Sunday, June 15, 2008

But It's A Dry Heat

Back in Kansas I met an eastbound cyclist on the road who was visibly concerned about the amount I was sweating. I assured him it was perfectly normal. Now that I've spent a few days riding in Colorado, I think he just got used to riding in this dry heat. Being from the humid Midwest, I find it unsettling to ride in 95 degree heat, as I did yesterday, and not sweat. But I guess that's why people are so crazy about this dry heat. Unfortunately, when the heat is dry, so is everything else -- your skin, throat, mouth, and lips.

Despite the heat, yesterday was a beautiful and clear day. Two low-hanging white clouds highlighted just how blue the sky was. As I crested a small hill I got my first look at the Rocky Mountains. Seeing the snow-capped Rockies on the horizon made me appreciate just how far I have traveled.

My destination for the day was Ordway, CO. In April, a deadly wildfire spread through the area leaving the charred trees pictured above. Just east of town, I passed a sprawling cattle stockyard. Workers drove between the pens checking on the animals. The scene reminded me of black and white photos I've seen of Chicago's stockyards in the era of "The Jungle."

When I arrived in Ordway, I headed over to the Ordway Hotel, which I had heard offered clean rooms at hostel rates. I walked into the hotel lobby and rang the bell at the desk. No one appeared from the back office so I took a seat in the air-conditioned lobby, welcoming the rest after my ride. I figured that the manager wouldn't be gone long because you don't just leave your hotel open and unattended. Two hours later I realized that in Ordway maybe you did leave your hotel open and unattended. My only other option for lodging was a rather depressing RV park with no showers or services, so I was really hoping someone would return to claim the hotel.

I had learned that in small towns like Ordway, often nothing is open after 8pm, so I left the lobby to get dinner at the local cafe. I placed my order just before the kitchen closed at 7:45 pm. When I returned to the hotel the lobby was still open but there wasn't a guest or a clerk anywhere. I contemplated sleeping on one of the lobby couches, but thought better of it. I pitched my tent in the gloomy RV park just before sunset. As dark settled in, the winds shifted, filling the town with the smell of the stockyards and turning the sky hazy with dust.

This morning I was up early and in Pueblo by noon. Between Ordway and Pueblo, I met three eastbound cyclists. Dennis, one of the bikers I met, was traveling with a support van that carried all his gear including a second bike for climbing the hills and mountains.

We exchanged information about some of the highlights of our respective trips. He talked up some of the craft breweries in the northwest and I told him not to expect much of that for the next 2200 miles, especially in Kentucky. As we talked, a voice came over the two-way radio strapped to his back. His support team was wondering about his ETA in Ordway.

One final thought. As a political junkie, I've used this trip as a form of rehab. Nonetheless, when I've stayed at motels on Saturday nights, I've always tried to catch "Meet the Press" the next morning. So I was sad to hear about the death of Tim Russert. Unexpected deaths of public figures like Russert always remind me of the simple truth that tomorrow is promised to no one. It's why experiences like this can't all wait until some future retirement.


Sarah P said...

Tim Russert was one of my favorite journalists. I am really saddened by his death. The timing especially stinks, as he was loving this Presidential race.

Enjoy CO! We had some good times there a few weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

When do we get some good looking photos of Colorado, or is this as good as it gets??