On the road to Agate, putting the “Bug” in “Bugman”

The route to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument via Nebraska Highway 29 is beautiful but desolate. As you head north out of Mitchell, there’s a sign reading “No Services Next 54 miles.” I don’t like cycling this no-cell-signal route without SAG support, particularly in the thirsty heat of summer.

Bugman’s family was in town for a visit, though, and we were able to combine tourism with the opportunity for on-the-road support to get in a long ride. Bugman and I left at 7 a.m. and biked 4 hours up to Agate on our tandem. His family left at 10 a.m. and drove for an hour in our car with the tandem rack on top to meet us for a picnic at 11 a.m.

Well, it actually took us closer to 4 hours and 15 minutes on the tandem. There were a couple of unexpected stops, you see.

Somewhere in Sioux County on Highway 29, Bugman suddenly called out “off!” to signal me to quit pedaling on the back of the tandem. He hurriedly stopped, dismounted, handed me the bike to hold, and jogged back the way we had just come to pick something up off the ground.

stop 1“It’s a Mormon cricket!” he said, returning with his prize and depositing it on the bike trunk. “They’re uncommon, until they’re not.” (Apparently, they can have outbreak years.)

mormon cricketA little further down the road came a second insect-related stop, this time to grab some video of one of the more charismatic insects common to Nebraska’s rangeland . . .

stop 2. . . dung beetles!

Lots of people know about roller dung beetles from nature films about the grasslands of Africa but are shocked to learn that we have them here in Nebraska too.

Rollin', rollin', rollin' . . . keep that dung ball rollin' . . .

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ . . . keep that dung ball rollin’ . . . Why did the dung beetle cross the road? Maybe for the same reason cyclists roll on the asphalt – because a smooth surface presents less resistance to a rolling object.

The insect-related delays offset Bugman’s family’s delays in getting started, and we arrived at Agate within a minute of each other.

We settled down for a picnic and were not bothered by mosquitoes one bit, thanks to one of the most amazing swarm of dragonflies I have ever seen. Hundreds of red-orange dragonflies were roosting in the shrubbery around the picnic shelter and would fly up en masse whenever anyone walked past.

I am kicking myself for not getting a picture of those amazing dragonflies. I blame exertion-induced “road brain” (Eeeeeeat foooooood!). Bugman got some video, which I will post if he puts it online.

picnic

Bugman, his parents and one of his sisters picnicing at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. The dot in the sky to the left of University and Carnegie Hills? It’s not a smudge on your screen – it’s one of the dragonflies!

While Bugman’s family toured the museum at Agate, we got back on the tandem and hit the road again.

With the 90-plus-degree heat and several hundred feet of elevation gain, we really started to struggle. Thank goodness for a sustained 15-mile-per-hour-gusting-to-25 wind out of the west and 20% relative humidity, which helped to cool us down on our north-south route.

Still, by the time Bugman’s family caught up with us 2 hours / 15 miles later, we were stick-a-fork-in-me D-O-N-E! Our SAG vehicle pulled into a ranch driveway, and we loaded up the tandem to ride the rest of the way home the easy way. (Thanks, Ma and Pa Bug!)

SAG rescueHaving trouble sleeping? Try biking 65 miles with 3,200 feet of climb on a 95-degree windy day. I slept like a log for 9 hours that night! Whether I dreamed of dragonflies and dung beetles, I couldn’t say.

PS – No worries about Bugman hanging out in the road looking at insects like that – we could see and hear the rare car or truck coming from miles away.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

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