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

2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: overview and Day 0, Falls City, Kansas and Missouri

I seemed to be a rarity on this year’s Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska – it was my first time on the ride. There are lots of people who have done BRAN multiple times – even one guy who’s done it all 37 times so far! Yes, BRAN has lots of “regular” riders. Hah! (Too bad it’s not Bicycle Ride Across Incredible Nebraska – BRAIN, which sounds less dorky.)

My favorite parts of the ride were the small-town hospitality and opportunities to talk to people and learn about parts of my adopted state I’d never seen before. I chose to ride this year in part because the route was south-to-north on the eastern end of the state, instead of the typical west-to-east. (I live in the far western Panhandle and know very little about eastern Nebraska.)

The theme of the ride was fun: “Five Nations, Five States” (if you did optional miles, you could ride in Omaha, Winnebago, Sac-Fox, Ponca, and Iowa Nations lands and in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and South Dakota). I really liked the jersey design.

jersey back16649450_1483544301664614_3267842122140596876_n

My least favorite parts of the ride were the three H’s (Heat, Humidity, and Headwind), and the fact that I hadn’t known to do more research on the routes ahead of time. I never knew if the next little town would have an open business that could provide much-needed bathroom facilities or foodstuffs. There were SAG vehicles with snacks and water, generally at three points along each day’s route, but bathrooms were not a given.

I know plenty of other rides operate with “choose your own adventure” food and toilets. I think I just got spoiled the past four years doing Cycle Greater Yellowstone (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). CGY was more organized in general, with more information available ahead of time, which may be due to the fact that CGY is supported by paid staff in addition to volunteers. BRAN is entirely volunteer-operated – a huge task that deserves lots of accolades. Being a volunteer organizer of an event like this can be a thankless task. You hear a lot of the complaints and not enough compliments. So I will say here – THANK YOU to all the folks who helped make BRAN happen. Your work and dedication are greatly appreciated!

A couple of weeks before the event, a ride guide was posted online. The maps, elevation profiles and turning directions were very helpful, but I needed more of an overview earlier in the process to wrap my head around things, so I created my own overview map (using the Map My Ride maps and the shortest route options posted there).

my map

The day before the pre-ride, I drove across the state and stayed overnight at an AirBnB in Craig (population 191), with a lovely couple who let me use space in their shop to box my bike. (It was my first time boxing a bike.) I got a lot of ribbing about “bringing a TV on a bicycle camping trip,” but my relatively wide Frankenbox meant that I could leave my handlebars and pedals on the bike. I only had to remove the seat and front wheel to make it fit.

bike box 1bike box 2

On BRAN Day 0, I drove the 10 minutes from Craig to Tekamah, parked my car for the week at the Tekamah football field, and handed my bike off to be loaded onto the truck.

bike boxes on truck

There was food and coffee for sale while we waited to board the bus. I struck up conversations and wound up meeting a couple from Missouri who would turn out to be my neighbors for the week in the Pork Belly Ventures tents. (I sprung for the tent service because I don’t have my own tent and because the last thing I want to do after a hard day of riding is haul my gear and set up my tent, especially if the weather is less than perfect.)

On the 2 3/4 – hour bus ride from Tekamah to Falls City, I had great conversation with my seat mate. He’s a fellow advocate of healthy living through daily activity. Here’s a thought to ponder: why are modern humans like polar bears in the Sahara? Because we are living in an environment we are not adapted to. Humans are built to move, yet we spend lots of time sitting – at our desks, in our cars, on our couches. We are maladapted for our modern sedentary lifestyle, and it shows in our rates of chronic disease and declining life expectancy. So, events like BRAN work for the good of humanity, yes? (Additionally, BRAN is a fundraiser for Rotary scholarships.)

In Falls City, our Day 0 camp in Pioneer Park was just getting set up as the bus arrived.

A quick rundown on camp amenities:

This was by no means a “roughing it” trip: there was a shower truck (with towels and soap provided) available for all riders this year. Alas, the truck always packed up by 8:30 p.m., so no access to showers or a handwashing sink after that time, unless the host town provided it.

shower truck

There was also a water bar for filling water bottles, though there were some days in camp when I couldn’t find it. I wish it had always been by the shower truck, which was big and easy to spot. I was glad Pork Belly Ventures always had a water jug near our tents.

water bar

There were also wringers near the shower truck, for folks who washed their biking clothes in the shower. (Not me – I can’t get them clean and rinsed enough that way.)

wringer

There were plenty of device-charging stations, one provided by BRAN, and one inside the Pork Belly Ventures shade tent (which was a convivial place to kick back after a ride).

charging station

This year, Pork Belly Ventures had a coffee machine every morning, with free coffee available to all. In this photo, another camp amenity is obliquely present: the guy at left is one of the bike mechanics from The Bike Rack who staffed a bike repair tent all week.

coffee truck

I wandered around downtown Falls City a little bit before deciding to do some of the “pre-ride” miles that BRAN organizers had laid out, so I could check off some of the eponymous five states. The jaunt down to Kansas sounded fun – plus, there was a museum in Reserve.

I got a fellow rider to take my picture at the Kansas border.

kansas

In Reserve, the museum was closed. Bummer! But I was interested to see the name Robidoux. There’s probably a connection to the Robidoux family  out west.

sac and fox

I biked around town a little bit and found a magic door. Oh, what adventures await anyone with a playful imagination!

magic door

Reserve did have a trading post C-store, in the event supplies were needed. I didn’t need anything at that time, so I headed back to Nebraska.

Any fans of the Simpsons out there? You will know in what voice I read this sign to myself:

thank you come again

On the way back to Falls City, there was a cute-looking cafe on the west side of the road – Breezy Hill Cafe. Wish I’d stopped. It’s permanently closed now, I understand.

Back in Falls City, I hesitated. What to do now? I should probably find a meal, since all I’d had to eat past breakfast at 6 a.m. was some candied nuts and jelly beans. But . . . I encountered another rider who asked if I’d accompany her to the Missouri border, since she wasn’t sure she could find her way to and from camp. Well . . . I could get another state checked off, and what else did I have to do? OK! What’s another 20 miles when I’d already done 15? (I’d thought there was SAG support with snacks on the routes. Turns out it was just a SAG vehicle on the Nebraska part of the Missouri route, I think.)

We stopped briefly in Rulo. There was a bar there. I should have stopped for something to eat. Instead, I took a picture of something that tickled my funny bone:

Rulo door

Made it to Missouri!

missouri

I should have turned around when I made my goal. I should have turned around when I started getting tired. Instead, I kept going another 5 miles, hoping there would be a cafe or c-store in Big Lake. There wasn’t – at least not as far as I went. (Had I gone another mile or so, there would have been a c-store.) There was a bar, but I didn’t want to go in. I was at the point of weariness where I was starting to make poor decisions. I ate a granola bar, guzzled some water, and began the 15-mile slog back to camp in Falls City.

My bike wasn’t shifting quite right, so when I got back to camp, I had the mechanics look at it. Turns out my back wheel wasn’t completely set in the frame. Yikes!! The mechanic seated the wheel, and then clicked through the gears to make sure he hadn’t messed up the shifting.

I should have taken the bike out for a spin to check the shifting under load. Instead, I showered and headed into the Falls City Auditorium, where a potluck dinner was on offer. Yaaay, food!!!

That evening after the introductory ride talk, the hosts in Falls City presented a cycling film (American Flyer?) on a giant inflatable screen in the auditorium.

TV screen

I was too exhausted to stay up, though. I went back to my tent and crashed.

day 0 stats
47 miles
2,341 feet of climb
12.1 mph avg
low temp 62
high temp 87
avg humidity 68%
precip 0
wind 4-13 g 17 S

I’m going to write posts on each day of BRAN and link them below. If you’d like a higher-res copy of any of these photos for personal use, shoot me an email.

2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 1, Falls City to Auburn

2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 2 Auburn to Weeping Water

2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 3, Weeping Water to North Bend

2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 4, North Bend to Wayne

2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 5, Wayne to Wakefield

2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 6, Wakefield to Winnebago

2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 7, Winnebago to Tekamah

I would note that these were my individual experiences, and that other people’s experiences on BRAN may vary greatly.

Another note, since I’ve got your attention:

If you live in Nebraska and own a vehicle, the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance needs your help! NeBA is working to make a bicycle-themed license plate available in Nebraska, which requires that NeBA get 250 prepaid pre-orders before the plate is put into production. Please consider signing up for a Nebraska bicycle plate, even if it’s only for the first year! The first 250 registration will make the license plate available to anyone ever after! It’s a mighty handsome plate:

red-good-life

For more detail on how to order, see here: http://www.nebike.org/license-plates/

For my Top 10 Reasons to Preorder a Nebraska Bike The Good Life License Plate, see here: https://wyobraskatandem.wordpress.com/2017/04/09/top-10-reasons-to-preorder-a-nebraska-bike-the-good-life-license-plate/

Copyright 2017 by Katie Bradshaw