Unlike previous years when my ride home from Telluride has taken me along the Pony Express route or the Oregon Trail or the route of Lewis and Clark or the Mormons or Route 66, there has not been a great abundance of historical markers on the Santa Fe trail giving its history and detailing significant events. Like the other trails though, there have been spots where one can see the ruts left by the wagons of those early settlers and pioneers.
The southern Santa Fe Trail was more prone to Indian attacks than the others, as it cut through territory inhabited by the more war-like Comanches and Apaches. This was more of a trade route than an emigration route. In the more dangerous stretches those on the trail would drive their wagons four abreast so they could quickly circle their wagons to defend themselves. The stretch I have followed for the past 150 miles follows the Arkansas River, which in the early days of the trail formed the US border with Mexico, now hundreds of miles further south along the Rio Grande. Its not much of a river this time of the year. Its bordered by a narrow band of scruff that in the spring is covered in water.
The road doesn't hug it very closely. The only times I have seen it have been the three times I have crossed it, all in Colorado so far--in Las Animas, Lamar and beyond Granada. A historical marker in Granada mentioned that it had been the site of one of ten internment camps for Japanese civilians during WWII. It was established in August 1942, eight months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. At its height it hosted 7,318, mostly from Los Angeles. All that remains of the camp is one concrete building and the foundations of many of the others.
Sunday has been the only day when the temperatures have been above seventy. The river would have been inviting if it had any depth and was at all accessible. Instead I had to settle on town park water faucets to douse myself and service station self-serve fountain drinks to cool myself. A 32-ounce drink with as much ice as I want is a true delight. I haven't had enough experience with them this year to gauge how much ice to put in the cups to get that right balance of keeping the soda ice cold and maximizing the amount of soda. I give high priority to having enough ice, but I don't want to overdue it either.
The first tail wind of the travels blew me into Kansas Sunday. I took advantage of it right up to dark. I was following a railroad track with a steep embankment and periodic clumps of bushes that I knew I could camp below when it became too dark to continue cycling. The wind was still blowing when I set up camp. When it stilled sometime in the night I was awoken by the acrid smell of a nearby field that the wind had been blowing away from me. At least it wasn't as strong as the stark feedlots that have dotted the way and force me to hold my breath and wonder why the society for prevention of cruelty to animals isn't picketing these sights.
Later in the night the wind resumed, but this time from the northeast, dropping the temperature and also inflicting me with a headwind. After effortlessly flying along at eighteen miles per hours the day before, I was straining to push the bike at nine miles per hour. Fortunately, I have no deadlines, at least yet, on this trip, so I didn't need to fret and could simply appreciate being on the bike and gaze about at the wide open scenery, some of which was being planted with winter wheat. It wasn't until I was thirty miles into Kansas that I left the Mountain Time Zone. It isn't defined by the border with Colorado in this central section of the state.
I was nearly seventy miles into Kansas before I came upon a Carnegie Library in the thriving and sprawling agri-business town of Garden City, the largest I'd come upon since Durango with a population of 26,000. It was no surprise that it had outgrown its hundred year old library and had built a new one. The Carnegie now serves as home to the local NPR station. It was a magnificent and well-maintained four-pillared building, shaded by large trees on an old-fashioned brick-inlaid street. I arrived just before dark, so the lamp post out front, a feature of many Carnegies, symbolizing enlightenment, had been turned on.
I rode into the dark, making it as far as the town's cemetery, several miles before its airport, before I found a place to camp. Once again it was a cool night, but now that I'm down to under 3,000 feet, not as cold as it had been in Colorado when I was camping at over 8,000 feet.