July 23rd, 2010

Another difference between urban and rural America...

In urban America, the only time cows typically come up in conversation is when folks (seemingly endlessly) debate whether or not they can actually be tipped.

Here that question appears to be settled, or is perhaps simply of less interest.

Train tracks near Ordway CO

I love trains, and I love taking pictures of train tracks: since there are far fewer train tracks than roads, and since it's easier to tell when train tracks have gone dormant, when they DO go dormant you always wonder why.

What you see here is the same track which parallels SR96 (and hence my route) all the way from Pueblo CO to Scott City KS.

If anyone following this blog who knows more about trains than I (and presumably has better internet access than I...) would like to fill me in on this history of this track, and whether the hundreds of empty cargo cars currently parked on it are ever intended to be used again, I'd certainly appreciate it.

When I started to get worried...

About six miles east of Sugar City CO (heading east on SR96) what you see here started to seriously disturb my peace of mind.

This isn't a great picture, and although I'm trying to educate myself I'm still not great at identifying clouds predictive of problem weather, but from a better angle it looked to me to have one of those anvil shapes, it was big and dark, and it seemed to be closing on me despite the fact that the wind on the ground seemed to be blowing sightly against it.

Where I chose to dig in

I had hoped to make it to Eads CO that night, but heavy headwinds had started to cut my forward speed down to 5mph, so outrunning the bad weather which mostly seemed to be behind me and to my sides was no longer an option.

This town had no motel, or any other business that was open.

The rest of the story...

The wind was too bad even at the time I arrived in Arlington CO to think of trying to set up my tent, but the tiny rest area where I stopped DID have this solidly-built outhouse. So, I figured I'd just wait out the storm in this outhouse: I found some strong cable which I was able to loop through the door's latch to hold it shut from the inside against the wind, though the light from the by then almost-constant lightning certainly presented quite a show through the door's cracks, and the accompanying thunder was obviously fierce.

Obviously I wanted to save my phone battery for potentially more important things, and it was running low anyway; hence, reading books on my Kindle iPhone app wasn't really an option while stuck in this outhouse.

So, what would YOU do if you were confronted with the possibility of spending an ENTIRE NIGHT sitting in an outhouse, awake, with no light, no music, nobody to talk to, and nothing to read?

Me, I tried to reach Zen enlightenment.

As you can probably safely conclude from my seemingly unending off-color jokes in this blog about bull testicles, reaching Zen enlightenment is something I've probably never actually done.

But in any case, supposedly the Buddha accomplished this feat by simply sitting quietly and focusing his entire attention, to the exclusion of all other thoughts, on each of his slow, and rhythmic, inhalations and exhalations. So I figured I'd just sit in this outhouse all night and do the same thing.

But a few minutes into this (genuinely sincere) effort the wind died down enough for me to set up my tent, and of course my mind then jumped up and down urging me to take advantage of this opportunity.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the sad story of how I ultimately failed to reach enlightenment.

If we as humans actually DO have souls, and furthermore face a critique of the lives we led immediately after our respective deaths, then I wonder if the first thing I'll hear after my own death is: "Russell, you should have stayed in the outhouse."

That's a thought which is genuinely going to haunt me.

Good morning!

I may not be enlightened, but the air is so crisp and fresh with every inhalation, and the sunrise so beautiful, I honestly can't think of anything else.

Ranching vs. Farming

I started this trip hoping to gain an appreciation of the differences between urban and rural America.

Although I've done this to the best of my ability, it is only now sinking in that an even greater opportunity for me on this trip is to gain an appreciation, within rural America, of the equally important differences between ranching culture and farming culture.

Riding into Tribune KS this evening

I rode 95 miles today, pushing myself pretty hard for much of the way out of concern for the weather conditions you can obviously see here.

I had the chance to speak to a local soon after arriving: apparently crop yields have been very, very good this year, so the whole area is pretty happy.

Something I enjoyed thinking about as I rode through Kansas...

If things ever got REALLY hard, and we had to (at least temporarily) set aside the luxury of eating vast amounts of beef, we could.

But the land I passed through today would presumably have to continue being used more or less as it is, even in such hard times.

It's rare in urban life, other than when looking at the structural elements of a bridge or the foundations of a building, that you see something which has to be used exactly as it is, and in no other way.

In Kansas, as far as I can tell this is ALL you see, as far as the eye can see.