37 days and one year later: part 13: random observations

This is part thirteen of a series of posts discussing various aspects of a bike trip I did across the United States in 2012. Part one discussed the start of the trip and choosing a route. Part two discussed my daily routine and nightly shelter. Part three discussed general mileage, elevation encountered, and state-by-state scenery. Part four discussed mileage extremes and water. Part five discussed food. Part six discussed elevation extremes, particularly crossing the Continental Divide at Monarch Pass. Part seven discussed how I used down time and how I kept electronics charged. Part eight discussed mechanical problems and other surprises. Part nine discussed health on an aggressively-paced cross-country bike trip. Part ten discussed how I managed to get home afterward. Part eleven lists all the gear and equipment I took with me. Part twelve discussed the cost of the trip. This post is a catch-all for other random observations I haven’t made yet.

Maximum speed

I hit my maximum speed in a place you probably wouldn’t expect: not amidst the Rockies or similar, but on a gradual descent from Carson City to Dayton in Nevada. I’d leaned my bike up too close to an electronic sensor earlier in the day, so my “maximum speed” read as 100+ mi/h, so I don’t know my actual maximum. But in glancing down at my speedometer very briefly (and thinking I probably shouldn’t be looking at it too much πŸ™‚ ), the highest number I observed was 48.0 mi/h. None too shabby! The big thing that road had going for it (presumably besides a tail wind) was its straightness. Most mountain descents had too many curves in them for me to reach those speeds.

Oh deer

One mildly exciting moment was that time I came kind of close to hitting a deer. I was descending from Lizard Head Pass in Colorado, probably in the mid-thirties speedwise. A few hundred feet off I saw several deer (mother and fawns) on left and right sides of the road, clearly looking to cross to the right. So I slowed down a bit, and they kept standing and waiting for me.

Now, the smart thing to do here is to remember that deer are dumb. Just because they see you coming, they’re not going to necessarily wait for you to pass. So you want to keep that same slow speed, and remain capable of stopping if necessary.

I, on the other hand, promptly assumed moderate intelligence, or at least intelligence commensurate with self-preservation, and assumed the deer were giving (or at least allowing) me an opening to go through. So I stopped braking and sped up again. At which point a fawn on the left side decided to run in front of me across the road. It realized its mistake too late, its hooves scrabbling on the pavement as it tried to run downhill away from me, rather than in front of me. Meanwhile, I swerved slightly to avoid it, avoiding it by a few feet or so. Closer than desirable, but good enough, and good for a story. πŸ™‚ Next time I’ll remember that 1) deer are stupid, and 2) fawns are even more stupid.

Towns and size

My route took me through a large number of fairly small towns, with populations well under 1000. I don’t really understand how these towns survive. Sure, they might be nice places for the right kind of person to retire. But for anyone who needs to make a living (at least, outside of industries where telecommuting is possible), it’s hard to see that there’s enough work needing to be done to support all those people.

The smallest, most out-of-the-way town I visited was probably Seward, KS, to which the 2010 census ascribed a population of 64. Seward was 18 miles from the previous town, a mile off a county road (so if you’re there, you had to have chosen to go there), and 33 miles from the next town (itself off the county road, albeit on a slightly larger north-south road). Yet somehow it managed to support an entire restaurant in Mom’s Bar and Grill. (With its own website!) Truly surreal. (Although they had a sense of humor about it: one of the staff wore a T-shirt that said, “Where in the hell is Seward, Kansas?” πŸ™‚ Too true!)

And with that, at least going from a last skim of the route, I might be out of particular things to note. πŸ™‚ Next time, retrospective and wrapup.


  1. You really ought to have your numbers in metric, too, since not all of your readers are from our backwards country.

    Also, I grew up in a town of population 200, thank you very much. πŸ™‚ In terms of economy, the area was heavily based on logging and mills. And you don’t have to support a full set of services (grocery stores etc.) because people drive to the larger towns in the area. We went to the local mega-metropolis, population 1500 or so, though we grew most of our own food so it was only occasional. So part of the answer is that these small towns are specialty satellite communities, not fully self-sufficient. Though the ones in the middle of the country — well, I can’t figure those out either, since there aren’t really any visible resources around.

    We had 2 gas stations, 2 convenience stores, several churches, a grade school, and 3 restaurants. Oddly, restaurants are one of the easiest things to maintain. Maybe because they draw from a wider population? We were on the main path between civilization and the beach.

    Hm… come to think of it, my whole life is somewhere on the path between civilization and the beach.

    Comment by Steve Fink — 06.09.13 @ 20:04

  2. […] eleven lists all the gear and equipment I took with me. Part twelve discussed the cost of the trip. Part thirteen was a catch-all for other random observations not already made yet. This post concludes the series […]

    Pingback by Where's Walden? » 37 days and one year later: part 14: conclusion — 07.09.13 @ 17:18

  3. The services aren’t what I wonder so much about. Austin in Nevada was ~70mi from the next big city, and people there told me they did what I expected they’d do: loaded up once a month for a 150mi road trip for groceries (and anything else). It’s not the availability of stuff that makes me wonder why people live in these places. That just requires planning and finessing of timing. (Initially when I was in college, I did pretty much exactly this to minimize visiting the grocery store, despite its being two blocks from me. πŸ™‚ Over time I got lazy and stopped being quite so careful, but I didn’t stop for its not being doable.) It’s the availability of work and jobs to support them being there. People can drive elsewhere to work, but that has obvious costs that make it likely infeasible as a general solution. (Telecommuting works too, but again, it’s not something everyone can do.)

    I was told at one point that many of these small towns along the way, in the middle of the country into Kentucky or so, were slowly on their way to dying. So I guess my instincts weren’t totally wrong, just expecting that it would have happened sooner than it actually will (if things continue as they are).

    Comment by Jeff — 10.09.13 @ 14:50

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