2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: overview and Day 0, Falls City, Kansas and Missouri

I seemed to be a rarity on this year’s Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska – it was my first time on the ride. There are lots of people who have done BRAN multiple times – even one guy who’s done it all 37 times so far! Yes, BRAN has lots of “regular” riders. Hah! (Too bad it’s not Bicycle Ride Across Incredible Nebraska – BRAIN, which sounds less dorky.)

My favorite parts of the ride were the small-town hospitality and opportunities to talk to people and learn about parts of my adopted state I’d never seen before. I chose to ride this year in part because the route was south-to-north on the eastern end of the state, instead of the typical west-to-east. (I live in the far western Panhandle and know very little about eastern Nebraska.)

The theme of the ride was fun: “Five Nations, Five States” (if you did optional miles, you could ride in Omaha, Winnebago, Sac-Fox, Ponca, and Iowa Nations lands and in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and South Dakota). I really liked the jersey design.

jersey back16649450_1483544301664614_3267842122140596876_n

My least favorite parts of the ride were the three H’s (Heat, Humidity, and Headwind), and the fact that I hadn’t known to do more research on the routes ahead of time. I never knew if the next little town would have an open business that could provide much-needed bathroom facilities or foodstuffs. There were SAG vehicles with snacks and water, generally at three points along each day’s route, but bathrooms were not a given.

I know plenty of other rides operate with “choose your own adventure” food and toilets. I think I just got spoiled the past four years doing Cycle Greater Yellowstone (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). CGY was more organized in general, with more information available ahead of time, which may be due to the fact that CGY is supported by paid staff in addition to volunteers. BRAN is entirely volunteer-operated – a huge task that deserves lots of accolades. Being a volunteer organizer of an event like this can be a thankless task. You hear a lot of the complaints and not enough compliments. So I will say here – THANK YOU to all the folks who helped make BRAN happen. Your work and dedication are greatly appreciated!

A couple of weeks before the event, a ride guide was posted online. The maps, elevation profiles and turning directions were very helpful, but I needed more of an overview earlier in the process to wrap my head around things, so I created my own overview map (using the Map My Ride maps and the shortest route options posted there).

my map

The day before the pre-ride, I drove across the state and stayed overnight at an AirBnB in Craig (population 191), with a lovely couple who let me use space in their shop to box my bike. (It was my first time boxing a bike.) I got a lot of ribbing about “bringing a TV on a bicycle camping trip,” but my relatively wide Frankenbox meant that I could leave my handlebars and pedals on the bike. I only had to remove the seat and front wheel to make it fit.

bike box 1bike box 2

On BRAN Day 0, I drove the 10 minutes from Craig to Tekamah, parked my car for the week at the Tekamah football field, and handed my bike off to be loaded onto the truck.

bike boxes on truck

There was food and coffee for sale while we waited to board the bus. I struck up conversations and wound up meeting a couple from Missouri who would turn out to be my neighbors for the week in the Pork Belly Ventures tents. (I sprung for the tent service because I don’t have my own tent and because the last thing I want to do after a hard day of riding is haul my gear and set up my tent, especially if the weather is less than perfect.)

On the 2 3/4 – hour bus ride from Tekamah to Falls City, I had great conversation with my seat mate. He’s a fellow advocate of healthy living through daily activity. Here’s a thought to ponder: why are modern humans like polar bears in the Sahara? Because we are living in an environment we are not adapted to. Humans are built to move, yet we spend lots of time sitting – at our desks, in our cars, on our couches. We are maladapted for our modern sedentary lifestyle, and it shows in our rates of chronic disease and declining life expectancy. So, events like BRAN work for the good of humanity, yes? (Additionally, BRAN is a fundraiser for Rotary scholarships.)

In Falls City, our Day 0 camp in Pioneer Park was just getting set up as the bus arrived.

A quick rundown on camp amenities:

This was by no means a “roughing it” trip: there was a shower truck (with towels and soap provided) available for all riders this year. Alas, the truck always packed up by 8:30 p.m., so no access to showers or a handwashing sink after that time, unless the host town provided it.

shower truck

There was also a water bar for filling water bottles, though there were some days in camp when I couldn’t find it. I wish it had always been by the shower truck, which was big and easy to spot. I was glad Pork Belly Ventures always had a water jug near our tents.

water bar

There were also wringers near the shower truck, for folks who washed their biking clothes in the shower. (Not me – I can’t get them clean and rinsed enough that way.)

wringer

There were plenty of device-charging stations, one provided by BRAN, and one inside the Pork Belly Ventures shade tent (which was a convivial place to kick back after a ride).

charging station

This year, Pork Belly Ventures had a coffee machine every morning, with free coffee available to all. In this photo, another camp amenity is obliquely present: the guy at left is one of the bike mechanics from The Bike Rack who staffed a bike repair tent all week.

coffee truck

I wandered around downtown Falls City a little bit before deciding to do some of the “pre-ride” miles that BRAN organizers had laid out, so I could check off some of the eponymous five states. The jaunt down to Kansas sounded fun – plus, there was a museum in Reserve.

I got a fellow rider to take my picture at the Kansas border.

kansas

In Reserve, the museum was closed. Bummer! But I was interested to see the name Robidoux. There’s probably a connection to the Robidoux family¬† out west.

sac and fox

I biked around town a little bit and found a magic door. Oh, what adventures await anyone with a playful imagination!

magic door

Reserve did have a trading post C-store, in the event supplies were needed. I didn’t need anything at that time, so I headed back to Nebraska.

Any fans of the Simpsons out there? You will know in what voice I read this sign to myself:

thank you come again

On the way back to Falls City, there was a cute-looking cafe on the west side of the road – Breezy Hill Cafe. Wish I’d stopped. It’s permanently closed now, I understand.

Back in Falls City, I hesitated. What to do now? I should probably find a meal, since all I’d had to eat past breakfast at 6 a.m. was some candied nuts and jelly beans. But . . . I encountered another rider who asked if I’d accompany her to the Missouri border, since she wasn’t sure she could find her way to and from camp. Well . . . I could get another state checked off, and what else did I have to do? OK! What’s another 20 miles when I’d already done 15? (I’d thought there was SAG support with snacks on the routes. Turns out it was just a SAG vehicle on the Nebraska part of the Missouri route, I think.)

We stopped briefly in Rulo. There was a bar there. I should have stopped for something to eat. Instead, I took a picture of something that tickled my funny bone:

Rulo door

Made it to Missouri!

missouri

I should have turned around when I made my goal. I should have turned around when I started getting tired. Instead, I kept going another 5 miles, hoping there would be a cafe or c-store in Big Lake. There wasn’t – at least not as far as I went. (Had I gone another mile or so, there would have been a c-store.) There was a bar, but I didn’t want to go in. I was at the point of weariness where I was starting to make poor decisions. I ate a granola bar, guzzled some water, and began the 15-mile slog back to camp in Falls City.

My bike wasn’t shifting quite right, so when I got back to camp, I had the mechanics look at it. Turns out my back wheel wasn’t completely set in the frame. Yikes!! The mechanic seated the wheel, and then clicked through the gears to make sure he hadn’t messed up the shifting.

I should have taken the bike out for a spin to check the shifting under load. Instead, I showered and headed into the Falls City Auditorium, where a potluck dinner was on offer. Yaaay, food!!!

That evening after the introductory ride talk, the hosts in Falls City presented a cycling film (American Flyer?) on a giant inflatable screen in the auditorium.

TV screen

I was too exhausted to stay up, though. I went back to my tent and crashed.

day 0 stats
47 miles
2,341 feet of climb
12.1 mph avg
low temp 62
high temp 87
avg humidity 68%
precip 0
wind 4-13 g 17 S

I’m going to write posts on each day of BRAN and link them below. If you’d like a higher-res copy of any of these photos for personal use, shoot me an email.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I would note that these were my individual experiences, and that other people’s experiences on BRAN may vary greatly.

Another note, since I’ve got your attention:

If you live in Nebraska and own a vehicle, the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance needs your help! NeBA is working to make a bicycle-themed license plate available in Nebraska, which requires that NeBA get 250 prepaid pre-orders before the plate is put into production. Please consider signing up for a Nebraska bicycle plate, even if it’s only for the first year! The first 250 registration will make the license plate available to anyone ever after! It’s a mighty handsome plate:

red-good-life

For more detail on how to order, see here: http://www.nebike.org/license-plates/

For my Top 10 Reasons to Preorder a Nebraska Bike The Good Life License Plate, see here: https://wyobraskatandem.wordpress.com/2017/04/09/top-10-reasons-to-preorder-a-nebraska-bike-the-good-life-license-plate/

Copyright 2017 by Katie Bradshaw

 

Wyobraska bike events 2016

Given that there seems to be a proliferation of bicycling events in the Wyobraska region of late, I wanted to start a list page for folks seeking such info. Let me know of additional events I need to add.

For a list of local bike events and Western Nebraska Bicycling Club events, as well as non-local events WNBC club members are attending, see the group Google calendar.

Y Not Ride community ride starts at the Scottsbluff Y.

Y Not Ride community ride starts at the Scottsbluff Y.

Saturday, May 7, 2016
Y Not Ride, community road/path ride
Scottsbluff
This is a casual and family-friendly season-opener ride sponsored by the Scottsbluff Y. Route options include 3, 9, 28, and 54 miles. This is a supported ride with SAG vehicles and snack stops. The shorter routes are on bike path and bike lanes in town and cost $5 ($15 max per family). The longer routes are primarily on inter-community highways cost $10 ($30 max per family). All routes start and end at the Scottsbluff Y. April 18 registration deadline to guarantee a t-shirt ($11 short-sleeve or $13 long-sleeve). Otherwise, you can register at 7 a.m. the day of the ride, which starts at 8 a.m. Registration forms available at the Y or register online.

Sunday, May 22, 2016
Robidoux Quick & Dirty, gravel grinder race / recreational gravel ride [inaugural year!]
Gering
This is a race on rural, mostly gravel roads, but casual riders are welcome as well. Just be aware that, like most gravel grinder races, this ride is minimally supported. Also note: this course is not flat! There is over 4,000 feet of climb on the full race route. Registration for the 75-mile race is $55 and must be completed online by May 1. Registration for the 28-mile recreational ride is $20 on May 21, the day of packet checkin. Riders must check in Saturday, May 21, at the meet-and-greet, 4-7 p.m. at Five Rocks Amphitheater. Both rides begin with a rolling start from Five Rocks Amphitheater, which is also the finish line. There is a cap of 200 riders. To register and for more info, see the event website.

Sunday-Monday, July 3-4, 2016
Tour de La Grange, overnight road tour
Mitchell
This ride, organized by the Mitchell Evangelical Free Church, is a supported out-and-back ride on paved roads from Mitchell to La Grange, Wyoming, about 55 miles per day. Sunday night tent camping in a park or a dormitory stay – enjoy the fireworks and ice cream social. Gear transport and meals will be available. Registration cost $35. For information see the event Facebook page or the church website.

Early morning registration at the Oregon Trail Days Hill Climb.

Early morning registration at the Oregon Trail Days Hill Climb.

Saturday, July 9, 2016
Oregon Trail Days Hill Climb, road time trial
Gering
Racers in this perennial Oregon Trail Days event will ascend to the top of Scotts Bluff National Monument on the paved 1.6-mile Summit Road (average 5% grade). Registration opens at 6 a.m., and riders are released one at a time beginning at 7 a.m. There are road bike and mountain bike divisions for men and women. Cost is $20. Preregister by July 1 to guarantee a shirt. There is a cap of 90 riders. For more information, see the event website.

A rider southbound on Highway 71 passes through gorgeous High Plains scenery enroute from Agate Fossil Beds National Monument to Scotts Bluff National Monument.

A Monument to Monument Y Not Challenge Ride participant passes through gorgeous late-summer High Plains scenery enroute from Agate Fossil Beds National Monument to Scotts Bluff National Monument.

Saturday, September 10, 2016
Y Not Ride Challenge, aka Monument to Monument, road ride
Gering
This is the Scottsbluff Y’s season-closing challenge ride. Route options include 50 and 100 miles – ride from Scotts Bluff National Monument to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument and back (100 miles), or use the shuttle and bike trailer service to ride one-way only (50 miles), either to Agate or to Scotts Bluff. This is a supported ride with a SAG vehicle with snacks/water. Sandwiches are served at Agate for participants between 10:30-noon. There are hills on this scenic paved rural highway route, most of which has no shoulder. Riders on the 100-mile and “to-Agate” 50-mile route leave Scotts Bluff National Monument at 7 a.m. Riders on the “to-Scotts-Bluff” 50-mile route leave Scotts Bluff National Monument on the bus at 10 a.m. (please arrive by 9 a.m. to load your bike). For up-to-date information about the event and registration, see the event website.

Cycle Greater Yellowstone

How do I even begin to describe the experience that was the “first great ride in the last best place”?

Wowza!

This was my and Bugman’s first-ever cycle tour, which we completed on our tandem to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary on August 22. We’ve got the date for the 2014 Cycle Greater Yellowstone blocked out on our calendar already. How’s that for an endorsement?

The gist: some 700 cyclists and about 100 support crew and volunteers in a week’s time circumnavigated the north borderlands of Yellowstone National Park in this inaugural bike ride (route to change in subsequent years). The point of the ride was not just to provide an unmatched cycling experience but also to introduce a new crowd of people to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the issues the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (not to be confused with the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee) is bringing to light, and to make connections with the communities surrounding the park.

The towns we stayed in or near are marked on this map: West Yellowstone, Ennis, Livingston, Gardiner, Cooke City, Cody, Red Lodge.

The towns we stayed in or near are marked on this map: West Yellowstone, Ennis, Livingston, Gardiner, Cooke City, Cody, Red Lodge.

I’ve gone deep into an Internet wormhole looking up information about the park and the ecosystem to include in this epic series of blog posts. I won’t come close to scratching the surface on the complexity of this region. I’ll try to touch on a few points here and there, but how’s this for a summary:

Yellowstone was established as the world’s first national park in 1872. The U.S. Army protected the park from poachers and other opportunists until 1917, when the park was transferred to the newly-created National Park Service.

From what I understand, the park boundaries were drawn up a bit arbitrarily, mostly with geologic considerations in mind. That creates some challenges when you start thinking in terms of functioning ecosystems, which, in the case of Yellowstone, has been estimated to encompass 20 million acres – not just the ~2 million acres in the park itself. The park’s iconic megafauna – the bison, elk, bears, and wolves that are the symbols of Yellowstone – rely on ecosystem webs that extend well outside the park boundaries. (And, in the case of climate change, which is affecting the whitebark pine and causing ripple effects throughout the system, the ecosystem webs extend well outside our nation’s boundaries.)

Arbitrary human boundaries create another complexity: jurisdiction. Within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the following governmental entities, at minimum, have authority: Department of the Interior National Park Service, Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Agriculture Forest Service; administrations at two national parks, six national forests, and two national wildlife refuges; the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho; and a large number of local jurisdictions (counties, towns, conservation districts, irrigation districts, etc.).

Which points to another issue facing the region: what is the highest and best use of this land in the Yellowstone region? You’ll get a different answer depending on which person or governmental agency you ask. Wildlife protection. Tourism development. Economic development. Vacation homes. Mining, Agriculture. Ranching. Energy extraction. Camping, Fishing. Hiking. Boating. Hunting. Snowmobiling. Horseback riding. Bike riding … the list goes on and on.

Thus, the need for a coalition of interested parties to come together, work together, and work through the tangle of competing interests.

Which brings me back to the bike ride designed to bring some more interested parties to the table . . .

I must say – this was a VERY well-organized ride.

Some people booked hotel rooms in communities along the way, but most people camped. Bugman and I used the “tent sherpa” service. It was very nice having our tent put up and taken down for us every day – especially on the days when it rained. This tour provided ALL meals through a catering service that is accustomed to feeding wildland firefighters. Between those hearty meals and the well-stocked rest stops, I think I probably GAINED weight while pedaling 380-plus miles including 10,000-feet-plus of climbing. Another definite plus: the shower trucks! Two semi trucks outfitted with individual shower stalls and on-demand hot water! True luxury!!! Other amenities included SAG vehicle support, on-course bike mechanics, gear transport service, and nightly live entertainment.

I’ll give a truncated day-by-day recounting of each day, with photos. Check it out under the following links:

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 0 West Yellowstone

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 1 ride to Ennis

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 2 ride to Livingston

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 3 ride to Gardiner

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 4 bus tour of Yellowstone National Park

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 5 hitching to Cody

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 6 out-and-back from Cody

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 7 ride to Red Lodge
Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw