We are huddled in the porch of a church in Sheridan Lake, Colorado and a storm is howling outside. The sky has gone black, the trees are being whipped into a frenzy and tumble weeds are hurtling past the door quitting the town like they know something really bad is about to happen. I’m standing with Terry and Varney, the pastor’s wife who tells us they’ve not seen rain like this for months. Suddenly her son, VJ, reported that Splitter’s Farm, three miles away has been hit by a tornado.
To our right the tail end of the storm is a green colour. “That means hail,” says VJ, who is more keen to tell us Brits about his love of Dr Who. But our eyes are transfixed on the front of the storm, which is stirring up great brown clouds in its path. Not rain, but made up of the dirt and dust it’s lifting from the ground and hurling skywards – and all the time, sheet lightning flashing, illuminating the scene against the gloom.
To us it’s frightening. To the church’s parishioners, mostly local farmers, this is a godsend. Rain has been scarce in Sheridan Lake this year, so much so that there is no lake. Many farmers have lost their crops and times are hard. You only need to look around to gather the evidence, more abandoned buildings and the feel of a town struggling for a future. But this rain will help the main crops of wheat, corn millet and sunflowers – and by the time the storm ends even Sheridan Lake has returned to make a brief appearance.
Inside, the Sheridan Lake Bible church has become a sanctuary as twelve TransAmerican cyclists take cover – Terry and I, Jonathan and Jerry, Mike, Tuan and Jessica, Warren and Esther, who have been cycling round the world for four years, two East-bounders and Carl, the last to arrive after being caught out in the storm and rescued by a man in a pick-up truck. It makes you think what we’ve have done if we been caught out in the open. While cycling in this area you are always looking for cover should a storm strike, but the last twenty plus miles have offered nothing. We were lucky – and thanks to the church we are all safe.
The day had begun so differently. With high temperatures predicted we got up at the Athletico Club at 5.30am, headed into town for a diner and by 7am we were on the road for our last day in Kansas. As we passed Leoti, Tuan and Jessica joined the trail and by lunchtime we had around 45 miles under our belt already. With temperatures beginning to soar (and there is very little cover in Kansas) we stopped at Tribune, population 741, but boasting a gastro-pub (of sorts).
Sixteen miles later and we were in Colorado, our sixth state and a great excuse for photos. Mind you we were still on the same road – the 96 which we have followed for more than 300 miles. On route today we met our first true West-East TransAm cyclist, Zane, from Eugine, Oregon. A good tailwind took us into Sheridan Lake (which looked rather like an Antarctic base) and half and hour later all hell broke lose.
But there is always an upside and this one was great – 12 TransAm cyclists, sheltered together in church for the night eating food (Terry and I grabbed Pizza from the local convenience store) and swopping trail stories.
Today’s miles: 76
Miles since First Landing: 2134