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Platteville, CO to Paxton, NE

This chapter of our journal was typed at the Julesburg, Colorado Public Library and at the Holiday Inn Express in North Platte, Nebraska. It was sent on the Internet from the North Platte Library.

April 19, Sunday
Bill spent the day resting and writing the journal. Laurie took a car ride with Janet and Bill's aunt to Estes Park through Big Thompson Canyon. They saw elk and bighorn sheep.

April 20, Monday
Bill felt marginally better today but now Laurie has the flu. She spent the day running — a fever and to and from the bathroom. Better here than on the road!

April 21, Tuesday
Both of us felt pretty good this morning and decided to try for a short day. The weather was sunny and crisp and we were anxious to make up some miles because we were now two days behind our planned schedule. But, on the road, we could tell we didn't have our full strength back and towns with lodging were far apart. We certainly didn't feel healthy enough to be camping yet. So, we had a choice between a 20 mile day or an 84 mile day. We chose a 20 mile day and stopped after lunch at a motel in Evans, just south of Greeley. Greeley was named for Horace Greeley, the New York publisher who spoke those famous words "Go west, young man, go west." It is reported that Greeley made one visit to his namesake town during his lifetime.

Some of you may wonder why we seem to be pre-occupied with our schedule for a trip like this. There are three main reasons — first, we need to be in Center Point, Iowa by May 15 so we can go to an ADT Society board meeting with Iowa ADT Coordinator Tom Neenan; second, we want to be back in Virginia by June 6, which is National Trails Day — there is a chance we could be present for the possible signing ceremony of the American Discovery Trail legislation in Washington, and thirdly and most importantly, June 6 is the expected due date for our first grandchild. Therefore, getting back onto our original schedule will become somewhat obsessive for us as we travel east.

19.7 miles, 10.4 mph average, 1 hr 52 minutes 73 miles total

April 22, Wednesday
We had high hopes for a lot of easy miles today, but once again Bill was feeling poorly. Sunny skies and above average temperatures were on our side. Eastern Colorado is filled with lots of wide open space with cottonwood trees lining the Platte River. Stopping in Kuner, a one house town, we learned that the world's largest onion farm lay just south of the highway. We pedaled on, stopping every ten miles or so to let Bill lie down and garner his strength for the next leg. Arriving in Fort Morgan, we again sought a motel to put Bill to bed with a fever and some well deserved rest.

52.1 miles, 12.2 mph avg, 4 hr 15 min 124.8 miles total

April 23, Thursday
Today was our healthiest day yet. Even so — we both felt only about 80% of capacity. Our ride today was wonderful — lots of wide open spaces, lonely roads, and a few interesting small towns for good measure. In tiny Snyder, Colorado, Larry Frye beamed with pride at how he and his wife remodeled the old post office, later a bank, into a restaurant. He had been a chef in one of Denver's best hotels and wanted to just have a small place in the country.

Just prior to entering a 10 mile stretch of gravel road, a man stopped his truck and suggested a paved route to us, assuming that we were lost. We're sure he wondered why bikers would be on such a back country road. We assured him we were on the correct road. He was the last vehicle we saw for those ten miles.

Last year, part of our "job" was to critique and evaluate the route of the ADT as laid out. This we did with our state reports to the ADT Society. This year, part of our "assignment" as we travel through northeast Colorado is to help scout and define the best route for the ADT in this area. The position of ADT Coordinator for Colorado is currently vacant and the route has never been developed. We couldn't have been happier with today's route.

Mom's Cafe in Merino served up our first milkshakes on this trip for only 95 cents each. We arrived in Sterling with time to spare so we stopped at the Chamber of Commerce to promote the ADT with the head of the Chamber. Later, we were interviewed by a reporter for the Sterling Advocate, the local paper.

47 miles, 13.7 mph avg, 3 hrs 24 minutes, 172 miles total

April 24, Friday
Today was to be our highest mileage not only so far on this trip but it would be our longest single day of riding since the 84 miles we rode last summer between Baker, Nevada and Milford, Utah. The terrain couldn't have been more conducive to high mileage — flat as a pancake to ever so slightly downhill. At Denver we were at about 5200 feet elevation. When we left the state at Julesburg, the elevation was 3744.

We were on lightly traveled paved highway all day long with very small towns (some without even a cafe or bar) spaced every eight to ten miles. We lunched in a small cafe in the town of Crook, had pie in Ovid, and took a long break in Julesburg. We traveled on to Big Springs, Nebraska, delighted to enter our second state, and checked into the historic Phelps Hotel.

In Ovid, we learned about the Great Western Sugar Company, which was a huge sugar beet processing plant from 1925 to 1985. In 1985, it was owned by the Hunt brothers of Texas. When the Hunts tried to corner the world silver market, the sugar factory went bankrupt. Hundreds lost their jobs and employees were left holding worthless paychecks. The once grand factory has fallen into extreme disrepair.

Just to the south of Ovid was the site of old Fort Sedgewick where some of the scenes were filmed for Dances With Wolves.

In Julesburg, Bill went into the library to work on the journal for a while and he left Laurie to rest on the courthouse lawn just across the street. When he returned an hour later, he found her sound asleep in the grass, looking like a vagrant. She apparently needed the rest. We then pedalled on to Big Springs, Nebraska.

71.4 miles, 13.3 mph, 5 hours 20 minutes 243 miles total

April 25, Saturday, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTERS
Welcome to Nebraska the sign read. After Doris served us a splendid breakfast which included a huge sticky bun, we saddled up and headed off. The only word that comes to mind for the next three hours is "grueling". We left the South Platte River valley and headed straight north for 20 miles to the town of Lewellen. We ascended for four miles directly into a wind of at least 25 miles per hour. Once on the undulating, windswept, treeless plain, the winds blasted us continuously. We found ourselves using 2-1 gearing just to make forward progress on level ground.

Finally, at the 13 mile mark, the terrain changed radically. We were entering the valley of the North Platte River and we began descending through jumbled hills and small shaly canyons studded with cedar trees. We stopped at the historical sites of Windlass Hill and Ash Hollow, early encampments of wagon trains bound for Oregon and Utah. We reached Lewellen after averaging only 7.7 miles per hour and ate a well deserved lunch.

Then, we headed east along the northern edge of large Lake McConaughy. At last the wind was on our side. But where did all these rolling hills come from? We saw a lot of wildlife — pheasants, a four foot snake, a badger (dead), and thousands of waterfowl taking wing over the lake. Then we finished the day with a 14 mile ride along a gravel canal road. This was not your ordinary irrigation ditch — it was a 14 foot deep by 20 feet wide canal which conducts water from the Kingsley Dam on Lake McConaughy to the Gerald Gentleman Power Station 30 miles away. We enjoyed the beautiful, if windy weather, scenic back country roads, and our health returning. We spent the night in Paxton. It was a long day but one we felt really good about. Between yesterday and today, we were able to make up one of our days that we were behind.

68.5 miles, 11.1 mph, 6 hours 6 minutes
314 miles total

© Copyright, William & Laurel Foot, 1998, Lynchburg, VA.
The Happy Feet

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