Treasure Hunt

It’s very quiet here. Thom just returned to Oregon; he and Kate left with a minivan-load full of stuff yesterday morning, and he’s busy getting his house set up in Eugene. Kate’ll be back this evening. Scout, the dog, is morose.

I just came back from Chicago — well, I came back on Tuesday. Tomorrow, I’m flying to Denver to do a 90-hour, 750-mile ride, the Colorado Last Chance 1200. That’s a staggering thought, actually; I was on a waiting list and didn’t really expect to get in. Then on Thursday, I got an email saying a spot had opened up. I trained to do one of these long rides this year and was hoping to do the Cascade 1200 in Washington state. But I fell off my bike three weeks before that event and wasn’t really healed completely when the time came to ride (what I missed was four days of very tough and very, very hot riding). But over the summer, I got back into a pretty good riding rhythm and now I’m going to Colorado.

The route is through eastern Colorado and out into northern Kansas, principally on U.S. 36 ((the Kansas portion of the route has its own booster’s association, which is planning a weekend of garage sales from one end of the highway to the other starting next Friday: “The First Annual Great U.S. Highway 36 Treasure Hunt.” The easternmost point in the ride, Kensington, Kansas, is in Smith County; back in America’s 48-state days, the county was the site of the geographical center of the United States, near the town of Lebanon. This is a part of the country that has been losing people for over a century. For instance, census numbers show Smith County’s population fell more than 75 percent between 1900 (when there were 16,384 residents recorded ) and 2005 (4,121, down 9 percent just since 2000). You could pick almost any county out there in the dry Plains and find the same story. So then you get attractions like the Great Treasure Hunt as a way of drawing people out there to see what they’re missing (lots of fresh air, lots of room, lots of quiet, lots of homes that look cheap by comparison with what big-city folks are used to. The problem is, people who say they’d like all that, and I’m one, would like all that in moderation or in carefully controlled doses; and they still need someplace to go to work to support their wide-open-spaces lifestyle.

Looking forward to seeing it all, though, even though I think I’ll miss the Great Treasure Hunt

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