Boulder Colorado to Chicago Illinois: 1000 Miles In 7 Days
My bike, all 80lbs of it, over the Missouri River
A synopsis follows.
It's worth starting several days before I was due to leave as I suffered a rather severe calamity causing a major setback. In the course of celebrating my birthday I became rather drunk and events ensued that I cannot rely upon my memory to recount for me, but suffice to say I jumped off of something and landed rather awkwardly damaging my back in such a way that made walking a rather challenging affair, as well as bending over, putting my shoes on or just about anything that involved being upright. And so it was that for about 3 days I lay in bed, not eating and most importantly not moving. Having recovered a reasonable amount of strength I resumed preparation for my journey. Working out load balance on my panniers and determining how ready my spine was for the impending demands I would place on it.
On Wednesday September 26th, +4 days from when I was supposed to have departed, at 12:30pm I left Boulder. No turning back!
Flashing forward about 8 hours I find myself in Ft. Morgan, Colorado after having traveled on Colorado Highway 52 for the entire day with the exception of about 5 miles on the Diagonal highway leaving Boulder. 100 miles down I decided to call it a day, after eating at a wonderful Chinese Restaurant I began my search for a place to camp. Consulting a cashier at the local Walgreen's I learned that the park in the middle of town might lead to my being stabbed, so I Eventually I settled with a park/cemetery at the edge of town I'm not sure which, and pitched my tent (which is awesome) and crawled into my sleeping bag. Trying to suppress my heart rate still high from the days exertion, I had a hard time sleeping coupled with the nearby roaring of some kind of agro-industrial monstrosity across the street from me, or maybe the dead people.
So the next day I departed from the Fort of Morgan at about 8:30am on what would likely be the least scenic/eventful day of my trip. This day I can recall stopping at a coffee shop in Akron Colorado, noting that it was actually uphill from Ft. Morgan and being told that it would actually be down hill from here on out, some sort of bluff, ridge, mesa or whatever was "the highest point between here and Chicago". To summarize, Eastern Colorado, once the sight of the mountains are lost (which happens around the town of Wiggins Colorado west of Ft. Morgan) is probably one of the least interesting places I've ever been to. Devoid of trees and any geographic feature not featuring the color light brown it features such fascinating places such as Akron where I found that coffee shop and Yuma where I don't believe I found anything of note. Upon finding the town of Wray Colorado, not terribly far from the border of Nebraska, relief washed over me in an awesome wave. Tree's, and not just the trees that towns and residences have awkwardly placed around and about, natural tree's, growing without human intervention. A remarkable sight to behold, especially since these were not just evergreen, nay these were real tree's, with leaves (or leafs whichever you prefer). So for the scant few hours remaining of sunlight I gazed in wonderment. Undaunted, I proceeded through the twilight, hours and hours passed, crossing into Nebraska, watching the ghostly visages of some of the larger Midwestern mammals flee at the sight of my front LED light. The night hours brought a spectacular and unadulterated view of the stars without the city lights and the accompanying light pollution they bring, though at this point a certain level of exhaustion sets in and with it a somewhat different and sort of overexposed perception of things. Ultimately I reached my day two goal of Stratton Nebraska a distance past the Central Time Zone line where after nearly being hit by a fast moving locomotive (it wasn't carrying a load, so it was going really fast) I found a nice secluded place to pitch my tent, here I slept incredibly well. (40° 9'20.19"N, 101°10'14.18"W). This day I achieved my desired pace of 150 a day or about 15 miles per hour for the amount of hours I was actually in motion.
My next day I awoke at a fairly reasonable hour and was underway by 8:00am, this day proved to be the most taxing one and in more than one aspect. While I maintained high spirits for much of the first half, leaving McCook and onward the strong crosswinds of the day began to take their toll. I am reminded now of the King Crimson Song I Talk To The Wind since that day, I was quite actively and quite angrily shouting at the wind. I crossed a varied area, by varied I mean fields of wheat and some tree's. I stopped at a closed rest stop once also which was a lovely place. However, come the end of the day having finally reached a point where the wind would be in my favor I traveled another 15 or so miles to the lovely town of Holdredge Nebraska. This night, having had a rather unhappy day I looked to treat myself with a stay in one of the fine establishments Holdredge had to offer with a hot tub and somewhere I wouldn't have to deal with re balancing my panniers in the morning. So I had another highly fufilling high in fat, protein and most importantly calorie and adjourned myself to drinking some vodka I bought in Wray a few days past and passed out.
My next day would prove taxing for at least the first 50 miles, which accounted for about a 3rd or the day. Once reaching Hastings Nebraska where the winds would shift most certainly in my favor as I traveled north towards Grand Island Nebraska. I believe I traveled about 25 miles in under 45 minutes at this point of the day, it was quite a bit of fun. Moving towards my final objective for that day the effects of the wind were much reduced as they hit my back at more of a 45 degree angle more or less negating any positive or negative effect they would have had. Arriving in Columbus Nebraska I ate at a rather dreadful Chinese Buffet, talked to my dad a bit and once more found a place to stay in town. Apparently there is a drug abuse problem among the younger people in Columbus because a local teen was denied a place to stay because apparently "....they come to smoke their dope in our rooms". Not bothered by the potential sketch-iness of my chosen place to sleep I hauled my 80lbs of bike up a flight of stairs and slept. 145 miles for the day.
Wind persisted the next day as I rolled towards Iowa. I had begun to experience a rather interesting sensation coming from my lower left back and shooting into my upper leg as I pedaled forward on or around this day, by interesting I mean excruciatingly painful. Interestingly enough this actually helped to push me forward as the only remedy aside from stopping (entirely unacceptable) was to stand on my pedals straightening my back and presumably allowing the nerve affected to be unpinched. In the words of my aunt, I was "driven by pain". The scenery began to improve once again upon reaching the outer reaches of Nebraska closer to Iowa and reached their peak as I crossed the Missouri River.
After getting over the Missouri River and into Iowa I proceeded towards one of my original objectives of Missouri Valley Iowa, but at this point the whole schedule of where I would be was thrown out and I set a new objective some 72 miles to the northeast in a town called Carroll. This day concluded after some 158 miles of travel.
This next day would be the longest push of any so far, I don't really remember leaving Carroll that clearly, only crossing the road back onto Route 30 towards my objective for the day; Mount Vernon Iowa, about 180 miles away a distance I had only covered once before on my Orbea, weighing in at 20lbs or about 1/4 the weight I was now contending with. It became clear throughout the day that corn is just about the most important thing in Iowa. From High Fructose Corn Syrup, to Ethanol, I now realize where all this stuff comes from, it's economic importance and hence why it's in freaking everything. The day became more interesting as I left the town of Tama, apparently someone was upset that I was on the road and that my obnoxious rear light wasn't bright enough that they felt compelled to call the Tama County Sheriff on me, so just before sundown I was met with the flashing lights of one of Tama counties finest. After a brief conversation I was instructed to place my bicycle in the rear compartment of his SUV and to take a seat in the back where I would be taken to the edge of that county some 8 miles away where I "wouldn't be their problem" instead I would be the problem of Benton County. It was a nice ride though, and one of the more interesting points of my journey. 11pm, Several hours later in a severely depleted state both physically and mentally I arrived in Mt. Vernon Iowa where I promptly placed a call to my friend David who attends school there for direction to his location. Minutes later I saw the first familiar face of my journey and it was good. I spent the next few hours sort of dazed until finally I slept, I don't recall much of this period of time.
The next morning I awoke, wandered around for a while, had lunch a few hours later and left at around 1pm that afternoon. Not long after, some rather unfortunate weather began to come my way about 20 miles out of Mt. Vernon, in addition to this unfortunate weather I began to feel somewhat unfortunate inside. So I stopped for what must have been several hours and attempted to find some sort of way to get back to Mt. Vernon without having to bike anymore. Once more, misfortune had its way and I was forced after exhausting all other measures to press on. Because of the misfortunes I experienced that day, I made it only about 50 miles that day, which didn't really affect my schedule due to the abundance of spare time I had accrued by this point. I received a call that night after I had arrived at a place of some comfort that there were tornado warnings in my area anyway, it's just as well then that I stopped when and where I did; DeWitt Iowa
On my final day I awoke to clear skies all around and a favorable forecast for the day, including little to no wind and no sign of rain or cloud. And with only 125 miles to my final objective, the outskirts of Chicago Illinois where I could catch a train to take me into downtown where I would ultimately meet my friend Anna there. This would end the biking portion of my journey and place me 40 miles (-8 I suppose) over 1000 total miles. Of what I recall this day only a few things stick out at me aside from arriving in Chicago finally. A nearly completely abandoned truck stop town with the exception of a strip club, the massive number of power lines all converging on Chicago becoming prevalent about 100 miles from the city, and a gentleman I met on a bridge a few miles from a monstrous Wal-Mart distribution center near Rock Falls Illinois who was taking photographs and had seemingly taken the exact same route along Route 30 all the way from the middle of Nebraska. His specialty was trains and he had seemingly been at it for some time. I spoke with him for about 30 minutes and went on my merry way.
I arrived at the train station outside Chicago at around 5:00pm that day and caught the next train downtown and arrived there soon after.
It was noted on the train that if it were to crash, I would be the sole survivor because I was still wearing my helmet.