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

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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