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Denver roadtrip

In a fit of three-day planned spontaneousness, I drove to Denver this weekend. I left work at 7 PM on Friday and hit the road. The V1 managed to save me three times on 183 before I even got to 183. It was well after dark by the time I passed through Sweetwater and I noticed something peculiar; as far south and north as I could see were a set of red warning lanterns flashing in unison. At first I thought it must’ve been lights along a really long runway, but as I got closer I realized it was a huge wind turbine farm. It stretched for several miles to the north as I traveled to Lubbock. I later found out from Steve that it was one of the largest installations in the world.

By 2:30 AM I was ready to call it a night and stopped at a rest stop just south of Plainview to sleep. When I left Austin it was 95 F, so I paid no mind to bring a jacket. As the night went on, the temp dropped into the upper 40s making for a chilly, sleepless sleep in my truck. Sometime after 6 AM I woke up to see the sun just starting to peek over the horizon. Started the truck to warm up for a bit, and took a solid catnap.

Back on the road, I drove up to Plainview in search of breakfast. I was hoping to find some dirty cafe with grumpy waitresses, but lacking one of those I settled on IHOP instead. I picked up a copy of the Plainview Daily Herald and remembered what part of the country I was in. The top story was about how ethanol was driving up corn prices and hurting the region’s beef producers; the op-ed section carried a large syndicated column from Ann Coulter; then there were three pages devoted to religious news. In other words, very red.

Colorado trainIt’s interesting to see how seemingly sudden the terrain changes in comparison to state borders. The northern end of the Texas panhandle gets flat with virtually no trees, just fluffy white grass and irrigated fields. Within a couple of miles before crossing into New Mexico, mesas start cropping up. Then as you cross into Colorado, the mesas suddenly turn into mountains. I passed the familiar turnoff to the Great Sand Dunes at Walsenburg on my way north. Colorado Springs is a very pretty place, the mountains are much closer to the city than they are in Denver.

I made it to Steve’s around 4 PM on Saturday. As we were at MicroCenter, Steve gets an obscure txt message from Sam. He later realizes Sam is on his way from Minneapolis. We head downtown for a dinner of pizza. Downtown is considerably different than from when I was there in 1998-1999. There was no train then, there was no 16th street mall. The Qwest building was still there, but it didn’t seem as omnious as it did back then.

We made our way down to Adam & JoLynn’s, who I haven’t seen in a while, I think since I sold my company four years ago. Helped assemble his new grill, had some yummy burgers and hung out for a while. Not too long after returning to Steve’s and crashing, Sam showed up.

Sunday we wandered around downtown a bit and had breakfast. Afterwards Steve and I bicycled back downtown from his place. I’ve forgotten how nice it is to ride on dedicated, concrete bicycle paths like KC and Tulsa had. Here in Austin we have either gravel trails for non-road bikes and highways. Lots of nice blondes and redheads on the path. Downtown we ended up at a park on the river, where people were practicing with kayaks and wading in the water. It was a nice ride, perhaps either the altitude or the pace made my lungs hurt later, but I still felt great.

Meanwhile Sam had made his way downtown while we were there riding. After we all returned, we took the train downtown for dinner. After the ride I was pretty wiped for whatever reason. A burger and several iced teas helped somewhat.

Monday morning I packed up and headed home. In the panhandle I took a slightly different route to Dalhart which lead me smack in the middle of rolling ranch land. It was such a great feeling being out with the land, miles from any other structure, in the direct sun and warm wind. Between the trip up and the trip home, I don’t know how many Sonic iced teas I drank. Well into the double digits. The trip home felt amazingly fast. I made it back home in 14 hours, 5 minutes.

I had a realization about west Texas. Everyone thinks it is desert emptiness, but to the contrary, there’s a lot going on out there. A few clusters of oil pumping jacks here and there, cotton fields, wheat and corn fields, grain elevators, cotton gins, cattle ranches, cattle feedlots, wind turbines; it’s very much a busy area of production.

One especially interesting thing I noticed was at Lubbock airport. There is a FedEx facility there and they have what appears to be a small fleet of Cessna 208 airplanes. I had no idea they flew such small planes. I can’t imagine what they’re used for, unless it’s quicker to fly a plane to some areas for priority overnight delivery than driving a truck.

Overall I’m glad I went. With gasoline prices topping $4.00/gallon in Colorado, it was more expensive than I was estimating. Nevertheless, tt felt great to be back out on the road seeing the land, and get out of Austin. I could’ve flown for less, but I would’ve missed out on a fun roadtrip.

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