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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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):
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 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, Beehaven’s enthusiastically friendly giant / livestock guardian.
On the road again . . . the cattle started running along with us as we rode.
Entering Kimball County – the furthest south we’ve been on the tandem in Nebraska!
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.
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!)
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:
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.
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!
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.
An old, lonely house on Highway 30.
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 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. Their loss!
Reflections in downtown Kimball
Back to Highway 71. Only 46 more miles to go!
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 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.
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