I had originally planned to ride from Sterling, CO to Kimball, NE today. However, this plan was jettisoned when I felt really good during the first half of my ride. I decided instead to detour through the northwest corner of the eastern unit of Pawnee National Grassland and ultimately head for Pine Bluff, WY. I had planned to ride from Kimball through this area of Pawnee and onto Pine Bluff tomorrow. This would have been a bit of a circuitous route, but it would have made for a 70 mile day today and a 57 mile day tomorrow. This turned out to be a very painful 95 miles today that combined elements from both days.
What I had planned for today
What I had planned for tomorrow.
This is very circuitous but would have given
more time in the "grouse zone"
Sharp-tailed grouse sightings in Pawnee from eBird
What I did today to combine the above 2 days.
93 + 2 unmapped for a very painful 95 miles.
Everything was generally fine until I arrived at the "Grouse Zone" (GZ, hereafter). I had a nice southeast wind that helped to push north and west. I spent some time riding the roads in/around the GZ, but saw zero signs of the birds. I decided to take a walk through what I thought looked like good habitat since this strategy worked so well for the Prairie-chicken. It was not successful today. More troubling than the lack of birds was the quickly gathering storm clouds to the north. Lighting a started as I hustled back to my bike. I needed to get the hell out of here - fast. The wind switched and the storm decended onto the GZ and me. The wind hammered from the north at 25-30 MPH as I limped west. I was hoping to get out from under the storm, but dirt roads do not permit rapid escapes. The storm was on top of me almost immediately. There was a lot of lighting, some it of quite close. I wanted to take a video but I figured I needed to keep moving. Plus, it would have given my mom a heart attack ad I am not ready to be rid of her just yet. The big issue was that there wasn't any shelter so I just ha to keep moving. F-bombs were being yelled at no one in particular as I tried to stay on the bike amid the the wind and rain. It was a profanity performance worth of any mid-90's gangster rap album. I did take several photos with my phone, but since I do not have any cell reception in Pine Bluffs, I can't get them from the phone to here. Sorry, I'l add 'em when I gots 'em!
This storm really cut my time in the GZ down, and it made the afternoon totally miserable. Even after the rain abated the wind kept coming from the north. This made the last leg of my trip very difficult. My legs were totally shot when I got into town. I was expecting a bit more civilization, but I will have to settle for what's here (which isn't much - ugh). Wyoming is notoriously windy, so I am going to have to be very careful in planning out my rides in the next week. I am going to have to start very early on days with west winds, and I will try to ride extra distance on days when I get east (tail) winds. Anyone know about Sharp-tailed grouse along the I-80 corridor?
I do not know what to do tomorrow. On one hand, I am a day ahead of schedule since I am in Pine Bluffs tonight. I could go back up to the GZ tomorrow, but after my experience there today I may take a pass. It's 22 miles just to get back up there, much of it along uphill, crappy dirt roads. I could instead head 40 miles west to Cheyenne and hunker down for a rest day until Queen Sonia arrives on the afternoon/evening of the 11th (Yay!). I have averaged about 77 miles a day for the past 8 days (616 miles total!), so I have certainly earned a day off. I just don't know what to do about this damn grouse. It is going to be one of the hardest birds I could possibly find for the rest of the year; Nonetheless, it's a bird into which I should sink sometime.
Queen Sonia at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Boston.
We took this photo as a joke. She said this would
be the creepiest photo a person could EVER put up on a dating site.
P.S. - We have no idea whose grave this is!
Lastly, on an unrelated note, I want to thank everyone for the nice emails and blog comment that I receive on a daily basis. I wish I had the time to respond to every one of them, but with 95-mile rides, lighting, and so on and so forth, I don't always have to time/energy to respond to most of them. BUT PLEASE, keep them coming! I do read every email and comment. I normally do this when I am stopped at the roadside catching my breath, hydrating, or snacking. Notes and emails from blog readers are some of the only communications that I have on these long days by myself (minus those I have with magnificent Queen Sonia!). I will say that marching around on foot in the GZ today was not much fun - even before the storm. It was hot, windy, and totally birdless. This is an instance where company would have been awesome. Not everything I am going to do this year is going to be enjoyable at the exact moment I do it, but all of these exercises will eventually constitute what I hope will be a really good story at year's end. Knowing that you all are following along and enjoying my efforts really helps me keep going on tough days like today!
IN unrelated new, I guess we have a World Cup final of Argentina vs. Germany. I'll be pulling for Germany since I will forever route against Argentina after the "Hand of God" goal that buried England in the semis in 1986 (my dad is English so I route for them in addition to the US). I am sooooooooo glad the World Cup is going on right now. It helps distract me from the pitiful seasons that the Red Sox and Phillies are having. Both teams are 40-51 and 10 games back of their respective division leaders. At least I won't be wed to playoff baseball come October!