we laid eyes on the world’s largest rocking chair - 21 feet and weighing over 9,000 pounds, it seemed like a proper chair for Paul Bunyan. That night we scoped out the Colorado College campus in Colorado Springs. While we were enjoying a live funk bank in the student union a fellow approached us and introduced himself as Luke. Having toured himself he was easily able pick us out as bicycle traveling types (I’d normally chalk it up to us not showing frequently but we were each fortunate enough to have taken one that morning). Luke invited us to the Synergy House just down the way where some people were gathering that night. We kindly accepted and showed up a bit later in time to meet Jack and his fellow housemates. Everyone was super friendly and excited to have us. We had the pleasure of meeting Daniel and Lisbet at the Synergy House as well. Daniel had traveled from Argentina clear up to New England over the last year and a half on bicycle. What an epic Journey! He couldn’t say enough good things about South and Central America despite some people’s hesitation to visit such areas. Before saying our goodnights Daniel, Lisbet, and Luke offered to accompany us on a ride out to the Garden of the Gods the following morning. We graciously accepted and found ourselves on some great bike paths on the way to the garden the next day. The Garden of the Gods is a geological masterpiece. Fault lines have stood horizontal bands of sandstone vertically, resulting in a series of rocky spines that must be seen to be believed. The sight was the most impressive since Glacier National Park. Check out our photo gallery for more pictures - definitely worth a look. Departing from the garden, we pedaled toward Manitou Spring where we enjoyed naturally carbonated mineral water and some music from a character named “Grandpa Taylor.” Soon afterward we said our sad goodbyes to our tour guides and new friends. After grocery shopping and hitting up REI we began riding once again with daylight quickly fading. We opted to ride late into the night on a dirt path that cut through the Air Force Academy. This might not have been the best decision in the end. I foolishly rode ahead of Clancy and Joe using only moonlight to illuminate my way given that my headlight was on the fritz. I ended up ramming straight into a low gate that snuck up on me; sadly it was chained solidly to a concrete reinforcement so there wasn’t much give to the sucker. As I came to an abrupt halt the rear end of my bike lifted clear up, attempting to catapult me over the gate. I still don’t know how I didn’t end up flying over the handlebars. Instead I found myself awkwardly dismounting the bike to the left while still holding the controls. The arse of the bike came crashing down next to me, both of us standing upright. I was lucky to escape with only a sprained thumb. The bike didn’t fare as well and suffered a severely smashed (but still rideable) front wheel and a bent frame right behind the head tube.