Day 18 Yuma to Sterling CO
I was headed for Fort Morgan today, but I got some good advice along the way that led me to change my route. It was, for me, a very short day, but a good one. From Sterling it is just over 100 miles to Fort Collins on CO 14. There are two places to eat (and a park to camp in) about 1/4 of the way, a place to get a snack about 1/2 way and another place to eat about 4/5ths of the way which I think will be closed before I get there. Nothing else except a lot of grassland. Pretty grassland. Which is why I stopped at Sterling today.
I left Yuma heading east on US 34. It has a good shoulder and a good bit of truck traffic, mostly cattle and grain trucks with an occasional truck hauling a big (BIG!) load of hay. These are all semis. I had breakfast in Yuma (only two pancakes in that stack!) and stopped at a rest stop in Otis (neat looking little town, no services) to use the bathroom. On US 34 between Yuma and Otis I watched a crop duster fly under the power lines next to the road - it is the yellow object just above the field on the right hand side of the photo. He had to wait for breaks in the traffic since he was flying lower than the tops of the cars!
A lady in an old car was starting to leave the rest stop as I entered it, but she waited for me and asked where I was going. Then she said her husband ran a bike shop and she was familiar with biking in this area. She told me that the nice shoulder on 34 went away after Akron and that the next 35 miles of 36 was dangerous bicycling. I already knew that 36 didn't have a shoulder for quite a while after Brush, but the 22 miles from Akron to Brush would be really bad without a shoulder because all those trucks would be on it. 34 intersect I-76 just before Brush and parallels it for a while afterwards. Traffic is light on the parallel part.
She suggested I take CO 63 north from Akron to Sterling and then ride CO 14 to Fort Collins. I had ridden CO 14 in the other direction last summer, so I knew that part was good riding, and I had ridden 36 after Brush and knew it was not so good, so I decided to change my route. By the way, the woman who helped me had slept in her car at the rest stop last night - it was located next to US 36 and a railroad track so it wasn't very restful - and was headed, at the request of the police, away from her abusive husband. She said they had been married 35 years and she still hoped he would grow up soon. A nice lady.
At Platner I stopped to check a map at an ag oriented service station. The nice folks there agreed about my route and we talked about riding on the back roads (unfortunately dirt with gravel) in the area. When I reached Akron, I stopped for an early lunch - very early to the locals since I'm still on central time and therefore an hour ahead of their mountain time. I had a good lunch at The Branding Iron Cafe and, a few blocks later, turned north on CO 63. I stopped, still in Akron, to buy some maps at a convenience store. I got Nebraska and the Dakotas, but the only (like as in one copy) Colorado map thy had looked too wimpy and it was sealed in plastic so I couldn't check it out. Since I rode this area last summer and I have Street Atlas on my computer, I guess I don't need a Colorado map.
By the time I turned north on 63, the wind had picked up to 5 to 10 mph from the north. Oh well, I only had to ride into it for thirty miles or so and, compared to riding towards Enid OK, it was piece of cake. It also turned out to be quite nice riding. For the first 15 miles 63 had a good, smooth shoulder and very little traffic. then, after a long stretch of construction, I had to ride the 'old' road - bumpy, narrow, and no shoulder. It really wasn't a problem since the traffic level was so low. I sometimes rode for ten to fifteen minutes without seeing any vehicles or any thing other than the land and the animals on it and above it. Nice. The wind came and went as I rode. It slowed me down (big deal on this short day) and kept me cool.
In the middle of the construction area (14 miles long) I came upon a crew adding access points to the highway. It was a pretty big crew, with several vehicles and a big roller. Almost the entire crew was female. They gave me great friendly smiles as I rode through.
I stopped twice on 63. The first time at an abandoned building because it had shade and the second time at a drainage overpass because it enabled me to get out of sight and 'use the bathroom.' There was very little cover other than the drainage overpasses. The one I used was populated with pigeons and swifts who were not happy about my presence. Sorry but it was ten miles to the nearest bathroom and the road was bumpy...
CO 63 intersects I-76 about ten miles south east of Sterling. My first Colorado interstate access ramp - it was gated for snow, but bikes were legal. Once I got in sight of I-76, the magic of the prarie was gone, but riding was pretty easy paralleling the railroad tracks into Sterling. Can you say flat?
Sterling has all services, even a bicycle shop. I stopped at the shop to get a new patch kit (I was down to one kit) and a new tube (the patches have patches on my spare tube). I got a good little patch kit, just like he one I just emptied of patches, and a thorn proof tube. The heavy tube was all that he carried, but I have my reservations about it. It weights more than the tires I use on my road bike! If I inflate it hard enough I can probably use it as a spare tire! My question is how many of the flats that I have had on this trip would have been prevented by that monster tube? I'll put it on my rear wheel the next time I have reason to remove the wheel. It should be useful when my TT2000 starts showing its cords. The bicycle shop was strange in that it is the first shop I've been in as a bike tourist where the owner/operator showed no interest in what I was doing.
I'm staying at the Colonial Motel in Sterling and I had supper at the J 'n L Cafe about half a mile away (I walked). I specifically mention both since they are both quite good. My room, at $32, is almost as big and nice as my $100 Holiday Inn room in Nashville. The food at the Cafe is excellent (I ate there last summer) and inexpensive. It is setup as a nice diner and carries it off very well. I'm looking forward to breakfast there tomorrow. They open at 5:30 AM, but I don't expect to be there much before 7 AM - it may be a long day tomorrow if the wind doesn't cooperate.