I had checked the weather forecast for the next day the night before and it showed about a 30% chance of rain the next day. Wow 30% chance here is about 100% anywhere else. It was coming down hard.
It was getting dark with low lying clouds rolling by with lots of wind. I got packed quickly but decided to hang out a bit to see if it would move on. The current weather radar showed a major storm rolling in from the east over Amarillo with lots of heavy rain and winds. For once the radar did not lie. The radar showed that there was going to be a break in the storm as it rolled over Amarillo heading west. As I got ready to leave the power went out and the rain and wind increased.
Surprisingly there was no generator at the hotel as the lights stayed off. Fortunately the electronic locks worked off the emergency batteries used to power the exit signs and lights and I could get back into my room.
After an hour or so the power came on and the rain slowed slightly. I made my move to the parking lot. No cover on the scooter. Damn Harley riders stole another one! However, they apparently just hid it this time as I found it on the other side of the parking lot against a fence
I loaded up the scooter and fired it up. The low fuel light, also known as the 'you're going to see me a lot on this trip light' was on. The gauge was pegged at empty; as in really, really empty. The engine was running and I sat there in the rain trying to figure out what the hell was going on. It was only 30 or so miles from Groom where I fueled up. Theft? Perhaps. Break in the tank line and the fuel ran out? Perhaps. But a bad fuel gauge sensor? Never crossed my mind.
It started raining harder so ever so slowly I eased out on the road headed to the gas station that was less than a mile down the road. And of course the wind began to pick up and throw debris every which way. I though this only happened in Kansas.
I pulled into the gas station and immediately was met by the bumpers of three tractor trailers exiting. Adding to my confusion was the honking from those god awful horns they have.
Why? I'm sure it didn't have anything to do with the large neon lit TRUCK EXIT ONLY sign I just happened to be riding by. So out of respect for the 'steel cowboys' I turned around and made a hasty exit with new friends on my ass. Close on my ass.
A bit further down the road I was able to enter again without so much as a peep from any of the other drivers. I pulled in and noticed an open pump had safety tape on it. Hmm, broken pump. I pulled around to another pump and same thing. Then I noticed that ALL the pumps were closed. Crap and me out of gas.
Then the light bulb went off and I thought maybe this had something to do with the power outage. I went in and asked how long until the pumps would be on; long slow eye roll accompanied by some nasal snorting and I was told about 10 minutes as the 'server was rebooting'. I'm not sue but I think several other people had been in before me and ay have masked a similar question but I'm not 100% positive.
Standing by the scooter in the near darkness of a major western storm that had the potential of being named 'Holy Sh*t 2013' at 1000 in the morning I pulled off the gas cap. I could see some fuel sloshing around. My flashlight was packed up and I don't smoke so I couldn't use a lighter to get a better look. What was going on?
As I was standing there several people pulled over and asked about the status of the fuel pumps.
Apparently being suited up with goofy protective garments and a helmet next to a scooter gave me the appearance of a knowledgeable pump jockey. After six or so I just started slowly rolling my eyes, almost losing a contact in the process, gave a nasal snort and some line about 'a server somewhere that needed something and I assured them Frank was working on it.'
All this new technology! When I was out in '10 many times I had to hand pump from a rusty 50 gallon barrel after having to push the scooter uphill through waist deep snow for miles. At least that's how I remember it.
10 minutes and 15 pump questions later my pump lit up; slid my card in and as indicated on the screen and removed it ever so quickly, the words One Moment' appeared on the screen and never wavered for 3-4 minutes. While waiting I responded to two more questions about pump status and one about whether or not the chicken gravy was that good at the attached restaurant. I punted on that one. Eventually the screen cleared and I pulled off the safety tape - probably breaking some obscure Texas law that has been on the books since before Texas was a state and pumped .7 gallons! Damn, bad fuel gauge.
While I was waiting and talking the talk about fuel delivery systems and the status of heart clogging grease I decided to head west as it looked like it was clearing and then loop back north. However, in the time it took to fuel up it got ever so dark to the west so I took the path of least resistance and headed south as it was only 'kinda of dark'.
I headed down 335 south and looped back to the west. Looking back a few times it looked really bad over Amarillo, bad, bad. Interestingly the road dried out as the storm hadn't reached this section of the city yet. I also ran across two other Holiday Inns that were dry as a bone. If I had found one of these I'd be 100+ miles down the road by now but my knowledge of fuel delivery systems would definitely lacking and Elmer from Michigan would be nursing and upset stomach.
Following the GPS I eventually ended up on 385 for quite some time. I stopped in Dalhart for fuel and food. The only choice I had was McDonalds. I was going to get a salad but that picture of the Bacon and Cheese Quarter Pounder is so tempting. Damned Madison Avenue.
I was behind two women in line. This may have been there first encounter with a McDonalds because as they got closer to the front they started to read the entire menu out loud to one another like it was Fifty Shades of Grey lite. I wish I could adequately describe the awe and excitement that was in their voices.
Finally they made to the counter. They were ordering for 6, I looked for a place to lay down wondering if I should break out the tent and sleeping bag. They ordered the first two meals and drinks and then had the guy taking the order read all of them back. Conferred with one another for a few moments and agreed that the order was correct and then ordered for the next two. Again they had the guy read back all four orders, had a short confab and moved on to the last two orders.
By now I was looking out the window for a gun shop that I knew was close and trying to remember if there as a waiting period for multiple weapons and ammo purchase in Texas. Finally all six orders were read back and everyone present was in agreement that they were correct.
Then one of the woman asked if they could write a check. The guy behind the counter probably wasn't 20 years old so I don't think he knew what a check was. To him it was a longish piece of blue colored paper that looked nothing like a 50 dollar bill he was used to getting on large orders. He had a short confab with the manager, probably a semi-longish explanation about ancient banking history and practices with a promise of a follow-up. The answer that came back was no to the extreme disappointment of the two women.
They then went digging through what appeared to me to be duffle bags slung over their shoulder and came up with a Blockbuster rental card which was probably worth more to a collector than the price of the meals. Finally they found a credit card that still that 'You must activate before use...' sticker on it. The clerk had to demonstrate to them how to slide it through the point of purchase device. My fingers were crossed this would work. It did and slowly they moved out of the way.
Quickly I ordered and moved over to wait. The group behind me moved in and began to read the menu out loud! Is this the first McDonalds in Texas? About this time one of the two women who had ordered in front of me returned to the counter as asked the clerk 'Who made the McFlurries and shakes they ordered and they couldn't find the McFlurrie or shake machines'. I left to the din of someone gushing about a grilled Southwest salad.
Headed out on 87 and I tagged New Mexico shortly after. Back through Texline and north towards Kansas. The wind was beginning to pick up, as if Kansas is known for wind, and the road wasn't in that great a shape. I ended up in Elkhart, KS. The GPS showed only one gas station in town and I didn't see any others on the main street I came in on. This one was newly opened so I think dodged a bullet there.
Heading out my Garmin routed me through some pretty dicey roads heading to Colorado. One of them was marked 'W'. Just W.
It was muddy and had some sort of pumice on it that made it incredibly slick. It was also about 20 miles long. I ended up at times only doing 10 or so miles an hour in order to, well in order to live for another day. It was miserable and hot. It seemed like the odometer never moved at times I was going so slow.
If you've ever wondered if the fan will come on while doing 18 mph in 100+ degree heat the answer is yes. It seems like its screaming at a speed that is well above what you are travelling at.
I almost lost it in the drainage troughs and the front end started going back and forth so madly that I couldn't control it. I was just ready to bail; after all I was only doing about 6 mph how badly would I get hurt landing in the mud but at the last moment I regained control.
It was about that time I felt something akin to a breakfast burrito in my shorts. It was so hot out I didn't even stop to investigate.
Shortly I was passed from behind by the only vehicle the whole time on this road. As he neared I straightened up, squared my shoulders and stared straight ahead with a steely resolve trying ever so mightily to give the impression that I was supposed to be travelling a 10 mph with what I was positive by now was breakfast in my shorts. Just another day on the road.
After an exhausting struggle I eventually ended up on another road that was in the process of being re-graveled. Another 20 mph run. I rode in the left lane for some time because I was the only person for horizon to horizon. Eventually I came to the section where both lanes had been done and I had to suck it up and ride in the deep gravel.
During this time I came across an abandoned house that had a huge garage attached to it. I stopped to take a few pictures. There was a pumping station across the road and as I was gearing back up to leave a dog that looked like a Lab wandered through it. He didn't notice me until the last minute because of the noise of the pumps. When he saw me he froze and stayed still the entire time I got ready to leave. He had a collar on but there wasn't a house for miles so I'm not sure why he was out there.
As I rode out I noticed what I thought was a long haired dog or maybe a wolf running across an open field across from the pumps. He was jumping at the sky as he ran. Very strange.
I ended up exhausted in Springfield, CO. I bypassed the town but a mile or so down the road I turned around to fill up. Better safe than sorry. There were quite a few hotels in town and I was tempted to stay but I was looking for a Holiday Inn. The closest was in Trinidad, CO. So after fueling I headed out on 160.
Heading west I could see a huge storm to the south of me. If I stayed true to the course I was on I would just miss it. To my dismay I could see on the GPS that the road turned due south with a dog leg before turning back. I could only hope that the southern leg wouldn't be that long.
Heading to this turn some of the clouds close to me from this storm started to twist and turn and drop closer to the ground. This looked ominous. The wind was continuous and forceful never letting up for a moment.
All along the road there were many abandoned farms. In fact for miles I don't think I saw one light on any of the buildings and quite a few of them had roofs that were collapsed. There were also quite a few signs in fields that read: 'Not for sale to the Army'. Not sure what that was about but if the Army wants it they'll just take it.
I stopped after the road turned south to see if I could physically see where it turned back west. I couldn't because of the rain. The storm to the south was moving in towards me and the storm to the west was still looking bad. There was a turn here that ran north to La Junta which showed a Holiday Inn. And as an added bonus the sky was clear. So I made the decision to continue on towards the storm rather than assured safety.
The southern leg ran through Kim a small town that didn't appear to have anything going for it other than a few buildings. From Kim I could now see traffic on the western route and it looked like it just missed the northern edge of the storm. In the distance I could see some low lying mountains as well which were the first ones of the trip.
Eventually I came to the turn that went west and if the road didn't curve any further south I would miss the worst of this storm. The wind was terrible. I pulled over to take some pictures of an abandoned block home and noticed that behind me Kim was completely covered by a storm, obliterated - so much for being able to turn around. The clouds from this storm were very impressive.
The sun had now dropped below the clouds and as I was heading west it was drilling a hole in my skull. Even when I closed my eyes for a few moments I could see it. This and the wind were making for a miserable day.
The distance from Springfield to Trinidad is about 122 miles well within the distance of a fill up. As the day wore it became clear that I might not make it because of the constant wind. I was only passed by three vehicles so this was a pretty remote road. Far more remote than I thought. Damned Garmin!
On I went fighting the wind and eventually the GPS display flipped over announcing that the sun had officially set. I now had the twilight join me in my misery. I saw a few elk close to the fence line running near the road and came up on a deer that was by the road. Luckily he turned back towards the field and not onto the road.
On and on as it got darker and darker. Eventually I went down to 30 miles an hour in an attempt to conserve fuel. The road turned a bit and the wind was now at my back so I cranked it up to 40 mph for a bit but when I saw the gauge move I backed down to 30 again.
On and on and I had to pee. Stopping and the accelerating from a dead stop would waste gas that I didn't think I had to spare. Finally I said screw it and parked in the middle of the road I promptly peed all over my leg because of the wind but it was very satisfying.
Back on the scooter and up to 25 mph. If I thought 50 mph headed to Groom yesterday was slow this was a drag. The countdown timer showed 19 miles to the nearest gas station. My OCD kicked in and I began to wonder if it would be open? I checked my phone and it showed several bars so I knew I probably could call for roadside service assuming those bars actually represented a connection in this remote part of the country.
15 miles and what seemed like 2 hours to go. The wind picked up to add frosting on my misery cupcake.
At about 9 miles I saw vehicle lights to the south. I could see on the GPS that I was going to join up with a major road several miles on.
At 5 miles I looked backed over my right shoulder and saw a lot of lights of some town to the north. In front of me now were two bright lights; one straight ahead and one a bit to the south at first I couldn't figure out what they were. Eventually after a mile or so it became clear these were street lights in the yards of occupied homes. I had made it to civilization.
I came to a 'T' of 160 and 350, the Kit Carson Trail and concurrently rolled 20,000 miles on the scooter. I turned towards Trinidad but really couldn't see any lights of the city. After a short period of time I passed a small hill on my left that had been blocking the city lights and Trinidad opened up to me.
After a mile or so I headed to the lights of a Shell station. I pulled in on empty and only then noticed that it was closed. However, the pumps were still on. So I tried my card and it worked and I filled up.
With the gauge showing 3/4s of a tank I rolled out on 25 south to the hotel. I immediately got hit with some of the worst winds of the day it was crazy it was so bad and the traffic was terrible.
There were very few lights on the freeway and I was surrounded by jacked-up pickups and tractor trailers hauling cattle doing 60+. Me? I was doing at most 25 mph and I could barely see as my contacts were so dry. I had the flashers on and stayed as far as I could to the right side of the road. I was getting blown all over. I knew I had to play it safe or I was going to get hurt.
Eventually I made it to the hotel exit and turned off. They had a room and I grabbed one for two nights. I was exhausted.
It was a tough day. My grip strength was shot. I could barely hold the 32 oz. drafts they had on sale in the bar that the hotel had. Tough, really tough.
Damned gas gauge.
Back towards Amarillo.
Back towards Amarillo.
I saved an hour without trying.
Whole lot of nothing.
Note to self: Don't take shortcuts.
Last gas station standing.
After seeing the area this must have been a tough place to live.
You can just see the Lab by the pump. Never moved.