Saturday, August 21, 2004

Day Three

Start: Wheat Ridge CO (19119)
End: Junction City KS (19598)
479 miles

I wake feeling rested and ready to ride. Yay! I want to make good time into Kansas. I'm meeting up with Jeanne today, and I'm up fairly early without an alarm clock, so I am humming happily to myself as I gear up, pack my bag, and stroll into the beautiful brilliant morning sunshine ... and stop dead in my tracks in a horrid little 'oh sh*t' moment. My saddlebags are hanging open and I know I for sure didn't leave 'em that way. A$$wipe thieves have struck in the night, getting away with my camera, my tools, and my chaps. Dammit! The camera, that's the expensive item, a nice $600 unit. The tools, well, you think I brought them because they might come in handy? And the chaps ... what am I going to do if I hit cold weather? I feel a little ill, actually, and anyone who's ever had anything significant stolen knows what I mean. A little panicked and my buzz massively killed, I troop back in to the front desk and tell them I am the victim of a theft. The woman at the desk is hugely apologetic, saying "I'm sorry" about a half-million times. Apparently I wasn't the only one to lose stuff last night; a family from Oregon had their rental van broken into and their bicycles stolen as well. I think the parking lot security at Comfort Inn Wheat Ridge needs a wee bit of improvement, don't you? But it's a nasty truth in life ... don't leave stuff where it's too easy for thieves to get it. I shoulda never left anything on the bike, but I was tired and wet and cold last night and didn't take the time to carry my things up to my room. My saddlebags were locked, yes, but with little luggage locks looped through the leather straps. I am thankful that the thieves only cut the straps and didn't slit the bags themselves.

The front desk person phones the police department, and I settle down to waste an hour waiting for someone to come and take the report. I spend the time calling my Amazon sisters to let them know what happened, but I only get voicemail. I leave a few messages. As I'm waiting, I start to think that I haven't lost anything essential. Nothing prevents me from continuing, as long as the weather doesn't turn chilly, and I probably passed through the coldest part of the ride going through the high Rockies yesterday. I still have my raingear and both my jackets. The panic fades and I start thinking things aren't as bad as all that, I've got a good motorcycle and a fine day's ride in front of me, and my happy mood creeps back. The officer, when she finally shows up, is likely surprised by my "oh well, sh*t happens, life is good anyway" attitude when she takes my report. (The police officer, by the way, was a buxom ponytailed blonde named Heather. A few of you reading this will be amused by this fact. Aieee! Sometimes my luck is so bad, it's funny.)

The city of Denver, needless to say, is now not very high on my nifty favorite places list, so I'm happy when I finally mount up and ride out. I had not realized that Denver is mostly on flat ground. The Rockies rise sharply just to the west, but the Mile-High City is sitting on a mile-high plateau nestled up against the mountains. Interstate 70 leads me eastbound, taking me through Denver proper, past the airport, and finally into open farmlands and wide-open spaces once again. The land has changed. Now I am surrounded by mostly featureless rolling plains, no large stands of trees, no rivers or canyons, all agriculture, nothing wild. More crops, less cattle. I see corn, soy, and other fields planted with stuff I don't recognize. The day is warm, very pleasant.

This is my third day on the road and I've fallen into my traveling rhythm. I stop for gas in some forgotten rural eastern Colorado town, and notice that my cel phone is out of range, no signal. I cross over into Kansas an hour later, still riding through unpopulated seas of corn. I stop for more gas. I stop for lunch. (Subway sandwiches have been my lunchtime staple; they are quick and reasonably healthy and easy on my stomach, which sometimes complains about food from strange places.) I keep on riding, making good miles. This land is strangely lovely in its own way. I know Kansas is supposed to be flat, but it's not, really. It remains featureless, no dramatic scenery like Utah yesterday, but the terrain undulates gently as far as I can see, looking pleasant and productive. I see the occasional barn, windmill, farmhouse, outbuilding. Small clusters of buildings dot the interstate every dozen or so miles; gas stations, general stores, and the like. My phone hasn't yet woken back up. I am shooting for Salina KS, right in the middle of the state, where Jeanne and I are supposed to meet, and I told her I'd call her when I was getting close. About 60 miles away, I stop and look for a pay phone, and finally get a hold of Jeanne. She's already in Salina, waiting for me, and I am disappointed that I was delayed an hour this morning ... if that hadn't happened, I would be arriving about now. Oh well - if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, etc. Jeanne gives me an exit number, and I hustle to finish the last miles and get to the meeting spot.

Pulling into the truck stop parking lot, I spot a single bike parked off to the right. Looks promising, so I pull up alongside. I am pulling off my gear, shaking out my extraordinarily bad helmet hair, and stretching my legs a bit when Jeanne comes strolling out of the building with a huge grin on her face. She and I hit it off immediately and we fall to talking like we've known each other forever. Tell me about Kansas, I ask her. Is it all like this? What will I see as I go east? She is frankly surprised that I think it's pretty. I guess she never thought of Kansas as anything other than boring. I try to explain to her that I've never traveled these roads before, so the newness makes it all a big adventure to me. And yes, it is pretty, in a nice-and-neat sort of way. I am liking America's heartland. Jeanne gives me loads and loads of good information. She used to drive long-haul trucks, and knows which interstates are good traveling, and which are generally in poor condition or under constant construction.

After eating, we decide to head down the road a ways and stop when we feel like it. Jeanne rides a sweet Intruder. Kansas is a no-helmet-requirements state and I think she appreciates that I don't give her any attitude when she doesn't wear one. Hey, my opinion on the subject is this: I wear a full-face by choice, not just because California requires me to, and I wear it even when I don't legally have to. But I respect a rider's ability to make her own choice on the matter ... who am I to tell anyone what equipment she should wear on her noggin? It's called 'informed consent,' people. (End of rant.) Anyway, the two of us fly down the road, heading east, sun slowly sinking behind our shoulders. I know I have that stupid happy smile under my helmet, it just feels so fine to be on the road. A tow-headed little boy stares at us from the backseat of a passing Corolla. His comically wide eyes follow us from the side window to the back as he cranes around to watch. That's the call of the road, son. Yes, it is THAT much cooler than being stuck in a metal cage. I'd wager he'll be on two wheels when he gets a little older. :)

Near sunset, we've reached Junction City KS, and we pull off the highway and check in to a likely motel for the night. (Ack, a Comfort Inn again. Well, I have nothing left to steal! LOL) Jeanne and I decide that getting a few beers and staying in and watching the Olympics on TV sounds like a good evening ... I'm glad she was there, too, because Kansas has some weird-ass rules about where you can buy regular beer. Apparently, c-stores are only allowed to sell the low-alcohol kind. Heh, at least we aren't in a dry county! She skillfully navigates the local Budweiser regulations. Softball, diving and gymnastics are on the schedule for NBC tonight. Good sports to watch! My phone is finally getting a signal again, and just about every one of my Amazon sisters has called me and left messages. They all say pretty much the same thing: Whatever you need, we will get for you. It is quite the outpouring of support from my sisters, and I feel a little abashed that I had left all those messages when I was still a bit panicked and pissed-off in the morning. I call everyone back and tell them I'm fine, yes it sucks that my camera is gone but I don't need anything, I'm still on schedule heading for Virginia, and see ya soon. Jeanne is rather moved by all that support, and says so. The rest of the night is filled with giggling, commentary on which of the athletes on TV look particularly hot, and generally shooting the bull. It's been a great day and I am sooo happy to have met Jeanne, my first Amazon sister along the way. Tomorrow, on to St Louis.

Next: Day Four

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Boo! Without a doubt you are a wonderful story teller. I thoroughly enjoyed our visit! And, as I mentioned on the Amazons list a few times... THANK YOU for making me see Kansas in a different way. I had a wonderful ride home that day. Everything looked so new to me. Had to keep reminding myself to stop grinning so much. LOL!