Well there had to be a reference to the Wizard of Oz somewhere doesn't there, as some of you mentioned.
I'm in bed writing this, eating donuts and drinking coffee, and updating this thanks to the joys of WiFi, having had no means of communication for the past few days. And I'm about to head into the mountains where the reception is worse - how can it be worse? So trying to engineer meeting up with mum and dad could be fun.
So it's goodbye Kansas, hello colourful Colorado (that's what the sign on the State line claimed). Kansas was a bit dull by the time we'd cycled through 500 miles of it. As we were told many times, it's been cool too, not the usual 100 degrees, although it was getting there yesterday. My nose has peeled about 5 times, my lip is split, me left leg is quite burnt...it's a good job it wasn't hot!
I cycled into Leoti, Kansas on Saturday to be told to stay for the parade. It was the Witchita County Annual Show and the parade was starting in 15 minutes. Unusually for almost any town here, there were people around (you rarely see people on the streets in these small towns) and people were setting up their chairs on the main street, getting the best positions for the festivities. I managed to find an open shop, grabbed some drinks and got a spot. Got chatting to a local grandmother, who was telling me that I'd be experiencing the real small-town America. And so it started. With the anticipation, numbers of people, chairs out etc my expectations were high. They needn't have been. It was a bit poor (and I'm being polite). The whole thing seemed to be geared around kids getting as much candy as they can get their hands on. I thought there'd be decorated floats, kids dancing, line dancing perhaps (that's what they do out here isn't it?). The cheerleaders didn't do anything apart from wave (I now know where the not so pretty cheerleaders go), the only float you could describe as decorated was by the local church, no-one did anything apart from wave and throw sweets to the kids. They had shipped in a few classic cars (they passed me earlier on the way in), they were some cowboys and girls on horses, a float by a GM seed producer, big agricultural vehicles, the local emergency services of course but it wasn't very good. I couldn't escape either as my route out of town was on the other side of the road. Bad planning. I started edging up the road to get closer to the departure point and got talking so some guy who was asking what i was up to. When I said, he laughed and said that Colorado had nothing there. I thought that was a laugh as Kansas wasn't exactly heaving. He did turn out to be correct though.
There were several high points on Saturday. One was that there was a bend in the road. You don't realise what excitement this can cause. The wind could be different. The view might change. Anything could happen. I also crossed another time zone. Not a lot happens at this point but it is highlighted on the map so it gives you something to aim for. The best thing was though, you know when you watch a bad film and think'I'll never get those 2 hours of my life back', well, as I crossed the time zone and the clock went back an hour, I got the hour back I'd just lost watching the parade in Leoti. Result!
That was a 100+ mile day and as Pueblo was nearing we decided to do the same again yesterday. It's funny how different 2 states can be, although the terrain is the same and distances not so big. Eastern Colorado was still flat as a pancake but seemingly unfarmed, with fairly wild vegetation, so fairly green and quite pretty, in an empty, desolate way. Until we hit the 15 miles of abandoned rail freight carriages. Very strange. Just mile after mile of old car transporter carriages, sat slowly rusting. Got to Sugar City (population of about 135) where there used to be a sugar beet processing plant, which closed about 30 years ago. I've no idea what they do there now. There's nothing else going on, apart from the cafe we went, which was good. It's run by a deliberately rude and quite entertaining woman who claimed to hate cyclists as they give her grief. But she had pie and sundaes, so we had both plus burgers. My arteries are getting thinner by the hour.
Met up with a group of eastbounders - 2 leaders, aged about 25, herding 4, 16 and 17 year olds. Nightmare. They seemed like they were having a good time though. The kids parents must be laughing their socks off - bet they paid $4000+ and get their 16 year old out of the house for the whole summer!
Also met up with an American guy, Shaun, who cycled with us for the day. He'd run out of time so was calling it quits when he gets to Pueblo. We stopped for a rest at some point and he commented that i set a tough pace but I'd been trying to keep up with him...so we we all battered from cycling too hard in the sun and were just really being a little bit too macho. We slowed down after that.
On the way into town yesterday we stopped for refreshment in a little bar in Boone. Walked in to see a six-month old in a rocker on a table top, chewing beef jerky, being tended to by his gran, who was smoking. She left the kiddie, returned to her very drunk husband and sat talking to us for 20 minutes. Eventually they left, with the very drunk husband almost carrying the kid and rocker under his arm sideways. It was like beingin the bar in Shameless, but real.
I'm picking up the extra, unnessecary stuff I sent myself a few days ago and setting off towards the mountains at some point soon. A shorter day I suspect today and I think our little gang will be splitting up today after 8 days of happy touring...I'm sure we'll be meeting up again as we'll be on the same route and aiming to finish at the same time.
See you laters....
We caught sight of the Rockies finally yesterday - they look high. It's the 11000 ft Hoosier Pass in the next few days. That will be fun after a week or so of flat cycling. Bring it on.