Day 16-19th, July 2nd-5th (Chicago, July 4th and a well-deserved rest) – Ft. Wayne to Chicago.
After a good nights rest, I could finally head for the city of Chicago. I planned the route before going to sleep and estimated that I had 120-140 miles to Chi town but in hindsight planning before going to bed may have been a mistake. I set off early the next morning and after reaching 90 miles I took a big lunch break, just to discover that I still had 80 miles to go. I had miscalculated the estimated mileage to Chicago and it was a bit of a heartbreak for me, but I was determined to get there no matter what. This would also mark my first time riding in the night.
A small story from that day: One of the stops that I took was at a gas station, 60 miles from Ft. Wayne I had some nice conversations with different folks about what they did and about my trip, as usual. I headed out to the road just to hear a guy from the other side of the road, four lanes away yelling, “P***Y!” from his truck, thinking to myself what he meant and till this day still wonder what possessed him with the willpower and ability to yell exactly that word. He would turn out to be the ONLY person, throughout the entire trip that made a bad impression of the US of A, so he is a special one and that’s why he had to be mentioned.
The route took me through the highway with farmland and I did not have much to look at, most of the time on the bike or off the bike was being focused on reaching Chicago. The scenery changed when I was about 20 miles from Chicago, it went from forest to suburban cities, to a cycle route that took me almost all the way. Once reaching the outskirts of the city I got into what looked like a newly made cycle route, taking me through small islands to get across the water and past the pay toll. At that point in time I thought that I finally had made it, but sadly it was still far from the city-center and where I would be staying.
Some of the high points of today were discovering Mexican food and Mexican Coca Cola, yes a bit of a silly thing to be excited about, but the food is just full of taste and the Coke is made with cane sugar rather that high fructose corn syrup found in the American drinks thus making it just the perfect amount of sweet. Another high point was my first beer in what felt like ages, this was also be a bad outcome for my wallet. I reached a tiki bar just before they closed and just asked for a drink and it turned out that tipping really pays, the bartender and I talked for about half an hour, during that time he managed to pour two more pints. When I finally was ready to go I put my wallet back in what I thought was the opening of my backpack, just to discover the next day that my wallet was gone with both my credit cards, to be continued…
Weather Just cycling weather • Temp 29°c/84°f (ish)
Distance 273.5km/170mi • Time on the bike 14h • Rest 3h • Drank 10L
Day 20-22th, July 6-7th (Almost swept away) – Chicago(bus) to Des Moines – Omaha.
Most of the time in Chicago went by with lounging and occasionally cycling around the city. I did some gallery and public sculpture visits, since I dropped my wallet and the only money I have at this point is the money that I borrowed from my hosts. I wasn’t bothered by the fact the I did not have any kind of money, but the day I left Chicago I realised how big of a problem this was going to be.
I realise that I do not have any money to further my trip, I have to bother my hosts for some advance money which would be enough to get me to Colorado springs where I would be meeting up with a friend. So big thanks to Sheeva, Ali, Sheema and her flatmates, I owe you all a big one.
On my way to Des Moines I had already planned to speed it up a bit, and I kind of want to skip some of the midwest where farmland is in abundance, sorry for all the midwestern folks out there, I mean no disrespect. Anyways I booked a bus from Chicago to Des Moines via Megabus, not a bad company, much better and cheaper than Greyhound. I got to the bus stop and presented my box o’ bike the luggage guy was not happy and he hasn’t let me board the bus. After some talking and begging, I still did not get anywhere, he would not budge, though it was stated that bikes were not allowed on the bus, so I can’t give him a hard time about it. There was nothing to do but wait with big puppy eyes and hope for the best, then the miracle happened, a guy behind me asked me what was wrong and if he could assist in anyway, and by some luck he did, he totally hooked me up.
I left Chicago at about 9 P.M’ish and got to Des Moines around 5 A.M(July 21’st) I didn’t get much sleep on the bus, and I put my bike together. Three hours later the bike was ready to roll and all I have left now is to eat breakfast, all that is open at this time is the great king of burgers, so morning burgers it’s going to be: yum.
My ride through the Midwest until this point have been that it is mainly flat, straight and filled with farm land, but man ‘o’ man how everything has turned from the moment I left Des Moines. It now turned to ups and downs and occasional bumps, today I got slightly annoyed by the road and the weather. I am frustrated with the road for not having shoulders for a big part of it and if there were shoulders it was filled with sand or gravel. The weather got on my nerves for just being grey and rainy. Just when I thought that it could not get any worse, the inevitable happened.
I wrote previously that I wanted to see a tornado, and yes one should be careful what he wishes for. The road went from no shoulder to no road at all, well technically there was a road but it was under construction. The god of rain really turned on the tap, rain and a massive side wind started pushing me off to the side. I wondered why the weather had gotten so bad but did not give it much thought beyond that because I was focused on the road. Suddenly a guy in a car came up beside me and yelled, “HURRY UP AND GET OUT OF HERE, THERE’S A TORNADO” and then all of a sudden road condition was the least my worries. I tried to spot the tornado but I could not see it, but the weather conditions were bad and I could only see less than a mile or two, I thought that it was better that I didn’t stick around for too long to have my wish fulfilled.
After getting as far away as possible, the weather turned for the better, much better. So did the road conditions, it was still hilly and would be all the way to Omaha. I took a small break to readjust my bike and empty my shoes and socks of water, I evaluated my route and I was still 60 miles from the Omaha by this point and would not be there before 10pm. I had some snacks and pressed on as fast as I could. I was worried, I only had a front light for my bike, I didn’t want to get stuck in the dark with unknown road conditions ahead. After getting 30 miles closer to my destination, I stopped briefly at a gas station for more snacks and a toilet break then pushed ahead with the final 30 miles. Unfortunately it did get dark before reaching Omaha, it was at this point in time that I realized that I was in fact scared of the dark. As I approached the city cars began to pass me more frequently at a speed that I did not care for, but hey don’t take a bike to a car fight, right? When I got to the outskirts of Omaha I was greeted with a nice cycling path and a warm place to stay. Initially, I had not planned to stay in Omaha, but when I got up the next day my body told me otherwise so I ended up with a personal guide through the beautiful city of Omaha. Thanks to Martha, Tony and Franklin for showing me Nebraskan hospitality.
Weather light shower/cloudy/rain/even more rain/tornado/open skies • Temp 25°c/77°f
Distance 217km/135mi• Time on the bike 14h • Rest 2h • Drank 10L
Day 22, July 8th (Municipal airport) – Omaha to York
I was filled with food, rest and happiness and was ready to get back on the road, it went smooth and without any glitches. I got to see more of the midwestern farmland and got a big amount of sunlight to replenish the vitamin D in my body, from here on out the road wold be inclining all the way to Colorado Springs going from 900 to 6900ft… Wuhu!!!
When the time came for me to sleep I slightly panicked, it was yet again getting dark and for miles on end, I could only see a field of corn and soybeans, not exactly a place to set up camp for the night. I went on for a bit past the town of York and saw a small airport, I took my chances and went for it. I talk to the guy that looked after the place, he was the son of the guy that ran the place and was happy to host me for the night. He offered me a spot in the office of the airport and told me that once and a while there would be cyclers and hikers passing by and would have an overnighter there.
Weather Sunshine once again • Temp 29°c/84°f
Distance 170km/106mi• Time on the bike 6h • Rest 2h • Drank 7L
Day 23, July 9th (Midwestern hospitality) – York to Atlanta
I woke up cleared and packed my gear, had a small breakfast and coffee, said thanks to the people that ran the airport, and went on my merry. The plan was to make it to Colorado Springs in 5 days from Omaha, it was “only” about 584 miles, so if I rode on the flat 130 miles a day, 5 days would be possible, at this point my aim was to just get to Colorado to see what the fuss was all about, I had heard so much hype and have seen pictures of the state and thought that the faster I got there the more time I will have to explore the city.
On this day and the next 3 days for all that mattered, I knew that the road would be flat with a slight grading so 130 miles(ish) a day would be possible, very enthusiastic of me I know. I had made it to a town called Holdrege at about 7.30 P.M. and wanted a break before heading out of town and to a nearby town called Atlanta. And to be Honest, at this point I was done but felt like I had to keep going or the 130 miles would not be kept, I was very obsessed with my mileage at this point. So I eat and stretched for about half an hour, and pressed on.
I made it to the small town and was surprised by how small it was, I was told that the population was about 160 by some people that I stopped and talked to. I talked to them and told them my story and asked if I could set up my tent in the town park, and of course thanks to the midwest hospitality, I was more than welcome. We had a small chat that went on for two hours, they made me a 40 dollar donation for the cause to Alzscot, sandwiches, desserts and, of course, a cold beer, or two. After our talked they offered me a place to sleep in the local church, which I could not say no to.
Weather Perfect riding weather • Temp 27°c/80°f
Distance 199km/124mi• Time on the bike 10h • Rest 2h • Drank 8L
Day 24, July 10th (Bye bye solar panel) – Atlanta to Stratton
I had a good night sleep and thought that I would take my time packing and have breakfast(Peanut butter and pita bread) I went by the family that I spoke to just say thank you but it seems as though they already were not home, so off I went.
In the early afternoon, I had gotten myself to a small town and figured that a small lunch would make my tummy happy and my body away from the heat. I haven’t had a hot meal since Omaha and though that it would lift my sprite up a bit. I stopped at a nice pizza restaurant and also thought that my mobile was hungry and would give it a charge, but something was not quite right. It seems that it had been misplaced with thin air, my head was still not clear from riding for so long, and thought that it was in the bags of my bike. Frantically I started looking through every bag emptying all its content and realized that I left it on the park bench in Holdrege. Not happy with myself at the time I yelled out loud in frustration and disappointment.
After a while, I went inside ate my pizza and blamed myself for being so forgetful and had yet personally gotten in a sticky situation, again. After clearing my head I gave the park services a call to see if they had found something, I was lucky enough to reach them just before they closed for the weekend. Coincidentally the person taking my call turned out to be Jessica the mother of the family that I talked to from Atlanta during the previous night. She said that nobody came in with anything but she would get back to me after the weekend. Though there was a bit of hope I were somewhat blue but thought that it would not help me getting closer to my destination.
In my hot headed situation, I had spread everything from my dry-bag onto the ground outside without repacking it, that resulted in some friends of the insect world to have a feast on my edibles, that is basically me in a nutshell sometimes.
After a while I finally got on the road, but it was just one of those days, the weather turned but before it all started a cop car came by and offered me a ride to the next gas station which only took him 3 minutes but would have taken me half an hour and I would have been totally soaked. After waiting for half an hour, I thought of just going for it before it day turned to night, as soon as I left the gas station the clouds formed again and I got half of whatever was in the then on me. When I got out of the storm, I had a glance of what I just got though, it was thunder cloud with a chance of a monsoon, glad I did not stay to see the end of it.
I got a small town called Stratton and thought that I would settle in for the night, again I knocked on a door a guy came out(Randy), went through the usual introduction after a green light I unpacked and right before I had set up my tent Randy offered me to sleep on the porch, gave me some food and a charging station for my phone we had a talk for a couple of hours after that I admired the thunderstorm in the horizon, the stars, and the fireflies whilst contemplating on how the day had turned out and how privileged I was to have a dry place to sleep in, a full stomach for my phone and I, and to have met great individuals along the way.
Weather Cloudy/sunny/too sunny/thunder and lightning/clear skies • Temp 27°c/80°f
Distance 100km/60mi • Time on the bike 7h • Rest 3h • Drank 6L
Day 25, July 11th (Nebraska, Kansas and finally Colorado) – Stratton to Anton
Today was a very straight forward day, not too many glitches, very hilly and lonely roads all the way to Anton.
Some part of the road got kind of overcrowded with grasshoppers, I made an effort to avoid as much of them as possible, but a whole bunch of them got killed by jumping into my wheel, confused little critters. At the end of the day even a bird join in, from our brief encounter I would guess that it was a quail, the good thing was it flew into my face rather than my wheel.
Besides running into countless bugs, I also ran into Randy. As nice as he was, he also gave me some water for the road ahead, he was going to stay in Denver for a couple of days and offered me a place to stay if I were to make my way there.
I had set my goal to reach Anton, which I did. After getting there, I had a look around to see where there was a spot where I could settle in for the night, and found a house next to the road, I saw a kid watching television and ask him if I could talk to the parents.
His super cool grandmother named Elvi came down, I went through my usual introduction. Before I knew it she had me set up in her garden and made sure that the sprinklers were off, gave me a towel to clean myself and some bathroom time before turning in for the night. This would be the first night in 6 days that I had not slept in my bivy, and could not help thinking of the great people that helped me along the way while enjoying some can goods.
Weather What a day, what a lovely day • Temp 35°c/95°f
Distance 217km/135mi • Time on the bike 10h • Rest 2h • Drank 9L • Tones of bugs in the eye and a small bird as well.
Day 26-30, July 12-16th (Colorado Springs and 4 days off the bike) – Anton to Colorado springs
The next morning, I was invited to go in and freshen up and have some breakfast, while I had my breakfast I could enjoy the commodity of cartoons with the grandchild as well, one never gets too old to enjoy cartoons. Elvi(the owner) of the place told me that she used to run a diner for the farmers, people in the town, truckers that would come to work in Anton and in the neighbouring towns, but had to close down the business, because of the ever growing farming industry, things that used to take month would only take days and with less workers. At the time, she housed me her grandchildren were overnighting as well and she was glad to have met a bike tourer. She had told them so many stories about such travelers like me.
This was to be a special day because it’s been five days since my last break day. It would be the day that I was to meet up with a friend(Allen), that had been on exchange in Glasgow, and who now lives and studies in Colorado Springs, best of all I only to ride 57 mi and would be picked in a town called Limon. What was not expected was the landscape would take my breath away(literally), going from 4,800 ft to 5,700 ft was nothing for my body, I had clearly not adjusted to the height, and could feel that my muscles needed a bit more oxygen to function properly.
I was ecstatic to be meeting up with Allen, and could finally appreciate how comfortable it is to be in a car with air condition. After getting to Colorado Springs, we got into a Mexican restaurant and had the biggest burrito and of course, Mexican Coke.
The days spent in Colorado Springs was mainly chillin and relaxin and for the first time in my life, I had the joy of an American house party, a part of the youth culture I had yet to experience, at the time.
Weather It’s getting warmer • Temp 35°c/95°f
Distance (July 12th) 91km/57mi • Time on the bike 5h • Rest 1h • Drank 4L
Day 31, July 17th (Up up and away) – Denver to somewhere outside of Denver
My friend drove me to the outskirts of Denver and from there I enjoyed a small ride sightseeing, but I would not get far as I did not do my research properly. I spent two to three hours getting lost until finally figuring out how to get out of the city and up into the mountains.