Easter picnic ride 2015

The weather this past week was more than cooperative for what has become our traditional Easter Sunday training ride.

Our 45-mile out-and-back ride to Lyman, Nebraska, on the state line with Wyoming, started out with temps in the upper 50s with a rare tailwind out of the east and ended with temps in the low 70s, and a tailwind from the west.

That’s right, the wind switched direction on us at just the right time! Tailwind pretty much all the way, baby!

Not that it wasn’t a good training ride. There’s plenty of climb between Scottsing and Lyman. My legs were tired by the end of the day.

Total climb between Lyman and Scottsbluff was about 2,000 feet, discounting the ride out to Lyman, when I forgot to start my tracking program. Our top speed of 37 miles per hour was on the final downhill at the South Mitchell road.

Total climb on the ride home from Lyman to Scottsbluff was about 2,000 feet, which discounts the ride out to Lyman, when I forgot to start my tracking program. Our top speed of 37 miles per hour was on the final downhill at the South Mitchell road at mile 15 above.

Part of the reason for choosing Lyman as a destination, aside from the just-right distance and hills, is its park with picnic shelter (and access to water and bathrooms when open for the season, which they were not Easter weekend). It was a tradition in my family when I was growing up to have an Easter Sunday picnic (with bubbles, kites and other outdoor fun), and I’m pleased Bugman has been willing to continue this (adapted) tradition with me.

Easter picnic in Lyman. The fare includes hard-boiled eggs, bunny-shaped cheese crackers, bunny-shaped fruit snacks, "sport" jelly beans, chocolate eggs, and almonds.

Easter picnic in Lyman. The fare includes hard-boiled eggs, bunny-shaped cheese crackers, bunny-shaped fruit snacks, “sport” jelly beans, chocolate eggs, and almonds.

I'm actually not terribly fond of hard-boiled eggs. Unless they come with bacon. We did not have any bacon in the house, but spiking the eggs with cheesy bunny crackers was a decent alternative.

I’m actually not terribly fond of hard-boiled eggs, unless they come with bacon. We did not have any bacon in the house, but spiking the eggs with cheesy bunny crackers was a decent alternative.

More cheesy bunny crackers! NOM NOM NOM!

More cheesy bunny crackers! NOM NOM NOM!

On our way back home, a little to the west of Stegall (pronounced STEA-gull by locals and stuh-GAHL by the weather radio), someone was staring at us from a field beside the road:

Nopealope! Antelope ain't gonna stick around and see what we're all about.

Nopealope! Antelope ain’t gonna stick around and see what we’re all about.

That got me to thinking – the perfect Easter bunny for this region would actually be the jackalope! I did a quick search for a jackalope I’d be proud to have for an Easter decoration, and found this lovely beastie, from an Etsy artist in Russia (check out her super-cute dragons, too!):

Squeee! I'm working on my acquisitiveness, as I really have too much "stuff," but, gosh - this is so cute! If someone wants to buy it for me, I would not be sad.

Squeee! I’m working on my acquisitiveness, as I really have too much “stuff,” but, gosh – this is so cute! If someone wants to buy it for me, I would not be sad.

One more random image from our Easter Sunday ride, taken at (unincorporated) Stegall:

"Road breakup ahead"? I'm not too sure what that means, exactly. But surely, this could be inspiration for a country song!

“Road breakup ahead”? I don’t know precisely what type of road hazard that indicates, exactly, as I’ve not seen that verbiage on a sign before. But surely, this could be inspiration for a country song!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

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Wyobraska weekend adventure

Bugman and I need to get some long, multi-day weekend training rides in on the tandem. On Friday, my friend Jamie, who lives in Bushnell (60 miles from where I live), posted online, “Anyone want to go to the Pine Bluffs [Wyoming] Melodrama with me tomorrow night?

Hmmm . . . I’d never seen a melodrama before . . .

I replied: “Would you have space for a couple of tandem riders to sleep on your floor and a shower so they didn’t stink up said melodrama?

With a reply in the affirmative, Bugman and I packed up the tandem Saturday morning and set off southward on Highway 71, bound for the Sisters Grimm Bookstore.

Our first adventure occurred at the former Banner County Cafe (which has been purchased and is being renovated by our friends Laura and Dave).

There is very little shade from the hot sun when biking through Banner County. (There is very little of anything other than open land in Banner County. The population of the entire county at last count was 760 people – about one person per square mile, mathematically speaking.) Whenever we are headed out that way, we stop at the old cafe’s driveway to take advantage of the shade under a billboard.

As he’s done in the past, Bugman wheeled the tandem ahead to lean it against the billboard post. A little leery of the tall grass (this is rattlesnake country), I gingerly stepped towards the bike to get some snacks and water.

I stopped in my tracks and pointed.

“Um . . . there’s a snake.”

“Where?”

“Right there. Next to the bike. I think it’s a rattlesnake.”

The snake was not making a sound. It flicked its tongue at me a couple of times.

I retreated to a safer vantage point and took a picture of the serpent coiled and so well camouflaged in the grass six inches from the bike.

Crotalus_viridis

Wide head. Yup. It’s a viper, all right. Crotalis viridis. Prairie rattlesnake.

I zoomed the camera back out to get a pic of the snake with the bike in the frame, and Bugman pulled out his phone to take a picture. The snake, apparently not fond of paparazzi, suddenly unfurled itself and beat a retreat into deeper brush, its rattles making a dry click with every undulation. It never did “buzz” at us.

Here was the picture Bugman got of its retreat.

rattlesnake and bike

Just after the snake left the scene, who should pull up but Laura and Dave! It sure was nice to see them, as we don’t often cross paths outside of the Scottsbluff winter farmers market. We told them about our snake encounter, and they were glad to be aware of the reptile’s presence. With all the time they have been spending there, they had yet to see a snake. Guess we’re just lucky like that!

A bit further down the road, we encountered another of the iconic fauna of these parts – pronghorn antelope. There was a herd of them – including babies! (awww!) – but I didn’t get a good picture. I rarely do. They’re always too far from the road for my little camera to capture.

pronghorn herd

Our next stop was at Beehaven Farm Roadside Market, owned by friends Jennifer and Rick. If not for Beehaven, I doubt we would bike down into Banner County in the summer. It’s a vital water stop, and also a great place to buy snacks.

Here’s a shot for Jennifer of the 3,000-foot-climb elevation profile of our ride (the Beehaven driveway is between miles 33-34 – the subtle flattened “bowl” to the right of the second major hill climb):

elevation of ride

On this sunny day, with the temperatures climbing into the upper 80s – low 90s, the offer of a couple of chairs in the shade of a large tree was very much appreciated. We drank soda, ate beef sticks, and hung out with resident canines Loki and Max.

Bugman took my picture eating beef sticks while beef cattle slurped at the water trough in the background. Not sure what that odd expression on my face is all about. Maybe irony?

Bugman took a picture of me eating beef sticks while beef cattle slurped at the water trough in the background. Not sure what that odd expression on my face is all about. Irony? Or chewing?

Bugman gives some head scratches to Loki, the friendly giant.

Bugman gives some head scratches to Loki, Beehaven’s enthusiastically friendly  giant / livestock guardian.

On the road again . . . the cattle started running along with us as we rode.

black cattle

Entering Kimball County – the furthest south we’ve been on the tandem in Nebraska!

kimball county

The welcome landmark of the Kimball wind turbines. Getting closer!

The welcome landmark of the Kimball wind turbines. Getting closer!

We stopped at a gas station in Kimball for a much-needed slush drink before pedaling west on Highway 30 the final 15 miles on a gradual upslope to Bushnell.

I neglected to take a photo of the Bushnell water tower landmark as we rode into town. I blame road fatigue for my omission, and also the fact that the roads in town are gravel, which can be a little dicey to ride on with a road-bike tandem. Instead, I will post a picture of the water tower as depicted on the souvenir t-shirts available for sale at Sisters Grimm.

bushnell water tower shirt

I also neglected to take photos of our destination (I again blame road fatigue), but you can get a glimpse of the horse-barn-turned-bookstore-and-loft-apartment here, on a This Old House remodel contest site (winner to be announced in October *crosses fingers*). There are such fun stories about the materials that went into the remodel. The clawfoot bathtub Bugman and I cleaned up in was previously located in a horse pasture. 🙂

Time to head the 10 miles across the border into Pine Bluffs, Wyoming!

We stopped for dinner at the Rock Ranch Grill – a steakhouse attached to the north side of a gas station in Pine Bluffs. It’s a good local place to stop if you’re traveling through on I-80. They know how to cook a steak here in cattle country! (I am getting hungry again, thinking about that steak!)

rock ranch grill

Then, off to the melodrama – part of Pine Bluffs’ annual Trail Days celebration. (Pine Bluffs was on one of the cattle trails out of Texas in the late 1800s.)

The event took place in the little theater in the old Pine Bluffs High School building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Check out the amazing concrete-dome gymnasium ceiling:

pine bluffs high school

As I mentioned previously, I had never been to a melodrama before. It was totally corny. The actors were cracking each other up. I enjoyed it immensely.

To give the little theater an old-timey western flavor, some signs were posted.

use the spittoon

Also, the percussionist wore a cowboy hat.

Also, the percussionist wore a cowboy hat.

Yes, “A Hard Days Night at Rock Ranch” was thoroughly enjoyable. I meant to take a picture of the program, but I forgot. The names of the cast of characters cracked me up, as did the awful Beatles-style wig on the protagonist. There was the heroine, Miley Cyprus, and her father, Cyrus Cyprus. The female villain was Bluebelle Lugosi. I forget the male villain character’s name, but the actor who portrayed him had the best sinister laugh. Muahahahaha!

melodrama

Then, it was off to crash before another 60-mile bike ride.

Here are some pictures from Day 2 on the road:

Jamie took our picture in front of the bookstore before we headed out.

Jamie took our picture in front of the bookstore before we headed out.

An old, lonely house on Highway 30.

An old, lonely house on Highway 30.

Uh oh. Roadblock ahead. We caught up to these combines quickly, as eastbound Highway 30 was a gentle downward slope all the way to Kimball.

Uh oh. Roadblock ahead. We caught up to these combines pretty quickly, as eastbound Highway 30 was a gentle downward slope all the way to Kimball.

The combines pulled over into a driveway for Oliver Reservoir so we could pass them safely. Thanks, guys!

The combines pulled over into a driveway for Oliver Reservoir State Recreation Area so we could pass them safely. Thanks, guys!

I often snark about artificial "country fresh scent," since a predominant "country" odor all too often is manure (phew-ey!). But surely what the developers of that faux fragrance had in mind was an alfalfa field in full bloom, with fresh-cut alfalfa hay nearby. Nothing like that aroma! I reckon most vehicle-bound travelers would miss that, with their windows rolled up tight.

I often snark about artificial “country fresh scent,” since a predominant “country” odor all too often is manure (phew-ey!). But surely what the developers of that faux fragrance had in mind was an alfalfa field in full bloom, with fresh-cut alfalfa hay nearby. Nothing like that aroma! I reckon most vehicle-bound travelers would miss that, with their windows rolled up tight. Their loss!

Reflections in downtown Kimball

Reflections in downtown Kimball

Back to Highway 71. Only 46 more miles to go!

Back to Highway 71. Only 46 more miles to go!

Back in Banner County!

Back in Banner County!

When we stopped for a water break, I had to capture one of the thousands of plains sunflowers in bloom at the moment. It was a VERY WARM morning. We had a tailwind of about 10 MPH, but we were traveling at about 10 MPH, meaning that we had no cooling breeze whatsoever. I was very glad we would be able to stop at Beehaven to refill our water bottles!

When we stopped for a water break, I had to capture one of the thousands of plains sunflowers in bloom at the moment. It was a very thirsty morning. We had a tailwind of about 10 MPH, but we were traveling at about 10 MPH, meaning we had no breeze to cool us down. I was very glad we would be able to stop at Beehaven to refill our water bottles!

At Beehaven - a renegade hen. Instead of laying eggs in a nest box, this plucky chicky had hidden her eggs somewhere on the property. Mother hen was very protective, herding her wee fluffy brood away from the photographer, and making a scene when the goats came too near and risked stepping on her babies.

At Beehaven – a renegade hen. Instead of laying eggs in a nest box, this plucky chicky had hidden her eggs somewhere on the property. Mother hen was very protective, herding her wee fluffy brood away from the photographer, and making a scene when the goats came too near and risked stepping on her babies.

A stop for lunch under the billboard at the hilltop cafe site, and we discovered we were being watched again - this time by avian eyes rather than reptilian.

A stop for lunch under the billboard at the hilltop cafe site, and we discovered we were being watched again – this time by avian eyes rather than reptilian. (You can barely make out the dove peeking from her nest in this picture.)

Then safely home again, and time for a shower, a meal, and a nap!

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

A ride to BeeHaven

When cycling long distances, it always helps to have a populated destination midway through the route.

Last weekend, Bugman and I chose a route up and over the Wildcat Hills into Banner County.

Now entering Banner County

Now entering Banner County

Banner County had a population estimate of 690 people in 2010. That’s not the population of the county seat, Harrisburg – the county’s sole incorporated municipality. That’s the population of the ENTIRE COUNTY.

Cattle in picturesque Banner County.

Cattle in picturesque Banner County.

The turnoff to Harrisburg. I missed it in the photo, but the Harrisburg sign has another sign appended beneath it: "No services."

The turnoff to Harrisburg. I missed it in the photo, but the Harrisburg sign has another sign appended beneath it: “No services.” There is a museum, though.

As I said, when cycling long distances, it always helps to have a populated destination midway through the route.

Especially if that destination has fudge…

Our Banner County route took us to BeeHaven Farm Roadside Market.

We bought some tasty items for our mid-ride luncheon feast: goat milk fudge (made in Banner County, NE), beef jerky (made in Morrill County, NE), and cheese curd (made in Weld County, CO). We also sipped some iced tea (aaaaah!) and chatted with proprietors Jennifer and Rick Rutherford.

I tried in vain to find a post on BeeHaven on my SCB Citizen blog. I could have sworn I’d written one, but I must have written it in my head and never tapped it out on the keyboard.

Here are some pictures I took at BeeHaven almost a year ago:

The fruit table

The fruit table

The jam cabinet

The jam cabinet

The produce cooler

The produce cooler

Jennifer took a photo of us with our tandem in the shade of the store building, which was once a bunkhouse:

Heehee! Bugman has bug wings growing out of his head.

Heehee! Bugman has bug wings growing out of his head.

She said we were not the first cyclists to stop by that week. A young man biking from, I think, South Dakota to Colorado had been a guest before us. Jennifer joked that she should put a sign out front saying “bicyclists welcome!” Rick quipped that the cyclists are probably the only ones going slow enough to be able to read the BeeHaven signs.

It can be a little hard to see.

beehaven

If you are headed south from the Wildcat Hills, Beehaven is on your left, south of County Road 10. If you’re coming north from Kimball, it’s about 14 miles, and it’ll be on your right.

Our visit to BeeHaven was an awesome and most-needed break. The elevation of the Nebraska Panhandle rises as you head towards its southwest corner. Once we got over the Wildcat Hills, we faced an even taller hill to climb, though at a lesser grade.

A screen shot of the elevation of our whole ride.

A screen shot of the elevation of our whole ride.

The ride back down that grade was pretty fun, except the part where we had to negotiate between the rumble strip and gravel patch at the turnoff to a disused weigh station when we were cruising at about 20 mph. We came pretty close to biffing it. Scary!

It was funny – I’d asked Rick whether he’d seen any pronghorn antelope on their land, since I’d seen them in Sioux, Morrill, and Kimball Counties, but never in Banner or Scotts Bluff Counties. He said that, yes, he’d seen a few. And then, on our way home, we saw three of them!

The dot at middle is one of the pronghorn, the dot towards the right is another one.

Hard to see, but there are two pronghorn antelope in this photo – one at center, one at right.

It was another exhausting ride – 67.68 miles – but a pleasant one.

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw