Day 85 • May 25, 2012 • Thornton to Byers, CO • 61 miles
We set our sites for Strasburg today because it got us well out of the Denver area and onto Highway 36, our yellow brick road for the trip through eastern Colorado and western Kansas. Gretchen and Daniel escorted us for 10 miles or so on a trike and bike before they had to turn around so they could get Daniel to the airport in time for his flight back to Eureka, CA. They were probably leaving for the airport as we were passing just north of it. We would see Gretchen again later in the day as she and Mom caught us on their road trip to Topeka.
We encountered more road kill on this stretch of road than anywhere before or since, at least as far as our current location in central Kentucky. Dramatically more. We saw squirrel, raccoon, possum, mice, and many varieties of bird. Song birds, vultures, a prairie falcon, and a red tail hawk. It wasn’t all morbid; we did see one blue heron climbing out from a stream near Barr Lake, very much alive. But I stopped counting dead birds somewhere around twenty. And then there was the mystery critter. I thought it looked something like a possum but was way too big and pretty hard to identify in such a mangled state. It was big enough that Gretchen saw the same animal later in the car– I felt better when my zoologist sister couldn’t identify it either. We needed a road kill field guide with pictures and taxonomy of critters in various states of decay and dismemberment.
We had a strong southeast wind and roads that tracked due east or south– an energy sucking headwind no matter how you slice it. Within about fifteen miles of Strasburg the wind had won and I was bonking. Thankfully Gretchen and Mom had decided to follow our route on their way to Topeka; at this point they were only a few miles behind us. I pulled over and waited. When they arrived I consumed everything I could find in the Prius– bread, Gretchen’s 5-hour energy drink, food stuck in the cracks between the seats. If there had been anything dripping from the Prius I would have considered it. Then I stuffed Zoe and most of the gear in the car and started again. I hate to admit it but I think the energy drink did the trick; I was feeling pretty good again.
More problems– the motel we were counting on in Strasburg looked pretty sketchy so I’d have to go six more miles to Byers. And the bridge was out in Strasburg with a long detour on a gravel road. Our crack support crew was on it though; Gretchen took a look at the bridge construction and concluded it would be no problem for a trike if I could get around the bridge closed signs. She was right, the bridge had a nice new concrete surface with only some detail work left to smooth the transition with the road. I popped over the bridge as quickly as I could, startling a construction worker who was cleaning up for the day. I had a screaming downhill run into Byers, unhampered by car traffic which was all on the detour. I made it to the motel and the rest of the gang a little past sunset.