Monday, January 25, 2010

where am I?

As you know if you've read almost any post on this blog, I love bike touring in Colorado. Other than the spectacular scenery and incredible challenges that riding in the mountains offers, I've visited several corners of the state and learned of the immense diversity that Colorado has to offer. Before riding the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour in 2008, I hadn't been to Colorado for 20 years. And that had been flying into Denver and never straying farther than the suburbs. I had seen some of the areas around Denver and Colorado Springs, and I thought it was a beautiful place, but I had no idea! That got me thinking how we can be so ignorant of our geography, even where we live.

I'm originally from Fargo, North Dakota. People I've known for years will hear of something from that part of the world and ask me, "You're from South Dakota, right?". Or even worse, just Dakota. I know all about the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, and the Corn Palace, but North Dakota is a whole other state! As different as South Dakota is from the east to the west, so too is North Dakota.

Fargo is on the border with Minnesota, in the heart of the Red River Valley. The topography is a remnant of the glacier that used to occupy much of the north central part of the continent, and the lake it left behind when it melted, Lake Agassiz. The land in that part of the state is fertile farmland, and for the most part, flat. Really, really flat. But if you venture west you'll find many other sides to the state: rolling hills, the Missouri River, and the Badlands. You'll gain a little elevation, from Fargo at about 900 feet to Medora at 2267 feet, at the southern end of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, south unit.

Besides affording me the opportunity to learn more of Colorado's diversity, the trips across Kansas have shown me more of the state where I've lived for the last 22 years. The town where I live is just more than 1000' in elevation. I had no idea that the the western plains of Kansas were included in what's referred to as the "high plains." When you reach Kanorado, KS, on the border between, you guessed it, Kansas and Colorado, you've already climbed to 3900'. That means you drive almost halfway across Colorado to Denver, and you're only about 1400 feet higher than you were in Kanorado! Mile High City, hah!

You get to the other side of Denver, and it's whole new ballgame. Colorado has plains, desert-like areas, and lots of good farmland. To get there, however, you probably need to go through the mountains. I'm not saying that's a deal breaker.


  1. I too like Colorado...the only downfall is it is slightly over 1000 miles to Denver for us.

    I have some relatives that have lived in Hayward WI for many, many years. Hayward is one of the most popular vacation spots in WI. About 5 to 10 years ago, one of the younger ones of the bunch bought a place in a small town north of Devils Lake. That family now has three places there they use as cabins. They love it and have tried to talk us into buying a place there. Hunting, fishing and they say the most important thing is, it has the friendliest people on the planet.

    On a side note, and I do not know why, but I always thought the elevation of Kansas in general was much higher...definitely not any 1000 foot areas. Like I said, I do not know why.

  2. I really hope that the future has a Colorado cycling trip in store for me - I love coming to your blog and reading about it.