It has been far too long since I've posted on this blog. Computers are very hard to come by in the west. Most towns out here have a population of no more than 300-400 people and only a select few have accessible libraries. One town we passed through had a population of 66 people. Riding through them is a surreal experience. Most store fronts are broken down and abandoned shells on the inside. On our day off in Sweet Springs, Missouri, one of our riders claimed that we were "the next big thing to come through this town since Jesus." Christianity plays a HUGE role here in the midwest. Each day we pass by at least two or three anti-abortion billboards along the road that stand high amongst endless corn and wheat fields. A surprising sight for me was the amount of Catholic churches in Kansas. Apparently, it's a phenomenon in the midwest for Catholicism to have any place among the saturation of Protestantism.
Today we find ourselves in Benkleman, Nebraska. It is another small town that has been severely hit by the recession. Some locals will admit that the area has hit hard times long before a recession was ever publicized. The infrastructure is extremely bare and walking through the streets in the evening can be a lonely experience. We entered town on a Sunday (yesterday) and there was a maximum of three cars parked along the main road.
Tomorrow we head into Colorado! This is the part of the trip I've been itching to experience. We will make our way towards the Rocky Mountains and eventually climb Trail Ridge Road, which is rumored to be the highest road in terms of altitude in the United States. (I'm assuming the criteria include car accessibility and pavement.)
One of the main challenges on this trip, besides finding a working computer and internet access, is patience with other riders. All the riders on this team find themselves at various ability levels. While some are experienced riders who can charge up hills at 24 miles per hour and keep pushing onto the next, others are still struggling. The fortunate thing is that we're all improving drastically. Every rider, including myself, has found themselves at a completely different place than they were 4 weeks ago. I never imagined looking forward to climbing the Rockies. However, I can barely wait for those thousand-foot ascents. According to word of mouth, we will be reaching a maximum altitude of 15,000 feet in Colorado.
There is a constant mixture of emotions throughout the team. As with everybody else, I have my fears: I'm afraid of descending down 15% grades. I'm ly afraid of wiping out. We've all gotten some bumps and bruises along the way, but this is going to be a true test of our ability to stay safe...not just as individuals, but as a team. I'm afraid that people will not be responsible enough (although I'm sure they all will once they see the massive peaks ahead) and will hurt others through their own messiness.
Despite all this fear, there is an uncontrolled excitement that is surging through me. I've never traveled to Colorado before, and I cannot even anticipate the beauty that lies before us in the mountains. We are half way through this journey, and reaching this point is an extraordinary feat for all of us. I'm hoping that the family we've slowly created and nurtured along the way thus far continues to develop. It is too easy to become stressed by the little things on this trip. I'm just hoping that we can embrace everything that we come across as the unique experience that it is and will remain throughout our entire lives. Not many people can bike across the country, and I hope that people see this as a privilege in and of itself.
Amendment to my previous post: it was pointed out that I ally pegged the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra as the Chicago Symphony orchestra.
The computer I'm currently using does not allow me to upload photos via my camera, but hopefully our next day off in Boulder will afford me such capacity. Until then, check out the website for updated photos: http://www.4kforcancer.org