Internal Detours
Friday, August 04, 2006
  the long vacation, part 3 - the long-delayed conclusion

Sorry, but life gets in the way of blogging. I'll try to wrap up the cross-country odyssey in a hastily-written, much-compressed and many-memories-slipping-away kinda way.

We left Cheyenne on a Monday, the first of two days we had planned that involved a short drive. Of course we went off-track a bit, but we still found Boulder Colorado, coming in near a Target that had a Starbucks where they botched Ana's order. We bought her a cheap Timex. The band broke the moment she put it on. It was not a good morning.

We drove downtown, stopping and finding a parking space a block or two away from Vecchio's on Pearl Street. I was in bike heaven - hanging around the place were treasures including an Atala with a Cambio Corsa gear, several tutti Campagnolo Italian steeds - and a fully-chromed Mercian wearing stainless fenders and full Campy. My, my, my. I bought a set of Campagnolo ergo cables and a cycling cap from Peter Chisholm, whose postings on the newsgroup have reassured me that my polyglot mix o' parts will indeed work on Stripe when I get around to rebuilding him. I could have spent hours in there, but we needed lunch.

We searched for a parking spot high and low before giving up and using the parking garage. Lunch was at the Falafel King in the Pearl Street hip district, and it was delicious. Feeling fortified, we walked up and down the strip, buying some small treasures to bring home or adorn ourselves with. Best finds were the pendant with the butterfly wing encased in lucite and the matching Skagen stainless steel watches - though the elegant and cheap little Melita single cup coffee maker was also a good score. Ana talked me out of getting the altitude tent, which is just as well - rumor has it the UCI is about to classify sleeping in altitude tents as a banned practice.

It seemed like every shop we visited had at least one shop dog, sometimes two. Border collies. Labradors. Mixed-breeds. All laid-back and chilling out. It was doggie paradise, made even weirder by the fact that it was a cyclist's paradise, too.

I took a bunch of blurry pix with the $9 pencam as we walked around, because I wanted to document all the bikes in various places. I understand there are 95,000 people in Boulder, and 100,000 bikes. How can you not love that? I hadn't seen this many bikes being used for transportation since I was a kid visiting Chapel Hill and Charlottesville in the mid-70s during the great bike boom - of course, back then the bikes had dropped bars and skinny tires instead of fat tires and straight bars.

It looked like the bike of choice for getting around was a vintage fully-rigid mountain bike, though I saw several balloon tire bombers, upright English and Dutch 3-speeds, and assorted older touring and road racing machines locked up and whizzing by.

We found our hotel and checked in. While Ana called her sister on the cell, I walked down the street to get some bottled water. I picked up a flier advertising a condo for sale there on Arapahoe - 536 square feet for the bargain price of $178,900. Ouch.

We decided that supper should be delivered. Fortunately, there was the Sink, in business since 1922, and ever-ready to produce good stuff. We wound up going with the half-pound burgers made with grass-fed organic beef, splitting a Greek salad. It was a most fortunate choice. If you're ever there, by all means get one of those burgers - surpassed only by Ole's bison burgers.

We had factored in ride time for me the next morning, so when Tuesday dawned I headed out aboard Belle. I had a map of the Boulder trail system, and worked my way down Arapahoe. Initially I was nervous - the lanes were kinda narrow, and there was a lot of traffic - but I found the entry to the trail and headed out.

You may remember how much I liked the Cheyenne Greenway? This blows it out of the water. It felt and rode like a cross between the Blue Ridge Parkway and what an interstate would be like if they made them for cyclists. Again, I saw all sorts of folks out there - young, old, ambling along or hustling to work or appointments or riding out in full spandex regalia for a training ride, or out walking with their well-behaved dogs.

I'd never seen prairie dogs up close before. I did this time - some of them were out foraging right next to the trail, in an area where their burrows filled a field next to a pond. The ducks and geese didn't even flinch as I rolled past.

Eventually, my time started running out, so I turned around and headed back. I figured I'd go back to Vecchio's and get some photos, so I rolled along on the city streets, first on the well-striped bike lanes, then just sharing the road with everyone else.

As a cyclist, I loved Boulder. I felt respected and treated as an equal while riding a bike, more so than I had ever experienced anywhere else. Riding back to the hotel, I was struck by the wild mix of houses in the historic district. Cheek-by-jowl were a Frank Lloyd Wright wannabe, a shingle-side Victorian, a '20s Spanish Revival and a gloriously simple plank-sided cottage.

Our next stop was Topeka. Eastern Colorado and western Kansas are both kinda quiet and not terribly exciting places to drive through. The guide book mentioned it, the food was passable but nothing special, I had flashbacks to eating at some funky cafeteria-styled place in Rocky Mount, Virginia during my childhood, and we moved on. Our hotel was another one like the last one we were in, a Holiday Inn Express or a Comfort Suites, they all blur together.

Wednesday was another long day as we crossed Kansas and drove into Illinois for a time before going into Indiana and thence to Kentucky. By now the highway construction was just getting oppressive. Somewhere along in here we found ourselves on something that was simultaneously an interstate AND a toll road. This sparked a lively conversation along the lines of, "C'mon, we already paid federal taxes towards maintaining this road ..."

We got stuck in traffic again in St. Louis, trapped by more construction and a Cardinals baseball game. We bumped along at slow speed for a while before finally crossing into Illinois, where the roads were just as bad. I can't even remember the town we finally stopped in for supper. I just remember we discovered that Applebee's had "upgraded" their menu by scattering walnuts and pecans over everything we would normally have eaten, an issue for those of us with food allergies. We wound up grabbing something from Wendy's and pushing on to Owensboro, Kentucky.

Our schedule let us take it easy Thursday morning, so we did. I watched Floyd Landis' glory ride and thought of Eddy Merckx before Phil Liggett mentioned his name. It was a great moment in racing, so long as pharmaceuticals weren't linked to it.

We had originally hoped to eat supper Wednesday in Owensboro, but we had amended our schedule so we could have lunch there the next day. Pity we didn't get there early enough - the Moonlite Barbecue was criminally good. I may have been born in North Carolina's mustard-based barbecue country, I may have been weaned on that yellowy goodness, but Moonlite in Owensboro blew their doors off. It was the best damned barbecue I've ever eaten in my life, period. Finchers in Macon - eat yer heart out. It was that good.

On to Nashville, for an overnight stay with relatives, then Friday we headed for home. We took a scenic route for a while, then found ourselves on I-40 in time to spend more than an hour sitting still. A tractor-trailer had rolled, closing both lanes for a long time. We eventually got past Knoxville and into the Great Smoky Mountains, working our way home through Spartanburg to Clinton to home in the wee hours of the morning.
In 1992 after a brief honeymoon in Savannah, Alan and I drove crosscountry to Denver to begin life as husband and wife. We made it from the Upstate to Columbia, Missouri on day one, despite a wrong turn in NE GA that took us by the scenic Ocoee River. Day two started bright and early and soon we stopped at the Welcome Center to Kansas. As I was looking at the map, the nice retired lady behind the counter struck up a conversation and learned I was on my honeymoon and moving to CO. Her famous line to me that day, never to be forgotten, was "Welcome to Kansas, honey. You'll be here ALL DAY." And she was right. Alan promised me you could see Pikes Peak from the eastern Colorado border, but it was dark when we got there. But 5 long years later I enjoyed the sight of the Peak in my rear view mirror on the return drive to SC. (:
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