A how-to guide for creating a bicycle playground: Scottsbluff example

Ever since I saw a Twitter post about this “traffic garden” (AKA bicycle playground, safety town) that was built in Washington state on a disused tennis court, I’ve wanted to see one built locally.

white center traffic garden

White Center, Washington, traffic garden by Alta Design + Planning

But where? And how? I didn’t know how to get started.

Eventually, the concrete pad poured in downtown Scottsbluff to accommodate artificial ice in the winter filtered into my brain. It was a new, unblemished concrete surface well-protected from traffic in a highly visible and accessible area that was otherwise going unused in the warmer months.

 

At a May 6, 2019, presentation to the Scottsbluff City Council on the activities of the Tri-City Active Living Advisory Committee, one of the council members asked if the ALAC had considered a “bicycle playground.” I mentioned the ice rink pad, and, because this coincided with the city’s desire to develop more activity in the downtown area, things progressed quickly. By July 4, 2019, the 18th Street Plaza Bicycle Playground was open!

bicycle playground gran opening

In this post, I’ll summarize the major steps as well as materials and methods, for the benefit of others looking to build a bicycle playground of their own.

The primary partners on design and implementation of this project were the City of Scottsbluff and the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club. No city funds were spent to make this project happen. Paint was provided by our local Diamond Vogel. Some of the miniature signage was built with scrap material, and the rest of the signage was donated by Aulick Industries. Public health grant funds from the Panhandle Public Health District made available through the Tri-City Active Living Advisory Committee paid for additional materials.

Step 1: Design

With the concrete pad measuring approximately 40 feet wide and 80 feet long, design options were somewhat constrained.

Initially, the bicycle playground was designed as a “bicycle rodeo” skill drill course.

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After some discussion, the design was tweaked into a mini street layout to also allow imaginative play while preserving the educational components of the signage (stop, yield, rail crossing, pedestrian crossing) and the skill of riding in a circle. The proposed layout was an oval track with a roundabout on one end and a cross street with a T intersection. To get everyone on the same page, a formal proposal was put together (with assistance from Fionnuala Quinn of Discover Traffic Gardens).

A rough plan for the layout was drawn up using shape files in Publisher, with a scaled 2’x2′ grid underlaying the design to facilitate proportion and later implementation. Lanes were designed to be 3 feet wide (internal measurement), with 3-inch lane lines. The outer diameter of the roundabout was 16 feet. Between 3-7 feet of space was left on all sides to allow people to walk past easily.

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Step 2: Demonstration project

To demonstrate proof of concept and test the design, as well as collect data on what age level the bicycle playground would appeal to, a washable sidewalk chalk layout and activity called “imagination town” was prepared to coincide with the opening of the downtown farmer’s market on June 1, 2019. Flyers and social media posts advertised the event, and the farmer’s market helped disseminate the information as well.

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The evening before the event, six members of the bicycle club used the layout plan, a tape measure, a string to draw the curves, and 40 sticks of sidewalk chalk to prepare the imagination town layout. Chalking took about an hour. The curves into and out of the roundabout had to be adjusted a little, since the turns were too sharp initially. The importance of not allowing a pavement seam to land in the middle of a lane also became apparent (wheels might catch on the seam), so a note was made to tweak the final design.

(Thank goodness it didn’t rain overnight!)

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Here’s an excerpt from the report from the event:

Kids observed riding on the layout: six kids on bikes (5 boys, 1 girl) ages 9, 6, 5, 4 (x2) and 2; two kids on scooters (1 boy, 1 girl) ages 5 and 4.

The largest number of kids on the layout at once was three. Most kids rode in a counterclockwise direction.

The littler kids didn’t pay much attention to the layout and just zoomed around, unless their parents pointed things out to them. This might have been partly because the rather thin lines were somewhat hard to see.

The 5-6-year-olds were much more attuned to the “roadways” than the younger kids and paid more attention about sticking to them. The 9-year-old was bored by the simplicity of the course. He challenged himself to see how fast he could go while staying within the lines.

The 4 feet of buffer space on the west side felt sufficient, as did the 6 feet on the east side. It made more sense to have a larger buffer on the east side, since more people entered the area from the east side, and kids tended to have more speed on that curve than on the roundabout near the benches. The 3 feet on the south side seemed sufficient. The 7 feet on the north side seemed excessive – the course could be widened a little bit. Two crosswalk seemed repetitive. Kids noticed and appreciated the railroad crossing.

Parents either stood outside the fence to watch or sat on one of the benches inside. Several parents took the opportunity to point out and talk to their kids about the road markings and signs and what they meant, including a couple of families who didn’t have bikes but who walked across the layout.

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Step 2: Permanent installation

Based on the successful demonstration, the City of Scottsbluff gave permission to go ahead with painting the layout. The goal was to have the layout done in time for the July 4 kickoff of the “Bands on Broadway” free concert series.

Over a couple of days, members of the bike club swept the concrete clean, laid out the design using a chalk line for straightaways,  string+chalk for the curves, and cardboard templates. White acrylic traffic paint (used about 1 3/4 gallons) was mostly applied with 3-inch rollers, as well as a paintbrush. Careful attention was paid to which side of the chalk line the paint roller would follow, to make sure the lines all met up properly. We laid down strips of painter’s tape and ran a straight line over the top to create the dashed centerline. Red and yellow spray paint was used with a template for the sign shapes.

IMG_2015Miniature signs were constructed with bits of leftover materials the city had on hand, with additional signage donated by Aulick Industries. A heavy rubber base was necessary, otherwise the signs would blow over in the wind. The signs are stored in the skate rental shed most of the time. They are taken out during special events like the Bands on Broadway events. When the signs aren’t out, the colored shapes on the ground provide traffic direction.

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Step 3: ribbon cutting and grand opening

A ribbon cutting was held on July 2, 2019, and the media was invited.

Star-Herald “More summer fun: City of Scottsbluff, Western Nebraska Bicycling Club create bicycle playground”

KNEB “Downtown Scottsbluff winter ice skating rink becomes summer bicycle playground”

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The grand opening was July 4, in conjunction with the “Bands on Broadway” summer concert series in the adjacent plaza. A kids’ decorated bicycle parade was held just before the music started, so some of the bikes on the playground looked very festive.

In addition to being a part of Bands on Broadway and the farmer’s market, the bicycle playground was also an official part of the downtown National Night Out event on August 6, 2019. A police officer staffed the playground and talked about bicycle and traffic safety.

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Other than that, it has primarily been used by families on their own. At least one family drives in from an adjacent city to use it, as their neighborhood is not safe enough for their small children to ride bikes.

Step 4: Maintenance

Over the winter, a good portion of the paint flaked off or faded, so the paint will probably need to be refreshed every year.

The bike club repainted it in time for the July 2, 2020, Bands on Broadway kickoff. All better!

Copyright 2020 by Katie Bradshaw

 

Proposed Scottsbluff-Gering-Terrytown bike route map

First things first: here’s a link to the Proposed Scottsbluff-Gering-Terrytown bike route map.

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Screen shot of the Proposed Scottsbluff-Gering-Terrytown bike route map

The map shows the best routes to travel around the community by bike, based on things like traffic speed, traffic volume, and number of traffic lanes. Pathways and designated bike lanes are included where they exist, and the routes have been connected mostly with lower-stress residential streets. To develop a functional network of bike routes, though, some higher-stress routes had to be included because no other options currently exist. These sections are designated as “cautionary bike routes.”

This map was drafted by an engineering firm contracted by the Panhandle Public Health District via the Tri-City Active Living Advisory Committee. This map is intended to be used by people with a basic level of cycling skill and knowledge of how to interact safely with motorized vehicle traffic. It has not, as yet, been officially sanctioned by local officials. The plan is to develop this map to a point where it can be printed and distributed for the use of locals and tourists getting around by bike.

The hope is that this map can be a catalyst to developing improved bicycle infrastructure for our transportation system, such as better river crossings, designated bike route signage or protected bike lanes. The key to making change is to have as many people as possible involved in and supporting this process.

Your input is important to make this map the best it can be, to demonstrate to elected officials that bicycling is important, and to show local transportation professionals the most critical places to target for improvement.

  • Are there sections designated as “lower stress” that you think should be “cautionary” or vice versa?
  • Are you not seeing a connection to get where you need to go?
  • Are there areas where infrastructure improvements could be made for a better cycling experience?
  • Does your destination lack a place to lock up your bike?
  • Are there any barriers to you being comfortable getting around on a bike? What are they?
  • Any other comments?

You can leave comments directly within the map. There are instructions below on how to do this. If you are having a hard time with the map, feel free to leave a comment on this blog post instead.

Thanks for your interest and input in this project! Change can sometimes be slow to come, but the future looks bright for biking in our community!

If you would like to get email updates related to this bike mapping project, send me an email at kt AT ktbradshaw DOT com.

 

How to use this map

This map was designed to meet dual purposes – an on-street bike route network map as well as a sidewalk network map for pedestrians. These instructions focus on the bike route function.

 

General map information

When you click on the map link, a “splash screen” appears. Click “OK” to close this window to access the map.

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You can zoom into the map to read the street names, and zoom out to see the overall routes.

Clicking on an icon will pop up additional information.

By default, the map opens to the “map key” window. You can get back to this window at any time by clicking on the icon that looks like bullet points.

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Choosing what information the map displays

This map is designed to show both biking and walking information. To choose what information the map displays, click the “layers” icon.

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To see the bike routes map, and to be able to make comments, make sure the following boxes are checked:

  • Proposed bike-walk network (shows streets and a few sidewalks needed to )
  • Trails (shows multi-use trails where cyclists must yield to pedestrians)
  • Safety awareness location (denotes areas where cyclists should use extra caution)
  • Bike repair station (a DIY public bike repair station with repair stand, air pump, and common repair tools)
  • Map labels (shows street names)
  • Bike comment

If you want, you can turn on the “activity centers” information layer to show schools, government buildings, and retail centers.

Making a comment

To make a bike-related comment on a section of the map:

1. Make sure the “bike comment” box is checked under the “layers” section.

Screen Shot 2019-05-05 at 11.43.39 AM2. Click on the “note” icon.

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3. Zoom in to the portion of the map on which you want to comment.

4. Click on the “bike comment” dot in the “note” menu to select it.

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5. Click on the location on the map. A text box will appear that you can type your comment into. Click away from the text box to save your comment.

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Background of this mapping project

Because of its relatively flat topography, compact area, and network of grid streets, the Scottsbluff-Gering-Terrytown community is very bikeable. However, people may not be familiar with the best routes to take on a bicycle, which are not necessarily the same routes people are familiar with from their experience traveling by car.

In 2015, the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club started a project to create bicycle route maps based on club member input. The project ran into complications trying to reconcile the different types of comments from people with more cycling experience or less cycling experience, and between people with recreational riding in mind, versus using bicycles as a form of transportation.

In 2017, the Panhandle Public Health District, with the direction of the Tri-City Active Living Advisory Committee, commissioned Felsburg Holt & Ullevig (FHU) to produce a bicycle / pedestrian assessment. See the final report here: FINAL Plan 12.29.17. The PPHD got involved this the bike map project (as well as projects involving walking maps and signage) because of the public health benefits of getting more people traveling in physically active ways like biking and walking. For further reading:

The structure of this bicycle / pedestrian assessment helped to resolve the problem of “who is this bike map created for?”

FHU noted that a bike route map should be geared towards the largest segment of people possible, which would include the riders that are “strong and fearless” (estimated 4-7% of the population) and “enthused and confident” (estimated 5-9% of the population) who were likely to belong to the bike club, as well as the estimated 51-56% of the population who are interested in cycling more, but concerned about safety. (The remainder of the population is people who will not or cannot ride a bicycle.) For further reading about “the four types of cyclists,” check out the work of researcher Jennifer Dill.

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Image excerpted from “Table 1. Types of Bicyclists” from “Scottsbluff/Gering Pedestrian Assessment” prepared by FHU for PPHD December 2017

FHU evaluated the “bicycle level of traffic stress” (LTS) of the major streets in the community, based on street characteristics and the volume and speed of motorized vehicles. Here’s an explanation of what the LTS levels mean:

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Image excerpted from page 9 of “Scottsbluff/Gering Pedestrian Assessment” prepared by FHU for PPHD December 2017

For a super-wonky deep-dive into this concept, check out this Mineta Transportation Institute report. For a more readable explanation, see this Alta Planning & Design blog post.

FHU then focused on identifying a bicycle route network using infrastructure that the majority of people would be comfortable riding:

  • pathways
  • LTS 1 or 2 collector/arterial streets
  • residential streets

Because the network could not be completed using without including higher-stress cycling routes, some “cautionary routes” of LTS 3 or 4 had be included.

Few sidewalks are included on this route map.

Local ordinance prohibits riding bicycles on the sidewalks in downtown Scottsbluff (20th Street to Railway, Ave B to 2nd Ave) and Gering (J Street to U Street, 9th Street to 11th Street).

While riding a bicycle on a sidewalks elsewhere in the Twin Cities area is allowed, it may not be the best option. Bicycle safety experts recommend that adults not ride bicycles on sidewalks because of the higher risk of collisions with vehicles turning across driveways and traveling through intersections. However, there are some situations where a sidewalk is more comfortable for cycling. See this post from the League of American Bicyclists for details on sidewalk riding law.

When riding on the sidewalk:

  • ride at a walking pace
  • use caution and be prepared to yield at all driveways and intersections
  • watch for and yield to pedestrians

For further reading on sidewalk riding, see this document from Cornell University.

Note that the Cornell University document highlights that sidewalk riding for children is different from sidewalk riding for adults:

Most children are not capable of bicycling in traffic until they are about aged nine or ten. The complexities of traffic are simply too much for their developing bodies and minds. For this reason, many communities allow sidewalk bicycling for children. Young children should be accompanied by an adult to help them navigate through hazards such as driveways and other intersections. It would be a mistake to presume that sidewalks are completely safe from traffic.

The length of time this map will be open to comment is still TBD, so don’t delay!

Copyright 2019 by Katie Bradshaw

Lessons learned buying a mini penny farthing online, or how Ye Olde Claret Lemon came to be

Previously, I’ve only bought bicycles directly from bike shops. In April 2018, I decided to buy a bicycle online. It has been a frustrating experience, but an opportunity to learn.

Summary of lessons, in case the whole shebang is TL;DR for y’all.

  • Refuse any damaged UPS packages, unopened, or immediately stop opening the item as soon as you realize there is damage, to preserve the evidence of the packaging, or you may lose any right to make claims for damages.
  • You can’t buy a good-quality new bike, even a small and simple one, for under $200. The mini highwheel bicycle I bought from Rideable Replica Bicycles of Alameda, California, was made in a Chinese factory, NOT by “skilled craftsmen” in the United States. My expectations of the bike I bought were too high.
  • With some mechanical education, additional money, and the support of your local bike shop, you can turn lemons into lemonade.

Experienced bike people would say “duh!” to all this, but you have to learn these things somehow to become experienced. I am now slightly more experienced than I was before.

The Beginning

It all started with a ziplining trip to Colorado, back in August 2017. I happened to spy in the window of a bike shop a wee penny farthing! Oh, what hijinks I could get up to with that!

small penny farthing

Circumstances were not favorable to make a purchase at that time, but I continued to think about the bike. I looked up the information on the head badge: The Wheelman, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Alas, these bikes were once made by Coker Tire, but are no more. Bummer!

I kept googling, and Google led me to another website of a company that claimed to build their own highwheel bicycles – and their stock included a miniature version as well!

Here’s a screenshot of the company’s website that describes their bike-building chops:

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Here’s the mini highwheel page with description:

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The website and an email to the shop led me to believe that they made their own mini highwheel bicycles, too. (For $189, the price I was charged instead of the price listed on the website? Silly me!)

I placed an order, and . . .

The education began

I came home to find a bike box on my porch — damaged, courtesy of UPS:

damaged bike box

The crank arm of the bike was protruding from the box, and had paint scraped off of it, and the dust cap was missing. Pretty obvious someone realized the damage, as they had applied a bunch of packing tape as a bandaid.

scraped crank arm

Silly me, I emailed the bike shop instead of immediately calling UPS to come pick up the package they damaged.

Silly me, I opened the box to see if the bike was bent up. It didn’t appear to be, so I fully unpacked the box, cutting a whole bunch of zip ties to get things out. As I removed the bubble wrap from the bike, I discovered that there were multiple gashes on the paint of this brand-new bike that were *under* the bubble wrap. Because I cut everything apart and could not prove how the bike was initially packaged, I was unable to file a claim with UPS.

But, really, the whole UPS thing is a frustrating sidenote. The only damage I could say for sure was most likely caused by UPS was the scrape to the crank arm / missing dust cap. The bigger issue was that the overall quality of the bicycle was not as high as my expectations were.

The bike was not made in the United States, as I’d first thought. It was, per the inner box it came in, MADE IN CHINA.

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I commenced a series of emails and a phone call with the seller that left me feeling belittled and ignored. When I again contacted the seller with a report from a visit to my local bike shop, the seller offered to ship me a new frame, and said “pretty sure I have cranks around here.” (Unintentional double entendre?)

I replied, in part:

Would another frame be any better if it came from the same manufacturer? It’s the “you get what you pay for” theme is what I am coming to understand.

I never heard from the seller again, and I decided haggling over a $189 bike was simply not worth the time and frustration. So, I got to work turning lemons into lemonade, with support from Sonny’s Bike Shop.

Problems and solutions

Here are the problems I found with my mini highwheel bicycle, as shipped, and how I dealt with it:

Poor paint quality / prep:

Problem: paint was flaking off the bike where the metal was joined at the rear fork, likely because the joint was not properly cleaned before painting. The multiple scrapes to the paint elsewhere on the frame also left the metal exposed to corrosion.

 

poor paint cheap brakes

Solution: I had the frame sandblasted and powder-coated at All-Star Customs. Pretty sparkles! (You should see it in direct sunlight!)

powder coat

A couple of asterisks. *I’d wanted the color to be grape purple, but it turned out more of a burgundy. *Should not have had the seat post top or bottom portion of the stem powder-coated, as they were too thick to accommodate assembly and had to be chipped down to get the parts to fit.

Difficult brake adjustment

Problem: low-end components with loose tolerances causing massive frustration.

brakes

Solution: remove the brake entirely – the bike is direct drive, like a kid’s tricycle, so it can be slowed by applying pressure to the pedals. This modification potentially increases the risk of me doing a “header” if I need to stop quickly, but I’m willing to take that risk with a “small” 28-inch front wheel.

Poor quality metalwork

Problems: The joints between metal edges of the underside of the front fork were spots instead of full seams. A solder bead inside the head tube peeled up and scraped against the steer tube.

Solutions: Don’t ride the bike like a mountain bike or otherwise do anything to put the frame strength to extreme test. Have the peeling solder filed off in the sandblasting/powder-coating process.

Messed-up bearings

Problem: One of the pedals would not turn. When I took the pedals apart to adjust them, I found that the number of ball bearings in each identically-sized cup-and-race varied from 9 to 11. One of the cups was also dinged.

pedal disassembly

dinged pedal cup

Solution: Clean up and regrease the whole kit and kaboodle, fill the races with 11 bearings each, and tighten everything up to Goldilocks (not too tight, not too loose – just right).

Problem: the caged bearings in the headset were gunked up with dirty, dry grease. (Not an uncommon problem.)

gunky headset bearings

Solution: *carefully* clean and re-grease the bearings and cages. (The cages are thin metal and bend easily!)

Problem: the bearings in the rear wheel were too tight, and the rear wheel would not spin freely. (Not an uncommon problem.)

rear hub bearings

Solution: Tighten up to Goldilocks (not too tight, not too loose – just right)

Problem: one of the cartridge bearings on the front wheel turned only with clicky difficulty, as though flipping a balky old TV dial between stations. The cartridge bearing would not come off the axle, likely because the axle diameter was out of spec after chrome was applied and was functionally too large for the inner diameter of the cartridge bearing.

Solution: Have the bike shop attempt to pry off the cartridge bearing until the cartridge fails, then have them cut off the still-stuck inner part of the cartridge, sand down the axle closer to spec, and install a new cartridge bearing.

de-chromed axle

Problem: a really icky seat with low-quality pleather attached to a metal frame via flimsy foldable metal clips. It’s not “OK,” it’s “Shanghai OK.”

cheap seat

Solution: replace with a Selle Royal Drifter gel saddle, and, because JR at Sonny’s Bike shop has good taste, replace the basic black plastic grips with a pair of Portland Design Works whiskey leather grips.

selle saddle

whiskey grip

And here you have it, folks, I present to you:

Ye Olde Claret Lemon

(So named because the color resembles an “old claret” paint chip, and “ye olde” works in the name for an old-timey-style bike. And lemon, because, well . . . making lemonade here.)

Yeah I wound up spending almost twice again what I initially paid for the bike to make the repairs and upgrades, but now I have a pretty sweet little custom bike.

finished product

I’m learning how to ride it.

I’m a 5’5″ person who wears 30-32″ inseam pants. With the seat down as far as it will go, the distance to the pedal is Goldilocks for my legs. The hitch is, I can’t reach the ground from the seat when the bike is upright. (My 6’3″ husband can reach the ground, but the distance to the pedal is too close for him.)

To get on the bike, I do like a real highwheel rider would: I put my hands on the handlebars and, using the crown of the rear fork as a platform to stand on with my left foot, I push the bike into motion as with a scooter with my right foot, then hoist myself up into the seat, put my feet on the pedals, and go. A video clip here, for the visually inclined.

I am finding riding Ye Olde Claret Lemon to be a good arm workout because my pedaling creates a wobble in the direction of my front wheel that I have to counteract with the handlebars. Maybe this will improve as I get better at riding it.

To get off the bike, I slow it down enough that I can safely tip over to the side and land on my left foot.

And now . . . on to the hijinks! (Tour de Fat, here I come?)

 

2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 7, Winnebago to Tekamah

A hint of the day to come arrived at 1 a.m. with a sharp snap of the tents. Wind! The flapping and shaking continued all through the night and into the morning.

I fueled up with a parfait of cold oatmeal, yogurt, and fruit, served in a styrofoam bowl and eaten with the plastic lid because the spoons hadn’t arrived yet. That cold oatmeal seemed to be exactly what I needed.

I rolled out of the powwow grounds at 5:30 a.m., and as I departed I thanked the security detail who’d been on patrol all that windy night.

When I turned south onto Highway 75, there was a mile-long hill with about a 5% grade. It was breezy and cool on that narrow, tree-lined section of road, and very little traffic at that time of morning on a Saturday. (Thank goodness, as there was no shoulder.) Very pleasant. I didn’t find the hill to be all that bad. It helped that I had Eye of the Tiger playing on my mental soundtrack. I would have sung it aloud, except I couldn’t remember enough of the lyrics.

The rolling countryside was beautiful in the early morning light, the hills and trees playing peek-a-boo with bucolic vistas.

morning corn field

However, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to appreciate these visual gifts, because when you were on a hilltop with an opening in the trees that allowed you to see the view, you had to contend with a vicious crosswind that required you to focus on not getting blown into traffic or off the road.

Out of Winnebago land, into Omaha territory.

omaha reservation

I was really appreciating the hills, because at least I sometimes got a hint of respite from the wind on the uphill, and the higher speed I was able to achieve on the downhill was a psychological boost.

I had to kill my momentum on one of the downhills and come to a fast halt because of what I saw coming up out of the right-hand road ditch up ahead:  a pack of stray dogs!

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As anyone who has ridden a bicycle with any regularity in a rural area knows, loose dogs can be a horror. They can come silently sprinting out from a farmstead to try to tear a chunk out of your leg, or they can run growling and barking directly into your path. And who hasn’t heard one of those awful stories of packs of feral city dogs attacking people and severely injuring or killing them?

I was facing a pack of six largeish dogs, and I was alone. My adrenaline spiked. I knew there was no way I could outrun them by turning around and fleeing up the hill I’d just come down. I dismounted my bike and prepared to use it as a weapon if need be.

Thank GOODNESS the dogs were uninterested! Five of them continued their line of travel across the road into the east ditch. One of them paused on the road shoulder and took a few steps towards me and stared at me before deciding to join the rest of the dogs off in the shrubbery. W-H-E-W!!!!! I waited a bit longer before continuing on, hyper-alert and ready for a sprint-for-your-life moment if needed.

An artist with a studio down one of the hills had set up a rest area for us. The cups of fresh-cut fruit were sorely needed. It’d been only about two hours since breakfast, but I was expending a lot of energy with the wind and the hills. Only about 20 miles to go!

About three miles later, on the west side of the road, there was an overlook that was said to be a “can’t miss opportunity.”

overlook 1

It was lovely, but better photographed in afternoon light. I probably would have appreciated it more if I wasn’t so tired and eager to be done with the ride.

overlook 2

We descended the final hill into Decatur, which contained this neato little stone house:

stone house

Fifteen miles to go, but it seemed like a hundred. We were now on flat road in open country, and the road had shifted south, so we were now bucking direct sustained headwinds of 20-30 miles an hour, gusting towards 40.

It. Was. Awful.

Soul-sucking.

Demoralizing.

At one SAG stop, someone suggested singing songs about the wind to deal with it. One gal said she’d make up her own song, and the title was “Wind, Kiss My A**.”

It was getting warm, but I was staying cool because of the speed of the wind flowing over my body, evaporating my sweat.

I didn’t eat enough. I didn’t drink enough. I just wanted to get done. Every moment was an “are we there yet?” moment.

I alternated stand-and-pedal, slow slogging, and stopping to take breaks. I thought about trying to flag down a SAG vehicle, but we were nearly there, right? And I’m not a quitter.

Finally, finally, I could hear the cowbells at the finish line! Made it back to the Tekamah high school football field!

I leaned my bike wearily against my car and went looking for my luggage. There was lots of luggage, but none of it was mine. None of the Pork Belly Ventures luggage was there!

Turned out, it was over by the picnic shelter on the other side of the grounds – a quarter-mile away. My car keys were in my luggage. I did not plan that well.

Shoulders slumping, utterly exhausted, I trudged over, found my keys in my bag, and trudged back to my car. I put my bike in my car, drove over to where my bags were, and took a shower. (Thank goodness the shower truck was there!) I tried to avoid eye contact with people. If anyone asked how my ride was, I’d be liable to say something sour and sarcastic, or burst into tears.

I was hungry and thirsty, but all I could see of the freewill picnic the Rotary folks put on were soda and meat-based items – the idea of which turned my stomach. I drove into town and got a veggie sandwich – extra cheese! – and devoured that along with chips and bottles of sports drink and orange juice. Better!

With the help of a quick nap and a half-gallon of coffee or so, I was able to drive back home that night, to fall into a 12-hour slumber in my own bed!

Weeklong bike trips are the perfect vacation – you have fun and see the countryside, but you can’t wait to get back home.

day 7 stats
36.6 miles
1,169 feet of climb
9.5 mph avg
(weather data from Tekamah)
low temp 73
high temp 95
avg humidity 54%
precip 0
wind 21-31 g 38 S

Total ride stats
455.5 miles
17,113 feet of climb

Copyright 2017 by Katie Bradshaw

2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 6, Wakefield to Winnebago

Wakefield is known for its eggs, and the people of Wakefield sure know how to assembly-line an omelette. I was really impressed with their omelette corps, who were cranking out custom omelettes before 5 a.m.

The process was step 1, fill a cup with your preferred omelette toppings, step 2, walk towards the line of omelette cooks and try to figure out which one of the people shouting “I’m ready” you should go to. To make sure they could get people through the line quickly, each omelette cook would get a new omelette going as soon as their pan was empty. There were also cups of fresh fruit, muffins and coffee. Great breakfast!

wakefield omelette breakfast

I really don’t have much recollection of the first part of the morning. Strava says there were hills, and a recreation area near Hubbard is called the Danish Alps.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 6.42.10 AM

I do recall the gas station at Hubbard. There was a SAG stop in Hubbard, mile 20, but I really needed a bathroom, so I went to the gas station instead. Hubbard has a Hoot Owl Days celebration, which explains the owl theme. There were several cyclists in there, and a local woman had us pose for a photo. “You’re doubling the population of Hubbard,” she laughed.

hubbard gives a hoot

Highway 35 was another of those roads with a kaBANG kaBANG kaBANG irritating series of perpendicular cracks on the shoulder. I got in with a group of cyclists that would ride in the travel lane until one of us spotted a vehicle approaching from behind, and yelled “car!”, and we’d all file back onto the shoulder to make way. There wasn’t much traffic, so this worked out OK, but it was wearying to either have to be so alert for traffic or to ride over the jarring cracks.

At the rest stop around mile 30, there was bad news – a cyclist had been hit. An emergency vehicle roared past. Sobering, because you think, “Gosh, I hope that person is OK.” and “I wonder what happened.” and “That could have been me.”

This rest stop was a decision point. We could head north on a route that would check off Iowa and South Dakota (70 miles for the day), or we could go a shorter route straight to Winnebago (57 miles for the day). My stupid internal demand for completion demanded that I do the longer route so I could say I did all five states on the Five States BRAN theme. (In restrospect, I should have done the shorter route.)

There was a pair of cyclists who’d been riding together who each chose a different route. The one who wanted to do the longer route was a guy who’d been riding about the same pace as me the whole week. He asked if I wanted to stick together on the route. Given the crash, I thought that wouldn’t be a bad idea. I agreed we could check in with each other along the way.

The pavement-marked route up to Iowa was different from what was posted in the ride guide, and followed Highway 77, which, though it had nice, wide shoulders with decent pavement, had to cross on and off ramps for Interstate 129. That was not very fun, and I’m surprised we were sent on that route. Google Maps screen cap below – I was too busy paying attention to traffic to take any photos.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 7.10.12 AM

At least I was used to dealing with crossing on/off ramps from my rides on Highway 71 south out of Scottsbluff.

There was also a confusing left turn to follow Highway 77 in traffic-y South Sioux City, and then an awkward jog to get onto the sidewalk to access the path over the river bridge.

Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.

iowa

In Iowa, there was a whole lot of very lovely path to follow on the Riverfront Trail, which was good, because, as I learned, BRAN’s insurance didn’t cover us outside of Nebraska, and there was no SAG support or official route marking. The main downfall of being on the path was that there weren’t any places to eat, unless you crossed over or under Interstate 29 into downtown Sioux City. I hadn’t done enough research to know what options there were, and I didn’t know the neighborhoods and didn’t have a way to lock my bike, so I just kept going on the path.

On the bridge overhead, an ambulance screamed north into Sioux City. Our fellow cyclist?

I lost track of my ride buddy when I stopped to check out some kind of visitor development adjacent to the path. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there are two buildings here at “The Crossroads” – one is the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, and the other is the Betty Strong Encounter Center. So interesting to have two centers on the same campus, one featuring a tale of Euro exploration, the other focused on intercultural encounters, such as the one between the explorers and Native Americans.

the crossroads

compass

sign of the cross

There was one point of confusion where the path ended in a “sidewalk closed” sign, but I happened to glance over as another cyclist was returning via a parking lot, and he indicated the direction I should take.

Lots of green shade, birdsong and wildlife on the path. Very pleasant, especially considering that the temperature was climbing. Beware: turkey crossing!

turkey crossing

I found my ride buddy again. He was sitting on a bench, researching area restaurants on his phone, so I continued on.

I paused to eat a packet of jelly beans before heading out onto Highway 12 to continue towards the South Dakota border. I luckily caught up with some other riders, whom I was able to follow onto the correct route, as I’d mis-remembered the street to turn on. They were faster than I was, though, and I caught a red light, so I lost them again. I missed a turn, figured out my mistake, and found my way to the Big Sioux River bridge.

big sioux river

Made it to South Dakota!

in south dakots.jpg

I’d hoped there would be a restaurant or c-store I could pop into, but I could see nothing but casinos on the South Dakota side of the river. Nope. Not going there by myself.

As I turned around to cross back into Iowa, here came my ride buddy again. We stuck together back to The Crossroads. I went inside to use the bathroom (there was tile on the floor in the stalls that had been photo-printed to look like grass!). I hoped to find a cafe or even a gift shop with snacks (nope). There was, however, a display of gorgeous photo portraits of Native American youth from the St. Augustine Indian Mission. They were wearing regalia, and each young person stated what they wanted to be when they grew up. Most of the boys wanted to play professional sports. One of the girls wanted to be an astronaut. I’m totally pulling for her!

My ride buddy wanted to find a restaurant in Sioux City. I just wanted to get back to camp as soon as I could. We split up again, and I set my sights on a cluster of fast food restaurants in South Sioux City. Ice cream sounded really good.

I crossed the bridge back into Nebraska, and got caught at the awkward sidewalk transition, where busy traffic kept blocking the crosswalk. I took a left to detour to the Dairy Queen. Some other cyclists started to follow me, so I paused to clarify that I was going off route to a Dairy Queen. A father-daughter pair decided that Dairy Queen sounded better than McDonald’s, so they accompanied me to the restaurant. I was very happy for the company.

I ordered a peanut buster parfait, and the daughter expressed concern at my lack of solid food. “There’s peanuts,” I said. My appetite was never really big when I started to get hot and tired. She shared some of her french fries with me.

We left the pleasantly air-conditioned restaurant, and we three made our way back to highway 77, where my faster companions bid me adieu.

This is where the horrible part of the day began for me. Open, flat road. No hills for ride-down respite. With headwinds gusting to 32 miles an hour. Twenty miles of this. For a little while I caught a “train” and rode in the lee of some other cyclists at their invitation, but I couldn’t keep up with their pace, so I dropped back again. For awhile I pulled another, apparently more tired, cyclist in my wake.

It was a godsend to arrive in Winnebago.

I paused to admire the lovely murals on the side of a discount store. I later learned this was part of the Ho-Chunk Village development.

mural dollar general

There were welcome signs along the way through town, but I was too tired to photograph any of them.

Because of traffic and fatigue, I missed getting a picture of the gorgeous large-scale art on the side of the Winnebago Public School, and I can’t find a photo of it online, but the welcome pamphlet I got when I arrived in camp had a photo of it.

IMG_3805

There was a DJ with a sound system who was calling out a welcome to the cyclists coming into town. Very cool.

But I wasn’t at camp yet. The route went all the way south through Winnebago and then a mile east. I kept seeing white vans go by with colored flags attached. Must be a shuttle system?

We were camping at the powwow grounds. It was glorious. So much shade!

camp shade

Wearily I settled my gear and trudged to the shower truck. There was a 40-minute wait, because the water source here was from a well, and there was not enough water pressure to fill the shower truck tanks fast enough. An announcer on the loudspeaker encouraged riders to take a shuttle to the school if they wanted to, but I was just too tired to manage that level of thinking. I would rather sit and wait. I was grateful for the cold soda the Pork Belly Ventures crew offered me.

I was really bummed I had gotten into camp so late, somewhere around 2-3 p.m., as the shuttles I’d seen earlier were tours, three different ones, to the public school and student academy, the Ho-Chunk Village development and statue garden, and the Little Priest Tribal College and a museum.

As I was sitting there, I overheard the woman next to me talking about the person who’d gotten hit. She didn’t see it happen, but she came up on the scene, and the whole experience shook her enough that she had taken the direct route to Winnebago, abandoning her plan to do the long route to South Dakota that day. The cyclist had apparently been unresponsive initially, and the young driver involved had been freaking out, “Is he going to die?” At announcements that night, we heard that he’d suffered some scrapes and bruising, and was being held overnight for observation, but was expected to be OK. The story was, the young driver was trying to be courteous and give the cyclists ample space as he passed, and he was in the oncoming traffic lane when another car turned onto the road oncoming, causing the driver to overcorrect, which sent him into the shoulder, where he clipped the cyclist with his pickup truck mirror.

I was kind of freaked out, too, thinking about all this, and the fact that, while most riders had their BRAN tags on their bikes as ID, not all of them did. And then thinking about all the time I spent riding by myself on the highway that day, and all the off-route riding into Iowa and South Dakota, and how nobody would really have known where all the cyclists wound up if someone had disappeared. If I had disappeared, nobody would have known until late that night, if my tent neighbors happened to notice I was missing, or if my husband had gotten worried by my lack of texting and contacted the BRAN folks.

Yep. The week of riding was really wearing on me, physically and mentally.

Finally, the showers were back up to pressure. As I headed into a stall, I noticed a butterfly slurping up the moisture on the shower curtain.

butterfly in shower

It was pretty dry there. I was grateful the Winnebago folks had a water truck to spray down the gravel area upwind from camp. Otherwise things would have been a lot dustier.

Once I was cleaned up, I went in search of food. The food setup at the powwow grounds was so fantastic! In a short walk, I was able to procure and consume:

  • a rhubarb bar
  • fresh strawberries
  • a slice of pizza
  • hominy-and-beef soup with frybread
  • rhubarb cake

And I wished my stomach were bigger and I could have walked around eating all night!

There were craft vendors, too. I bought a couple of beaded bracelets, and wish I’d bought more. I kind of caught the tail end of some cultural and language demonstrations. There were some Winnbago tribe t-shirts for sale as a fundraiser, and by the end of the evening, a significant portion of the cyclists was wearing one. Here’s me modeling mine:

IMG_3807

The evening featured a cultural demonstration of song and dance by some of the Winnebago youth. The Sacred Voice song (music video here) gave me chills. The demonstration of the different dance styles (some good explanations here, plus hoop dancing), was followed by an appreciation of the work and care the young people put into their dancing and regalia – a blanket was spread on the ground, and the audience – cyclists and Natives alike – walked up and placed money on it. There was also a singing of the Lord’s Prayer accompanied by Native sign language.

powwow grounds

Just such a beautiful place to camp! And they even provided wifi. That evening around camp, several cyclists could be found with glowing screens in their hands.

wifi

I heard that Winnebago was the winner of $6,000 in Nebraska post-secondary school scholarships in the “Best Host Community” rider vote, and I’m glad.

day 6 stats
71 miles
1,380 feet of climb
11.3 mph avg
(weather data from Sioux City, IA)
low temp 62
high temp 94
avg humidity 48%
precip 0
wind 14-25 g 32 SSE

Copyright 2017 by Katie Bradshaw

2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 5, Wayne to Wakefield

It was a GOAL-den sunrise at the Wayne Rugby Park. (Nothing like starting the day with a pun!)

GOALden sunrise

I really have to give Wayne credit – they had the most abundant and well-kept portable toilets of any city we stayed in. Handwashing stations and trash receptacles, too.

porta potties

I had a great breakfast from the MOPS fundraiser booth – a yogurt, fruit and granola parfait – with homemade granola.

breakfast by MOPS

Last night I’d gone back and forth about what route I would take today to Wakefield. There were three options. One – a 90-plus miler – was out of the running for sure. The question was, do I do the 46-mile route, or the 28-mile route?

I’d decided on the 46-mile route before I fell asleep, but this morning I was just feeling so tired. I decided to do the 28-mile route. I dawdled a bit in camp and was one of the later cyclists to make it out.

I rode at a lazy pace instead of trying to push myself all the time. Gentle hills, gentle breeze. It was very nice.

Except . . . my dawdling this morning meant I’d had time to drink an extra cup of coffee. Gosh, a bathroom sure would be nice about now!

I arrived at the Sag stop 10 miles in, where the 28 and 46 routes diverged. A couple of bikepacker bikes were parked nearby. A few people were using the support of the BRAN ride to test out their gear and strategy prior to undertaking a bikepacking adventure. Smart!

bikepackers

The slow pace that morning had been so refreshing, I was now rethinking my route choice. What else would I have to do the rest of the day? Might as well keep riding, right? But I was still torn. I really needed a rest.

I decided to ask the SAG volunteer whether Concord, the next town on the 28-mile route, or Laurel, the next town on the 46-mile route, had a bathroom. He didn’t know. He pointed to a tree and said, “There’s your bathroom.”

Remembering from my ruminations the previous day that Laurel was the bigger town, and thinking it would be more likely to have a publicly-accessible bathroom, I decided to take the 46-mile route.

Indeed, Laurel had relief for me: TWO gas stations (neither of which shows up in Google). I wound up learning something interesting. I saw an older gent get out of his farm truck and walk over and take a box and a paper out of this cabinet in front of the gas station.

ag parts cabinet

Another man was smoking a cigarette nearby. I asked him if he knew what the cabinet was all about. He did.

There used to be an ag implement dealer in Laurel. It was bought by a bigger company. Promises were made about the location staying open. Two years later, it closed. The cabinet is a way of accessing parts without having to drive 15-plus miles each way to the closest remaining dealer in Wayne. When you’re in the midst of a planting or harvest operation trying to beat a change in weather, taking an hour or so out of your day to get a needed part is the last thing you want to do.

An interesting conversation I had with a fellow cyclist later in the day stemmed from this ag-implement-parts dilemma. His son, who recently got into farming, thinks that if the regulatory hurdles currently blocking package delivery via drone can be overcome, farmers would some day be able to order small replacement parts for their equipment via cell phone, and have the items delivered right to wherever their malfunctioning implement was located.

This is what I love about travel by bicycle – being on a bicycle versus being enclosed in a vehicle breaks down conversational barriers and opens opportunities to learn new things. Would I have noticed the ag parts cabinet and asked questions if I’d stopped at the gas station in a car? Probably not. I probably would never have come through Laurel, since it’s off the beaten path. And I certainly never would have had that conversation with my fellow cyclist if we were traveling on that same road enclosed in separate cars.

I think being enclosed in a vehicle all the time cuts us off from our fellow human beings. I think our habit of rushing from one place to another at the highest possible speed, pushing 70-80 miles an hour, contributes to the social divide between people. I think rides like BRAN help to improve our civil society if they provide an opportunity for people who never would have a chance to meet otherwise – urban cyclists and rural residents – to learn from one another, face to face.

On a relaxed ride day, I think about a lot of things!

Once I departed Laurel and followed Highway 20’s 90-degree curve to the east, I began grumbling to myself about the quality of the road surface. The road had been chip sealed sometime in the recent past (sprayed with tar and coated with gravel), and the excess gravel had not been swept away, so I was constantly having to dodge around or carefully, carefully steer through pools of loose gravel on the road shoulder. (I rode out in the travel lane whenever I could.) I was annoyed until I started imagining that, rather than being a carelessly forgotten road hazard, the piles of pink gravel were instead the aftermath of a FABULOUS pink-gravel-confetti party. Whee! Gravel par-tay!

loose gravel

Speaking of “Wheee!” – on the last bit of Highway 20 before the route turned south onto Highway 9, there was a downhill with a 7-8% grade (per my Strava). There was no traffic at the time I hit that downhill, so I got out into the lane and let ‘er rip. Gosh, that was fun!!!

I was getting hungry, so I was glad there was a welcoming shade tent set up for us in front of the gas station in Allen. (The shade was very much appreciated!)

allen gas station

For a freewill donation, there were supplies to make sandwiches, but I was a little unsure about the food, since most of it was crowded with flies that had come for a visit from the exotic animal farm across the road.

One of the volunteers at the tent told us about a newly-opened restaurant up the main street hill in Allen – the yellowish building you can see in the above photo through the gas pump canopy. She also told us the story behind Allen’s strange claim to fame. Our ride guide had stated:

The original town was built out on a higher hill than now and the townspeople decided to lower the town. To accomplish this, its buildings were placed on stilts, the earth was excavated beneath them, and then they were lowered to their present elevation.

The volunteer elaborated that the reason for this crazy feat of earthmoving was that the slope of the main street was too steep for newly-popular automobiles to make it to the businesses downtown. She said the original slope could still be seen behind the bank at the top of the hill. Here’s the link to the town’s history website.

First things first: food!

Here’s Henry’s. You can see by the line of the building versus the slope of the road what kind of hill Allen was built upon.

henry's

Henry’s is clearly a quality establishment – there’s a bicycle above the bathrooms. 🙂

bike above bathroom

And the Chicago gal in me appreciated the random presence of the Blues Brothers up in the rafters.

blues brothers

I sat down with a group of cyclists who were already in the restaurant. It didn’t take much prompting for me to order a beer to go along with my buffet of BBQ ribs, beans, chicken alfredo and salad. I probably sat in the cool air of Henry’s for an hour and a half. I really like relaxed days on the bike!

It was soon time to get moving, though, and to check out the story of the Allen hill reduction operation.

There sure is an odd swale of hill behind the brick bank building at left, and across the field near the water tower in this image there’s a retaining wall holding back earth. Strange topography indeed.

allen hill

Still . . . if something so monumental were to occur, wouldn’t someone have photographed the effort, or written about it? I really wanted to check out the Dixon County Museum in Allen to see what evidence there was, but it was only open on Sundays or by appointment. A post office worker and customer were happy to help track down someone to open the museum, but it was already past noon, and the day was growing hotter. I wanted to get going. The mystery remains!

Another 15 miles down the road, and – TADAAA! – a Wakefield welcome! (The bigger bikes fell over, but I get what they were trying to do.)

wakefield welcome

And then there was this really weird “tandem” trike:

werid tandem

A Spin-About?

spin about

I learned it was introduced to the market in 1998 by Midwest Contracting and Manufacturing, Inc., for party rental companies and campgrounds. (I also learned that these exist, and that I kinda want one.)

A church conveniently located on the route to the campsite creatively attracted attention to its evening fundraiser meal.

church meal

I detoured a couple of blocks into the neighborhood and found this utterly delightful yard display: 3 – 2 – 1 – GO!

3 2 1 go

I did feel very welcomed in Wakefield!

welcome

And I did enjoy my stay! (I took this picture from the vantage point of the tractor that was pulling a shuttle trailer between camp and the downtown.)

enjoy your stay

In the welcome bags we got upon arrival, we got a vote ticket and instructions to head downtown to view the decorated planters and vote for our favorite one. What fun!

Here’s a compilation of some of the bicycles decorating Wakefield’s downtown:

And individual comments on some of them:

LOLWUT

monkey bars

So Americana!

americana

Gosh, do we cyclists really have that much of a reputation as drinkers?

sad stereotype

Another attempt at commercialization?

crass

Cute, but I kinda feel like this is bad juju, Crashing is not a good thing.

crash

I think perhaps the same decorator was at work at the railroad museum. (I did laugh.)

when bulls attack

This one was very cute, in front of the Little Red Hen Theatre.

little red hen

I’m a bit baffled here – why a raccoon? And why is it wearing an origami paper hat?

raccoon in paper hat

Well played, Miller Building Supply. Well played!

ET

And someone taking advantage of an opportunity. (Love the beetle-green color!)

opportunist

Here was another very cute form of fishing for opportunity. A couple of kids’ bikes in front of a restaurant? I learned from the boy who was riding one of them that his mom asked him and his sister to park their bikes in front of the restaurant so the BRAN riders would see them and come in.

bike advertising lunas cafe

Well, it worked! I was so excited to see pupsas on the menu! Ever since I learned about pupusas at the Des Moines, Iowa, farmers market, I’ve been on constant lookout for them. They’re kind of like a super thick corn tortilla, stuffed with cheese and beans and/or meat and accompanied by a spicy cabbage slaw called curtido.

pupusas

Man, Wakefield has some great food! Check out these snaps of a menu at Snack Attack. They also had AMAZING looking fruit cups and popsicles. (If I lived in Wakefield, I would be in here All. The. Time.)

There was a beer garden and band downtown, but I headed back to camp. I needed my sleep!

day 5 stats
48.5 miles
1,975 feet of climb
10.6 mph avg
(weather data from Wayne)
low temp 60
high temp 85
avg humidity 49%
precip 0
wind 7-16 g 22 SW

Copyright 2017 by Katie Bradshaw

2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 4, North Bend to Wayne

At 5:07 a.m., I took my favorite picture of the whole ride. It encapsulates for me the anticipation of a new day on the road.

morning in camp

A few minutes later, I was grabbing a breakfast burrito from the pavilion in the North Bend City Park. Thank goodness for good people who are willing to get up pre-dawn to feed a bunch of cyclists!

breakfast line.jpg

Around mile 10, north of Webster, I hear two young voices calling, “Bake sale! Bake sale!”

“Bake sale?” I check for traffic and pull a u-turn. Who can resist a random roadside bake sale staffed by a lovely young family?

bake sale

Some riders got their baby fix cooing over the youngest bake sale family member.

baby

The boy in the red shirt in the earlier photo had a job. He was the sign spinner. He had a tip jar.

tipes

Adorable, yes?

In Snyder, I took a minor detour off course to see what there was to see.

Interesting building. Kind of looks wild-west-saloon-y.

snyder building

Man Cave, complete with car-seat furniture.

snyder man cave

Snyder Post Office, with Pony Express mural.

snyder post office

Even the gas station / mini mart had a mural. (And a bathroom. Thank goodness. Though the door didn’t latch. There was a sign on the door warning people to knock first.)

snyder gas station

Once I left Snyder, the quality of the day went downhill. (Figuratively, not literally.)

The shoulder surface on Highway 91 was awful. There were those ca-CHUNK ca-CHUNK perpendicular cracks of the sort that drive a cyclist mad and/or break spokes and/or bruise the derrière. Attempting to ride on the smoother travel lane was tricky business because of high traffic volume, a couple of hills, and wicked bad parallel cracks between the shoulder and road surface that I swear could have swallowed half a wheel in some places.

A little while after we turned north onto US 275, the road surface improved, but it was still not a very fun place to ride. There was lots of high-speed truck traffic, and with the wind coming south-southwest, we sometimes caught nasty airwash. There wasn’t much sightseeing, either, because of the need to scan for the debris on the shoulder – items that one might expect from a route with heavy truck travel:  tire scraps, bolts, bits of tiedown equipment, soda bottles filled with urine.

Then there was the roadkill. I saw so many different types of birds dead on the side of the road, if I were so inclined, I could’ve gotten a good start on building images for a Macabre Roadside Nature Guide. This, my friends *was* a yellow warbler:

macabre roadside nature guide

The multitude of senseless deaths made me sad. The experience of being on that highway was so disagreeable, it made me start thinking about how the purpose of a highway is not to be pretty or even slightly pleasant. A highway is purely functional, meant to move people and stuff from point A to point B. (And there are traffic engineers who purposely propose bike paths right next to them! See Exhibit A and Exhibit B.)

To add misery to my day, the roadside had been recently mowed, and with the wind and all the trucks, the grass particles were blowing everywhere, kicking my allergies into overdrive. By the time I got to West Point, I was a sneezy, dripping, red-eyed mess.

In town, the allergen level decreased somewhat. I stopped at a community fundraiser booth to grab some food. (Fruit! Oh, man! That fruit on a stick was da bomb!)

west point snack

The chiropractic clinic where the booth was stationed let us drink their water AND use their bathroom. ❤

chiropractic office

I inquired about a nearby pharmacy where I could pick up some more allergy medication. There was a Shopko less than a half-mile up the road along the route, in a commercial development set back behind a truck stop. As I pedaled through the parking lot, I noticed the pharmacy had a drive-up window. Hmm . . . attempt to park my bike outside and walk through the store in my bike gear, or try the drive-up window?

I reckon that might’ve been the first time anyone’s ridden a bike up to the Shopko pharmacy drive-thru in West Point, Nebraska.

The miserable highway slog continued another 8 miles to Beemer, where there was a SAG stop.

trail's inn SAG

I took a detour to see a little bit of the town, and found this interesting-looking building. It was built in 1900 to be a Congregational Church, but is now apparently a private residence. (How cool would it be to have your very own belfry?)

beemer former church

Another 6 highway miles, and Wisner provided respite from the open road. A local fundraiser group had smartly placed a large grill and some picnic tables in a patch of shade upwind from the route. The aroma did all the advertising.

Not sure where they got the watermelon, but this group of cyclists was getting creative with the implements at hand.

wisner watermelon feed

In the background, a truck was unloading grain to the elevator.

wisner grain elevator

Did you know: Wisner has a Blarney Stone. Read more about it here.

wisner blarney stone.jpg

After Wisner, the highway curved, and now we were bucking a headwind with enough of a crosswind that, when amplified by the airwash from an oncoming truck, occasionally could have ripped my helmet off if it hadn’t been strapped on.

There was a couple of miles of out-and-back to Pilger in the ride guide, which was promoted as a way to support the people of that town who lost so much in the 2014 tornado outbreak, but there wasn’t any directional signage that I could see on the road, and with the awfulness of the highway and the wind, I wanted to get off that route as soon as possible. Turning north on Highway 15 was a relief!

Just 15 miles to go – and hills. My legs just weren’t as spry as they were in the Bohemian Alps. I stopped to rest for a moment and took a picture of this piece of ground, which made me think of a striped fabric pattern.

field pattern

The final mile or so of the ride was lovely – on a bike path on the southeast side of Wayne, which connected us to our campsite on the rugby grounds. I had no idea rugby was so big in Wayne. They host a massive rugby tournament every March.

I thought this barn structure serving as bike parking on the rugby grounds was very picturesque.

bikes parked rugby grounds

There was plenty of room to spread out the tents on the rugby grounds. More than plenty. Suburban-sprawl-level plenty. Like it or not, I was going to do a lot of walking at this campsite. After I hiked to the shower truck in back, I just lay in my tent for awhile. The week was really starting to wear on me.

I was getting hungry, though, so I needed to go find food. I couldn’t figure out the shuttle system, so I just started walking. Found some rhubarb pie and HOMEMADE ice cream at a Rotary booth. Eventually, I found my way to the farmer’s market and bought a couple of tamales: spinach and poblano. Tasty!

tamales

I was too tired to get up off the picnic table where I was sitting to chase down the shuttle when it went by, so I wound up taking a meandering walk through the downtown area.

Downtown Wayne sure put out the welcome mat for BRAN!

My hopes were lifted for a moment when I saw the words “brewing company” in this sign. Air conditioning and a place to sit and sip an interesting beer?? But no, the brewery was not open yet – only a gift shop. (Whoever does the merch layout in that gift shop is a mad genius. Very fun place to look around!)

not open yet

Interesting clay tile mosaic. (Also interesting that the town refers to itself as Wayne, America, rather than Wayne, Nebraska. Hrm.) (Also, heh – I’m featured in the photo at the top of the page – they caught me coming into the greeting station at the bike path. Funny how lots of other cyclists were mentioning the awfulness of Highway 275, too.)

clay mosaic

Interesting mural.

wayne mural

Random masked chicken? (Wayne puts on a yearly Chicken Show, don’t ya know?)

holy random chicken batman

The Majestic Theater was showing . . . Blazing Saddles? Hahahahaha! After 70 miles on a bike saddle, I found much humor in this movie selection. (Did they choose it on purpose??) I totally would’ve gone to see the show, but it started at 7 p.m., and the end of the movie would’ve gotten pretty late for me, in bike-tour time.

majestic blazing saddles

Instead, I sat on the bench in the shade of the canopy and watched for the next shuttle. I had ample time to contemplate the traffic on Main Street – Highway 15 – and I decided that having your main street be a major thoroughfare was kind of a detriment to pedestrian comfort. (Such an interesting color pattern to that brick on the building across the street!)

wayne main drag

I finally caught a (very bouncy) shuttle trailer back to camp.

I was glad I had the chance to see the rugby exhibition game Wayne staged for us. I’d never seen rugby played before. I got a primer from the ref: kick or run forward, pass backwards, and touch the ball down in the end zone for points (called a “try”) before attempting to kick for more points. I got a few more tips from a young woman in the stands who plays rugby. (When she’s not injured. She was on crutches from her third ACL tear. I love her spirit. When I asked about how a rubgy ball differed from a football, she went up to the announcer booth to grab one to show me. Lacking hands to carry the ball because of her crutches, she tucked the ball into the bottom of her shirt to transport it without having to ask for help, creating a “rugby baby.” 😀 )

For more info on how rugby is played, see here.

rugby 1rugby 2

Cyclists were beginning to drift off to their tents before the match ended. I drifted to my tent, but not to sleep. At least not right away. Sleeping is not one of my superpowers.

day 4 stats
70.2 miles
1,943 feet of climb
12.3 mph avg
(weather data from Wayne)
low temp 62
high temp 83
avg humidity 50%
precip 0
wind 7-15 g 20 SSW

Copyright 2017 by Katie Bradshaw

2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 3, Weeping Water to North Bend

With the past couple of days being so awfully hot, I was a bit worried about the 70-plus-mile ride ahead of me. I was determined to get on the road before 6 a.m.

I got to the Weeping Water American Legion around 5:15 a.m.  The menu the day before had promised pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and eggs. It turned out there were no eggs. *sad face* BUT, there was peanut butter to schmear on my pancakes for a protein boost.

Bikes were parked all over the place outside the Legion.

bikes parked in downtown weeping water

Immediately after breakfast, to get out of Weeping Water, there was a hill. I’ve no idea of its accuracy, but Strava says the grade ranged from 6-14%. I was so glad I’d practiced my stand-and-pedal technique the day before, and that all my gears were functional. That was a heckuva hill! It sure woke me up!

I got to the first rest stop around 7 a.m. I really, really needed a bathroom. The rest stop was in a church parking lot. Surely there was a bathroom there? I asked the SAG stop volunteer. No bathrooms were planned, but maybe there was a portapotty in the adjacent cemetery.

Nope.

Ugh. I was desperate. This was not a matter of having drunk too much coffee. It was a matter of having eaten something that my digestive tract was not fond of, and it was muttering, “Eject! Eject!”

I tried the back door of the church’s activity hall. It was unlocked! “Hello?” The lights were off. Did they mean to leave the door unlocked? At this point, and contrary to my nature, I didn’t care! There was a kitchen, so clearly there was plumbing. Aha! A bathroom!!!

I sent a slightly belated collections plate donation through the mail. Thank you, Trinity Lutheran Church, for helping me preserve my dignity that day!

the church

The day’s tailwind was lovely. I got to Ashland by 7:45 a.m. Time to check out a couple more Nebraska Passport stops!

The Glacial Till Tasting Room was closed at that time of day, of course, but the Postscript letterpress arts store (with espresso and tea) opened at 8. Or at least, it was supposed to. I waited until five after eight, but no lights came on inside, and I was being tormented by mosquitoes and the sound of a concrete saw operating nearby. I left without being able to peruse the sweet, sweet letterpress art. *sad face* I’m a huge fan of sending cards through the mail, and I love letterpress. It’s probably a good thing I missed the shopportunity – anything I purchased would’ve gotten smashed and soggy in my bike jersey pocket anyhow.

postscript

As I walked my bike along the sidewalk to the corner to rejoin the flow of northbound bicycles, I passed a store window display that made me chuckle. “Highway Baby?” “Highway Buddy?” Clearly a BRAN rider training tool. Ha!

highway baby

Around 9:15 a.m., I hit a SAG stop, 38 or so miles in. The sign was very helpful: 10 miles to lunch in Wahoo, 40 miles to our ultimate destination in North Bend!

sag stop

The wrestling team in Wahoo was hosting a fundraiser lunch for BRAN riders. I knew this because there were several hand-lettered signs along the miles leading into Wahoo. Smart people!

fundraiser sign

The lunch stop in Wahoo at 10 a.m. was none too early. I was hungry! And I totally salute the Wahoo wrestling team – they were one of the few fundraiser meals to offer no-meat options. (Also, they had bathrooms available!)

no meat burritos

One of the best parts about the lunch stop in Wahoo: ice cream! With sprinkles!!

ice cream

I wish I’d felt like I had the time to explore the town. Ever since I heard there was a Wahoo, Nebraska, I’d had the urge to visit. (How could the citizens be anything but enthusiastic?) But with 30 miles to go, I contented myself with a photo of the Wahoo sign, which one of the Wahoo students took for me.  (A quick note to my mom: C. W. Anderson loved drawing horses, and he wrote children’s books!) (And for those of you who don’t remember from science class, George Beadle won a Nobel Prize for his one-gene-one-enzyme hypothesis.)

wahoo sign

About two miles west of Wahoo, I paused by the side of the road. There was another Nebraska Passport stop nearby – about a mile and a half off course, down a gravel road. The gravel looked to be in good shape. I decided to go for it! (I texted my husband, just so someone would know where I’d gone if I disappeared.)

I’d recently been talking to one of my sisters about the enchantment of dilapidated structures, and I found a lovely example on my off-route road:

abandoned house

When I stepped into Our Corner Cottage gift shop, I had a “one of these things is not like the others” moment:  everything in the shop smelled good, except me. One of the gals in the shop was clearly keeping her distance. Oh well. I got my digital passport stamp, bought a piece of chocolate caramel, and headed back to the route.

At about mile 60, we turned north on Highway 79 and began riding the Bohemian Alps. Sweet, sweet tailwind! I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun climbing hills in my life!

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 9.49.34 PM

A sign! Seems friendly . . .

a friendly sign

There were multiple signs indicating that I should stop for a snack in Prague. I’m ever so glad I did, because I got to eat a dumpling on a stick, dipped in a paper cup of meat gravy. Dang, that was good!

dumpling on a stick

North of Prague, there was a field of daisies. I have never seen anything like that outside of a jigsaw puzzle or a calendar page. The panorama photo does not do it any sort of justice.

field of daisies

On the bridge across the Platte River, I heard a violent clatter behind me. My bike light had fallen off, and parts flew everywhere! Luckily, it had come apart at the seams, and it all snapped back together and worked just fine. Since I was already stopped on the bridge, might as well take a panoramic photo.

platte river.jpg

The finish line in North Bend! (Cute how they painted the street brick.)

finish line

First orders of business: find tent, get showered.

Second order of business: find the laundromat.

I had no more clean bike clothes. The helpful young man at the information booth showed me on a map where I needed to go. There was a shuttle I could take to get downtown, but it was taking too long, so I walked. And this is what I found when I arrived at the laundromat:

closed laundromat

D’oh!

*SAD. FACE.*

Being the resourceful person I am, I walked a few more blocks to the hardware store and bought a 5-gallon bucket, and did laundry the old-fashioned way.

laundry bucket

I will tell an embarrassing tale on myself now.

I had a lot of laundry that needed to hang dry – more than what would fit on the laundry line I brought. But no problem – there was lots of chain-link fence at the ball diamond and school where we were camped. Several other cyclists had already hung up their gear to dry on the ballfield fence. I draped my clothes off the first-base line and wandered off to get some food. (Had an outSTANDING Indian taco!)

I soon realized: there was a ball game that night! And there were TV cameras covering the game! And my laundry was hanging behind the first-base line!

*blush*

Oh well. There were other people doing it, and there were a whole bunch of tents beyond the outfield fence, so it’s not like it was a normal day. I’d just wait until the game was over to sneak over and grab my laundry.

I got to talking with my tent neighbors about George Beadle and all things science-geeky, and time flew quickly. I suddenly remembered: Oh! I need to go get my laundry.

There were still guys on the field as I began taking the first pieces of laundry down and stuffing them in my bag. Huh. They like to linger after games, I guess. But then . . . THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER STARTED PLAYING. Egads! A double-header!

I stopped messing with my laundry, took my hat off and stood at attention in front of the remaining clothing dangling from the fence. As soon as the anthem was over, I grabbed the rest of my laundry and hightailed it back to my tent.

Lesson learned: check the game scheduled before you hang laundry on a ballfield fence!

Speaking of double-header – that night game right next to the campsite was not a very fun thing. I was really glad my tent was on the other side of the school building. But the light and the noise didn’t seem to bother the person in the green tent, who was snoring when I took this picture at 9:22 p.m.:

late night game

day 3 stats
81.7 miles
3,266 feet of climb
12.6 mph avg
(weather data from Wahoo)
low temp 62
high temp 84
avg humidity 44%
precip 0
wind 7-15 g 20 SE

Copyright 2017 by Katie Bradshaw

2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 2 Auburn to Weeping Water

I’m not sure if I ever slept in Auburn. My nylon sleeping bag was too gross and sticky to lie on, and my silk sleeping bag liner was too hot to crawl into, so I tried to just lay on top of the liner and not move too much. I texted my husband around 4:30 a.m.:

Operative word for today is “clammy”. Dew covering everything.

The inside of my tent “window” – the whole inside of the tent fly, actually – was dripping with condensation.

clammy

Pancakes for breakfast again, but this time it came with showmanship. The Pancake Man is a hoot, even at 5:30 b.c. (before coffee).

Catch!

pancake 1

And she did!

pancake 2

(I’m so glad he didn’t choose me for this stunt!)

Fearful of the heat, I hit the road by 6 a.m. Got to the first SAG stop by 7:15 a.m. Funny how the bottle of hand sanitizer was always surrounded by cones. Not sure if that was a *hint, hint* to use it, or if people kept knocking it over.

first sag

We went through a little construction, but it wasn’t bad at all.

construction

We got into Nebraska City, and I deviated a couple of blocks from the course to pick up another Nebraska Passport stop (it was closed, of course).

TTM toys

The route turned west down Central Avenue for our Nebraska City tour. Oh my! I like Nebraska City’s downtown. It’s hard to believe the population is just 7,265. There were a bunch of bikes in front of a cafe, but I pedaled on and stopped in front of this building: Central Apple Market.

central apple market

I went inside. Oh my! The bakery case! I must have been the first cyclist to stop in that day, as a group of people gathered for morning coffee asked me lots of questions about the ride.

bakery case

I got an apple fritter. I think it was the best one I’ve ever had. I chatted a bit with the guy behind the counter. He showed me the plaque on the history of the building that Nebraska City Main Street Historians had put together. Pretty neat!

building history

Further down the block *cue heavenly music*: a public restroom! (I didn’t need it, but it was there if I did, assuming it was open.)

public restroom

In a small plaza off Central, there was a lovely mural.

mural 1

The mural plaza had a twist: a memorial chalkboard on which anyone could write.

mural 2

There was also the first specimen I’d seen of a public art series featuring painted tree silhouettes. This one had insects in the design. (My husband is an entomologist, so I tend to notice these things.)

public art 1

I passed Arbor Lodge, of J. Sterling Morton / Arbor Day fame. I love trees. I really do. Without their shade, life would be so much more unpleasant. Especially when changing a flat tire. (That wasn’t me in the background changing a flat – it was another BRAN cyclist.)

flat tire tree shade

I kept a lookout for Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard. A fellow rider joked that I should take it easy on the alcohol at this time of day, but I wasn’t after the wine. I was after the passport stamp!

Aha! Found it!

kimmel orchard

The building opened a bit early because so many cyclists were knocking at the doors. The smaller squeeze bottles of apple juice were popular. I split a larger bottle of cherry-apple juice with two other cyclists. It was just enough for each of us to nearly fill a water bottle. They also had cherry and apple juice slushies! I totally would’ve gotten one, but the machines weren’t turned on yet.

I was interested to see the partnership between the orchard and University of Nebraska Extension.

kimmel extension center

Another example of the public art series.

public art 2

Nebraska City is really into its trees and orchards. Interestingly, there used to be many more fruit orchards in the area. Our BRAN riders’ guide repeatedly mentions in the history of small towns we were passing through “the disastrous frost on Armistice Day, 1940,” which killed many, many orchards.

Randomly, on Highway 75 between Wyoming, Nebraska, (!!) and Union, Nebraska, was a gas station that knew we were coming. They set up a shade tent, were selling chilled pickles and chocolate milk from a cooler up front, giving out ladles of pickle juice for free, were very welcoming about us using their bathroom facilities, and even put up a sign asking truck drivers to keep a lookout. Wish I’d seen the sign and gotten a picture! Instead, I have a picture of my bike parked against some advertisement panels installed on a fence.

gas station fence parking

As we headed west through Cass County, we had a lot of rolling hills, just like we’d had most of the day.

rolling hills

Here’s the elevation profile for the day: up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, etc. I rather like rolling hills on a bike tour. Yes, you have to work harder on the uphill, but the downhill gives you a little rest, or at least a burst of speed.

Screen Shot 2017-06-18 at 8.14.26 PM

Here’s a photo of the scenery that was behind me to my right when I took the rolling hills picture:

rural view

I made it to Weeping Water around 10:30 a.m. and immediately began sneezing. Something allergenic in the air! I had to take another allergy pill. We were camped at the Weeping Water Lakes Campground, directly adjacent to some train tracks. When I arrived, there was a train honking past, but luckily, that was the only train I saw.

campsite weeping water

Again, it was so, so hot, and my tent was baking in direct sunlight. I showered and tried to nap in the shade of a tree. I overheard someone talking about tent fans. A tent fan! Genius! They’d gotten one at a hardware store. I hitched a ride with a nice young man in a four-wheeler into the downtown and stepped into Meeske’s Hardware.

hardware store 1

Oh my, Meeske’s Hardware! This is the kind of old-timey hardware store you hardly see anymore. You just never know what you are going to find in there. I asked about a battery-powered fan, and a woman who worked there said, “Oh, that would be in housewares. Come on, I’m headed there anyway.” And we marched smartly down the street to the housewares building.

hardware store 2

The woman looked and asked to try to find a battery-powered fan for me. There had been a run on them, it seems. She headed upstairs to “the fan room” to look for more while a second woman poked around in the aisles. Triumphantly, the second woman pulled out from behind a display the LAST battery-powered fan in all of Weeping Water . . . and sold it to an older gent who had come in after me. She thought we were together. I cannot express my annoyance and disappointment at that moment. To keep from crying, I joked about listening for the fan in the tents, waiting until the fan purchaser fell asleep, and absconding with said fan.

Oh, MAN! Here was the temperature on the church sign across the street at that time:

church weeping water

I popped into the church’s activity hall to see if there was anything left of the “rice bowl” feed, which was supposed to have ended at 2 p.m. They were out of rice, but they still had lots of toppings. That was fine with me! I filled my bowl with black beans, corn, cheese, sour cream, and salsa, and added a homemade granola bar to my tray for dessert.

I held onto my ice-filled cup and found a bench in the shade to loiter upon while I sucked on the ice cubes. Just in front of me, a man maneuvered this vehicle into an angled parking space and popped into the auto parts store.

skid steer parking

Once my ice was gone, I wandered down the street. The Lighthouse Youth Ministry, which would soon be hosting a chicken and noodle and mashed potato feed, had put out a symbolic welcome for us cyclists.

lighthouse weeping water

I popped into Memory Lane Museum (they had a bathroom!) – I didn’t realize until later that there were several other buildings within the museum complex. I just cracked up at their volunteer solicitation method. Clearly, they “need a hand”! Ha!!

need a hand

In addition to old stuff, and a neat diorama of each block of downtown complete with pull-out boards listing the history of businesses in each building, the museum showcases a local’s “celebrity collection.” Wonder Woman (actually, Wonder Girl) caught my eye.

wonder woman.jpg

I wasn’t ready to head back to camp yet. I browsed around Grandpa Snazzy’s – a coffee shop / consignment gift shop / theater costume and props rental store (!!!) and chatted with some folks I knew from Scottsbluff. Then I loped across the street to the gas station to buy an orange juice.

I just happened to be leaving the gas station as they were setting up their beer tasting event at the edge of their parking lot in the shade of a neighboring building. I was one of their first customers. (Good craft beers!)

gas station beer tasting

The craft beer tasting, which had been advertised in the BRAN ride guide, soon drew several more aficionados. Bread crates were pulled up to serve as seating, and a convivial evening was had by all.

impromptu seating

I used the bathroom at the gas station before heading back to camp, where there were just four flush toilets and two portable toilets for our whole group. I tried to appreciate the cricket chirping under my tent as I attempted to sleep.

day 2 stats
50 miles
2,499 feet of climb
11.2 mph avg
(weather data from Nebraska City)
low temp 69
high temp 93
avg humidity 41%
precip 0
wind 7-13 g 17 NE

Copyright 2017 by Katie Bradshaw

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.

sunrise

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!)

pirates

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.:

hot

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