At the beginning of this month, I returned from Colorado. I was gone for 10 days—not so long, but longer than I’ve been gone since Japan 2 years ago. This trip was spurred by an invitation to the annual Singletracks Editorial Staff Meet-Up (I write for Singletracks.com) in Salida, Colorado. The idea was basically to ride, hang out, and spend face-to-face time with people that I normally only interact with via email. I decided not only to go hang for the weekend, but to make a longer trip of it. I decided to drive out, find places to ride along the way, and visit a friend in Boulder before heading to Salida.
I rented a car—a first experience for me. It was a little Hyundai Elantra hatchback. 35-40 mpg, a great cross-country tripper. I somehow was able to fit all my stuff in the back, 2 bikes included. The cost of renting a car (which was significantly lower than I expected) was well-worth the peace of mind that came from not driving my own vehicle. My Ford Ranger is nice enough, but has 220,000ish miles on it and really didn’t need me to put 4,000 more on over the course of less than 2 weeks. And last time I drove across the country I had more than my fair share of car troubles. So a rental it was, and I was more than happy with it. Thank you, Enterprise.
I headed out of Huntingdon on a Monday morning—a few hours later than originally planned, but I was on vacation, so what did it matter? I drove southeast, through West Virginia and into Kentucky. The mountains of West Virginia are beautiful. There was nothing but trees for hours. I stopped at Cave Run Lake in Kentucky briefly. I had originally thought I’d get a late afternoon ride in here and then spend the night, but I got there too late to do much of a ride, and I didn’t feel like doing a night ride alone on trails I didn’t know at all. So I kept driving, finally stopping for the night at a State Forest in Indiana. I didn’t bother to set up my tent, just spread my sleeping pad and bag on the ground and laid down. I awoke early, jumped back in the car, and continued my drive.
I stopped at two places to ride in Missouri on Tuesday—Binder Lake, near Jefferson City, and Swope Park, in Kansas City. Binder Lake was fun—fast and flowy. Though I only drove through the outskirts, Jefferson City seemed like a cool place, and I wished I had more time to stop.
I also stopped at Swope Park in Kansas City, where the riding was supposed to be killer. It was. I was thoroughly impressed with how technical the trails were in the middle of a huge city and in the middle of the flatlands of the Midwest. Unfortunately, my ride at Swope was cut short by a mechanical—I lost an alternator bolt somewhere along the trail. I didn’t notice until my rear tire started rubbing. When I stopped to investigate, I saw that the bolt was missing, and my heart sank. I kicked myself for not bringing a spare. And, because I didn’t want to ride on it and potentially further damage pieces of my bike, I walked out of the trails. I kept my eyes on the ground, a slight sliver of hope remaining that I would miraculously spot my missing bolt and I’d be able to continue my ride. No such luck.
So, I packed up my bike with intentions of going to a bike shop to buy a new alternator bolt as soon as possible, and set off to find a much-needed beer. I ended up at Martin City Brewing Company, where I downed a couple IPAs and a delicious wild mushroom pizza before heading out of metro area for the night and grabbing a hotel room in Kansas. I had wanted to pretty much camp the entire way to save money, but I was tired, and things were pretty desolate. I wanted to sleep in a bed. So I sprung for a room, passing out immediately. I woke up shortly before 7am, and hit the road immediately.
I liked to start my day of driving early, grabbing coffee at a gas station to start my day and driving for a few hours nonstop before the heat of the day began to set in, making me tired and irritable. Despite the air conditioning in the car, the heat of the plains was penetrating.
I stopped at Wilson Lake, Kansas to check out the Switchgrass mountain bike trails. After heading to the park office to grab a map, I set off on a short loop that wound through bluffs above the lake and switchbacked to the top of the aptly-named Lone Tree Hill. The Lone Tree provided the only shade on my ride, and the midday heat certainly had a noticeable effect on me. I stopped often and took pictures, as the dry, prairie landscape was so different from what I was used to, and was surprisingly photogenic.
After the 6-mile Hells Creek Loop, I’d had enough of the heat, and I was eager to get to Boulder and hang with my friend John for a couple days, so I hopped back in the car and continued west. I finally crossed into Colorado, and was subsequently surprised at how much of the eastern part of the state is flat plains. I saw a storm in the distance, and a few raindrops hit my windshield, the first rain I had seen since I left Pennsylvania. But most of the storm was passing to the north, and soon it was sunny again.
I arrived at John’s place just as he was returning from the grocery store, and he greeted me with a warm hug and a cold Fat Tire. It was good to have company after so many solo hours on the road.
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