By Bill Plock
In the wake of the women’s professional cycling race, The Colorado Classic, a pioneering event for cycling and women’s sports in Colorado, about a 175 miles southeast of Denver lies another reminder of our state’s history with pioneering women.
In Lamar Colorado you will find one of 12 statues along the old National Trail Road Association route connecting Baltimore with Los Angeles. Future President, Harry S. Truman presided over the organization that brought the network of trails together to help the expansion of the US road systems and completed around 1930.
The statue was commissioned by National Society Daughters of the American Revolution and was dedicated in 1928. US Highway 50 follows much of this trail along with the even older Santa Fe Trail which is big part of the Pedal the Plains this year.
The ride begins September 13th in Lamar and there, you will see this statue along with the rest of town populated with about 7,500 people. The route then proceeds east to Holly, which by the way is the lowest elevated point in Colorado sitting at 3,392 feet.
Highway 50 runs parallel with the Arkansas river and the area is filled with large cottonwoods and other trees making bird watching very popular in the area. Prowers County is recognized nationally as a haven for large numbers of migratory birds, waterfowl and native species. Prowers County is the first county in the State of Colorado to receive a “Colorado Birding Trail” designation, with the trail launch in February 2007 held in conjunction with the annual High Plains Snow Goose Festival.
From Holly, riders proceed a bit east, crossing the Kansas state line with a turn around in Coolidge, KS now famous as the home of National Lampoon’s Vacation character Cousin Eddy!
The next day departs Hwy 50 (and with optional 100 loop) and takes riders Southwest to Springfield, located in Baca county, one of Colorado’s least populated counties and ground zero during the Dust Bowl. If you want to settle in with a good book along the ride and really dive into what life was like in the area during the Dust Bowl, check out the book, The Worst Hard Time by Tim Eagan written in 2006. He interviewed survivors of that era living along the route of Pedal the Plains and it’s an amazing account of what life was like not long after the roads ridden were built and then subsequently buried in dust.
The area is seeing a revitalization of tourism as people seek to find the roots of the elusive agricultural life and maybe a simpler, more earthy time. If you join the ride, you will see, and can join, the cycling team, Team Farm Power, sponsored by the Farm Bureau of Colorado to help people understand their vested interest in the success or failure of family farms and ranches in the state. Along this route, with the help of Team Farm Power you will get “behind the scenes” of farming and ranching in this area. You will see innovative sustainability practices and get a closer look at the challenges and joys our rural neighbors face. You will also get a better sense of the importance of the farm and the effects on your everyday life—a new appreciation of what it takes to enjoy some of everyday luxuries.
Come join the Pedal the Plains, learn a lot about a part of Colorado unfamiliar to many. Time to move off the I-70 and I-25 grid and see some new things!