Cross Country Day 5 – Lincoln, NE to Boulder, CO

I woke up at around 6 a.m. My body ached from the weightlifting I did using my motorcycle as a dumbbell after it toppled over yesterday. Even though it was just a minor wreck, my confidence was rattled. The accident could have been much worse. I could have been a hood ornament on the white F150 that I avoided. I pushed the tip-over to the back of my mind. What else could I do? I have a long way to travel and the bike is in good working order. Accidents happen. Be more careful next time. Every turn is an important one.

The Horizon Inn served a continental breakfast that I found astounding for the $40 price tag. I drank at least $10 worth of orange juice and also made myself a pretty decent Belgian waffle. I thought about my dad when I made it. He loves making waffles because the act is a combination of cooking and using tools. I drank several cups of coffee to get my engine started and returned to my room.

I had a long day in front of me. I went back to sleep for about an hour. I packed up my belongings, did an idiot check to be sure everything was accounted, and walked out to the Brick. There she stood like a trusty steed lashed to a post, ready for the days adventure. I wanted to apologize. The bike has been a tank and I felt yesterday’s drop could have been avoided. In a Castaway-Tom Hanks-Wilson moment, I could hear the Brick whispering, “It’s fine, I’m fine, you’re fine, now let’s lay down some miles.” Maybe the road is driving me insane.

The purplish-orange Nebraska sky filled my vision and had an aura similar to a Bob Ross painting – real, but not quite real. There were high winds blowing and the bike parked next to mine had its cover flapping flag-like in the wind, attached to the bike by only the clutch lever as if waving to surrender. The winds hinted at treachery, but I clipped on my side bags and boarded anyway.

A few miles out a rain started fall. Following my rule of “Put the rain gear on the instant you feel a drop,” I pulled under an overpass and stopped to put it on. As I was dressing, two big Harley’s thundered up. The riders wore only sleeveless shirts and they had no helmets. When rain makes contact with bare skin while on a bike, it feels like knitting needles being shot out of a canon. It is an experience to be avoided at all costs, so I assumed they were going to wait it out under the protection of the overpass. I said hello but they didn’t seem too big on words, so I zipped up my rain gear and took off. I thought about their attire. When riding a Harley there is a certain uniform, just as there is when riding a sport bike. Activities and hobbies come complete with a culture, and most people stick to the stereotypes. We all want to fit in somewhere and the prefab culture that goes along with an interest of choice provides a level of community. I am guilty of this too. My Dainese jacket and Phil Read replica Arai helmet scream out that I love MotoGP.

The road was uneventful which I welcomed with open arms. Yesterday was a trial I would rather not repeat. I screwed down my mind, focused, and started laying down miles. I stopped along the way to take a picture here and there, but Nebraska is two things: flat and loaded with corn. As I drove I could not believe that amount of corn. I like corn. No, I love corn, but the vast mile upon mile of cornfields got me wondering about who is ingesting all of this corn? How can there be starving people in this world?

The winds died down and I made the Colorado border. Some mountain bikers in a VW that had been playing cat and mouse with me on the road were also stopped at the border sign. They generously offered to snap a picture for me. “Where you headed?” “California and back to New York.” “Wow, you have come a long way already. That’s a cool trip. Be safe.” Be safe. A total stranger wants me to be safe. While travelling I have noticed a sense of camaraderie that does not exist in day-to-day life. People seem nicer and more helpful as if to say, “We are in this together.” These guys didn’t know yet were wishing me well. They took time to take a picture of me and chat for a little bit. It’s a phenomenon I am enjoying.

I approached Boulder and as I climbed in elevation I looked down on the mountains. There is no picture, no painting, or any movie that can capture this grandeur. I equate the idea to trying to listen to classical music on a stereo. It never sounds good because there are a hundred players performing with great dynamic range and they are being squeezed though a pair of speakers. The sound is nowhere close to seeing the performance live. Even the best speakers in the world cannot capture the sound. The same goes for the Rockies. I can’t take a picture or explain to anybody the majesty I’ve witnessed. You are going to have to buy that concert ticket yourself.

I navigated to my friend Pete’s house. Pete is probably the most mellow and well-adjusted cat I have ever met. I am not trying to speak beatnik for effect, but his demeanor deserves the term “cat”. He won’t talk much in a group, but when he does it’s always something brilliant. I have known him for a long time but we don’t get to see each other much because of locations. We exchange emails time to time to stay in touch. Pete cracked me a cold microbrew and he and his wife Edy sat with me in the front yard of their modern looking house. The pages of the calendar seem to turn quicker as I get older. I couldn’t even figure out when we saw each other last. He heard about my divorce in 2009 and asked if I still saw my stepdaughter Gabby. He and Edy both noticed the strong connection between the two of us. They remembered seeing Gabby and I dancing at a wedding and how happy we seemed as a family. My eyes welled up as I answered, “No, I have not seen her in over 3 years, but even though it kills me, I am glad I had those few years of being her dad.” I am glad Pete was not afraid to talk about the subject, another thing I love about Pete – no B.S.

We went for dinner at a great place called Mountain Sun and I had a delicious rib dinner. We drank several beers and hit the street. There was a piano for public use and I performed another horrible rendition of “Feelings.” I joked how I was on tour.
We had more caloric fun, stopping for ice cream and more beer at another bar where I actually fell asleep in my chair. I decided to not worry about what the scale says on this trip. I am great at getting in shape when I put my mind to the task. I’ll burn off the blubber when this journey is complete. This trip is about healing and discovering myself. What heals better than beer and ice cream?

We got home and I crawled into bed in the guest room. I took stock of the people I have stayed with so far, and I am amazed by how many people consider me a friend. This idea made me realize that I could be a better friend to others. I can get very curmudgeonly at times as Liz told me in Chicago, and I tend to push others away. I am afraid to get hurt and this is the method I have been employing. It’s a bad model for life, and I am going to try and emulate my hosts Pete, Alyson, and Liz by being more open, generous, and accepting. I just turned 47 and I am finally figuring out the puzzle of life. There is no end solution because pieces keep getting added and subtracted from the box. My new goal is to take the ones I have and fit them together.

Click for larger versions:

The flatness of Nebraska

I can cook Starting mileage Inuendo
Hanging tough 5 Hour Energy Colorado
Outside Boulder Awesome food Summer picnic

Lincoln to Boulder – 500 Miles

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4 Responses to Cross Country Day 5 – Lincoln, NE to Boulder, CO

  1. Kathy says:

    Glad you had an uneventful but eye-opening day. I’ve seen you mention relationship woes but, as a newish follower, didn’t know about the divorce and Gabby. I’m sorry to hear that. Step-parenting is the hardest job in the world. It’s parenting on steroids. And then when things like divorce happen, you have absolutely no legal ground to stand on. Unless your split was amicable — a rarity! — you are screwed. But then I guess you know that. Mrs. Right is out there for you somewhere. When you are done finding Joe and have learned to walk with your eyes more open, I bet she’ll waltz right into your life. Enjoy the Rockies. Boulder is the place where “cats” love to hang. Are you taking I-70 down into Utah? There’s a canyon I-70 cuts through that is very cool. Stop for pics!

  2. Sylvia says:

    Joe, I’m really getting a sense of what it is like to be going on a journey such as yours – what beautiful writing. I can almost feel that thin motor inn coffee lingering in the teeth and that extra post breakfast nap that is so hard to wake from. Please continue to shoot us photos of the menus and meals – I’m so jealous! Salud!

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