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At the summit of Wolf Creek Pass I met a group of cyclists who were previewing the road for a event sponsored each year by The Denver Post called the Ride Across the Rockies. About 2,000 cyclists participate each year.

Biking Across America With Bob: We’ve Got Issues

Editor’s Note: As longtime Oakhurst resident Bob Kaspar continues an epic coast-to-coast ride from California to his hometown near Boston, he checks in from the road.

Pagosa Springs, Colorado, is a large natural hot springs on the San Juan River whose ownership was contested for many years between the Ute and Navajo tribes.

Click on images to enlarge.

Ownership was finally settled in 1873 buy an agreed-upon man-on-man battle between a Navajo warrior and Col. John Pfefifer, a friend of the Utes. Pfeiffer defeated the Navajo warrior, thereby consolidating ownership under the Utes.

Getting to Pagosa Springs from Durango required a 50-mile sprint through snow and sleet only to result in yet another layover day as the as the winter weather continued.

The weather finally clears and I start the long climb up to Wolf Creek Pass which at nearly 11,000 feet is the high point of the entire trip. Though sunny, the air temperature at the base of the climb is about 30 degrees.

On the long descent from Wolf Creek Pass into the San Luis Valley the sun went down, the temperature dropped to 19 degrees and, at 25 miles an hour, that equates to a wind chill of about 5 degrees. The downhill would have been much more fun if it had been a little warmer.

I was in, as they say, “no mood.” After a cold night in South Fork I had headed down the road into the San Luis Valley to Alamosa. Just out of town I spotted some interesting Streamliner style railway cars off to the side of the road and decided to take a photo. Then, from a ranch house about 100 yards away appeared a dog who came racing directly towards me. 

Normally, I have no trouble out-running dogs, but I needed to slow down to take the picture. The dog came along my right side and tried nipping at my leg. As I kicked at it, I managed to kick off my right rear safety light. Later that morning, the left light fell off as well. I’d like to express my feelings more clearly here but I’m pretty sure that Sierra News Online has a stylistic limit for the number of expletives that can appear in a single sentence.

Later, I pulled into Alamosa and spent several hours at the local coffee shop. I was outside at my bike preparing to leave when a fellow walks up to me. He was middle-aged and wearing a bicycle helmet and backpack. He gets just a little too close to me and says, “I’d like to relate a story to you.”  

On a high bluff near Dodge City Kansas. Behind me are ruts left by wagons on the Santa Fe Trail.

I say “Oh, what’s that?” — expecting to hear some biking story. He then moves even closer, about 18-inches from my face and at the absolute top of his lungs screams directly into my face: “I said I’d like to relate a story to you! What’s the matter, are you deaf stupid or both?”  

Me:  “Okay I understand completely but first you need to step back and behave yourself and then I’ll listen to the story”

He:  “I’m going to call the police.”

Me:  “Okay, that’s fine, but first you still need to step back and behave yourself.”

He: “ If you say that one more time I’m going to punch you right in the face.”

Me: “I understand but you still need to step back away from me right now.”

He (after a short pause and moving his right hand to the vicinity of his pocket): “You should know better than to wear a shirt like that to a gunfight.”

So, now I’m thinking: oh geez, I hope he doesn’t reach into his pocket because, if he does, I’ll have no choice but to take him to the ground and, since it’s unlikely he actually has anything dangerous in his pocket, I’m now going to be the one in trouble.

Me:  “Are you armed?”

He: “Are you wearing golf shoes”?

Me (impulsively, and forgetting how dangerous it is to try and out-nut a nut) “No, but I’m from Ahwahnee and I can dance the Jazz box step. How about you?”

(Long pause)

Me:  “Let’s be honest, little fella, you’re not getting the reaction here that you’ve come to expect when you run around town making trouble for people. You have issues and probably take medications for them. The police are familiar with you. You probably don’t have a job. I can see that you’re off balance and calculating what to do next. You should do that calculation carefully.”

With that he lets out with what could be described as an extended Tourette’s-like stream of conscience ending with “And I hope you get a flat tire!”

Me: “If you get on your bike and go away I promise I’ll have a flat tire and I’ll name it in honor of you.”

He: “My name is…”

He emits several more expletives while getting on his bike and then rides away. I look up and the people in the coffee shop are crowded, spectator style, in the windows. I get a feeling that this is not an unusual occurrence for them.

He was obviously a guy with issues. His issues probably even had issues. He probably lives a life of unhappiness and frustration. In retrospect, I probably should have been more patient with the guy. But, as I said, I was in no mood.

My host Barry and the “Keeper of the Prairie” sculpture in Wichita at the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers.

The metal portion of the sculpture itself is about 30-feet high and at night is surrounded by flames. Really spectacular. Kansas in general, and Wichita in particular, were unexpectedly beautiful.

From Wichita I continue east into the hill country of eastern Kansas and western Missouri. Thus far I’ve been shot at, chased by dogs, yelled at, nearly sideswiped a couple times and snowed on. So it has been a series of surprise predicaments, near misses, and narrow escapes.  Maybe I should dedicate this trip to Zorro.

A very cold camp just below La Veta Pass at 9,000 feet. The winter storm that dumped all the late season’s snow also caused the massive flooding in the Midwest.

During the layover I was hosted by cyclists Merlin and Demi. Here, Deni and her friend Leslie work in Leslie’s extensive craft studio located at nearly 7,500 feet in elevation.

The High Plains of Colorado. I’m pretty sure that someone near the Mississippi River yanked on the end of this road and pulled all the curves out of it.

Walsenburg, Colorado. I couldn’t tell if this was public art or just repurposed overstock from the local truss manufacturer.

At the East End of the San Luis Valley near Fort Garland I route around the amazing Blanco Peak. Presenting itself as an uncut diamond, changing form as you move, the light reflects differently off each unexpected facet.

Sliding down the east side of the Rockies from La Veta Pass found the high plains winter white and covered with snow. West of Walsenburg the Spanish Peaks, at over 14,000 feet, dominate the landscape for many miles around.

In hopeful atonement for being mean to the crazy guy in Alamosa, I’ve escorted dozens of these little guys safely across the highway.

About every half-a-mile you can see a dead Armadillo. In Spanish armadillo means “little armored guy.” As near as I can tell, no one has ever actually seen one of these alive.

Mullinville, Kansas. An obsessed local metal sculptor has placed these for a half a mile up and down the roadway at the entrance to town.

Fighting my way through the mountains of Kansas.

Gettin’ into Dodge. The metal silhouettes are about 20-feet high.

Sunrise from Fort Dodge, Kansas. This picture was not enhanced in any way.

In Garden City Kansas there’s a huge facility for windmill components.

In the Central Plains and especially the High Plains, the wind always blows, making it the perfect location for windmills. The landscape is dotted with them. The scale is hard to capture in a picture. The distance from blade tip to blade tip is about 300 feet or the length of a football field.

I really love cows. In more ways than these guys can imagine, I’m sure.

More of Bob’s exploits can be found on these pages:

Biking Across America With Bob: Accidental Intersections


Biking Across America With Bob Kaspar: Into The Desert, And Trouble

Biking Across America: Bob Kaspar Goes Home

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