Thursday, July 2: I was a bit worried last eve when we hit the hay, concerned about how things would go second time around with the infamous sandburs. This was my Waterloo back in 2012, the final straw to getting further west on dirt and gravel roads. From the CO/KS line I was back on the pavement for that trip. And now here I am again, face to face with the sandburs. They’re everywhere, especially on the sides of the soft surface roadways. Now that I know what I’m looking for I just fixate on the bastards. So anyway, I had all this stuff spinning around in my brain last night. So my sleep quality was on the low side. Heck I ended up waking at like 4:30 AM and that was it. I was up from there onward. 

Kind of lay around for 30 min so as to not wake Judy, but at 5 I finally got the coffee going in the motel room. Since we were situated just 1 mile from my route, I’d told Judy to go ahead and do her run workout and weights, and then she could come and meet me where we ended up yesterday. I’d just ride the first segment backwards so she didn’t have to jump in the car early and begin the long and painful support gig. So I got rolling at 6:45 AM, got on I Rd and took that north to 11 Rd, then went east on 11, which through Ulysses is asphalt, so I bermed it for several miles. Once it changed to gravel it was a wonderful road. 

The temp was great, as a cool front has moved in from the north, so the wind was out of the northeast. Now when I started there was a storm cell to the north, but there were some sprinkles in addition to lightening in the northern horizon. Part of the cool thing about riding across the Great Plains is watching these storm cells like 20-50 miles away, and they look some foreboding and close. Did get drizzled on just a tad as I was kind of riding into the cell, but the nasty part was further off to the north. Nonetheless, I was still just a tad concerned that I’d get a little dumped on. Never happen though. 

Road 11 changed to 110 Rd as I changed counties while riding to the east. The whole time I was just watching for those sandburs, checking out my tires, and occasionally stopping and looking at the tires closely. What I hadn’t mentioned was that for the last 3 days I’ve been pumping up the front tire in the morning due to a really slow leak. I just cannot see putting a new tube in there, or patching a tube and going through all the hassles I’ve had with these particular 29er tires when I was riding the things through sandbur country. But, on the plus side, is the fact that Steve had picked me some pretty darned good tires to use for this trip, plus there are liners on the inside just to give a bit more protection. Anyway, I’d pumped in a good 30 lbs of pressure this morning, and the past two mornings and the tire has worked just fine. 

Met Judy at the junction of 120 and CC roads, and then we threw the  bike in the van, got gas, and proceeded back to the start point I was at in the morning so we could begin to move west. So this backwards ride worked great, and I had no sandbur issues despite the fact that the thing are just everywhere on the sides of these roads. Now what I do know right now is this: Stay on main gravel and dirt and NOT the dbl track stuff where there’s a high amount of vegetation….and sandburs. 

Got going on 11 Rd west back in Ulysses, and it was great, big dbl lane gravel all the way to Johnson City. Then went L, south, on L Rd and took this past Johnson City. Before Johnson City, 11 Rd just deadened at this local airport, where I had to do a bike-hike across about a quarter mile of airstrips to get back on 11 again - carrying the bike so as not not get sandburs in the tires. I mean the bullshit never ends! Once back on 11 I did a small 1 mile berm section there on the west side of town, and then the road went total gravel again south of town. Went R, west, on 15 Rd, L, south, on P Rd, and then R, west on 17 Rd…and be damned if 17 Rd just died out into nothing. And once again, gazetteer and gps says there’re a road there. So I rode back to Manter Grade Rd, went south on berm and took that to 19 Rd…WHICH DIDN’T FREAKING EXIST AT ALL despite them showing up on gazetteer and gps. Hell, the gps showed the road going west into this fallow field? Turned around, rode back to 18 Rd, and went west on that to the junction with S Rd so I might be able to junction with 19 there. 

Again, this one looked shady, where it was just a pair of dbl tracks going down into a corn field. Oh, yea, and I forgot to say that this was all a bit more tenuous because I’d left my backpack with Judy in the van at our last support stop. You see there are these freaking flies, like house flys, that are just biting the hell out of me, so I get in the van and eat and drink for my support stop to stay away from the flies. Well, I always take my pack off and stash it between the two front seats. When I’d realized it she was just starting to drive away, and I hammered it back to the van yelling and screaming but she never heard me. Had all my flat fix-it tools, tubes, pump, etc. in that pack. 

So I decided rather than backtrack, to just be really careful and ride the dbl track in the hopes of intersection with 19 Rd. I was ok for about a half mile and then it just died out into nothing. So there I was with no flat fixing gear, in the middle of sandbur country and I had no phone, and nothing but my Edge gps. Took the dbl track back to the good gravel road, and then did a big check on my tires. I pulled 5-8 sandburs off of both tires. The burs were totally impregnated in the rubber. Now I’m sweating a bit, wondering if I just made one of the gaffs that was dogging me last night when I couldn’t sleep well. Got going back on 18 Rd west and was hoping I’d find the next junction, T Rd, to be my savior. Well, as I’m riding towards T I see Judy off in the distance driving north on T. 

Man I was waving like hell, hoping she wouldn’t pass the junction with 18 and keep going without ever looking to the east to see me coming up the road. Thankfully she did see me. She’d driven down 19 to meet up with me for the next support stop and realized that 19 just turned into a field, as I had found, and then realized that all my gear and the cell phone was in the van. So she began driving around on these gravel roads trying to figure out how the hell I was going to change up the route to get the the junction of 19 and Rt 160. We were pretty lucky I have to say. So I stopped for about 10 min, got some good metal tweezers, and picked the broken sandbur thorns out of both tires. I mean I was just meticulous in checking for the broken thorns. Must have pulled about 10-15 of these. But still, the tires seemed to be ok, as I heard no air leaking, and when I put spit on a couple holes, there was no bubbling. 

Got the gazetteer out and figured an alternative to the mess. Yet again, we had no idea if the roads were actually thru or not, but at least I had the van and my gear with me if they to fell through. So we took T south to 20 Rd, went west on 20 Rd and took that to the CO border. Went R, north, on 57 Rd, and then L, west on Rt 160. There is where we Xed into CO, and I rode berm on 160 for a mile to our first CO gravel rd - 56 Rd. Went L, south on 56, to R on GG west, to a L, south, on 51 Rd, to a R, west, on DD Rd. Took DD into the town of Walsh, did a mile of berm on DD through town west. Then Xed over Rt 160 and carried the bike across RR tracks and about 100 yards of vegetation and got back on DD again. 

At this point you’re head is probably spinning on all the dag gone road changes and mishaps ets.? Yea, mine is to. Ditto for Judy. I probably had 5 junk miles in from turning back and turning around. Ok, so I got back on DD and took that west as it paralleled Rt 160. Sent Judy six miles west on 160 to meet me at the junction of 37 Rd and DD. And this was the end of the day. Whoope, as I made 95 total miles for the day in sandbur country. Just crazy how those little thorns can so impact this trip. Thanks to Steve Thomas for picking some great 29er tires (despite the fact that they’re horrible to get off and on) and putting in the liners. They had to save me today. 

But things get tougher tomorrow with the big stretch of 120 miles with some remote sections of riding in sandbur country. But I’m feeling a bit better on this. I just have to make it to Trinidad and I think I’ve got a rest from these thorns due to our getting into the higher elevations where sandburs don’t thrive. So we’ll see. We hope to make Trinidad by Saturday late afternoon, and then we’ll drive north on I-25 to visit with my long-time bud and fellow Hudson classmate Andrew - Drew. Want to take at least a day’s rest there before going back down to Trinidad and continuing west from there.