Day 86 • May 26, 2012 • Byers to Anton, CO • 56 miles
Last night we shared a motel room in Byers with Mom and Gretchen. While I was recovering from the ride I flipped on the local (Denver) news for a weather update. They were forecasting 60 MPH winds on the front range (75 on the west slope!) but no mention of the direction. Maybe everyone here knows that winds that strong come from the south, I don’t know, but at this speed the difference between SSW and SSE is the difference between an easy and an impossible day today. Of course the internet had the answer: straight south. The Weather Channel agreed and also gave me some insight into the tornado frenzy—it’s no wonder I’ve been getting so much worried advice about potential tornadoes in Kansas when all the Weather Channel talks about is storm chasers and post-analysis of the latest tornado strikes. Don’t worry, I have experience with tornadoes.
Mid-morning the wind began picking up from the south as predicted. Any east in a 60 MPH wind could be a disaster but surely we wouldn’t see winds that strong this far from the front range—my phone didn’t think so—and besides, we really didn’t want to spend another night at the Byers motel. We decided to give it a go. We hit Highway 36 while Mom and Gretchen picked up I-70 for their trip to Topeka.
The ride went well for a while. We saw bison, a prairie falcon, hawks, snakes, all alive this time, and wheat waving in the breeze. The wind was blowing perfectly south and our road was aligned perfectly east. The problem with just “seeing how it goes” today is that there are no services of any kind until Anton 56 miles down the road. If the wind shifts or we encounter a mechanical problem we could find ourselves with an uncomfortable night in a gale beside the road. But I guess we have experience with this scenario too.
When we stopped for lunch at about the halfway point the wind was getting frightfully strong. I never verified it but would guess we were seeing sustained winds in the upper forties with stronger gusts. Motor homes and semi truck trailers were listing dramatically; motorcycles were leaning so far into the cross wind that the cyclist’s upwind knee looked like it might touch pavement. The wind remained perfectly south, though, and we were relatively unaffected other than a tear in our brand new flag and some deafening wind noise. Up until now Zoe and I had always managed to communicate verbally even if we had to shout above the wind or traffic noise but today shouting didn’t cut it. So we borrowed from the tall ship world and used our bells– four rings from me means “take a drink of water.” Four from Zoe means “stop, I need to pee.” Two rings acknowledges the other’s request. Simple, effective, and a revealing glimpse into our fascinating conversations. Instead of a ring, Zoe likes to squeak the new cat squeaker that Chip gave her in Denver.
We pressed on, reaching Anton just before dusk. The one convenience store was closed for the night and wouldn’t open until late morning the next day, a Sunday. The campground didn’t answer calls and was far enough off route we didn’t want to risk a trip to check it out. The Bed and Breakfast was full. And that was the extent of the services available in the only town with services for 56 miles. We were beat and didn’t want to stealth camp in this kind of wind even though it began subsiding around dusk. Our one hope was that we had spoken to an actual person when turned down for the room at the B&B. “Did you tell the lady about me?” Zoe asked. “Maybe I should give her ‘The Look’.” Zoe was right—throughout the trip doors have been opened by the nine-year-old girl that would have remained forever shut if it were just another scary homeless guy on a bike. We call this “The Look”. Think the Antonio Banderas character in Shrek. The B&B was only a block away so we rode over and called again, this time asking if maybe I and my nine year old daughter could pitch a tent in her yard. Yeah, we were at her house talking to her on the phone, a little creepy, but these were desperate times. We learned that The Look works really well over the phone too—rather than pitching a tent we were invited to stay in an unused bedroom in her own house.
Elva fed us dinner and then breakfast in the morning, super nice lady. It was good that we found shelter because the wind picked back up that night, causing damage east of us all the way into Missouri that we would hear about in our travels for weeks to come.