The Trans-America Challenge 2012
7th May - 8th June 2012
Dodge City to Colorado Springs
MAY 15TH, 2012
Planes trains and automobiles, today we see them all.
Like countless outlaws who'd gone before us the road out of Dodge City was a welcome sight this morning. As the day dawned bright and clear the first thirty miles saw us running alongside the railroad and passing many massive roadside grain silos and prairies full of wind farms. On the road to Montezuma we began to pass the cattle, thousands, tens of thousands maybe lined up at feed troughs or just lying in the dirt. Turning off towards Ulysees we crossed another railway line, we passed prairie sized fields full of irrigation booms and we passed yet more cattle.
Navigation in these parts isn't difficult. A compass is as good as a GPS as the roads run so straight but signs for Moscow had us worried for a minute but soon we were safely in Ulysees where a pink pig shaped VW Beetle caught our eye. Shortly afterwards we crossed into Colorado - and the mountain time zone - and spotted the first of many mile long cargo trains creeping their way along the tracks.
Further along the route a bright yellow crop dusting plane caught our eye as he wheeled and skewed his way between the irrigation booms, the power lines and the highway. He's got to be low to spray effectively but he's also got to remember he's an airplane. There were times we worried that he hadn't got the balance right. As we stood and watched we began to feel like Carey Grant in Hitchcock’s North by North West.
Miles of beautifully graded, dead straight gravel took us to the first regularity test and en route we saw an eagle having a prairie dog lunch - a little early we felt but we decided not to make a fuss.
At more than ten miles long this loose and flowing route took us through Baker Canyon. This is real cowboy country so we tethered the horse and sat down to watch the cars come through only to be warned off by an unmistakable and chilling rattle from the scrub...... We checked with a passing local "Do you have rattlesnakes here”? “Hell yeah. They're kinda' brown and stripey so y'all know what to look for next time".
Once we'd steadied our nerves and selected another seat the action began. Most of the crews made, light work of the regularity but it wasn't without incident. Keith Ashworth, drove the whole section with a stuck throttle linkage. He controlled his speed with the brakes but by the end of it had boiled the fluid and we found him and the sweeps hard at it trying to get back on the road only to run out of fuel a little further on. Other incidents of note include the Washington’s Dodge which required a new fuel pump, a 6v pump had been fitted to the 12v system!
The beautiful no. 11 Jag' of the Irthums broke a rotor arm shortly before the night halt but the sweeps got it going again and all's well with them.
The veteran Alvis of Greenhalgh and Slowe briefly lost a wheel in the car park. More embarrassing than damaging they got it screwed back on very quickly and agreed to say no more about it.
On the run in to Colorado Springs we caught a glimpse of the looming Rocky Mountains with just a hint of snow on the tops and as we're staying at the excellent Cheyenne Mountain Resort some of the crews who arrived early enough took it upon themselves to drive the renowned Pikes Peak climb.
A taste of things to come perhaps?