Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 16 Windmills, Sunflowers, and Flat Roads Briggsdale - Yuma, CO 116 miles

The change in culture and topography is stunning. Indeed, Colorado has two halves, and they are starkly different. I am getting to see both at a very slow pace.

This morning I awoke to the sound of coyotes in the Pawnee National Grassland, then set about finding a phone to call back to North Carolina radio. Fortunately, the hour was not too early for a truck driver eating his bowl of cereal. All day I headed east; for just as long, the wind blew out of the north. I tried to will it to turn 90 degrees to the west, but it never happened. The August prairie sun beat down on me with intensity, and I grew more tired, and sooner, than I thought.

I wondered how different the landscape would look and smell if it was not under intensive livestock production. I passed numerous livestock feed lots enroute east towards Kansas. I wondered whether this production was one of the reasons I saw such little wildlife today, the least of any day of the trip. The Pawnee National Grassland protects a very small portion of native prairie habitat, so it is not surprising that I saw a great number of bird and mammal species on my ride through there yesterday and stopover last night. That grassland is home to the mountain plover, a species that is similar in appearance to piping plover.

I was fortunate to see several species of buteos today. Perhaps they are color variants of the same species, for the bulk of the ones I am seeing have a similar body shape and wing span. When I was zoning out during one stretch today, I suddenly was alarmed by a loud screech just above my head. Evidently I had biked too close to a nest and the hawk let me know about it from very close range. Also noteworthy today was the roadside vegetation, including abundant wild sunflowers. This provided good scenery on a ride that was otherwise hot, flat, and straight through the beginning of the American midwest.

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