I only had time to express Kansas’ lingering golden impressions once I’d crossed out of its predictably flat, agrarian borders.
And in keeping with this trend, I would like to speak to crossing into the proper West, now that not one butTWO states have rolled by.
Colorado. How is it that as soon as we crossed the border, even though the road remained flat, the landscape still desolate, the wind still rubbing at us without end… How is it that I could FEEL the Spirit of the West?
It’s the topography. That first, barely visible, idea of a mountain in the distance. You cannot believe what an invigorating effect this subtle, imminent presence had on us.
And this magic begat more magic.
Our journey from Ordway to Pueblo, CO– 60 miles of hot, windy, red dirt and sage lined highway– just so happened to coincide with the summer solstice AND a full moon. An idea was hatched: why not beat the heat and commemorate the Strawberry Moon by riding at night? We were, after all, already used to getting up at four. Moving our start time to two was easy.
The night air was moist, quenching after so many days of aridness. Alive and ready as ever, we took off into the moonlit desert. Staying together, following the soft red glow of tail lights and the faint warble of Cajun music coming from the front runner’s handlebar speaker, we pedaled through the night. Mostly in reverent silence.
Occasionally I would turn off my headlight and drop back into the night, letting the cool breeze wash my senses clean. Sometimes a moon song from my lips… “Mira la Luna, la luna llena, la luna llena…”
How do I explain that you can feel the freedom of the West? That the air feels more alive, the people more engaging, the food more appetizing? Like a salmon catching the first intoxicating whiff of its natal tributary after months at sea; suddenly I knew I was going home.
Distant mountains came into closer focus, and out of Pueblo we confronted our first real climb in many weeks. Hoosier Pass, at 11,500 ft is the highest point on the TransAm. Although we’d been steadily climbing for days, the altitude was still a powerful force. Once strong limbs felt leaden. A pause in breath long enough to sip water lead to windedness. And still we climbed inexorably upwards.
And what they say is indeed true: it all DOES come down again in the end. In our case it dropped us into Breckenridge; gateway to the abundance of western mountain culture.
And what a rich culture indeed. To say nothing of skiing (since it’s summer and I can’t know of such things here), the culture of activity is pervasive here. Biking, hiking, skateboarding, yoga… Name your sport, it’s here. There is elaborate infrastructure to facilitate easy use of this rich land for recreation and enjoyment. Bike paths, gondolas, equipment rentals, clubs, demo areas…and on and on. We happen to hit it at:
And while biking was definitely the last thing I wanted to do on a rest day… It was so comforting to be surrounded by “my people” and share bike stories and tips.
I could go on. Breckinridge was certainly not the last groovy town we’ve rolled into. They are much more abundant than I’d imagined; hiding their sparkle in the crevices between mountains. I feel very privileged to be touring through them.
But the privilege, as you might imagine, far exceeds enjoying a nice latte on a patio overlooking snow capped mountains. Now that I am nearly 3,000 miles into this journey, I am feeling the privilege this of this trip to more fully seeing this countryside. As a bi-coastal being, I had never chanced to spend much time in the sage green high desert, the Rockies, the undulating hobbit-hillsides of Wyoming which turn to mesas and red rocks through which I imagine Wiley Coyote chasing the Roadrunner. To say nothing of the awesome majesty of the Tetons. Wow. Just wow the Tetons. I didn’t even know…
Tall Grandfathers that give me solace in the wind.
And so through this journey I am feeling more fully a citizen of this great countryside. My allegiance to this land grows stronger as I am invited to share in its treasures and secrets. Meet its more reticent residents. Drink from its deeper pools.
In the next two days I will be invited to sample yet another new marvel: Yellowstone National Park. I cannot know what to expect, and it’s exciting!
I give so much thanks to be on this journey of discovery– both outward and inward. May the mystery continue to unfold beneath my two wheels.