Day 48: Have we mentioned that we're still on Highway 96???
No but for real though. 96 is The Road That Never Ends. After a much-needed restful night in Ordway at the very friendly Hotel Ordway (they've got a good hostel rate for cyclists!), we're back on our old friend/nemesis highway again. We're still crossing all our crossable body parts that my tire makes it the last 55-ish miles to Pueblo, where I've got a new tire on order to a bike shop. After scarfing the donuts from Kimi's, we're on our way.
Unfortunately, there's not much good to be said about the ride from Ordway to Pueblo. Sometimes (as in life), shit just ain't scenic. While this stretch of 96 isn't as grandiosely desolate as the miles we've already done, in a way that takes away the character that it had. Now, the landscape isn't so much extraterrestrial as just scrubby; there's much more traffic (and Colorado drivers don't give you as wide a berth as Kansas drivers do), the road shoulders are—with a few exceptions—skinny or gravelly or don't exist, and the road surface itself continues to be pretty broken up. Both of us put on "our stories" pretty fast and depend on them to get us through the hot, the wind, and the bumps. Beau's still going strong with Our Mutual Friend, and I owe my sanity over the last 100+ miles to "No Such Thing As a Fish." Thank you, QI elves, for distracting me from tire anxiety with good humor and fun facts.
Before we've even rolled out of Ordway, a guy starts waving at us on the street — "Y'all going west? Come to my museum! It's in Olney Springs! I'll give you free water!" About ten miles down the road, as we're entering Olney Springs, the same guy practically jumps out of the bushes and waves us over (he's beat us back there in his car). He runs a small art museum that benefits veterans and has also organized a big veterans memorial in the little town. He gives us water and shows us some of his arts and crafts — he's a nice guy and wants to make sure that cyclists know that Olney Springs is a friendly place for them. ("We're not on the map," he says, "but we're trying to be!")
We stop in Boone for lunch — by which I mean, we stop in Boone and sit on the sidewalk outside the post office because it's the only place with shade, and eat some snacks out of our trusty Mr. Bouquet. Boone is another small collection of dusty buildings, many of which look abandoned. But it lets us escape the sun for a second, stretch, get some calories, and get ourselves ready for the last 20 miles.
In a cosmically kind turn of events, the last 20 miles into Pueblo actually go pretty fast — and... wait... what's that... could that be a real live tailwind for the last 10 or so?! Praise be to the bike gods! We're happy to get through this bit quickly, because the TransAm brings you into Pueblo on some pretty big roads that are merging with some even bigger roads. There are wide shoulders, but biking close to interstates is never great fun.
But we make it! And the tire is still intact! VICTORY!!! My replacement tire isn't arriving until tomorrow, so for the moment we treat ourselves to Irish nachos and beers. For those keeping score, that's 170 miles on this busted-ass tire. WHEW. It's time to drink. And then, it's time to start climbing mountains again! The Rockies are in sight, and the plains are behind us. We're headed up, up, up...
Oh, but first, the pub we're at is also serving all-you-can-eat fish & chips as its lunch special. Beau eats 6 pieces of fish. After the nachos. Beware the appetites of cyclists.
Day 48: Ordway to Pueblo, CO, 54.2 miles, 1175 feet of climbing, 1 NOT YET EXPLODED TIRE, all of the fish.