COLORADO TRIP - July 28 thru August 25, 2009

 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

 

Hello Friends and Family, My vicarious traveling network,

 

Today I hauled myself out of bed at 5:30 A.M to begin a short trip west on the bicycle. Cheryl and I are going to spend a month out west, mostly in Colorado. We missed our western excursion last year because of her back injury and the Great Flood. We miss the mountains and all our favorite Colorado places.

 

Laurie T. wanted to ride with me on the first day out but it was just too complicated for her to leave early, not work except for taking business calls by cell on the road, and get a return ride in mid afternoon. So I headed out at 7:30 A.M. on my own.

 

 

Cheryl is staying home for five more days to help Tim with apartment turnover. Now for all my distant friends who might think: Why does John get to go play while Cheryl has to work turnover? Well, she doesn’t have to do it. She just can’t let loose quite yet. But there is a big change for her: no manual labor this year, no cleaning, and no hauling garbage. She is just working as a supervisor. So, it will be interesting to see how all that works out. Tim has things well organized. He has a good staff and good temporary workers and after quite a few years of doing this I expect all to go well.

 

I rode 76 miles today first crossing through the heart of Iowa City and exiting to the west on Melrose Avenue and the IWV road. I was passing through town during our rush half hour but it was very comfortable for me. After all these years of riding I hardly think about traffic issues in Iowa City.

 

The IWV road was peaceful and scenic. The little bit of traffic was headed into town. A few cars passed me on the way to Williamsburg, but not too many.

 

The countryside is green and gorgeous this time of year. We have had an abundance of rain. The corn is at least 10’ tall. Our farmers will have a bumper crop.

 

 

During the first ten miles west of town the IWV rolls and rolls. It is a narrow road and wouldn’t be safe for cyclists if traffic was heavy. Our county supervisors must be encouraging a land use policy that converts our rural farmland into housing subdivisions, mostly large, expensive homes. Every time I use this road it seems that there are another dozen new homes in various stages of construction out there. They will need to improve the road someday to accommodate the extra traffic and make it safe for all of us.

 

After spending 25 years doing considerable legal work with real estate I have mixed feelings about the changes. I always drove out to look at lands, homes and farms that I was working on from a legal standpoint. Sometimes I would visit the new or old owners on the property. I’m sort of attached to these places and now I find myself thinking about so many folks who have moved on, lots of them really moved on. It makes me realize how transient life is and we should give a lot less emphasis on property of any type.

 

 

The rolling IWV road

 

Williamsburg is just 28 miles from our house and I got there in about two hours. I had expected a mild headwind but I was lucky. During the first part of the day the wind was from the due north and kept me comfortable. Later in the day it turned northwest and picked up some speed but it never bothered me much.

 

The town of Williamsburg has transformed itself into a top notch, beautiful small town. The Holden family was the owners of a huge seed corn business and I believe that they sold the business about 15 years ago to another huge company (maybe Pioneer). Anyway they walked away with a big, big, payment and I know that they have given huge chunks of money back to the Williamsburg community. The downtown has been transformed into the perfect small town downtown. There are great parks, pools, recreational fields and retirement centers, all done with money that no town like Williamsburg would have had without the beneficence of the Holden’s.  I spent a fair amount of time in Williamsburg 30+ years ago when one of my lawyer classmate friends practiced there. It was pretty pitiful back then. The Holden’s must be appreciated.

 

I believe that the founder of the company died of cancer about 12 years ago. His daughter lives in Coralville and I had a fairly confrontational run in with her about that time. It is a story in and of itself but it had to do with my work as school board attorney and our negotiations with her as to obtaining a site for our Kate Wickham elementary school.

 

I rode some gravel roads today, on purpose. Due west of Williamsburg I took five hilly miles of gravel to save about 8 miles. It was okay with the thicker tires that I had mounted on the bike but still, gravel is no fun and it is harder to ride on this recumbent bike, especially going up the hills.

 

On the gravel I tried to keep a line where cars had cleared away loose stones. The best line is usually in the middle of the road but that isn’t safe when there are hills. In this case, I rode the five miles with no vehicles of any sort passing me by.

 

Eight miles west of Williamsburg I picked up a paved county road and headed north to the small town of Ladora which is on Highway 6 about six miles north of Interstate 80. Ladora is too small to thrive. It is a dying community.

 

I did like this old bank building that just sat in Ladora along the highway. It would cost millions to build something like this today.

 

The front of the bank building

 

Highway 6 was closed east of Brooklyn so I took an older county road through that town. It was like Williamsburg but much smaller. It seemed to have plenty of good business going on including a huge cement business and a large grain elevator.

 

It was getting hotter and windier and I never found a restaurant. I had stopped for drink in Williamsburg but that was my only stop of the day. I just kept on pedaling west of Brooklyn and came to Grinnell. All the motels are near the Interstate so I rode a few more miles of gravel and came out here to a nice Best Western with a Subway next door. I decided to call it a day and checked in here at 2:00 PM.

 

The desk clerk was a Native American from the Mesquakie tribe near Tama. I’ll bet that casino money is invested here. NASCAR has a big race in Newton this weekend and they are just about doubling the motel rates here for that event.

 

Tomorrow I will head northwest to stop in Ames or Boone. On Thursday morning I need to be in Ogden to have my bike tuned and some replacement work done on it at the bike shop where I bought it a year ago.

 

I will stay in touch.

 

John

Wednesday Evening, July 29, 2009

 

Hello again,

 

 

Well, this is my home for the night. I am in an older part of Ames, about two miles east of the Iowa State campus. The room was just $35 and also goes for $160 per week. It suits me fine because I have Wi-Fi from the office router, a TV up in the corner and plenty of room. You can smell the pest control treatment but I’m getting used to it and haven’t seen any bed bugs or cockroaches.

 

I have no other photos today because during the ride my camera took a bad tumble. There seem to be lots of road detours in Iowa these days and I had to go through Marshalltown today because my quiet country route wasn’t available. The road up to Marshalltown was a moderately busy state highway with lots of hills. Going down a long hill at about 35 mph I overlooked a hole in the road because of tree shadows, hit the hole and my camera went flying out of my front bag and my GPS unit fell out of its holder.

 

It took some time to get stopped and go back to search for my belongings. I found the GPS first but the camera was harder to locate. I found it after 15 minutes in the middle of the other lane and the SD card had jumped out of its slot. The camera was beat up but is working. The SD card took some extra flights as dump trucks drove over it a couple times before I could see and retrieve it. Darn thing can’t take a beating and isn’t working tonight but the camera can hold a few photos on internal memory and I will get along that way for now. (Cheryl, I have a bag of SD cards and I will need to remember to ask you to bring it when I remember where it is.)

 

The GPS was out of whack too but I have dropped it so many times that I know how to patch it back together. It is six years old and needs to be replaced but it’s working for now.

 

Until I had to ride the detour I had a very quiet ride north and west of Grinnell. It was hilly and my legs are weak but it was so traffic free that I just went slow and listened to my David Morrell novel. The rural vistas continue to be impressive especially in the hilly areas. The weather is terrific. It has to be at least 15 degrees below normal temps. I had sunshine but I did have a moderate headwind all day.

 

From Marshalltown I found the Lincoln Highway route to Ames. It was a good ride. As I entered Story County the road flattened. I needed that because I was tired. I went through State Center, Colo and Nevada. The town of Nevada was bigger than I remembered. The road gets busy between Nevada and Ames but there is a rare bike lane in that section.

 

I stopped here because I had come 70 miles and was tired. In the morning I will ride 25 miles to the Ogden Bike Barn planning to be there when they open at 10:00 AM. I hope to leave Ogden before noon and ride another 52 miles SSW to Stuart but if I’m tired I may stop in Perry.

 

Tonight I feel good. Storms will come through tonight and may last into the morning but I can ride in the rain. I hope turnover is going well without any disasters. This is the time of year we apartment owners always get a few surprises.

 

Best wishes,

 

John

 

 

July 30, 2009

 

Stuart, Iowa

 

Hello to Everyone,

 

Tonight I am real tired but I do want to write a short note so no one thinks I dropped off the horizon. Today went as planned. I got up at 5:30 and had a nice McDonald’s breakfast. I didn’t leave the Ames Motor Lodge until 7:30 after the summer rain storm passed through.

 

Since I was in Ames I went off track a bit to ride through and around the ISU campus. It felt a bit more concentrated and organized than SUI. In the early morning at this time of year things were very quiet. I also rode through the residential neighborhoods next to the west side of the campus. It felt a bit like being around Northwestern University.

 

The only direct route between Ames, Boone and Ogden is Highway 30 and that is not a decent bike route so I rode north of Ames to pick up a county road. It was flat and quiet. There was a moderate wind from the northwest. I was passed by a male cyclist riding to work in Boone. The town of Boone seemed to be doing well as a bedroom community to Ames and a county seat, business town on its own.

 

 

Boone is best known as the birthplace of Mamie Doud Eisenhower. This is the home. The main east-west route through town is named after her and the locals just call it Mamie. I had to visit with a native to find it because it is the beginning of the road to Ogden.

 

Boone County is pretty flat except where the Des Moines River cuts through between Ogden and Boone.

The river is narrower here but it cuts a channel that is 250 feet below the surrounding farmland.

 

 

As I said, the land is quite flat in Boone County.

 

The wind and some extra miles slowed my progress and I arrived at the Bike Barn in Ogden right at 10:00 as it opened. Doug Nebbe, the owner is about my age and we spent about 45 minutes visiting about family and politics while his mechanic tuned up my bike. I recommend the shop if you are in the area.

 

In Iowa we are very lucky to have lots of honest business people. Last week Bill Brown’s Tire on Kirkwood could have taken advantage of us when we thought we needed an alignment on the van. They just balanced the tires and rotated them solving the problem for $40 when we were expecting $200+. Doug Nebbe could have sold me a new, expensive chain that I wanted for the recumbent but he showed me that my original still had plenty of wear to it and I could probably get another 4,000 miles out of it. I wish I had taken photos of his business.

 

Since I had to fight a fairly strong NW wind getting to Ogden I wanted to head south out of there as soon as possible. By 11:00 I was on my way to Perry where I had a couple slices of pizza for lunch. After doing 7 miles on a moderately busy state highway I spent the rest of the day on very quiet county roads. BTW, Perry appears to be a very nice, thriving community.

 

In the past I have been a bit depressed by so many rural Iowa towns looking so bleak. On this trip I have run across quite a few towns that are doing very well. Perhaps the strong farm economy over the last few years has made a big difference. Farmhouses in Iowa look like mansions compared to the Mississippi homes that I saw in March. Doug said that in Ogden they wouldn’t even know that there was a recession except for media reports.

 

Since I had a favorable wind I hustled south down through the small town of Redfield passing a huge natural gas underground storage facility on the way. It seemed to use up a half section of ground. I got down to Interstate 80 and then had to turn into the wind for 8 miles to get to Stuart where I am now ensconced in a nice Super 8. It cost $30 more than last night’s economy motel but not as high as a Comfort Inn or Best Western.

 

I really did enjoy the ride today. This cool weather continues to be an unexpected pleasure. If it were 95 degrees and humid I would really suffer over this 81 mile trek. Still, I am not well conditioned so tomorrow I will ride just 65 miles west going down through Atlantic and then up to a Motel 6 on the Interstate just north of Avoca. It will be a hilly ride. Then on Saturday I intend to go down to Council Bluffs and cross the Missouri on the new pedestrian-cycling bridge that opened last fall. I will certainly stop and get some good photos there. The bridge is supposed to be attractive.

 

Best wishes for now,

 

John

July 31, 2009

 

Greetings Friends and Family,

 

Tonight I am in Avoca, Iowa about 30 miles east of the Missouri River. This is the childhood home town of Dr. George Anderson, Steve’s dad. George died several years ago but I know that he was fond of this part of Iowa.

 

I am in a newer Motel 6 and it is a real good choice for me. It’s a decent room, nice bathroom, Wi-Fi and an okay bed, all for $53 plus tax.

 

I rode just 64 miles today but the day was harder than the first three days because of hills, 10 mph headwind, heat and a poor choice in planning breakfast.

 

I felt tired this morning so I was slower to get started. I wanted to ride 20 miles to Adair where there is a Happy Chef restaurant that I like. So I just ate a couple muffins from the Super 8 breakfast bar and headed down the road to Adair leaving about 8:15.

 

As I was leaving the motel a man from Minneapolis stopped me outside to ask about the bicycle. I talked to him for about 15 minutes and gave him lots of information. He took the following photo for me.

 

 

Starting without a full breakfast was a bad idea. I didn’t have much energy. But I did have a great breakfast at the Happy Chef at 10:00 and then headed southwest to Atlantic.

 

Most of the time I had real quiet, smooth roads. The road between Stuart and Atlantic is called the White Pole Road.

Someone decided to whitewash the bottom 10’ of all the utility poles along the route.

 

There are lots of motorcyclists out and about right now. It is great weather for them. The annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, SD happens the week after next as I learned from a couple bikers.

 

I rode slow into the wind and limped into Atlantic at 12:30 where I stopped at Wal-Mart and bought a new SD card for the camera. I also stopped at a downtown park.

This historical cabin interested me. It is about the size of my Motel 6 room.

 

I also liked this monument honoring their citizens who served in wartime. It reminded me how small towns seem to have provided more than their share of our soldiers and small towns seem to generate more than their share of successful entrepreneurs, inventors, scientists and other creative people. I continue to be impressed and a bit surprised at how many of these towns that I have visited before look more prosperous today.

 

If you have driven Interstate 80 in this part of Iowa lately you have seen that there are several large windmill farms. I’m sure that I saw several hundred windmills today and they were all facing into the southwest wind with their blades turning away.

 

This property owner has an interest in the P-38 fighter plane from World War II.

 

Well, overall, I am straining myself each day. I haven’t had much easy riding. But, I have learned to pace myself and I tell myself that I am building character as I try to work myself into better condition. I think it’s all working out much as I had hoped.

 

There is a road detour ahead of me that I have to figure out tonight and I have to pick a river crossing and a final destination for tomorrow night. Since it will be Saturday during a very busy vacation time I want a room reservation in place. The clerk here said that the Motel 6 is filling about almost every night of the week right now.

 

Best wishes,

 

John

 

 

August 1, 2009

 

Hello to all,

 

Today was pleasant. Blue skies and sunshine and 20 miles of flat riding in the middle were all welcome happenings.

 

 

I had a large breakfast in a truck stop just across the road from my Motel 6. This is the motel and it sits high on a knob. You can see a good ten miles from here. If you have driven I-80 in western Iowa you have probably noticed this motel. One small problem with it was sound proofing. You seem to get more noise from the hallway and adjacent rooms than other motels.

 

The county road from Avoca to Minden is very hilly. I remember riding it in 98 degree heat about 8 years ago. On that particular day I stopped in Minden at noon and took a run down motel room to get out of the heat. This morning the ride was pretty pleasant.

 

 

 

 

I have seen many cattle along the route. Today I figured I should have a photo to remind me.

Part of the rolling road ahead. This is on the downhill side.

 

After going through Minden and crossing under Interstate 80 to the west side I had about 20 easy miles down to Council Bluffs. The road runs through a small valley in the loess hills. It was level and the wind was over my right shoulder. I had a smile on my face.

 

In Council Bluffs I rode Highway 6 until it got congested. Then I took side streets to the west to find the Bob Kerry pedestrian bridge. You need to go under Interstate 29 by way of Avenue G and then follow the signs to the riverfront.

They mark the state line crossing in the middle of the bridge. There were over a hundred people on the bridge just strolling around and enjoying the nice weather and river scenery.

You can see the pedestrians from this shot below the bridge.

They probably built the bridge in this location because the Missouri River is not wide here.

 

Omaha has spent money developing their side of the river into parkland. It appeared that they had a museum and some other public buildings in the area. They are also building a pretty good network of bicycle paths.

 

I stopped downtown at the tourist information office and visited with a member of their downtown development board. He gave me some good maps. I used the maps and three different bicycle paths, lots of city streets and quite a bit of city sidewalk to work my way 15 miles to the southwest where I had a reservation at a Courtyard Marriott in a suburb named La Vista. This is a new community and the area I am in has three new hotels, a new convention center, and a Cabela’s.

When you drive west on I-80 through Omaha you see these huge grain storage bins. They are so noticeable because at the far end they appear to be within about 20’ of the Interstate. Here I ran into them on the bike path and to a photo from a side I have never seen before.

 

I covered just 60 miles today and with the slow riding through the city I felt pretty fresh when I made it to the Courtyard. If it weren’t a weekend day I might try golfing but instead I watched golf on the nice HD flat screen TV here.

This is really too luxurious for me but I got it for $84 plus tax and I decided to pamper myself. On a trip to Upper Michigan with Bruce and Florence about 15 years ago we stayed in an upper end motel. At the time it was unusual for Cheryl and I. Bruce said that it only cost 10% more to go first class. Well, he had a good point but I think it costs 25% more to go first class and that is if you are lucky and plan well. They have a little “market” downstairs and I decided to have a bottle of Samuel Adams beer and small bag of Doritos. It turned out that the cost was $7, oops!

 

I have gotten lots of questions about my bike. Today a fellow in a car stopped to ask where he could buy one. It really has been a pleasure to ride except when the hills are particularly steep.

 

Cheryl joins me along the way tomorrow. I look forward to seeing her.

 

I will probably take it easy in the morning and leave here whenever my mood feels like it. I have a nice route to Lincoln mapped out but I remember cycling through Lincoln several years ago and didn’t find it very enjoyable. However tomorrow is Sunday and it is the best day of the week to cycle. I’ll think it over. I feel pretty good tonight so I would like to get in a good ride until Cheryl reaches me along the way.

 

Hope all is well,

 

John

August 2, 2009

 

Hello to Friends and Family,

 

Cheryl and I are now in Holdrege, Nebraska. Tonight we will have dinner with Scott and Carol. Scott is her cousin and the farmer who is in charge of the farmland that Cheryl and Laura inherited. Cheryl is terminating the old farm lease so a new one can be negotiated, preferably with Scott. I wish they would just sell the land but my vote doesn’t count and that’s okay by me.

 

This was my first view of Cheryl. I was cycling from La Vista to Lincoln and we were in touch by cell phone as she approached from the east. She picked me up about 10 miles east of Lincoln on Highway 6. It was 90 degrees, humid and there was a hard southwest wind so I was glad to jump in the van. I rode just 30 miles for the day.

 

I took my time leaving the luxury of the Courtyard. Turner and Hootch was playing on TNT in high definition so I enjoyed watching it while packing up. They had free Starbucks coffee in the lobby but I was too cheap to pay them $12 for their breakfast so I meandered down the road at about 9:30 without food. I rode 15 miles to a McDonalds and ate their Deluxe Breakfast.

 

Eastern Nebraska is quite hilly just like western Iowa. After about 20 miles I finally reached the flat portion and soon the ride was over. I really like riding Highway 30 across the state or even the hillier Highway 6 but we want to be in Colorado tomorrow night so the bike will stay in the van for now.

 

Nebraska has more train traffic than you can imagine. Grand Island is the third largest city in the state and it has two major train lines going through it. One line, the BNSF, carries over 90 trains per day through the town. The other line carries 60 per day. All along Highway 30 and the BNSF line they have built numerous overpasses for motor vehicles, all being needed because of the heavy train traffic.

Here you can see that there are two main tracks along with numerous side tracks.

 

This is actually the rear end of a very long coal train that passed by me. On these long coal trains they put two engines up front, one in the middle and two more at the end. The coal is coming from Wyoming and going to power plants in the East and Midwest.

 

Tomorrow we head to Castle Rock, Colorado (about 20 miles south of Denver) and will spend the night with Dean and Aimee. We come bearing good Iowa sweet corn in our cooler. Then we go into the cool, clear, picturesque mountains. Let’s hope my legs can push my old Trek 520 up over the mountain passes.

 

I have received some nice notes and want to thank everyone for them. I will write some more notes but probably not everyday. I want to stay in touch and share some things but sometimes enough is enough.

 

Best wishes to everyone with special thoughts and love for the grandchildren,

 

John

August 5, 2009

 

Hello to Friends and Family,

 

We are doing well here in Frisco, Colorado, one of our favorite spots to be. At 9,000 feet it is very comfortable this time of year.  But let me say a few things about the last few days:

 

 

This was a small, neat motel in a tiny town in western Kansas. This part of Kansas is sparsely populated with counties that may have only a couple thousand residents.

This crop was being raised in western Kansas and we need to have someone tell us what it is.

This was a photo on Cheryl’s camera of her and her two strong sons the night before Cheryl left Iowa City. Matt and Tim are looking fit and happy. They are treasures for us all.

After Cheryl picked me up near Lincoln, Nebraska we proceeded to Holdrege and had a dinner meeting with her cousin and tenant farmer, Scott Huston. Cheryl and Scott negotiated a new farm lease for the coming year after we ate. Negotiating with a farmer is just about as hard as dealing with bargaining with an Arab rug dealer. You don’t stand a chance.

 

 

 

Ryan Huston and I talked baseball while the negotiations were being conducted. He wants to be a pitcher and is pretty good right now at age 12. Lauren is 8 and a very polite and intelligent youngster. Carol, the mom in charge, works a job and raises this family and appears to do a fine job at it all. These kids were well mannered and well spoken. It was a pleasure to spend time with them.

This is a rural restaurant called the Speakeasy set at the corner of a cornfield about five miles outside of Holdrege with no other businesses around. It is a dump outside but well finished and well maintained inside. You have to know about it by word of mouth. We have eaten here many times. It is also within a few miles of the farmland that Laura and Cheryl now own.

 

These are flowers in front of Dean and Aimee’s home in Castle Rock. I think Dean is in charge. All of their landscaping looked great and they have had more rain than usual this year so water bills are lower. All reservoirs in Colorado are now in good shape with lots of snow and rain over the last two years.

We had a happy time with Aimee and Dean. Our Iowa sweet corn was featured in a great dinner and we talked and talked and talked to catch up. Both Aimee and Dean are staying ahead of the recession with work but they said that they have to work twice as hard to make the same amount of money as before. Aimee is training for another triathlon. Dean and I should have gone golfing but maybe another time. He is very good and could probably teach me something or tell me to give up the game.

After dinner we went for a walk up around the hillocks of their subdivision.

 

Cheryl and I went on to Frisco yesterday and have a great room at the Frisco Lodge on Main Street. It is a combination motel/bed and breakfast. We have met many interesting folks who are here for mountain climbing, cycling, art shows and the like.

Ten mile creek is flowing fast through town.

 

 

 

 

I stole this image from another email. It expresses my opinion.

 

However I do favor an English/Canadian/Scandinavian health care system since we don’t have the fortitude to deny or limit health care to those who can’t or won’t take care of themselves and we don’t have the fortitude to ration our health care resources. The health insurance companies are going to fight this tooth and nail and it will take decades for us to convert but it is going to happen whether us fiscal conservatives like it or not. Socialism is ascending in our midst.

 

We are well. Right now we are headed to a lecture given by two WWII vets about their alpine training and alpine warfare in Europe. Then I will ride into the mountains for some exercise.

 

More later,

 

John

August 6, 2009

 

Hello,

 

Things are going fine here in Frisco. We have struck up a friendship with an interesting couple from Hastings, Nebraska. The 71 year old woman is an artist here to display and sell Asian Assemblage art at this weekend’s arts and crafts festival. Her 69 year old second husband is her business manager and companion. They have a condo on Singer Island in Florida where they spend the winter selling art to the east coast elite. The rest of the year they travel the country doing shows at places such as Lincoln Center and the like. They have met quite a few celebrities and have had many interesting experiences. We had dinner with them last night. I will try to get a photo for the records later. Oh, they are rare Nebraska liberals and very, very liberal at that.  So we have lots of religious, economic and social issues to discuss. Despite our differences we get along fine.

 

At breakfast we have enjoyed long talks with people from Evanston, IL, Traverse City, Michigan, and Denver, Colorado. The Traverse City fellow was here to hike up the 14,000+ peaks. He got up to about five of them during the last week. Most of the people are younger than us and all are quite adventurous. The Frisco Lodge is a good place to meet people.

 

The WWII lecture was a bust for us. The lecture hall was overflowing and we never got in. I went for a 20 mile ride up past Copper Mountain and towards the Vail Pass. It was a test ride. I rode to an elevation of 10,100’ and then coasted on back to Frisco.

 

Today I rode 40 miles and headed up to Loveland Pass. I knew that the pass was closed because yesterday a tanker truck missed a curve, crashed and started on fire. Tankers have to go over the 12,000’ pass because they are not allowed in the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate 70. I rode up to 11,100’ and then had to turn around and fly down Highway 6 back to the Lake Dillon area.

 

This was where the road to the pass was closed. I had just three miles and 900’ of climbing to reach the top and it would have been hard but I could have gotten there, slower than in the past.

 

I’m riding my Trek 520 here in the mountains and it feels fine. My legs are doing okay even if they are weaker than I would like. My arms and shoulders need to adjust to the different riding position. The lodge owner took this photo for me before I left for Loveland Pass. He has owned the lodge since 1984 and is a dedicated cyclist.

 

I made a special stop at this point on the north side of Lake Dillon. The first time I saw this lake and this area was a bit over 30 years ago when Ann and I were returning to Iowa on Interstate 70. We stopped at Lake Dillon to have a picnic lunch on the lake in this general location. We were driving a big old Buick Electra that blew black smoke as we climbed the mountain passes. We had a couple bikes strapped on back and we just crossed our fingers and hoped the car would make it through the mountains. I always think about that time when I am here. It was a happy time in our lives.

 

A nice Chinese woman was walking by and saw me taking photos and volunteered to take my picture.

 

She took a second photo too.....

 

This is a view of the downhill run on Highway 6. I knew the road would be virtually empty because of the road closure. I had a six mile downhill run into the Keystone area dropping about 2,000’ of elevation. I don’t like downhill runs. I ran between 35 and 40 mph and had to brake quite a bit. I have a fear of blowing a tire at a high speed and having a terrible crash. The thicker tires on my touring bike are safer than the thin tires on most road bikes.

 

Cheryl has been out and about touring to some of her favorite places. But since she is absent without leave I will wait till later to report about her. I hope to hit a bucket of golf balls at the Breckenridge Golf Course and tonight we will attend the music concert down the street in the park. An afternoon storm is rolling through right now so it is good that I have gotten in off the mountain road.

 

Best wishes,

 

John

 

August 8, 2009

 

Hello to all,

 

Some things that we have been doing the last two days:

 

Cheryl, Bill and Jo Nelson display one of Jo’s Asian Assemblage art pieces outside the Frisco Lodge. It looks impressive so I was too tactful to ask for a price. I feared that they might try to sell it to me and I expect the price was going to be about $5,000.

These folks are Bill and Kathy from McPherson, Kansas. She teaches in the high school and likes to cycle. Bill spent his life as a salesman. They spent some years in Indianola, Iowa when he was selling feed but have now returned to their childhood hometown. Bill helps teach a high school special education class for a salary of $1 plus health insurance. They were quite vivacious.

 

The music in the Frisco park was a bust for me. The young man on stage with his father played stuff that I couldn’t understand but the atmosphere was enjoyable anyway.

The crowd had babies, children, young folks and old folks. We enjoyed people watching.

 

Yesterday morning was our last breakfast in Frisco. We met a good Republican couple from Colorado Springs at breakfast. The husband came from Illinois. The wife came from Maquoketa, Iowa. They met in school here in Colorado many years ago. He has retired from his financial planning business of 31 years and now manufactures and sells bicycle racks designed for the bed of a pickup truck. He made a choice to have some manufacturing done in China that cost him $25,000 when the cost of getting the work done in Colorado would have been $80,000.

 

After breakfast we said goodbye to the Lodge owner and other folks that we met there and then headed west on Interstate 70 in the van. I originally had planned to ride to Vail but since we had such a long way to go to get to Montrose and since we wanted to tour some off beat places I decided it was wiser to just take it easy and stay in the van for the day. It turned out to be a great time and a lovely day.

 

We went west to Glenwood Springs and then off the Interstate south to Carbondale where we picked up a quiet road, Highway 133 taking us to Redstone and beyond.

 

This interesting piece was on the lawn of the historic Redstone Inn as we entered this small mountain town. It was a coal mining town in days gone by, namely the late 1800’s and first half of the 20th century. Now the whole town is on the National Historic Register and it was an intriguing place to visit. If we had known better we would have made the town an overnight stop but we already had the Montrose reservation so we didn’t change plans.

 

We ate lunch at a nice café with outside seating on the Crystal River. Grandma Cheryl really likes the sound of fast running water. There were youngsters tubing on the river and we both were thinking that our grandchildren would have had a fine time there.

 

I was quite happy and did reflect on how good it felt to be in Colorado.

 

The mountains in the background have a reddish tint which must be the reason for the town name.

 

See if you can tell what these things are? If I remember I will tell you later. They are just on the edge of town, a coal mining town.

 

There are several large, active coal mines in this valley. Here conveyors are piling the coal before it is loaded onto railroad cars for transport to eastern states. The small towns in the valley are purely coal towns. The rural economy of Colorado seems to be doing well.

 

This is where they load the coal cars.

 

Somewhere along the road we passed a truck pulling this horse trailer and we thought it was cute how “Mr. Ed” was going down the highway with his head stuck out in the wind.

 

We had a pleasant night at the Country Lodge in Montrose. Supper was Taco Belle items on the patio. Laurie T. might remember that we stayed in this same motel 10 years ago when riding in the Bicycle Tour of Colorado.

 

We were in the John Wayne room.

He filmed parts of the “True Grit” movies in this valley.

 

Today, August 8 has been pleasant if not a little strenuous for me. I left Montrose on my bicycle at 9:45 and headed to the Ridgeway festival. Interestingly enough there was a tour group of cyclists coming down from Ouray to Montrose as I rode. On the route I stopped to visit with one of them, a man from Des Moines. This was the last day of their week long bicycle tour and he said it had been quite hard. They rode from Montrose to Gunnison to Crede to Pagosa Springs to Durango to Ouray to Montrose. There are some hard, high passes along the route. Des Moines guy works for Principal and he thought half of Iowa was in Colorado right now.

 

This is another shot of the Country Lodge. We love motels where we can park outside our room and move back and forth easily.

 

The road from Montrose to Ridgeway has a paved shoulder except for 3.5 miles. There was a huge amount of traffic because of the Ridgeway festival and other weekend recreation. It was even worse because I was headed south on a bike and the tour group was headed north at the same time. Still, it was okay and I am used to dealing with traffic. North of Ridgeway is the Ridgeway State Park and Recreation area. A cement bike path has been constructed from the state park into the town of Ridgeway. I used it because it is scenic. Those are the mountains that I will be riding through in the next two days.

 

This was a view of the Uncompahgre River from the bike path. This River flows out of the mountains and down to the Gunnison River and eventually into the Colorado River.

 

Some expensive artwork at the festival, the large pieces went for $4,000+.

 

The True Grit Café in Ridgeway.

 

Cheryl and her childhood/high school friend, Marianne having lunch in Ridgeway. Marianne married Craig and they moved to Colorado many years ago and never left. They love it here.

 

 

Marianne’s husband Craig uses the stage name Chris Hughes. He is a Bettendorf High graduate too. What a head of hair.

 

Well, after spending a couple hours at the festival I rode the last 10 miles up to our motel here in Ouray. It is the Box Canyon Lodge and I have been here about 10 times over the last 25 years. It has hot spring tubs, beautiful views and the like. We will send photos later and wrap this up so we can have dinner with Marianne downtown. It was a hard 40 mile day because of the upward trek and some hard winds but I feel great.

 

Cheryl send her best to everyone. She just got out of the hot tub and is hungry.

 

Best wishes,

 

John

 

 

August 9, 2009

 

Hello from Silverton, Colorado,

 

 

We left Ouray this morning about 10:00 and Cheryl took photos while I pedaled relentlessly uphill. This is a photo of Ouray from the south as you start climbing the steep mountain road known as the “Million Dollar Highway.”

 

Ouray really is similar to Swiss towns in the Alps and as it gets more and more refined it will become even more similar. Last night we had dinner in the Bulows Restaurant located on Main Street in the Beaumont Hotel, a historic building that has been carefully and expensively restored by a fellow who must have had lots of money and no particular profit motive. The building looks magnificent inside and out but I can’t imagine that the investment is producing a great return. At the same time I wish I could have done a restoration such as this. I would like to stay at the hotel the next time we go through town.

 

The road up to Red Mountain Pass has a 7% grade most of the time and that is really hard for me. It took 3,200’ of climbing to reach the pass and I spent most of the 13 miles in my lowest gear. Cheryl stopped ahead of me several times and I took some breaks on the way up. One of the bad things is that the road has a steep, fatal drop off on the right side and often times I was struggling and worrying about going off the mountain all at the same time.

 

The water here is orange and is coming out of the mountains this color.

 

Here I’m getting a little higher in the San Juan Mountains.

 

This is a scene on the way down from the pass. It took me more than two hours to get up to the pass, just 13 miles. Four other riders passed me on the way up. Another tour group of cyclists of about 400 riders were coming north from Durango to Ouray.

 

It took only about 20 minutes to coast down the mountains to Silverton where we are staying tonight in an old motel on Main Street. It is comfortable and has Wi-Fi so we can research our days ahead.

 

Silverton is another old mining town at 9,300’ with mostly gravel streets, lots of empty lots and lots of buildings for sale. The Durango to Silverton tourist train comes in three times a day during the busy season but after those tourists head back to Durango the town quiets down.

 

 

Cheryl outside the old jail. There are lots of buildings from the late 1800’s to examine including a number of old brothels.

 

The engineer of the train seemed to be working on a repair issue.

 

 

Nicholas here set up his business outside the train station. I didn’t want a rock to take home but gave him a dollar anyway. He doesn’t need a stimulus payment and judging from the signs and posters I see in rural Colorado these folks aren’t much in favor of government meddling in their lives. They are pretty independent.

 

We have had an interesting evening here but I will write about that later. I need to rest and dream about the two additional passes I have to get over between here and Durango.

 

Hope all is well in hot, humid Iowa. We continue to read about the robberies and shootings in Iowa City and wonder if we should buy a fire arm before coming home.

 

John

 

 

August 10, 2009

 

A report from rural Mancos, Colorado:

 

(Photos at the end tonight)

 

Silverton is much less refined than many of our touring stops. As I mentioned earlier, there is only one paved street. Buildings are old and rough. Prices are high in the small grocery and in the restaurants but we don’t mind because we know that they have to make money during the tourist season and before business dries up.

 

We had a fine dinner at a small main street café that worked with a limited dinner menu suitable for a small establishment. The owner worked the small bar and waited on all the tables. Her daughter seemed to be about seven years old and traipsed around during the dinner hour probably because there would be no child care for her to be home.

 

The town band marched out of a side street and held an hour long concert right in the middle of Main Street while we ate. The band members were merchants in Silverton and other residents who had a modicum of musical talent.

 

We slept well in our small motel and were slow to rise. It was 40 degrees in the early morning but I did get up and ate oatmeal and a burrito to charge myself for a ride over Molas Pass and down to Durango. Cheryl did have a headache during the night and we are guessing that the 9,300’ elevation was the cause.

 

I headed up the mountain on the bike at 9:30. The climb out of Silverton was very steep but I must be getting a bit stronger because I made an 1,800’ climb to Molas Pass without too much trouble. Just before I got to the pass and could contemplate the downhill ride to Durango Cheryl came by in the van and described a tire problem.

 

Our right front tire was nearly flat when she embarked from the motel. A warning light went off and she found that it only had 12 psi inflation. She inflated it to 35 psi at a gas station but was pretty worried about whether it would hold. We have no spare tire in the van because it has Michelin PAX “run flat” tires. You can drive for 125 miles on a flat tire but you have to get to a Honda dealer or other tire company that has a very special machine to repair or install a new tire. They are few and far between here in the southwest of Colorado.

 

We decided that I better get in the van with her while we figured out the problem. We headed slowly down to Durango while calling Tim to have him do an Internet search for Honda dealers. There was no Honda dealer in Durango. There was one in Farmington. There were no tire dealers in Durango with the right equipment to help us. But, in Durango the tire still held its full 35 psi pressure. What to do? What to do?

 

If we had been back in Iowa we would have just gone on but since we were going to be spending the next five days in remote areas we decided that we should go to Farmington, New Mexico to get the tire examined and fixed if need be. It was just an extra sixty miles.

 

The Honda service people in Farmington were great. They took the tire off and couldn’t find a problem so they just reassured us that we should go on and they charged us nothing. We had a pleasant time visiting with them and another lady from Durango in their waiting room.

 

Tonight we are staying in a rural lodge: Lost Canyon Lodge about 10 miles northwest of Mancos. It is pricey but there are just four rooms and a huge common room/living room/game room/kitchen. It is really beautiful, the kind of place to take your honey for a few days of quiet romance.

 

We have met one couple: Mike is originally from Connecticut but has spent his adult working life working first for the USIS and now the State Department. He appears to be just a tad bit younger than me. He is nerdish looking and talks like an east coast intellectual. In twenty minutes I learned quite a bit about his career. He is in between postings and now will be headed to Honduras where there is quite a bit of civil unrest. I dreamed of working for the State Department when I was younger but never had the courage to give it a go and always figured it would be horrible for a family life.

 

Mike has spent lots of time in Europe. Hamburg, Germany and Vienna, Austria are two postings that have taken up much of his time. In Vienna he met Kristina and is now partnered with her. I assume that they are married. She works for the International Atomic Energy Commission so I want to pump her for more information. Unfortunately, she is in accounting and doesn’t know as many details as I would like to ask about. As is frequently the case, we pump other folks for information and they ask us not a question. Are we that intrusive?

 

There are many abandoned Uranium mines on this western side of Colorado. We are thinking about visiting the towns where the mines have been closed. We want to research uranium mining and find out why these mines are shut down.

 

When I was in Vietnam I worked with a USIS officer. He would have been older than Mike and may have really been something different. Mike didn’t know the name. Often times these folks are disguised CIA but if Mike is CIA he really doesn’t need much “cover.” He looks like a music professor at a small New England college to me.

 

The lodge owners are Tom and Sally with Tess, their dog. They have been married 46 years. He grew up in Oswego, Illinois, she near Denver. They met in school in Boulder. She taught special education in elementary school. He was an aero space engineer for over thirty years. They retired in 2003 and bought this place. Before long they will sell and begin a quieter retirement. Tom and Mike both had high security clearances. I wish I could exact all their secrets.

 

Mike and I, two nerds with the same little computer on the deck at the Lost Canyon Lodge.

 

This bike would not make it up the mountain passes.

 

The community band marching down Main Street.

 

 

A view of northwestern New Mexico. Farmington is in a very dry, forlorn area of our country. I know that gas and oil drilling is part of the economy. It is a regional center and Indian reservations are nearby.

 

This is the view from our bedroom at Lost Canyon Lodge.

 

Our porch.

 

The rugged and beautiful San Juan Mountains. It is a privilege to be here.

 

Best wishes for now,

 

John with photos by Cheryl

 

 

August 13, 2009

 

A report from Telluride about various things:

 

Jenny sent us this photo of Olivia asleep in her princess dress. We think we will be back for her birthday or close to it. She seems to have grown older in the few weeks that we have been gone.

 

On Monday night at Lost Canyon Lake Lodge we had sandwiches on the spacious deck overlooking the lake. Tess, the friendly dog, wanted to share.

 

Owners Tom and Sally enjoy meeting their guests and learning about them. Tom was very tactful as any host needs to be. In other words he kept his opinions to himself until he knew who and what he was dealing with. I haven’t often been so careful.

 

Tuesday morning we met another interesting couple at the lodge: Jean Michele was a 40 year old French architect making his first visit to America and traveling from Los Angeles to New York with Michele, a college dean and old friend. She had been working in LA and is happier going back to the Big Apple. Jean lives in Paris and does lots of building remodeling jobs. Both were energetic and interesting. They were trying to see lots of America and in Iowa would be stopping in Dubuque later this month.

 

We drove into Dolores where we had to air up our tire. Yes, it is still leaking about 10-12 pounds a day so we have to do something about it. I got on the bike and started riding up to Telluride along the Dolores River. Cheryl drove south to Cortez to visit an Indian Trading Post and Museum.

 

This was my view of the Dolores River as I headed north on Highway 145. This route between Dolores and Telluride is a great cycling route because the climb is gradual and traffic count is very low. You can’t beat the scenery either.

 

Cheryl caught up with me after I rode about 30 miles and I got in the van. We stopped in the town of Rico (summer population of 250) and had a black bean veggie burger in the local saloon.

 

 

That brown thing on the sidewalk is a sleeping dog. Colorado is full of big dogs and in rural areas they often roam free.

 

We have been just kicking back and taking it easy here in Telluride. We are now in our third night in a small but adequate ski motel room. It is quite worn but the price was cheap for this town. Here lodging and restaurant prices are close to double other places. Groceries are high and real estate is about four times average cost. The whole town is historic and subject to the maximum in government regulations. You need a permit for everything and you have to play under strict rules. It is like Iowa City except here most of the folks want to play this game to keep property values and overall prices high. There will never be any Motel 6’s here or the usual run of fast food restaurants. I wouldn’t want to live here and even visiting this town is somewhat uncomfortable to me.  

 

The ski area is a town of its own: Mountain Village. It is typical ski town stuff: expensive. I have never been comfortable in these ski villages.

 

Cheryl has an old high school friend who has been in Colorado most of his adult life and in the Telluride area for about 30 years. Dave makes his living installing tile and work has been slow the last year. In the past he did the tile work for Oprah Winfrey and Tom Cruise when they built their mansions in Mountain Village 15 or more years ago. Oprah was friendly to the workers visiting with them and remembering their names. Tom Cruise was unfriendly. When he visited the job site the workers had to leave.

This is Doris and Dave at the Wednesday evening music concert in Mountain Village. Doris came from Michigan and Dave from Bettendorf. They met here in Telluride and now have two grown children. Doris is a massage therapist on the mountain. Dave still loves to ski and does that about 100 days each year. He looked very fit.

 

They do free concerts every Wednesday night during the summer. The crowd was festive. The music didn’t capture me so I left after an hour.

 

Today we hiked along the river to see where mining operations had been conducted during the last 150 years. Late in the afternoon I took my small bag of golf clubs up the gondola to Mountain Village and walked around until I found their golf course. To play it would have cost $180 and to use the driving range you have to wait until late in the day when the real players are done. I bought a couple bags of balls and hit about five bags down the mountain.  The club members left lots of their balls laying at the range and I dispatched them. I hit them pretty straight so I was happy about that. I hope to play some real golf in Gunnison.

 

Even though we have been here almost three days we have eaten only one meal in a restaurant. Our food has come from the Hispanic food cart, various delicatessens and a take out bakery/café. We don’t want to pay $25 for a meal that we would usually get for $12. I like cycling in this area but I would vote to skip Telluride next time.

 

We are told that Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank here. Then he went over Lizard Head Pass and down to Dolores where he met up with Harry Longabaugh, the Sundance Kid.

We shouldn’t honor Butch and Sundance. They were thieves. They were killers.

 

This is the town of Telluride from the gondola.

 

We have to head to Grand Junction tomorrow morning where we really do hope to get their Honda dealer to fix our tire. I hope to jump out of the van to ride a couple hours for exercise. We have some nice plans ahead.

 

Cheryl is well. I am anxious to move on.

 

Best wishes,

 

John

 

 

 

 

August 16, 2009

 

Peach festival, country music, leaky tire, Black Canyon of the Gunnison and much more:

 

In general we are continuing to enjoy western Colorado. I really like it. It may be dry and though there are pockets of snobbery in places like Telluride, Mountain Village, and Grand Junction (just on the day the Obama crowd passed through) most folks are unpretentious, solid citizens. There are wide open spaces. Some are green national forests and grasslands and some barren mesas and deserts. We are lucky to be here.

 

We continue to have a leaky tire. We drove direct to Grand Junction on Friday to get it repaired at the Honda dealer there. The repair cost $126. The tire still leaks just the same. We are adjusting. Maybe a new $350 tire will be needed when we get back to the Front Range.

 

We have been a bit preoccupied with political and economic issues during this trip. Each night we read the latest updates and debate the constantly changing health care reform bill. We ponder the sensibility of the cash for clunkers program and we try to understand how the unfunded stimulus programs can, in the long term, be good for our country and a solution to our economic doldrums.

 

It is quite befuddling but one thing is certain. Each and every program will cost Cheryl and I big dollars, some now and a hell of a lot more in the years ahead. It is a bitter pill to swallow. You live your life responsibly. You defer pleasure and luxuries. You pay attention to your health. Your reward: pay for everyone else who haven’t had the gumption and discipline to pay their own way.

 

Well, we are still able to block out the negative events and enjoy ourselves:

 

We went to the Palisades Peach festival both Friday evening and Saturday. Palisades is a small community about 15 miles west of Grand Junction. This area is very dry getting only about 8 inches of rain each year. However the Gunnison River and the Colorado River join in Grand Junction and along both of these rivers the land is irrigated and the irrigated ground along with this western Colorado climate is perfect for orchards and grapes. Peaches and many different wines are produced here and all are delicious.

 

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this small town Peach Festival. They had numerous vendors selling arts and crafts as well as peaches and peach products.

 

This is a view of the Colorado River near the festival grounds. There are large orchards on the other side of the river.

 

On Saturday the “High Mountain Grass” musicians entertained me: I had been really disappointed with the live music that we had experienced in other places but this group was right on for me. I could have sat and listened all day.

 

We left the Peach Festival in mid afternoon to visit a winery and head away from the dry mesas to the green mountains.

Before irrigation this entire scene would be just like the cliffs in the background.

 

Every time I am near Grand Junction I spend some time trying to find an army friend: Louis Hilker. He graduated first in our Officer Candidate School class in 1967. I was third. For some reason I have always wanted to reconnect with him but have never been able to locate him. His name is not on “The Wall” so I figure that he didn’t die in Vietnam. Lou, if you are out there, let me know.

 

We drove through this area on our way to Cedaredge, a small town where we stayed last night. It would have been a great route to cycle and I intend to come back to do that soon.

 

Today we rode/drove 110 miles to Gunnison. I spent 50 great miles on the bicycle riding above the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. There were many great vistas and here is a sample:

Below is the Gunnison River.

 

I think that the river is dangerous for rafting. Note the steep, black canyon walls.

 

Cheryl might have fallen over the edge while taking this self photo.

 

We are staying in a nice motel two miles west of Gunnison. I chose it because it is located next to the only golf course in the area. In fact our room fronts on the course.

I walked over to their clubhouse late in the afternoon and hit about 80 balls at the driving range. Tomorrow I hope to play 18 holes. This motel is the Water Wheel Inn and Laurie T. and I stayed here on our bike tour 10 years ago.

 

Well enough for now.

 

John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 18, 2009

 

Gunnison-Crested Butte-Monarch Pass-Salida

 

Gunnison has always seemed comfortable to me. It has economic viability that makes homes and commercial property appear well tended. There are new schools. The town is home to just under 6,000 people. It is a regional trade center for anyone within sixty miles. It has an airport, wide bicycle lanes, Western State College, and the up and coming Crested Butte ski area just thirty miles to the north. It is also well located for us cyclists traveling through or around Colorado.

 

Yesterday I decided to cycle up to Crested Butte to see how that pricey town is doing. Cheryl joined me to have a late lunch at a nice outdoor restaurant. The temperature was about 75 degrees and the sky was blue.

 

I didn’t play golf because the course was booked for a club event. I did use their driving range and hit most of the balls in the right direction.

 

Today we left the Water Wheel Inn at mid morning and I started riding to Salida. It was a pleasant ride until I had to lug myself up and over Monarch Pass. It has an elevation of about 11,300’ and I was starting at 7,650’. I sent Cheryl ahead to Salida so I wouldn’t be tempted to quit. I have ridden over this pass at least three times before but it always seems very hard. This is the first time I rode it from west to east. There was no cell phone coverage west of the pass or on top. So, I just kept moving forward and did make it, quite tired from the effort.

 

This fellow is from the Netherlands and I met him on the road going up to Monarch Pass. He is riding from Los Angeles to Denver. Before that he rode from New York City to Orlando and then flew to LA. He was the only cyclist I saw today.

 

This is a view down from the edge of the road. On these mountain roads you don’t want to slip off the edge.

 

I stopped at the top for a cup of coffee and bowl of chili. I needed a good rest before plunging down the eastern side. On the downhill I had to ride the brakes to keep my speed under 40 mph.

 

As I approached Poncha Springs Cheryl met me on the road. She was thinking that I was behind my usual pace and she didn’t want me to ride through a long construction zone between Salida and Poncha Springs. I ended up riding 60 miles and foregoing the last 10 miles.

 

We are now in a nice motel, Silver Ridge Lodge, on Highway 50 here in Salida. We have a large honeymoon suite for $90. The place is owned by a couple who are immigrants from some European country. The place is very well maintained but the owners are just businesslike and not “Midwestern friendly.”

 

The tire still leaks but we are getting used to it. We will plan tomorrow….well tomorrow. We are being very relaxed and comfortable.

 

Best wishes,

 

John

 

August 20, 2009

 

Hello to all,

 

I feel exceptionally good this evening so that makes it an opportune time to write a note. Cheryl and I have moved from Salida to Canon City to Colorado Springs. We came here this afternoon to a Drury Inn not far from the entrance to the United States Air Force Academy. I rode to Colorado Springs from Canon City, a lovely 45 mile ride with a great road, Colorado Highway 115, running along the western edge of the Fort Carson Military Reservation.

 

That reminds me of a story about my past: In Vietnam I worked as a military advisor to the South Vietnamese and my boss was Colonel Davis who had spent a lot of his stateside service at Fort Carson. He seemed old to me but was probably just 40 at the time. To keep up morale he had our advisory team play volleyball each evening when we were in camp. The Vietnamese played with us. He was a terrific athlete and he always wanted me on his side because I was a good setter and he loved to spike the ball.

 

About half way through my tour he had to choose to send either me or another 1st. Lieutenant to the “Fish Hook” area along the Cambodian border, about 30 miles west of where we were located. The other guy was sent and I always thought it was because I was the better volleyball player. Who knows? Well, the other guy never got hurt but there along the border (I did have to do some duty over there) he had to sleep in a bunker because the North Vietnamese Army was coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail and they lobbed mortar shells over the border every night.

 

Then, during the last three months of my tour, Spring and Summer of 1969 they began invading across the border and that was the beginning of the end. I headed home in late July before things got too bad but I did work with a group of five Lieutenants who went out in the field with the South Vietnamese troops and one in our group was killed in combat. He was a West Point grad but not as smart as he should have been. The Vietnamese would have burial mounds in their rice paddies. He stuck his head above one and took a slug right in his forehead. I was sent out with my Sergeant and my interpreter to bring back the body.  We went by jeep and by boat but were never able to reach the location of the little battle. Later the body was recovered by helicopter.

 

I stopped to take this photo for no sentimental reason. I was just real tired and needed an excuse to rest.

 

As I rode by one of the entrances to Fort Carson I stopped to take some photos near some family housing units:

 

It was hard to not feel some strong emotions. In Vietnam most of us guys were too young to have wives and children back home. Things are different now and I’m sure that spouses and children of those serving overseas right now have lots of worries on their minds.

 

This was a view from the foothills out towards the dry plains of Colorado.

 

Yesterday Cheryl and I visited Royal Gorge.

The Arkansas River comes out of the Rocky Mountains up near Leadville and as it passes near Canon City it cut a 1,000’ gorge. This is a view from the top.

 

In 1929 they built a quarter mile suspension bridge across the gorge as a tourist attraction. You can drive across. This is a pricey tourist trap but we wanted to go back for another look. Cheryl and I were here in 1987 and Ann and I were here sometime in the late 70’s.

 

Canon City and the surrounding area are home to several prisons. That seems to make up their economy. They have pens for men and women and, in nearby Florence, they have the well known Federal Maximum Detention Prison where they house the most dangerous and infamous prisoners such as the Unabomber and some convicted terrorists.

 

The town is hurting financially unlike other Colorado towns that we have been visiting. Downtown businesses are folding. To fill in they have lots of unsavory storefronts like pawn shops, tattoo parlors, and bars as well as lots of consignment stores. We went out to eat at a downtown restaurant in a very large space. We were the only customers until four other people came in as we ate. It felt like a ghost restaurant.

 

Oh, we came to Colorado Springs to have a third Honda dealer work on our tire. It is scheduled to be tomorrow morning. Maybe it will get fixed, maybe not.

 

 

Anyway, all is well. It’s happy hour downstairs so off we go.

 

Best wishes,

 

John

August 23, 2009

 

Hello to all,

 

We are spending our last night in Colorado here in the town of Sterling in the northeast corner of the state, an area that has been dubbed “high, wide and lonesome.”

 

This is a view from the Gold Camp Road above the city of Colorado Springs. Fifty-two years ago when Cheryl was seven her Dad took a photo of her on this rock, so she remembers.

The road hasn’t changed for a hundred years or so.

Oh, yes, we did have to buy a new tire. The repairman in Grand Junction committed tire repair malpractice, according to the repairmen in Colorado Springs. Sometimes things just don’t work out well.

This is another view of Colorado Springs from the Gold Camp Road. Imagine the gold miners trekking through here in the 19th century.

We spent two days at the Manitou Springs Mountain Man Music Festival. This was the best group there. The guy on the left played bass for 25 years for the Kingston Trio. The next two fellas are both English teachers who have enough talent to be fine entertainers but not enough to make a living. John came in from New York State. Jim came in from California. The guy on the right, Bruce, came in from Florida. Some of you have to see that he is a striking look-a-like for a person we knew so well.

This old fellow looks like a mountain man but is actually a local artist sketching some of the performers. We wanted a better photo but were too chicken to be so obvious as to stand in front of him an snap his picture.

Again, our favorite group playing good folk tunes. I really enjoyed the music and we sat through about 12 hours worth.

Colorado is one of the best states in the nation to bicycle. The roads are designed to accommodate cyclists and the cyclists have a very strong presence.

These young performers were very good but they don’t make much money so clothing is sparse. Note: unlike many of the younger people you see these days, no tattoos on these guys.

 

We left Manitou Springs late in the morning and drove 200 miles to Sterling. I got the bike out of the van and rode the last 40 miles from Brush to Sterling. It was hot and windy so I was tired when I made it to the Best Western. It was a great motel, newly remodeled. We had supper at an authentic Mexican restaurant.

 

Our trip has gone well in all respects except for diet. We both feel great but haven’t been disciplined about eating. It’s hard to be careful eating when using so many restaurants.

 

More later,

 

John

 

August 25, 2009

 

A final note on the road:

 

We will be home this afternoon since we just need to drive from Kearney, Nebraska. This has been one of our best trips to Colorado. Folks in Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado are much the same: very friendly and mostly self sufficient.

 

My activity yesterday:

 

I played golf at a very rural nine hole course near a tiny town called Dailey, Colorado. The course was just perfect for me and I was the only player on it for half of my outing. I was rusty and there were huge mosquitoes all over but it was a good experience.

 

That’s me on the driving range.

 

One of Cheryl’s Swedish ancestors settled in this northeast corner of Colorado near Haxtun in the latter 1880’s, died here and was buried somewhere around here. While I was golfing Cheryl scoured the countryside going to Churches, the town hall, the funeral home and cemeteries looking for the body. She never found him but she did get some clues and learned lots about the folks who made this forlorn, dry country their home.

 

 

One of the first things the Swedish immigrants did was to build a church. It was a center of community activity and something that held folks together during very hard times.

The older you get the more you appreciate what your ancestors did to give you the opportunity to live and flourish in the good old USA.

 

About the USA, the folks in Nebraska and Colorado really do appear to be quite resilient. The recession is just a blip on the screen.

 

While we traveled in Colorado we spent most of our time in the smaller communities and we know that Denver and other large communities would be different. One fact that we were discussing the other day is how we went for many days on the western side of the state without seeing any Black Americans. We would commonly see Hispanic Americans, Asians and Indian immigrants but no Blacks.

 

In Colorado Springs I was chatting with the Drury Inns desk clerk, a black woman of about 30. She had been in Colorado Springs working for Drury five years and was leaving in two months to return to a Drury Inn near St. Louis, her home town. She preferred St. Louis to Colorado Springs and that is hard for me to fathom. So, you know that I am willing to stick my neck out once in a while and ask a tricky question so I asked her if Colorado Springs was too “white” for her. She immediately responded in the affirmative. She wanted to be back with her own black community. The downside of that is all the missed opportunities…….missing out on seeing the country, missing out on jobs and just missing out on many life experiences. The clerk said that she had not spent time traveling in Colorado and most people talked about enjoying the mountains but never went there.

 

Well, if it weren’t for family ties, I can say with certainty that I would sell 905 Bluffwood Drive in a heartbeat and spend a significant part of the year in Colorado, maybe all year. It is a healthy, beautiful place to be.  But that won’t happen so we are headed down the road in a few moments.

 

Hope all is well with you and the rest of the world.

 

John