Saturday, July 11, 2009

second cousins and 3rd of july fireworks!

Day: 42
Date: July 1, 2009
Captain: Greg
Town: Canon City/Florence
Weather: muggy with scary clouds
Where we slept: The Emerson School (ie Beth from Pizza Madness's mansion!)

Our original gameplan was to wake up at 6 am and get a start on the day. It was freezing, so I called Kendal on my cell phone for wake up call, because there was no way I was getting out of my sleeping bag. It's too cold at 9000 feet! Once a resonable temp was reached, we emerged from our tents and packed up camp. I rode ahead while the rest of the gang went back to the city of South Park and took pictures with the signs and posed for a local photographer (an adorable 8 yr old named Piper who happened to be walking by at the time).

The ride was 75 miles, our longest to date. Fortunately, we were going downhill MOST of the way, or so we thought.

The route turned out to be much more climbing than we had anticipated. It was also quite windy. We were racing rainclouds the whole way, so we rode quite a bit faster than normal. Along the way, we ran into an Adventure Cycling supported tour. I waved as they flew down the hill I climbed, but ran into some lovely ladies at the top of one of the passes. After a brief chat, enjoyed 10 r/s mile downhill. There was a serious damper on the "prepaid" miles. the wind made the downhills very sketchy. After all these miles, we finally descended for 10 more glorious miles into canon city (pronounced "canyon") and eagerly looked for the campsite and pizza that had been donated. We discovered a hitch in the sleeping arrangements. The campsite was at Royal Gorge, at the top of the glorious 10 mi descent, which meant we would have to climb straight back up after gorging ourselves on free pizza, which would have been painful, to say the least.

The unanimous decision was to forego the very generous campsite donation, and look for a more local option. Pizza would definitely help us brainstorm, so we went to Pizza Madness, where we were greeted by the owner Beth, who had donated the meal. We told her of our dilemma, and after making a few calls, invited us to her house in Florence, the next town over. We were VERY grateful.

Pizza Madness is not a spot to be missed. There is a ton of cool Night-before-xmas-inspired sculptures and murals, all the staff have cool piercings (except Beth) and were very sweet and interested in our trip, and the restaurant seemed to serve all types of people; old couples, college kids, big family parties, teenagers, etc. And the food was top knotch, we especially appreciated the pesto house salad dressing. mmmmmmm.

After a considerable digest, we biked the 7 miles to their absolutely amazing manor. Beth and her husband Colby (who we sadly did not get to meet, he was out of town) and their three kids live in a school house built in 1903 that was converted to an incredible mansion. They moved to into the house when they came to the area from Denver four years ago and bought Pizza Madness 4 years ago. The school was HUGE, and filled with incredible antiques, some left over by the previous owner, and some of their own. It was the kind of house you'd see in a movie like Blank Check. We spent the rest of the evening hanging out with the kids, Kristin, Michael, and Matthew. The boys very generously gave us their king-sized beds to share (also left by the previous owner) while they protected their mom from the boogey-man, since Colby was out of town. we are really really enjoying colorado.

Day: 43
Date: July 2, 2009
Captain: Rachel
Town: Pueblo
Weather: still muggy with scary clouds that still didn't quite get us
Where we slept: Kaleigh and Adams beautiful home

The next morning we awoke to a delicious breakfast and great conversation with Beth. She had a very interesting life story, and told us all about some unique aspects of Pizza Madness, where we all want to be employed now. At around 10 Beth had to run to work, so she kissed all the kids and gave us all hugs, and was off.

We spent the next three hours playing nerf wars and air hockey with the kids, meeting their pet turtles, their beautiful corn snake, 2 anoles, and Echo and Max the fearless watchdogs.

We reluctantly donned our spandex at around noon and Matthew and Michael and Kristin helped us pack up our gear. We were very sad to go. We were pretty sure we could fit Matthew in our panniers, and Michael could ride Max and Kristin could ride Echo! But alas, their mother would be very lonely in that big house without them, so we resisted temptation to suggest the idea. After hugs and pictures and the necessary video blogging, we headed out. Kendal, amelia and I stopped at the Florence Farmer's Market on the way out and picked up cherries and carrots.

The wind ws head on and full forve as we biked past the Federal Correctional Facility. A storm was brewin all around us, and we could see lightning striking the mountains around us.

We met a kid in Wetmore that was driving sag (support vehicle for cyclists companions)for the day for three other riders on the TransAm to raise money for the Shepherd Hospital t hat saved his life when he broke his neck 5 yrs ago playing football. They ride unloaded, but average about the same mileage as us, so hopefully we'll run into them often along the way.

After 20 more miles of CRAZY winds, we finally pulled into Pueblo. We stopped off at the city pool for bathrooms and directions to the local brewery where greg was waiting for us. The barely pubescent boys were EXTREMELY eager to tell us all the highlights of Pueble: the Central/Centennial high school rivalry, the mall, the clubs (although there was some dispute whether Pueblo actually had any clubs..) and of course, their muscles. Kendal had a hard time controlling his gag reflex, but Rachel and Amelia were charmed by their new boyfriends.

We arrived at the Shamrock Brewery and called Kaleigh and Adam who decided to join us there for an aparitif. Greg had made friends with a guy named Marty who bought us a round of brews and put us in tough with his friend Dave Feamster, who owned several local Little Ceasar's restaurants, and would be interested in donating a pizza dinner.

Kaleigh and Adam showed uo not too long after, and we spent a half hour or so trying all the brews on tap, and catching up with our second cousin Amelia and I have not seen in at least a decade!

Adam and Kaleigh had very thoughtfully ridden 2 cars so they could fit all of us and our bikes and bring us back to their beautiful home. After the grand tour and meeting their adorable retriever puppy, Lola, we showered while A and K cooked up delicious pasta and meatballs and salad. We spent the rest of the evening maxin and relaxin outside on their patiom watching Lola run in circles and the sun set on Pike Peak. Ahhhhhh.

Day: 44
Date: July 3, 2009
Captain: Amelia
Town: Pueblo
Weather: muggy hot
Where we slept: Adam and Kaleigh's beauteous home

REST DAY! we woke up late in our delicious beds to the smell of the famous Bliss/Livingston family breakfast casserole in the oven. MMMMMMM. more maxin and realxin on the patio and many helpings of casserole later, we set off to tackle our list of errands. Kaleigh and Adam had the day off, and very sweetly devoted it to shepherding us around in their two vehicles--wholeheartedly devoted to our pursuit of new bike seats, rear cassettes, and granola.

We spent hours at our new favorite TransAm bike shop, The Great Divide. A crew of yougn, cute, and highly knowledgeable mechanics went to town on fitting Kendal and Greg for new saddles, measuring us up for new chains and cassettes, wheel-truing, cable replacements, and a several-hour fiasco of stem replacementon my bike--complete with cutting, beveling, un-wrapping and re-wrapping handlebars, etc...without a peep of grumble!

We meanwhile took advantage of their extremely thorough gear selection, including water-bottles, thermarest patches, dog mace, and the best flavors of Cliff Bars. We left after paying a mere pittance for labor and blowing kisses on our way out the door. VISIT THESE GUYS at

Next on the list was Sports Authority, where Rachel spiced up her bike wardrobe with a new sporty tank and Kaleigh bought a hula hoop!, Vitamin Cottage for granola,dried goodies, and Kombucha, and finally Radio Shack, where the boys bought two solar-powered radios. VERY exciting purchases!

We stopped by the fireworks stand on the way home, scooped up free dinner from Little Ceasar's thanks to Dave Feamster, and enjoyed another sunset meal on the patio with our toe-licking friend Lola and new fave 2nd cousins.

After a few hours of computer stuff, laundry, and packing away all our mom-goodies and new purchases, we dug into our buy on get one free firework fun-packs and put on a killer 3rd of july show, complete with hula-hooping sparkler twirling, popper fights, and a fiery bicycle tour around the backyard. After considerable peer-pressure, Kendal overcame his Nervous-Nelliness and discovered the pyro within, lighting off multiple flashers at the SAME TIME! we were very proud. Kaleigh and Adam were AWESOME playmates, and they spent the rest of the evening digging around their house for goodies to send along with us like new bunjee cords, packages of crackers and tuna, and washing our disgusting camping dishes and waterbottles, and patching the bear-bitten thermarest that I'm going to attempt to sleep on. What love!

We all went to bed way too late for our morning ahead of blogging, more packing, and 9 am visit to a Memory Care Center.

Day: 45
Date: July 4, 2009
Captain: Kendal
Town: Fowler/Ordway
Weather: POURED ON and scary lightning and thunder
Where we slept: Trinity Lutheran Church/Conestoga Park

We woke up early this morning with every intention of leaving Kaleigh and Adam's by 8 am to visit the Sharmar Memory Center. It was a little harder to pull ourselves away than expected, so I called Sharmar and told them we'd make it there by noon.

We packed up our bags with loads of goodies from Kaleigh's pantry and the care apckages from home, and boxed up our cold-weather gear (sweatshirts, hats, gloves, wool socks) and sent them home.

A few pictures, hugs, and plans for cousin reunions later, we arrived at Sharmar around noon. We split into two pairs. Amelia and I sat with a lovely, sagacious blind woman named Elsie, who talked to us about growing up in the Dust Bowl and making music with her 11 siblings. Rachel and Greg had a slightly more difficult experience. They spoke with several women suffering from various kinds of dementia, who were very tangibly confused and anxious, and even a bit frustrated. Rachel and Greg left feeling a little anxious themselves, as they felt they were caused more confusion than diversion.

Greg had a flat before we even left the center, so the other 3 of us set out, knowing he would catch up.

As we rolled out in the sunshine we heard a clap of thunder, and could see a massive storm system moving towards us from the North, but we decided to brave it and see if we could out-run it.

We couldn't. About 15 miles into the ride, the clouds opened, and we dodged into an abandoned, creaky, dung-filled barn to don our rain-gear. Rachel's long lost boyfriend called from a pay-phone in Alaska, so we took it as an excuse to stand around the barn for about 30 min and waited for the worst of the storm to blow over. Greg passed us on the highway, but couldnt hear us shouting to get his attention. That was the last we saw of him for the next day and a half.

We rolled out as the storm slowed to a drizzle, riding through pretty sparse country in a soggy, cold mess. A very strong headwind plagued us all day, and we arrived in Boone at about 5:15pm. The girls got this tiny one store town before I did, but I saw their bikes parked outside a convenient store. Excited to get out of the rain, I tried to open the door to the store, but it was locked. I knocked several times, knowing the girls must be inside, and finally a grouchy old man with a leather vest and a fabulous snow-white handlebar mustache opened the door in said in his best Oz-keeper voice "Read the sign!"

I looked where he pointed, and only seeing the large orange "OPEN" sign, decided against being a smart-ass and replying "you mean that one?" But he noticed it and flipped it over to read "CLOSED" and said "It's past 5, and I have a VFW picnic to go to." But he allowed me inside, standing in the way of me walking forward, and said "Well?"
"Happy Fourth?" I grinned nervously.
"Where you from?"
"AND?" he asked, like I ought to have something more to say about that.
"Can I pee?" It was my only escape.

I returned from the bathroom to find ever-eloquent Amelia chatting with the shopkeeper, who now was inviting us to the VFW picnic, as well as offering shots of whiskey from his glove compartment flask in his truck. we declined, although I had the thought that maybe I should drink at least a few shots worth to lessen his supply for the drive home that was hopefully not our direction...

We struggled through 15 more miles of rain and wind and a flat tire on Rachel's back wheel before reaching Hwy 167, which offered the opportunity to stop in a town called Fowler, just a mile off route. We called Greg who was already settled in Ordway, our planned destination, and were told that more thunderstorms were on our way again, and that dark would be coming in an hour, and fourth of july traffic was sure to be tipsier than normal, we decided to call it a day. It was the first tome the team has ended a day in two different places, and it felt strange.

Fowler was mostly asleep on a rainy saturday night, it seemed most families had given up on fireworks with the weather, and the only places showing signs of life were the gas station and the liquor store.

We went to the gas station first to ask about places to stay, and were directed to an RV park at the edge of town. on our way there, we thought we might like to pick up some festive, heart-warming spirits to help us thaw, and stopped at the liquor store.

As we checked out, I asked Suzie the shopkeeper about places to camp. A few phone calls later, we heard her say "Hello, Pastor? I have three cyclists here, they're soaked and would like to talk to you."

Half an hour later, we were warmly welcomed inside Trinity Lutheran Church, where it just so happened Pastor Wayne from Stillwater, MN was up late working on Sunday's sermon. He took us and our soggy bikes in and told us to make ourselves at home, which we are way too good at. 20 min later his wife, Pastor Cindy (at a Lutheran church in Pueblo) showed up with freshly baked peach/blueberry pie and ice cream! we had lots of laughs and story-swapping, and even a quick music-rehearsal before calling it a night.

As I lay on my new ThermaRest in the Youth Group Room, I thought about how much more this July 4th meant to me on this trip. We have crossed through so many niches of this country that I would never have seen otherwise. I have found myself in situations every day that completely shake up prejudices I didn't even know I held. I am falling so much more in love with this country. A few days ago, I found an American flag on the highway in Canon City, which I am not proudly flying on the back of my bike.

Listening to the far-off boom of fireworks and falling rain, I fell asleep, realizing I am proud to be an American.

No comments: