May 23, 2012
Oak Grove, MO – Denver, CO: 660mi
I woke up in Oak Grove to a beautiful morning with pink and orange sky. I was excited to get on the road fast hoping to get to Denver and stay with an old friend I hadn’t seen in 14 years. While I was packing up the bike I saw a tall man just two sites down from me with his gorgeous Rhodesian ridgeback. They came meandering by and I saw him eyeing the bike while I was eyeing his dog. He asked where I was headed and when I told him Alaska he said he wished he was on the same trip. However, he was on his way back home to California in his new Rubicon jeep.
As it turns out this was the meeting of another Adventure Rider, LongTallSally….again, another providential encounter on this trip. We talked for an hour about good rides and good bikes as well as some of his own adventures. It just so happened I was planning on being in California later in the summer to work at the San Francisco Zoo after riding to Alaska and he lived in the Bay area. So I got thorough advice on sites to see and routes to take while traveling through California, not to mention, a friend to ride with while I was there.
The time flew by while we chatted so I told him my plans on getting to Denver, anxious it was getting late. It turned out he too was headed there for the night to meet a friend. We exchanged numbers and I got a head start leaving the campground but it was nice to know he’d be right behind me.
I rode through the entire state of Kansas that day with a wind advisory of 35mph gusts of wind. I had to stay tight on the bike, knees and elbows tucked, leaning forward over the tank and holding my head just above the tachometer. My neck got sore from bracing and I felt the bike leaning left the whole day to compensate. When I got off for gas I felt as if I was unable to stand straight and my spine was permanently kinked to the left.
At one point I could see a dust storm like a mini tornado spinning across the ground. It was moving towards the road and I anticipated it may cross the same time as myself. Sure enough I watched it get closer to the road as I got closer to it and I braced myself while I rode through it. It felt just like the eye of a storm, remarkably quiet in the middle.
Kansas may be the worst state I have been through, hence my riding through it as fast as possible. However, I found it interesting seeing the landscape change. The flat plains on the east are yellow with fields of wind turbines. As you head west the plains develop small hills and the land turns greener and scattered with oil rigs. Yup, that’s about it.
After one of my many stops for gas, LongTallSally eventually passed me on the road. I rode behind him for awhile until I eventually lost him as I needed to stop AGAIN for gas. As I crossed into Colorado I could feel the temperature starting to drop and the sky looked like rain. I spent the last hour riding in one of the heaviest downpours of my trip. I could hardly see through my visor and was having to crack it open to see the lines on the road which then just stung my face with sharp rain. My hands went cold and numb with my gloves soaked through. I knew my next investment in Denver would be proper gloves.
There weren’t any cars to follow and then suddenly I saw lights behind me and sure enough it was LongTallSally. Knowing my predicament and still 30 miles from Denver he got in front of me and gave me lights to follow into the city. It was rush hour and I was thankful to have him in front keeping an eye on me.
The rain subsided and LongTallSally pulled off the highway to his destination knowing I was okay while I continued to my friend’s house. Just before getting there I saw the car in front of me go through a flooded section of road. All I saw was the wave of water tower over the driver’s window. I tried not to panic knowing I had no choice but to ride through what looked like a foot of water. I maintained the throttle and told myself not to touch the break and we glided through getting only my feet submerged.
When I made it to my friends I felt it was a miracle. It may not be the longest day of my trip but certainly the most miles along with the most challenging weather. It is just providential I made it, thanks to LongTallSally.
Get some fucking waterproof gloves!
Quote of the day:
I stopped at a gas station and a cute hippie chick came up to me and said, “You passed me on the highway back there. I like your bike. I can’t believe you’re a girl!”