Steve McAlphabet Motorcycling Music Across America
From Oklahoma To Colorado

From Oklahoma To Colorado

After hanging the hammock in the middle of the Kaw Lake campground, where I was surrounded by RVs, I set up my camp, which consists of moving my backpack and guitar to the picnic table and setting up my chair. I changed into shorts and flip flops, rested a bit, wrote in my journal, ate my last Kind bar, and set off for the lake about a half hour before sunset. There was a small peninsula jutting into the lake, where I laid out my yoga mat and stretched my aching joints, wondering why I don’t do yoga more often.

My intention was to watch the full moon rise, which was about a half hour after the sun set, Oddly enough, I never saw the moon rise. I waited about fifteen minutes after it was supposed to rise, and figured the sky may have been too overcast in that direction. I rolled up my mat, headed back to camp, and lay down in the hammock to wait for the moon to peek between the tree branches above me, but fell quickly asleep.

I woke before the sun rose, and probably much earlier than the RVers, stuffed the hammock in its bag, and packed up the bike before seven and headed for breakfast. I found a family owned restaurant, where they made their own tables and chairs, which looked beautiful but weren’t what I would call comfortable. I ordered the biscuit and gravy platter, and like so many times before when I have ordered a biscuit and gravy outside the South, I regretted it. Say what you will about the South, but they know how to make biscuits and gravy.

I heard a patron mention the farmers market, and looking for a reason to go to Wichita, I looked it up and found that they did have a market. I set my GPS and set out with a full bottle of coffee, thanks to my lovely waitress. My hope was that they’d let me set up my typewriter to offer some poetry, but like many farmers market, they don’t take kindly to interlopers. But it was a nice market, Wichita is a beautiful town, and I was fine with heading on to Bison. 

A few months ago, I set up a Public Trip for Dodge City, among other places, on to see if any folks from that area may want to host me. A guy named Mike reached out to me from Bison, which is an hour or so away from Dodge City, and offered to host me on my way through. I had no real desire to go to Dodge City and figured any place in Kansas was as good as Kansas was gonna get, so I took him up on his offer.

They’d invited me to come camping with them Friday night, but the mishap with the clutch cable had delayed me by about six hours, and I spent it camping alone. On Saturday, Mike and his partner were attending a Gay Pride event in Hays, about a half hour north of Bison, and I again hoped for a place to offer poetry. But the wind was blowing at 22 mph, and when you have a sail-shaped guitar strapped to your motorcycle, that makes for a lot of diagonal riding, which is a bit more taxing on the body than my normal leisurely rides.

Arriving in Bison, I knew I didn’t want to ride all the way to Hays to offer poetry for the last hour of the event, but I did manage to muster up enough strength to ride the 6.5 miles to the nearest convenient store (and stoplight) to get some beer, a sandwich, and a cigar while I waited for my hosts. Mike messaged me to let me know the back door was open and to make myself at home. When they arrived, they were about as tired as I was, having spent so much time in the day’s heat, and they shared some conversation and food with me before we all retired early.

I woke again before the sun and received a message from Mike that he had something come up and wished me well so I packed up the bike and headed for coffee. My next host was about 350 miles away, which was estimated at over six hours of riding, and I was glad to get an early start, and very glad that the wind was a lot more mild. There’s not a lot to say about Kansas other than it eventually becomes Colorado, and the roads get considerably worse.

Hours into Colorado, the mountains finally emerged softly on the horizon, and I looked forward to being out of the plains for the hours it took to actually get to the mountains. After stopping for a bite to eat, I headed toward my next host. I’d reached out to him on, and he’d sent me the address, but we hadn’t communicated since, so I was hoping he was expecting me since he’d not responded to my message a few days earlier.

Winding through the hills, GPS told me to take a right, and the pavement ended with a grate of metal pipes which led to a much rougher road. I stopped to check the texture and decided that I could handle five miles of it if I rode slowly. About a mile in, I saw the road turn to gravel, and the sight of it caused me to flinch, which caused me to take the bike down with as much grace as I could muster. 

I released my leg from under the bike, and as gas leaked from the tank, I was grateful that I have a relatively light motorcycle as I grunted it back to its upright position. Beyond the bruise to my leg and my ego, I was unscathed by the accident, and the motorcycle just needed adjustments to the rerview mirror and the foot peg. So I turned around, took a right on the main road, and hoped that Google Maps would find me a better way. 

It suggested a number of other dirt and gravel roads, and a few left turns into open pastures, but I decided to give up on getting to my host and considered other options. The first consideration was that I was out if water, and that if I were going to spend another night in the hammock, I was going to need to hydrate. So I followed the road until I found a gas station to refill my bottle and tank, and I looked up the hotel next door on my phone, but didn’t want to pay 141$ for a place to sleep. 

There was another hotel attached to the liquor store down the street, and I figured they would have much better rates. With taxes, it would have come to 100$, which was still more than I wanted to pay. I asked the manager about places to hang my hammock, and he recommended any of the trail heads.

“Are the roads to get to them paved?” I asked.

“Part of the way,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of paved roads around here.”

I told him I’d head to Pueblo, and he said there were plenty of turnouts along the way where I’d be able to pull over and put up a hammock. About twenty miles in, I found my spot. Easing the bike in gently on the loose soil, it didn’t take long to find a place to hang my hammock.. 

It was 8:04 when I looked at my phone, and since that’s my birthday, I decided to call the place home. I’d put on my jacket for the first time on this trip just a half hour before as the heat of the day had faded with the sun so I set up the hammock, wrestled my way into my sleeping bag (which can be a bit of an endeavor), and listened the to babbling brook sing me a lullaby. A little after 10:30, I had to pee.

The air was brisk, and I looked forward to getting back into the sleeping bag. However, as I again struggled to get it to the sleeping bag, my beloved hammock ripped, delivering me gently into the grass below. I mourned the loss, but couldn’t help but laugh.

I got my yoga mat off the bike and found the flattest, rock free surface I could find. That place didn’t exist, but I at least found a patch of grass out of the biting wind. I woke many times, but time passed that I don’t remember so I’m sure that I managed to get some sleep. 

I woke up at 5:30, and the day was bright. I stuffed my hammock into its bag for the last time, and took the windy road toward Pueblo, riding into the blinding sun in search of coffee and a new hammock. The temperature got up to 101 degrees that afternoon, and I realized that it had been 90 degrees or more every day of the trip so far, but at least I now have a new hammock.