2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 1, Falls City to Auburn

I woke up before 4:30 a.m., thanks to the 7,872 robins that were singing in Falls City’s Pioneer Park. My stomach was growling. Bless the Falls City Lions Club for getting pancakes going at 5 a.m.! (I schmeared peanut butter on my pancakes for a protein boost.)

falls city lions pancakes

I was on the road by 6:15 a.m. As I biked up the short hill to get out of Falls City, my low gears were sticking and gnashing all over the place, worse than the day before. If I were smart, I would have turned around and headed to the mechanic’s tent. I was worried about starting too late and riding in the heat of the day, though, so I sallied forth. The upper gears worked just fine.

I stopped to take this photo about 15 minutes in, partly because a man had been silently riding close in my wake for some time. It was kind of creeping me out, and I wanted to lose him.


First SAG stop, 7:30 a.m. Each SAG driver has a little trailer set up with water and fruit, and the later SAG stops had additional snacks (candy, crackers, cereal bars, cookies, beef sticks; the last SAG always had pickles and pickle juice, too).

SAG stop 1

The man who’d been following me was at the SAG stop. He asked if he could ride with me the whole week. I said no thank you, I prefer to ride on my own. I didn’t see him again after that, thank goodness!

Ah, the well-worn beauty of corn belt homesteads.

corn belt image

Second SAG stop, 8:30 a.m. This one came with a puppy!

puppy at sag

Passing through Nemaha, hoping for a bathroom. None that I could find, but what a quaint library!

nemaha library

The Nemaha Cheetahtruck in its native habitat:

cheetah truck

A long descent into Brownville – lovely, except for the knowledge that I would have to climb back up.

I parked my steed at the hitching post.

brownville parking

And huzzah! An open public bathroom!

D’oh! Take to heart BRAN’s advice to cart some TP with you.

no toilet paper

There were several cute-looking shops in Brownville, but none of them were open at 9 a.m. on a Sunday. Bummer! I would have loved to stop into this ice cream shop. They speak my language!

brownville coffee shop

I would also have loved to visit the Flatwater Folk Art Museum and Whiskey Run Creek Vineyard & Winery. They were closed, too, but at least I got my Nebraska Passport stamp for the Brownville Historic Area. (I decided to participate in the Nebraska Passport Program, but I’m only collecting stamps from businesses I visit on my bicycle.) I contented myself with a photo of the windmill weight tower outside the museum.

windmill weight totem

The museum was on the corner of the road we were to take out of town. A steep hill! Without the use of my lowest 3-4 gears, I had to stand and pedal to keep moving on the hill – a new technique for me on my road bike. I didn’t quite make it. I dismounted (without crashing!) and walked the rest of the way to the summit, accompanied by a 4th grade teacher who had stopped on the hill to get a photo of a historic building, who was not able to get going again on that slope.

big hill

10 a.m., and it’s getting really hot. I was jealous of these cattle and their cooling pool.

cool cattle.jpg

Near the turnoff to Peru, the Peru State cheerleaders were staffing a tent with water, granola, and ice. It might have been nice to check out Peru, but it was down a steep hill I’d have to climb back up, and it was just too hot. I requested some ice from the cheerleaders, and, per the core-cooling technique I learned while training for a half-marathon, I slipped the ice cubes into my sports bra. It felt so good to clutch the ice against my heart! I imagined the coolness circulating through my body, and I felt much better.

peru rest stop

A few hundred yards past the Peru cheerleaders was the third SAG stop. (Hrm. That could have been planned better.)

Before the final turn towards Auburn, there were full-lane rumble bars. Gaa-aa-aaa-aaa-aah! I hate those!!!! The Department of Transportation should ban them forthwith! At least throw cyclists a bone and leave a rumble-free gap so we can escape the torment/pain/potential bike damage, wouldya? Or can’t some engineer come up with a style of rumble bar that alerts drivers but isn’t so awful for someone on a bicycle?

Our campsite at the Auburn High School lacked shade. It was hot, hot, hot in the sun, and hotter inside my tent. I dug out my gear, cleaned up with a cool shower, and caught the shuttle bus (with broken A/C – boohoo!) to the firehall for a spaghetti feed. It was cool in the firehall, and the food made me feel better. (No photos, as I’d left my phone at a charging station.)

I slowly ambled back to camp, going from shade tree to shade tree as much as I could. I wheeled my bike over to the bike mechanic tent, explained my worsened problem with the gears, and left the bike with them. I wandered into the Pork Belly shade tent, but it was just too hot to sit on the plastic chairs. I was tired, but it was too hot to be in my tent. I inflated my air mattress and retreated across the street and down the block to the shade of a tree for a cat nap.

While I was attempting to nap, I heard someone talking about a movie starting soon. Movie? I bet there’s A/C! I inquired at the information booth. Yep, the downtown theater was playing the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film, the theater was air-conditioned, and the shuttle would take us there. Thank goodness!

I was so glad I went to the movie, which only cost 5 bucks. The Pirates movie was “meh,” but The State Theater in Auburn is so cute, and has a great story. The former owners couldn’t manage the expense of upgrading the theater when a conversion to digital was required, so they donated the theater to Auburn Public Schools, which was able to apply for grants to fix up the theater. It has all-new seats, upgraded projector and sound, and the adjacent building was purchased to enable an expanded concessions area and accessible bathrooms (the flooring material in the bathrooms was recycled from a school gym floor replacement).

auburn state theater

Thanks to a partnership with a Bible camp that’d had a pirate theme, The State was all decked out for the movie. So cute! (I work for a nonprofit historic theater, so of course I pitched some green into the theater’s donation box!)


I didn’t want to leave the air conditioning when the movie ended. Here’s a bank clock across the street at 4:21 p.m.:


I loitered in the shade until the shuttle came along to take me back to camp.

I headed to the bike mechanic tent for my verdict: bent derailleur hanger. The mechanic was able to bend it straight again. I’d be all set for future hill-climbing!

I did some more loitering in the shade, in the Pork Belly tent. There was a lighthearted attempt to create a breeze with an electric air pump.

faux breeze

I moved to the shade next to the high school, where I chatted with a guy who turned out to be the person who’d helped advise me via Facebook about how to box my bike. The clouds to the east turned dark, and there appeared to be some weather headed our way, but it never materialized. I was sad because I was hoping for a post-storm cool-off.

storm cloud

I needed some food, but the shuttle had quit for the evening. I decided to walk about a mile to El Portal, which had advertised in the BRAN riders’ guide. I often eat Mexican food at home, and I’ve found that keeping a consistent diet is a good idea on a long bike trip.

On my walk, I spotted this lawn decoration. Flamingos on a tandem – love it!

flamingo tandem

The restaurant tables had flip books with event information and area history. Did you know: Auburn has two downtowns.

auburn history

I ordered the enchiladas Jalisco. I am not a fast eater, but this plate was empty (save for some rice) in less than 10 minutes. Very tasty!

plate before

On my walk back to camp, I stopped to see the New Deal mural in the Auburn Post Office – “Threshing” by Ethel Mafagan.

auburn post office mural

Threshing was thirsty work. I could relate, after the day’s ride!

thirsty work

By 9:15, it was time to try to sleep. (“Try” being the operative word.) It was still too hot and humid. Above our tents, streetlights glared, once of them directly into the “window” in the side of my tent. Some gals in a tent across the way dubbed it “the camp of the midnight sun.” I was glad I’d brought a sleep mask!

tent light

day 1 stats
49 miles
2,540 feet of climb
11.2 mph avg
(weather data from Nebraska City)
low temp 67
high temp 91
avg humidity 49%
precip 0
wind 5-12 WSW

Copyright 2017 by Katie Bradshaw


2 thoughts on “2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 1, Falls City to Auburn

  1. Pingback: 2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: overview and Day 0, Falls City, Kansas and Missouri – Wyobraska Tandem

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