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!

IMG_3754

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