Scottsdale / Montrose
|Friday, July 12th, 2002
Start: Boulder, Colorado
End: Cozad, Nebraska
In the morning, we have cereal and bagels at the motel's continental breakfast.
After that, I check the battery level and no surprise there - the same two cells are nearly dry again. I add water, and then fire the bike up and check voltage at the battery. It reads about 13.5 volts, according to my pocket multi-meter. That number sounds like a good number... I'm worried because although the bike is starting fine I don't want to be adding water to the battery at every fill-up, nor do I want to be looking for a battery on Sunday in a small town in Iowa on foot when we both have to be back to work on Monday.
At around 10:00 AM, I call the local dealer. They have a battery, but before I buy it I talk with the service manager. I ask about having him check the condition of the charging system, as I don't want to cook a brand-new battery. He asks about my battery, and I tell him about my voltage reading of 13.5 volts. He says the battery is probably bad, the charging system is probably fine, and if it were his bike he'd put a battery in it and see what happens. I ask about warranty, just in case. I'm told batteries are not warranty; they're a wear item. Oh! That changes the picture a bitů
He also explains that they can check the charging system, but if there's nothing wrong they'd have to bill me for doing so - checking the charging system wouldn't be warranty if there's no problem found.
And then the most logical part of the whole conversation: if they check it and find a problem, they couldn't fix it anyway because they wouldn't have the parts in stock. Put a battery in and see what happens, odds are the problem will be solved at that point.
I like the dose of reality - he's absolutely right. We don't have a lot of options, and his suggestion is the most reasonable course to take. He tried to sell me what I needed, not what I wanted to hear. I like that; and I tell him we'll be in to pick up a battery shortly, and I get directions.
Sharon and I pack, check out, and head to the dealer - it's just a couple miles away. The new battery is already filled up for us, but it would be best if the electrolyte were allowed to soak in for a few hours before charging the battery... We browse the store a bit, then head over to a nearby Wendy's for lunch, while waiting for 2 hours to go by, to give the electrolyte time to soak into the plates.
After lunch, we install the battery in the dealer's parking lot and head out of Boulder.
It seems to take forever to get from the center of Boulder to I-76, there are miles of new home construction that we pass through. Big expensive new homes... it appears Boulder is much like Phoenix in its growth.
Finally on the Interstate, and it feels good to just twist the throttle, cruise along just a tad above the 75 mph speed limit, and watch the scenery and the miles on the odometer scroll by. The desert and farms along I-76 form a patchwork of brown and green - at times heavy on the farms and at other times heavy on the desert. Other times the scenery in that stretch is pretty desolate.
Since Boulder is about 1300 miles from Dearborn, I figure that 3 x 430+ mile days should do it. An easy goal at these speeds, we should be able to have dinner in Nebraska no sweat... Then at Julesburg CO near the Colorado border, we see a sign warning that I-80 / I-76 interchange is closed ahead.
We pull off at the rest area in Julesburg and ask the folks there about I-80. Turns out there was a flash flood in Nebraska a few days ago, and it took out a bridge. A truck plunged into the Platte River, the driver was killed, and construction crews have been at working hard since then to get a new bridge up. All east-west traffic is being re-routed. All of it...
Why am I not surprised that we'd run into something like that on this trip? We've already had drought, a heat wave, forest fires, and mechanical problems - a flash flood fits right in.
On the other hand, I'm glad that we weren't the first vehicle to learn that the bridge was out. And the really good news is that the I-80 / I-76 interchange is supposed to be open around 5:00 PM or so. We check the time - if we grab a bite now and eat slowly, we could miss some of this mess.
We ask about a place to eat that's local and Mexican. We're told to head back the way we came, via US-138 if we want pretty scenery, to El Allegro in the little town of Ovid, Colorado.
What a nice ride! This area is very agricultural, US-138 parallels the Platte River, and a rail line parallels US-138. It looks a lot like the area where I live; but with the land being a bit less flat, a bit more rounded.
As we pull into Ovid, we pass a large factory that appears to have been abandoned decades ago. There's also an odd display of cast-off farm equipment, grafted together to look like ants and grasshoppers and such.
Ovid itself is darned near a ghost town, the main drag is perpendicular to US-138 and most of the businesses are boarded up. The main street is empty, except at El Allegro - it seems every car that's in town is parked right there. A good sign....
We park, go inside, and are seated. The food and service are both very good.
I ask about the abandoned factory - I'm told that's the old sugar beet factory that closed about 25 years ago... Ah, the picture becomes clearer - Ovid is a small town that had one major business, and that business closed. The rest of the town has been hanging on ever since.
We pay our bill, and I ask why there's no standard sign for this restaurant at the Interstate exit. The owner shrugs, says he doesn't know, but that they remain busy all the time and if they did have a sign on the Interstate that would just make things worse. He tells me they don't really need more business than what they have.
Summary: El Allegro in Ovid, Colorado - highly recommended. But do the owner a favor and keep it quiet...
We get back on I-76, and in just a few miles we're on I-80. This isn't so bad, maybe they got the bridge fixed?
We go just few miles eastbound on I-80, and traffic comes to a halt. All traffic must exit, due to road construction, i.e., the bridge. So, we exit. National Guardsmen route us from I-80 north on small rural roads to US-30, which is also two-lane. This is an absolute mess - we pass through small towns on these small roads, bumper to bumper in the heat. I don't think that the roads were constructed for this volume of traffic, the asphalt has deep ruts in it from all the tractor-trailer traffic. The amount of traffic that a modern Interstate highway can handle is really put into perspective when you try to cram all that traffic onto a 2-lane road....
On the plus side, the scenery is pleasant. Slowing down a bit, once you accept that you have no choice in the matter, is sort of nice after a few hundred miles of high-speed Interstate droning. And I've never traveled on US-30 this far west, so I'm seeing new things. In places, a rail line parallels US-30 so we get to keep pace with a fast train occasionally as well. And the people in the towns are seeing new things too, now and then there are residents standing in their front yards slack-jawed at the amount of traffic rolling by. I'm pretty amazed myself...
We travel maybe 10-15 miles on US-30, and then we're directed back onto I-80 by more Nebraska National Guardsmen. Back to the routine: sit here, twist this, and watch the scenery go by. Do math in my head using numbers off the odometer and the clock, to see if we're roughly on schedule or not...
It's fairly late when we get to Cozad. Seems like a decent place to call it a night, before it's too late, so we stop.
We try to check in at the hotel, but there's a line. The first customer in line is extremely irate, his charge card is being rejected and the desk clerk is running it through the scanner over and over to try to appease the guy. Meanwhile the customer is not taking it well, he's whiney and irritable and rather nasty to the desk clerk. Finally the guy gives up and goes away, and the frazzled desk clerk can help the rest of us. Everybody else waiting in line exhales.
Our turn, we ask for the rate and it's around $45. Fair enough... any discounts? Yup, included... He types in the info, hits this key and that one, and when our bill comes out it's around $27. He has no idea why, and we have no complaints about the price. We both thing he has made a mistake, but he doesn't know how to fix it. Forced to take a nice room at a cut-rate price, we accept.
I ask if he's been doing this job long, it turns out he hasn't. I don't tell him, but it shows.
I ask about the irate customer, and the clerk tells me his card wouldn't go through and there was nothing that the clerk could do about it, so he kept trying to please the guy by running the card again and again. Hoping to help, I politely reply that perhaps he should have just leveled with the guy, that maybe the card was rejected due to charging a lot of things on vacation that were out of his normal usage patterns. I tell him it happened to us earlier on this very trip, and a phone call to the bank resolved the issue in just a few minutes.
There's a long pause, then an: "Oh..."
We take our key, park the bike out of the way, and unload our stuff. Unwind just a bit, watch the Weather Channel for a heads-up on tomorrow's weather, and turn in.