Valentine’s Day on a bicycle built for two

What better way to celebrate an unseasonably warm Valentine’s Day than to go for a spin on a bright red tandem!

When we headed to the grocery store to pick up some supplies for a mid-ride picnic, it was promising to be a lovely day, the temperature pushing 50 degrees.

Alas, when we came home and prepped the bike, Bugman’s Meniere’s disease flared up with an episode of vertigo, and he had to rest on the couch for an hour.

We didn’t hit the road until 2 p.m., by which time the temperature was dropping: 46 degrees at the start, 32 by the time we got home two hours later. The wind was also pretty intense, at 25-30 miles per hour. Our ride out with the wind was fast, but the ride back would be be less so.

My initial plan was to head to the picnic shelter in Lyman, as we had previously done for Easter. Then we scrubbed that in favor of a loop through Morrill. Ultimately, we cut the journey to a 25-mile loop through Mitchell, with the hope that some business in downtown Mitchell would take pity on us and let us picnic inside.

Despite the wind and the chill, it felt good to be back on the tandem again after a five-month hiatus. The countryside delivered its usual diversions. We laughed as whole herds of cattle stared at us, cornstalks dripping from their mouths. Prairie dogs barked at us and scuttled into their burrows. A hawk rose up from a field, a small rodent’s body clutched in its talons along with some grassy debris. On a grueling stretch of road where we bucked the wind, we had the diversion of a youngster who piloted his ATV alongside us and chatted. (“You’re doing 15 miles an hour!” he said encouragingly.)

Thankfully, the gent holding down the fort at Hometown Harvest Cooperative was more than happy to let us camp out inside the store for a little bit, to warm up and fuel up with the picnic items we’d packed.

Bugman looks to be rubbing his hands in anticipation of eating, but he was actually rubbing them to warm them up.

Bugman looks to be rubbing his hands in anticipation of eating, but he was actually rubbing them to warm them up. Poor guy. He bucked the brunt of the wind as captain of the tandem.

Our Valentine's day red-and-white food picnic: grape tomatoes, cheese curds, roasted red peppers, banana-and-strawberry salad, yogurt-raisin/peanut-M&M/dried-cranberry trail mix, and to drink, a white chai beverage and a red fruit smoothie.

Our Valentine’s day red-and-white food picnic: grape tomatoes, cheese curds, roasted red peppers, banana-and-strawberry salad, yogurt-raisin/peanut-M&M/dried-cranberry trail mix, and to drink, a white chai beverage and a red fruit smoothie.

Thanks for the much-needed shelter, Hometown Harvest!

Thanks for the much-needed shelter, Hometown Harvest!

Happy Valentine's Day, from Wyobraska Tandem! <3

Happy Valentine’s Day, from Wyobraska Tandem! ❤

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

The Lyman-Henry loop

On one of our last rides, we’d initially planned to bike about a 50-mile loop from our house to Lyman, up to Henry, and back, but rainy, windy weather cut our ride a bit short at Morrill. Last Sunday, we made the entire 54-mile loop.

First, I have to show off our make-do bicycle gear bags:

Fanny packs with straps wound around the bicycle frame make OK gear bags.

Fanny packs with straps wound around the bicycle frame make OK gear bags.

And I finally found a way to comfortably manage my camera during the warmer months. When it was cold, I would sling the camera over my neck on a lanyard and tuck the camera inside my jacket. Once the weather warmed and the jacket came off, the camera swung around annoyingly. Why did it take me so long to discover I could just lengthen the lanyard and tuck the camera into the back pocket of my jersey?

When I want to take a picture while riding, I just reach back and yank the camera out of my pocket. The lanyard ensures I won't drop it.

When I want to take a picture while riding, I just reach back and yank the camera out of my pocket. The lanyard ensures I won’t drop it. I can do this because, as tandem stoker, I don’t have to steer.

And a note about cycling clothes: there is method to the Spandex madness.

As a bicycle commuter, I have for years cycled in my ordinary clothing. (“Ordinary” meaning I never wear skirts or slip-on shoes.) I viewed cycling clothing as somewhat frivolous. It may seem frivolous if you’re only riding about 9 miles a day. But if you are riding for 20, 30, 40, 50 miles, something becomes very clear: chafing is your enemy. The best way to avoid chafing is to wear form-fitting, stretchy, wicking clothing, even if that is not the most flattering thing to wear.

OK, back to the ride …

We had planned to stop in the city park in Lyman to have our nearly-halfway-point picnic lunch of hard-boiled eggs and gummy bunnies. I texted my friend Kathi, who lives nearby, to see if she and her husband Dan could join us. They were up to their elbows in projects, as many ranchers are this time of year, so they invited us to stop by their place instead.

For once, I didn't have to prop the camera up on something. Kathi took this picture for us.

Us at the Open A Bar 2 Ranch near Lyman. For once, I didn’t have to prop the camera up on something. Kathi took this picture for us.

Darn if I didn’t forget to take a photo of our friends! I will make amends by referring you to Kathi’s blog, Country Chicken Girl, and the Open A Bar 2 Ranch Facebook page.

Kathi and Dan’s cattle are black. I did not get a picture of them. Instead, I took a picture of some white cattle on Holloway Road, which runs north-south about a quarter-mile east of the Wyoming-Nebraska state line.

Black angus cattle are much more common around here, so these white cattle with the white clouds above really caught my eye. They are charolais, maybe?

Black Angus cattle are much more common around here, so these white cattle with the white clouds above really caught my eye. They are charolais, maybe? Random fact: I first learned that black Angus was a cattle breed from the early-80s Atari Stampede video game.

Some other views from Holloway Road:

In shortgrass prairie country, a clump of tall trees can really attract the eye.

In shortgrass prairie country, a clump of tall trees can really attract the eye.

There was more than one abandoned house along this stretch of road.

There was more than one abandoned house along this stretch of road.

Closer to the town of Henry, we stumbled on a nice surprise. While I had heard of the Kiowa Wildlife Management Area we had biked past on the previous ride, I had never heard of the Stateline Island unit of the North Platte National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a lovely little stop alongside the road, with hiking trails and some benches.

north platte national wildlife refuge

FYI: if you go for a hike, make sure to check for ticks when you’re done.

Dog tick. Brrr! (You have nothing more to fear from this particular tick. It is deceased.)

This is what I found crawling on the sign in the photo above: dog tick. Brrr! (You have nothing more to fear from this particular tick. It is deceased.)

I took a short hike to a bench I could see on the riverbank. There was no water to be seen.

north platte river

River of sand?

Once we cycled across the bridge, the pitiful river trickle was visible on the north side of the sand dune:

north platte river holloway bridge

Is the rest of the water diverted for irrigation, I wonder? Or has it really been this dry upstream?

At Henry, we turned east onto Highway 26. I took a picture of a random picnic shelter I have always wanted to stop at.

highway 26 picnic shelter

I’m sure there are “historic interest” panels or some such thing there. Alas, it was across two lanes of traffic and two rumble strips – not worth the effort at the time.

It was interesting cycling on that patch of road. We were separated from traffic by a rumble strip. Most of the traffic passing us moved over into the oncoming lane to give us more space, which meant they rumbled on the rumble strip marking the center line. I really, really appreciated the courtesy of those drivers. Not one irritated honk! (Can’t say the same for cycling through town to get from our house to the highway.)

At Morrill, we had the chance to stop in the lovely city park for a snack and a rest.

morrill picnic shelter

In addition to a very nice shelter, the park has running-water public toilets in warm weather! (Very important for us road warriors to note these things.)

morrill park

The park is right across the street from some agriculture infrastructure adjacent to the rail line.

At one point, we saw two deer sproinging along in a meadow, a dog in semi-wholehearted pursuit.

One deer remained in the treeline, head swiveling to catch the threat that chased away its compadres.

One deer remained in the treeline, head and ears swiveling to catch the threat that chased away its compadres.

Somewhere between Morrill and Mitchell, between miles 37 and 42, fatigue started to set in. With temps approaching 80 degrees, it was getting pretty hot in the full sun. I could feel the sweat escaping past my layer of sunscreen, and I could feel that my skin was dusted with the salts from evaporated perspiration.

We stopped at a liquor store in Mitchell to grab a soda (always carry a little cash when out on the road – you might need it!)

That 7UP was the best 7UP I have ever tasted in my life. Ahhhhh!

That 7UP was the best 7UP I have ever tasted in my life. Ahhhhh!

On our next trip, we’re going to have to figure a way to carry more water.

When I wrote about our last bike journey east on Highway 26 from Mitchell, I complained about the unpleasantly rough road. Blog commenter Maggie kindly suggested an alternate route, so Bugman and I took Spring Creek Road back towards Scottsbluff instead of the highway. The road was quite a bit smoother, and I think we avoided some hill climbing. Some lovely homes back there, but also several junkyards.

With our distance of 54 miles and a total climb of about 1,231 feet, our ride was pretty similar to day 3 of our planned August ride, which is 56 miles and 1,475 feet of climb. I think we can tackle day 3, even though our last 4 or 5 miles into Scottsbluff were rough.

The question is, will we be able to handle the miles and climb on the days before and after??

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

Rainy Sunday ride

With our weeklong August bike ride approaching ever-nearer, Bugman and I need to get some time in the saddle.

So, last Sunday, we decided to head out on the road, despite the fact that it was drizzling. (And despite the fact that I was developing a cold. Interestingly, my running-faucet nose completely shut off when we were out on the road. I never needed the hankie I stuffed in Bugman’s back pocket. Was it the fresh air??)

As we walked the bike into the street in front of the house, a man driving the opposite direction (I think he said he was from Melbeta? Or was it Minatare??) stopped his car next to us to chat about the bike.

“What’s it made out of?”

“Uh ….”

I guess when you have a geeky-cool bike, it’s expected that you are a bike geek and know all the specs. (For the record, it is “Reynolds 631 air-hardened steel zonally-butted tubing.”)

“How far are you guys going?”

“Oh, maybe 50 miles.”

“Fifty? Five-O?”

He looked a bit dubious.

After the driver pulled away, we were passed by a cyclist in a tie and purple shirt.

“Heading out?” he called.

“Yep.”

I wonder if he was dubious, too.

I had looked up the radar before suggesting our route that morning. Based on the way the clouds were developing, I figured we might get a little wet on occasion but could probably avoid the worst of the weather by heading west. I figured if we went west on Highway 92 and north at Lyman to Henry, we could take Highway 26 back and go through more towns on the way home, where there would be shelter if we needed it.

We headed out and got a few blocks away before I realized I forgot my cycling gloves. After nearly forgetting my helmet. *sigh*

Just as we pulled into the driveway again, there was a crack of thunder.

Crap.

Do we really want to go out?

But I got all my bike stuff on, and I really want to ride!

I looked at the radar again. It looked like it would be OK if we headed west.

So we did.

And we got wet.

It was pretty miserable for a few westbound miles there. My shell jacket was nearly soaked through, and it was darned windy (~30mph). I didn’t mind it so much, but Bugman seems to have a lower tolerance for recreational discomfort than I do, and I felt guilty for dragging him out into the elements. (C’mon, hon – we are HARDCORE!)

A look back at the dark clouds above Scotts Bluff.

A look back at the dark clouds above Scotts Bluff.

Before we hit the hill up to the Mitchell turnoff, I was reconsidering.

We paused to consume some sport beans and consult the maps and radar again.

“What if we cut it short and turn north to Morrill?” I suggested.

Bugman was game for my crazy scheme. (That’s what I love about him – he usually is.)

We continued on through wind and occasional rain. It was lovely to see the countryside so green, with hints of blue flax along the road. We were serenaded by meadowlark after meadowlark.

We were also spotted by several friends along our route – got a few honks and hollers and a Facebook comment: “Just passed you and Jeff on that tandem for the second time today! Saw you on 92 at about 10 am too! In the rain!”

And now, for the photo ‘splanation:

Green! With horses.

Green! With horses.

Yay! After 15 miles, the turnoff to Morrill and a chance to have the wind whip as us from our left instead of our right.

Yay! After 15 miles, the turnoff to Morrill and a chance to have the wind whip at us from our left instead of our right.

We were chirped at along what seemed to be a miles-long prairie dog town. Those little critters sure do make a mess of a nice, green pasture.

We were chirped at along what seemed to be a miles-long prairie dog town. Those little critters sure do make a lumpy mess of a nice, green pasture.

Joseph and the amazing technicolor ... roof? I am noting this place because from underneath a trailer closer to the road, two dogs ran out into the road after us. Next time we ride this way, I'll know to be prepared.

Joseph and the amazing technicolor … roof? I am noting this place because from underneath a trailer closer to the road, two dogs ran out into the road after us. Next time we ride this way, I’ll know to be prepared.

Had a lovely surprise, forgetting about the Kiowa Wildlife Management Area. Since it wasn't raining, we decided to pull off for a peanut butter sandwich picnic.

At mile 19, had a lovely surprise, forgetting that the Kiowa Wildlife Management Area was on our route. Since it wasn’t raining, we decided to pull off for a peanut butter sandwich picnic.

The Ostenberg Overlook is a lovely spot.

The Ostenberg Overlook is a lovely spot.

Alas, some doofuses had left their shotgun shell litter behind. We cleaned up this, plus a whole other sandwich bag full of litter, and packed it out.

Alas, some doofuses had left their shotgun shell litter behind. We packed out a whole sandwich bag full.

Ready to head back out!

Ready to head back out!

As we slow down with a coal train ahead, I warily eye the thin band of mammatus clouds above us.

As we slow down with a coal train ahead, I warily eye the thin band of mammatus clouds above us.

The park in Morrill where I had planned to stop for lunch if it was raining. It seems so inviting with the "visitors welcome" sign.

The park in Morrill where I had planned to stop for lunch if it was raining. It seems so inviting with the picnic shelter and the “visitors welcome” sign. This is also where we turned east and got the wind to our backs!

In Mitchell. "Ice cream? We have six dollars in quarters." "OK."

In Mitchell. “Ice cream? We have six dollars in quarters.” “OK.”

It was a good ride. 38.64 miles, no sore bum. (Thank you, new cycle shorts, talc, and lots of standing.)

PS – the shoulder on Highway 26 eastbound out of Mitchell stinks. BBBBUUUUMMMMPPPYYYYY!

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw