Today started off great! For breakfast, I made some cranberry orange pancakes from a box of muffin mix I'd bought at the grocery store the night before. They were delicious!
And we probably should've stopped our day right there and gone back to bed!
Since our health insurance was still unresolved, April got back on the phone while I cleaned up from breakfast. After over 30 minutes on hold, she learned that I had been accepted for coverage, but she had been denied. When she asked why, she was told it was because she has Factor 5, a clotting "disorder" she had disclosed in the application process. It's never been an issue in the family medical history, and was only even discovered a couple years ago, but the insurance company wasn't interested. April asked if she could appeal the decision and the rep said sure, but it probably won't change anything. Grrr...
Pastor Bill, the pastor of the church we were staying at, walked in about then and, after listening patiently, suggested we take the Cobra option from termination benefits with Rockwell. Even though it's more expensive, we'd at least have coverage. Then when we get home and have time, we can worry about getting more affordable coverage. Good advice, and kind of what we were planning on doing anyway, but that just affirmed it. So that's what we did, and now we have health insurance again. Yay.
Pastor Bill also had printed out a bunch of maps and highlighted different route options across Kansas and told us the advantages and disadvantages of each. We ultimately ended up sticking with route we had on our maps because he knew some places we could stay, but we appreciated knowing our options and what we were getting into!
April called some of the contacts Pastor Bill had in Fowler, 70 miles away, and found a place for us to stay. By the time we had signed up for Cobra, packed up, prayed with Pastor Bill, and taken a picture, it was after 11 when we left...and we were getting hungry again.
Fortunately, on the way out we passed a Subway! Unfortunately, the line was literally almost out the door! But there was a McDonald's just up the street, so we dined in dollar menu style. By the time we left there, it was just after noon...and we still had pretty much the whole 70 miles to go. Yikes!!
Unfortunately it was very windy again, and once again it was blowing against us. Pastor Bill had given us a way to cut about 20 miles off our route to Pueblo, and it also took us around the outskirts of the city instead of through it. We got to West Pueblo about mile 25 and saw a Subway. Yay! It was time to eat again, so it worked out perfectly.
Our food stop took about 30 minutes, so it was after 3:30 when we left. That meant we still had over 45 miles to go before dark. And there was still a relentless headwind that was making it very difficult to make any progress.
After pressing hard for 15 more miles we realized we would never make it to Fowler. It was already 5:00 and we still had 30 miles to go. Even if the wind totally stopped, we would have to maintain over 20 mph to make it before dark...impossible on our fully loaded bikes. One of the only things we could think of to do to ease our frustration was to make a video to show you just how windy it is. Then you could feel sorry for us (and send us cookies or something :-)). I think this captures it pretty well. As you watch, just imagine biking INTO this wind AAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLL DDDAAAAYYYYY. Arg.
It was such a frustrating and disappointing admission. Our last two days should've been totally awesome, easy, fast, high-mileage days as we descended out of the mountains onto the high plains. But it felt like they were both stolen from us by these two days of huge headwinds! Instead of awesome, we barely made average! And that made them feel way below average.
April felt like crying and I felt like joining her. She called the person in Fowler we were planning to stay with and told them we wouldn't be able to make it. They were bummed too, because they had been looking forward to meeting us. In April's voicemail was a message saying we had a second place we could stay, so April called them but got their machine. In the middle of leaving the massage she lost it and started crying. So she apologized for crying and hung up.
We decided instead of Fowler, we'd just go to Boone, only 15 miles up the road. Getting back on the road and moving again helped us feel a little better, though the wind kept taunting us in big gusts.
Before long, we passed a touring cyclist going the other direction with a huge American flag trailing behind his bike. He gave us a big smile and wave. Then a second one, probably the first guy's riding partner, passed as well. That pushed April over the edge again, but she pushed on and rode through the tears.
We made it to Boone finally, completely exhausted from our day. Boone is a very small town and was named after a relative of Daniel Boone. The park we were planning to camp in didn't have any bathrooms, and the only store in town was closed for the day.
I had just set up the tent when we heard a "Hello!", and a tall, older guy was coming across the grass towards us. He introduced himself as Larry and told us he had a kitchen, bed, showers, whatever we might need. He said when he came to Boone, he only had $40, his motor home, and his dog. Since then, he'd acquired three buildings, which was most of the downtown, and was helping to revive this place.
He gave credit for all his good fortune to "doing what God wanted him to do" and told us about a project he was working on, The Prairie Horizons bike trail, which was basically a project to improve the roadways that the TransAmerica trail follows through southeastern Colorado.
Then, in the next breath, he told us that he was just a dirty old man, that he was ex-military special forces, and that he had pictures of naked women on his walls "because God made them with His own hand, so we should enjoy them", and that we would have to judge what kind of person we thought he was for ourselves.
Wow, what a strange introduction. But we overlooked the latter in favor of the former. A shower. A kitchen. A bathroom! Even a bed! That sounded great! So I took the tent right back down, and we went over to Larry's place.
Larry lived on the second floor of one of his downtown buildings. The first level was under renovation and the floor was practically caved in at a couple points. As we put our bikes inside, he instructed us "to walk over here, it's a bit more stable." We also learned that in putting extra supports under the floor, they had just found a tunnel in the basement that went out under the road. Pretty interesting. They aren't sure what the tunnel was originally for. One of their guesses is "to grow weed".
The second floor was much more level and solid. We met Larry's roommate, a younger guy named Zeb who was staying there while he helped Larry restore and organize the first floor. Zeb showed us to our room and explained that the bathroom had no door and told us to just ignore the pictures of naked women hanging in the hallway. We also learned that there was no bed in our room or door for the bathroom.
Ok, things weren't turning out quite how we'd expected, but it was still better than the park, and everyone was friendly enough, and we didn't feel in danger or anything. So we unpacked our sleeping pads, set up our stuff, and went to make dinner.
That's when Larry first mentioned the donation box. "This place is hard to keep going, and I don't have a set price. I just ask that you put in what you think is fair." Huh? This wasn't mentioned in the introductory sales campaign, nor when we'd first come over. Now it was dark and we were already set up in the spare room, so we were sort of stuck.
I was cooking Ramensghetti (Ramen noodles in spaghetti sauce) for our dinner. Larry came in and said that was fine, he liked spaghetti, but he also had some hamburgers that were just donated to him that he was thinking I could cook up...if I wanted. So I agreed to cook the burgers.
While I prepared dinner, Larry gave April a tour of his military medals and a few guns he had in his house. He had a handgun with a large silencer in his bedroom, and a long, European, military rifle of some sort in the room we were staying in. He said "when you fight in Europe, you use European weapons. They sound different than American ones you know, and the enemy knows too!". Then he took it out of our room and put it in his room.
We were quickly learning that Larry was a story teller. It was hard to separate reality from fiction in his stories. As I was preparing the burgers, he kept saying to fix them up real good and suggesting things I should put on them, things he was obviously hoping for. He said he was in Europe once and had apprenticed under a master chef. It was a good thing too, because he later found himself out on the streets, but he was able to take a job as a cook in a five star restaurant to make money.
He then handed me a meat cleaver and told me I should use it to cut up the onion I was slicing (I just fine with the knife I'd chosen, I might add!). I don't know if you've ever tried to slice an onion with a meat cleaver...not the best option.
With the burgers cooking, I poked around the kitchen a bit to see what else he had. There were two fridges full of food, much of it donated, but much of it very expired. It reminded me a lot of the kitchen way back at Orange Acres. You had to be careful what you used, or you might be in for a surprise!
I ended up making cheeseburgers covered with sauteed onions and some kind of mango sauce. They were pretty good!
Larry also had a huge TV. I mean monstrous. It must've been about 6 feet wide. He was showing it off to April while I cooked dinner. It had multiple picture in picture, which he said he used to monitor his many security cameras while he watched TV. And he did have a lot of cameras! At one point, he told me to come into the living room and sit down in a chair in front of the TV. Then he turned on one of the many cameras I'd seen around the place and my picture showed up on the TV. He was like a little kid playing with his toys telling us how he'd wired all the different cameras (a mix of old 8mm reel, Hi8, VHS, and who knows what other old cameras) so that he could see all around his properties while he watched TV.
After dinner, we watched a movie and April tried to work on the website a bit. Then it was time to use the doorless bathroom and go to bed! There are so many more things I could write about our night at Larry's, but I think that is enough for now.