Sunday's miles were so easy in comparison to Saturday's that I barely remember them. With only 350 to go, our morning at Norm's was relaxed and our gas stops were long. Rumor had it that we would hit more rain, but rumor was blessedly wrong. It was dry and cloudy, then dry and sunny. Somewhere in western Nebraska, we sat on a sidewalk and talked derby for half an hour while eating protein bars. I put away the rain suit.
The air was hot by the time we saw WELCOME TO COLORFUL COLORADO. Cider shot me a thumbs up, and I sped by him to pump my fist in the air. Just like last year, an overwhelming sense of accomplishment came with the sight of that sign. Goal: met.
At the next stop, I met a pair of friendly bikers (currently in a car because the wife had suffered an accident that broke 14 ribs and several of her vertebrae; ironically, it happened not on a bike but in the back of an ambulance while she was working as an EMT). I asked them to take our picture, the two nutty bikers who actually made it to Colorado together. After some chatting, I locked my jacket away, replaced it with my long-sleeved shirt, and we began the last leg.
The weather was my kind of perfect, probably a little too warm for my riding buddy but just right for me. The miles disappeared like fog under sunlight, and when we crested a hill and the road opened up in front of us, straight and bright and flat for a solid mile, I couldn't resist. I tucked my feet back on the rear pegs, flattened myself to the tank, and opened the throttle. I took the other lane and blew by Cider, passed a car, and kept going. The wind and the steady vibration were exhilarating, and I grinned to myself inside the helmet.
Eventually the bike stopped accelerating, and after noting her top speed (with bags, at least) I sat up and slowed down. I was startled to realize that I couldn't even see Cider anymore, but that car I had passed was still with me. Suddenly concerned that it was an unmarked cruiser, I kept a sharp eye on it, but eventually it passed. Cider caught up a minute later and gave me another thumbs up as he returned to the lead position.
A little north of Denver, we landed at his friend Mike's house. Mike and his wife Freida invited us in and fed us cold drinks, and we sat on the couch and talked and played with their two goofy chihuahuas. The boys reminisced about rides they'd done, and Mike said he'd make time to come ride with us this week.
Our lengthy gas stops had eaten up some of the day, and it wasn't long before Mike glanced at his phone and told us we should go.
"We've got time," Cider said, checking his GPS to be sure.
"No," Mike said, "There's hail coming in. You guys should go now."
I've never ridden in hail myself, but I saw the pictures of Cider after his last ride through the stuff, and I'd informed him before we left that if we hit hail I'd be stopping to wait it out. I felt no need to be covered in golf-ball-sized welted bruises. We said our goodbyes to Mike and Freida and got back on I25.
From there it was an hour or so to Aurora, where we found the hotel and several more friends. I had Facebook stalked the group enough to be able to keep the faces with the names, so by the time we were having drinks in the lobby, I could actually identify everyone around me.
We piled into the van and went to Sam's Number 3 for dinner, where I asked get-to-know-you questions and tried to keep everyone's stories straight. Other than asking Dave where he was from three different times, I didn't do too badly.
When dinner was done, I was last in line to pay my check, and the rest of the group had gone outside. As the cashier handed me back my credit card, a woman walked behind me with her hands over her mouth and spewed vomit over 20 feet of floor. One of the servers scooted behind the desk and said, with a shell-shocked look, "I just got puked on. I just got puked on. I just got puked on." She missed me by a scant foot.