July 4, 1999 - Day 29 - Independence Day - Brush to Wray, Colorado

- 82 miles, 15.7 mph average, 1646 total miles, max speed not functioning

14 roadkill
No flat tires since Glenwood Springs. Problem solved!

Fireworks
Fireworks at Wray
I'm writing tonight from Wray, Colorado, designated an All-American City in 1993. Outside my motel window I can hear fireworks exploding all over town, non-stop.
Wray's fireworks tonight were just great; even more so because I really thought I was going to miss out on any kind of 4th of July celebration at all. Boy, was I wrong.

Let me tell you about my wonderful Fourth of July.

The day started around 9:00 with a good breakfast in Brush at a nice local establishment; a big hashbrowns/cheesy thing with bacon. Very good.
I wanted to get an earlier start than usual due to both the heat and the fact that I wanted to take time to see the World Cup semifinal if I could, although the odds on that were going to be long in this part of the country.

It was hot. I'll include my liquid consumption totals at the end. You won't believe them, but I'm not exaggerating.

Washington County Sign
Typical view today on Rte. 34
I went through three counties today: left Morgan, went through Washington, and am in Yuma County tonight. You can check them out on the Info pages.
The towns today went in this order west to east:
Brush, Akron, Otis, Yuma, Wray, with a couple of crossroads called towns in between.

Otis
Otis
Brush and Akron had already had their parades and fireworks yesterday, so I assumed I just wasn't going to see either today; I'd settle for the soccer game, but even that was iffy.
Otis was the smallest of the towns I went through, but supposedly had the biggest 4th of July celebration in the whole region, supposedly tripling in size, up to about 1500.
When I arrived shortly after 1:00, the main drag seemed pretty dead, but when I looked down it's downtown cross street, I saw a big striped tent set up about four blocks down with a bunch of cars.

Kids Parade
Kid's parade in Otis
You just can't imagine what a kick I got out of this little parade. It was just starting as I pulled up. The pickup truck drove slowly in front of the kids playing John Phillips Souza marches from a loudspeaker in the back. They rode four blocks up one side of the street and four blocks back again. I took pictures and applauded and cheered for the kids.

Kids Balloons
This is America.

Man on bike with children
Squeezed

105 degrees
That's the temperature, not the time

It might have been 105, but nobody seemed to mind too much, and these kids made my Fourth of July very special. I stopped two women as I was leaving and thanked them. They invited me down to the big tent for ice cream, but I had 15 miles to go to Yuma and one hour to get there. If you look at my average speed for today, you'll see I needed to get going. Word was Yuma had a sports bar! I started riding, wondering if it would be open.

Central Pivot
Center Pivot
I was making really good time to Yuma, so when I saw this center pivot system, I had to stop; not to take a picture. To get WET!!! It was H-O-T!! These things are huge. That end nozzle is like the ones in your yard where that piece of metal slaps the steam of water which forces the nozzle to turn a little bit each time. Except with the force of a fire hose. The angle changes about five degrees with each burst, but it comes from a long way away, so you see it coming and have to intercept it. When it hits, it's ice cold and just about knocks you over. I did it three times. Better than a water park. And cheaper.
I got back on the bike and was dry in about five minutes.

Pepsi with Sports on
Does it get better?
I got to Yuma at 2:25 and stopped at the first restaurant I saw. First, they were open! Second, they had a TV!! Third, they had ESPN!!! Fourth, they sold soft drinks in half gallons!!!! That's right folks; that's not some trick angle with the camera - that's a stinkin' half gallon of diet Pepsi. On ice. Yes, I drank it all.
And then I ordered the BBQ beef sandwich, onion rings and a milk shake and sat back to watch our women's national team play Brazil to reach the World Cup Final.

Soccer Game Winner
Parlow's game winner
I do have an uncanny knack for feeling a goal coming, but... this is the replay. This is the only goal the U.S. would need today thanks to an unbelievable job of goaltending by Brianna Scurry. Michelle Akers added an insurance penalty kick in the second half when Mia Hamm got taken down in the area. But who set Hamm up? It was old lady Akers with a powerful header pass, winning the ball over two Brazilian opponents.
As Akers went to the line, I felt it was the important moment of the game. The Brazilian goalie could redeem her mistake that led to the first goal, and Brazil, which certainly had shown they were capable, would take the momentum and...
So as Akers stood addressing the ball, I said, "Climb that mountain, Akers." She did. I was the only soccer fan in the restaurant. I brought my little flag in and cheered and yelled. Hey, I'll probably never be in Yuma, Colorado again. The restaurant folks were super nice. I tipped generously.

Shane and Vince
Shane and Vince, All-American boys from Yuma
I met Shane and Vince sitting in a car outside the restaurant. Shane Powell, on the left, will be a senior next year at Yuma High. V ince Breyer, on the right, just graduated and will attend NorthEast Junior College in Sterling this fall, then transfer up to University of North Dakota where he'll play football. I appreciated meeting both boys. They both seemed serious about their futures, which means they'll likely have one. Good luck to you, guys.

As I pedaled the fifteen miles between Yuma and Wray, and afternoon began to turn to evening, I began to reflect on our country. I found myself humming, then singing 'America the Beautiful'. I reached the summit of a small hill and it just seemed like the sun was doing neat things, so I turned around and looked.

America the Beautiful
America the Beautiful

Oh beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain

America, America
God shed his grace on thee
And crown Thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea

This song has made me uncomfortable in recent years, because it seemed like unjustified bragging. But I'm seeing it differently today. I've had the verb tenses wrong. I'm seeing it as a prayer, a hope, a plea, not a boast. It's just like our personal lives: God gives us the gifts and we have to decide how we'll utilize them.
I should know who said this, but here's the quote:
"If your're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."
(In memory of Ricky Birdsong and the thousands of other racially motivated American deaths in our history. We have work to do.)

I arrived in Wray around 7:30. I'm only about ten miles from Nebaska. Could have made it, but the first town with a motel is supposedly quite a ways in. And besides, the motel clerk said the city fireworks would begin around 9:00.
I turned on the tv to see Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Pops in their annual 4th of July concert on the Esplanade in Boston. I thought, "I'll be there soon." They did Tchaikovsky's "1812" and a bunch of Souza and 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (All-Star Game at Fenway on Tuesday).
But it wasn't as good as the Wray fireworks. Pretty much the whole town was down at the baseball field. Everybody was setting off their own fireworks all over the place; stuff was popping, swirling, exploding all over the place. Stuff whizzing by your head. It was great.
Then around 9:30 the American flag was spotlighted and they played the National Anthem. And the real fireworks began, to the accompaniment of 'All Souza All The Time' over the scratchy baseball field loudspeaker.
The firemen do them. I spoke with a fireman's wife who told me proudly that all the fireworks are privately funded, and that all the parks in Wray have been refurbished using town money only. About halfway through, the town fire siren began wailing, and half the firemen went roaring off in three trucks, sirens screaming. Extra entertainment. Probably a grass fire from fireworks somewhere. After a brief pause, the remaining crew continued with the show until the grand finale lit up the eastern Colorado sky.
The best part of fireworks? The screams of delight from little children. It's universal, isn't it?

So that was my All-American Fourth of July. I hope yours was as good.

Tomorrow: Nebraska. I love Colorado. I...respect Nebraska.

Today's liqid intake:
Breakfast in Brush: 2 glasses water, 1 glass OJ
Akron: 1 20 oz. Gatorade, 1 20 oz. diet Coke
Gas station between Akron and Otis: 1 20 oz. Coke
Yuma: 1 half gallon diet Pepsi, one milkshake
Wray: 1 qt. Nestle's Quik, 1 20 oz. diet Coke
Water bottles during the day: 5 qts.of 100 plus degree water
Today's liquid outgo:
Once, briefly.

But I would not trade the 100 degrees plus here for what you all are experiencing in the midwest and on the east coast. Humidity!!!! Auugghhhhh!!! And I'm getting closer to it.
(I asked you yesterday to remind me why I live in Chicago. You don't need to. The answer is easy: Lois, Ruth, Alyce. I miss my family.)

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