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Essays - Coast To Coast 1999 by Eric K. Andersen

Man's Best Friend

They bark at you unseen from backyards and behind fences and doors.  They'll run 100 yards across fields and splash through streams. They'll risk life and leg crossing busy streets. They howl from the back of pickups, metal cages and from tethered chains and ropes stretched to the point of strangulation. They come in packs of  2, 3, 4, sometimes 5 at a time, each one trying to sound more important than the other. Sometimes cats accompany them. They'll run along with you far past the borders that they are protecting, claws scratching the pavement, spit spewing from their jowls.  Some just sit and watch disinterested as you pedal by.  Others, caught off guard by a quiet sudden arrival, leap into action too late to get they're point across before I've passed safely on, getting off only a woof or two.  All just trying to say "hello".


People like to predict the weather for you.   Especially if they know that you're going to be out in it all day.  In eastern Colorado a woman asked if I carried a weather radio.  She said it was supposed to storm later.  I told her I liked not knowing what lie ahead.  She said to watch out for twisters later and told me to hide under a bridge if I saw one. The sun shined brightly all day.  When leaving the Ordway Hotel, both the old woman who ran the hotel and an old man living there looked out the front window up at the eastern sky and predicted bad weather.  I told them I would be in Pueblo by noon (a concept they couldn't grasp) and wouldn't need to worry about the late afternoon thunderstorms that were the norm for this time of year.  It turns out that they were right.   Hail storms moved through to the north and dumped eight inches of ice in Colorado Springs. I had heard that as much of 3 feet had dropped in western Kansas.  I didn't see any off it and was in Pueblo for lunch.

"It's cold if you're going that way" said a man in Hartsel Colorado, pointing in the direction I was headed.  I told him peddling makes you warm.  The temps were cool for most of the day and not "cold" until a late afternoon storm blew through the valley as I was heading into Fairplay.  

"It's windy wherever you're going" said a woman in western Kansas when I told her I couldn't wait to get out of Kansas and the strong southerly winds.  Ten miles after crossing the border into Colorado, the wind started blowing from the northeast.  Sure it's windy wherever you go.  Sometimes it blows in the direction you're going.  Just not often enough.


Raccoons, possums, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, moles, snakes, turtles (snapping and box), frogs, crawfish, cats, dogs, deer, antelope, birds, moths, butterflies, bees, caterpillars, armadillos and porcupines. 


Windshield wipers, hubcaps, plastic oil containers, ice trays, dismembered action figures, beer and soda bottles and cans, (Milwaukee's best, Bud Light, Sprite), fast food containers (McDonald's, Hardee's, Burger King), Eye glass frames, ketchup, fries, bras, jeans, panties (in that order), cd's cassettes, 8 tracks, VHS tapes, watches, pizza, lollipops, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lifejackets.

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