48 miles (77 km) – Total so far: 1,655 miles (2,663 km)
As the fog lifted, US highway 400 merged with US highway 77. Crap, more traffic! Then the shoulder narrowed. Crap, getting squeezed!. Then a military convoy rolled up behind me USING THE SHOULDER! Crap, tanks! I found a spot to squeeze off to the side and let them pass. I didn’t know how the men with M16s would react to me taking out my camera, so no pictures of the convoy. After they passed by the US highway became indistinguishable from a full-on interstate. I turned off the first exit and plotted a bailout route into Wichita. I ended up on 8 miles of gravel road. Free of tanks. Fine by me.
Rather than going straight to the hotel where I’m resting for a day I routed a detour to Heartland Bike shop. On the way I passed the first Starbucks in 1,600 miles. My detour got detoured. As one might expect I enjoyed a wonderfully refreshing coffee. Less expected, but equally enjoyable, was an informative conversation about Colorado with a local cyclist, Mike. Mike had spent 20 years in Colorado. He had some great tips for when I get there. His eyes sparkled as he recalled Breckinridge. Looking forward to that part of the trip.
I had come very close to just skipping the bike store. I had been wanting to get a smaller front chainring to make steep ascents more manageable. It seemed unlikely that any shop would have a 26-tooth 5-bolt 9-speed front chainring in stock. Especially since 5-bolt chainrings have been largely replaced by 4-bolt chainrings. I figured I could just skip it and special order from a shop in Pueblo where I’d be in a week. But, I didn’t have anywhere to be for an hour, so I forced myself to go.
I told the shop owner, Byron, what I was looking for. He looked at the bike … went into the shop… grabbed a chainring… put it up to the crank… went back in the shop… got a strange measuring tool… measured the bolt spacing… went back to the shop to grab a crank tool… pulled the crank, installed the new ring, then reinstalled the crank. The whole operation was about five minutes. It was a fricking miracle. Also miraculous, the new ring just barely fit the front derailleur. For the gearheads out there, I’d say I have about 0.5mm or less of clearance from the top of the derailleur to the big ring, and barely a hair of clearance from the bottom of the derailleur to the chain when taut. It is an outrageously tight tolerance… but if fits! I’m going to keep the old chainring on me in case I’m getting carried away here.
All of this is to say, I have replaced my granny-gear with a great-granny-gear. The new chainring has 13.3% more mechanical advantage than the old one… which is going to make a huge difference on the steep hills. Bring it, Rockies! Great-granny said knock you out.
I’m now chilling out with my wife who flew to Wichita to join me for my rest day. See you on the other side.