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

Wakefield is known for its eggs, and the people of Wakefield sure know how to assembly-line an omelette. I was really impressed with their omelette corps, who were cranking out custom omelettes before 5 a.m.

The process was step 1, fill a cup with your preferred omelette toppings, step 2, walk towards the line of omelette cooks and try to figure out which one of the people shouting “I’m ready” you should go to. To make sure they could get people through the line quickly, each omelette cook would get a new omelette going as soon as their pan was empty. There were also cups of fresh fruit, muffins and coffee. Great breakfast!

wakefield omelette breakfast

I really don’t have much recollection of the first part of the morning. Strava says there were hills, and a recreation area near Hubbard is called the Danish Alps.

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I do recall the gas station at Hubbard. There was a SAG stop in Hubbard, mile 20, but I really needed a bathroom, so I went to the gas station instead. Hubbard has a Hoot Owl Days celebration, which explains the owl theme. There were several cyclists in there, and a local woman had us pose for a photo. “You’re doubling the population of Hubbard,” she laughed.

hubbard gives a hoot

Highway 35 was another of those roads with a kaBANG kaBANG kaBANG irritating series of perpendicular cracks on the shoulder. I got in with a group of cyclists that would ride in the travel lane until one of us spotted a vehicle approaching from behind, and yelled “car!”, and we’d all file back onto the shoulder to make way. There wasn’t much traffic, so this worked out OK, but it was wearying to either have to be so alert for traffic or to ride over the jarring cracks.

At the rest stop around mile 30, there was bad news – a cyclist had been hit. An emergency vehicle roared past. Sobering, because you think, “Gosh, I hope that person is OK.” and “I wonder what happened.” and “That could have been me.”

This rest stop was a decision point. We could head north on a route that would check off Iowa and South Dakota (70 miles for the day), or we could go a shorter route straight to Winnebago (57 miles for the day). My stupid internal demand for completion demanded that I do the longer route so I could say I did all five states on the Five States BRAN theme. (In restrospect, I should have done the shorter route.)

There was a pair of cyclists who’d been riding together who each chose a different route. The one who wanted to do the longer route was a guy who’d been riding about the same pace as me the whole week. He asked if I wanted to stick together on the route. Given the crash, I thought that wouldn’t be a bad idea. I agreed we could check in with each other along the way.

The pavement-marked route up to Iowa was different from what was posted in the ride guide, and followed Highway 77, which, though it had nice, wide shoulders with decent pavement, had to cross on and off ramps for Interstate 129. That was not very fun, and I’m surprised we were sent on that route. Google Maps screen cap below – I was too busy paying attention to traffic to take any photos.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 7.10.12 AM

At least I was used to dealing with crossing on/off ramps from my rides on Highway 71 south out of Scottsbluff.

There was also a confusing left turn to follow Highway 77 in traffic-y South Sioux City, and then an awkward jog to get onto the sidewalk to access the path over the river bridge.

Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.

iowa

In Iowa, there was a whole lot of very lovely path to follow on the Riverfront Trail, which was good, because, as I learned, BRAN’s insurance didn’t cover us outside of Nebraska, and there was no SAG support or official route marking. The main downfall of being on the path was that there weren’t any places to eat, unless you crossed over or under Interstate 29 into downtown Sioux City. I hadn’t done enough research to know what options there were, and I didn’t know the neighborhoods and didn’t have a way to lock my bike, so I just kept going on the path.

On the bridge overhead, an ambulance screamed north into Sioux City. Our fellow cyclist?

I lost track of my ride buddy when I stopped to check out some kind of visitor development adjacent to the path. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there are two buildings here at “The Crossroads” – one is the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, and the other is the Betty Strong Encounter Center. So interesting to have two centers on the same campus, one featuring a tale of Euro exploration, the other focused on intercultural encounters, such as the one between the explorers and Native Americans.

the crossroads

compass

sign of the cross

There was one point of confusion where the path ended in a “sidewalk closed” sign, but I happened to glance over as another cyclist was returning via a parking lot, and he indicated the direction I should take.

Lots of green shade, birdsong and wildlife on the path. Very pleasant, especially considering that the temperature was climbing. Beware: turkey crossing!

turkey crossing

I found my ride buddy again. He was sitting on a bench, researching area restaurants on his phone, so I continued on.

I paused to eat a packet of jelly beans before heading out onto Highway 12 to continue towards the South Dakota border. I luckily caught up with some other riders, whom I was able to follow onto the correct route, as I’d mis-remembered the street to turn on. They were faster than I was, though, and I caught a red light, so I lost them again. I missed a turn, figured out my mistake, and found my way to the Big Sioux River bridge.

big sioux river

Made it to South Dakota!

in south dakots.jpg

I’d hoped there would be a restaurant or c-store I could pop into, but I could see nothing but casinos on the South Dakota side of the river. Nope. Not going there by myself.

As I turned around to cross back into Iowa, here came my ride buddy again. We stuck together back to The Crossroads. I went inside to use the bathroom (there was tile on the floor in the stalls that had been photo-printed to look like grass!). I hoped to find a cafe or even a gift shop with snacks (nope). There was, however, a display of gorgeous photo portraits of Native American youth from the St. Augustine Indian Mission. They were wearing regalia, and each young person stated what they wanted to be when they grew up. Most of the boys wanted to play professional sports. One of the girls wanted to be an astronaut. I’m totally pulling for her!

My ride buddy wanted to find a restaurant in Sioux City. I just wanted to get back to camp as soon as I could. We split up again, and I set my sights on a cluster of fast food restaurants in South Sioux City. Ice cream sounded really good.

I crossed the bridge back into Nebraska, and got caught at the awkward sidewalk transition, where busy traffic kept blocking the crosswalk. I took a left to detour to the Dairy Queen. Some other cyclists started to follow me, so I paused to clarify that I was going off route to a Dairy Queen. A father-daughter pair decided that Dairy Queen sounded better than McDonald’s, so they accompanied me to the restaurant. I was very happy for the company.

I ordered a peanut buster parfait, and the daughter expressed concern at my lack of solid food. “There’s peanuts,” I said. My appetite was never really big when I started to get hot and tired. She shared some of her french fries with me.

We left the pleasantly air-conditioned restaurant, and we three made our way back to highway 77, where my faster companions bid me adieu.

This is where the horrible part of the day began for me. Open, flat road. No hills for ride-down respite. With headwinds gusting to 32 miles an hour. Twenty miles of this. For a little while I caught a “train” and rode in the lee of some other cyclists at their invitation, but I couldn’t keep up with their pace, so I dropped back again. For awhile I pulled another, apparently more tired, cyclist in my wake.

It was a godsend to arrive in Winnebago.

I paused to admire the lovely murals on the side of a discount store. I later learned this was part of the Ho-Chunk Village development.

mural dollar general

There were welcome signs along the way through town, but I was too tired to photograph any of them.

Because of traffic and fatigue, I missed getting a picture of the gorgeous large-scale art on the side of the Winnebago Public School, and I can’t find a photo of it online, but the welcome pamphlet I got when I arrived in camp had a photo of it.

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There was a DJ with a sound system who was calling out a welcome to the cyclists coming into town. Very cool.

But I wasn’t at camp yet. The route went all the way south through Winnebago and then a mile east. I kept seeing white vans go by with colored flags attached. Must be a shuttle system?

We were camping at the powwow grounds. It was glorious. So much shade!

camp shade

Wearily I settled my gear and trudged to the shower truck. There was a 40-minute wait, because the water source here was from a well, and there was not enough water pressure to fill the shower truck tanks fast enough. An announcer on the loudspeaker encouraged riders to take a shuttle to the school if they wanted to, but I was just too tired to manage that level of thinking. I would rather sit and wait. I was grateful for the cold soda the Pork Belly Ventures crew offered me.

I was really bummed I had gotten into camp so late, somewhere around 2-3 p.m., as the shuttles I’d seen earlier were tours, three different ones, to the public school and student academy, the Ho-Chunk Village development and statue garden, and the Little Priest Tribal College and a museum.

As I was sitting there, I overheard the woman next to me talking about the person who’d gotten hit. She didn’t see it happen, but she came up on the scene, and the whole experience shook her enough that she had taken the direct route to Winnebago, abandoning her plan to do the long route to South Dakota that day. The cyclist had apparently been unresponsive initially, and the young driver involved had been freaking out, “Is he going to die?” At announcements that night, we heard that he’d suffered some scrapes and bruising, and was being held overnight for observation, but was expected to be OK. The story was, the young driver was trying to be courteous and give the cyclists ample space as he passed, and he was in the oncoming traffic lane when another car turned onto the road oncoming, causing the driver to overcorrect, which sent him into the shoulder, where he clipped the cyclist with his pickup truck mirror.

I was kind of freaked out, too, thinking about all this, and the fact that, while most riders had their BRAN tags on their bikes as ID, not all of them did. And then thinking about all the time I spent riding by myself on the highway that day, and all the off-route riding into Iowa and South Dakota, and how nobody would really have known where all the cyclists wound up if someone had disappeared. If I had disappeared, nobody would have known until late that night, if my tent neighbors happened to notice I was missing, or if my husband had gotten worried by my lack of texting and contacted the BRAN folks.

Yep. The week of riding was really wearing on me, physically and mentally.

Finally, the showers were back up to pressure. As I headed into a stall, I noticed a butterfly slurping up the moisture on the shower curtain.

butterfly in shower

It was pretty dry there. I was grateful the Winnebago folks had a water truck to spray down the gravel area upwind from camp. Otherwise things would have been a lot dustier.

Once I was cleaned up, I went in search of food. The food setup at the powwow grounds was so fantastic! In a short walk, I was able to procure and consume:

  • a rhubarb bar
  • fresh strawberries
  • a slice of pizza
  • hominy-and-beef soup with frybread
  • rhubarb cake

And I wished my stomach were bigger and I could have walked around eating all night!

There were craft vendors, too. I bought a couple of beaded bracelets, and wish I’d bought more. I kind of caught the tail end of some cultural and language demonstrations. There were some Winnbago tribe t-shirts for sale as a fundraiser, and by the end of the evening, a significant portion of the cyclists was wearing one. Here’s me modeling mine:

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The evening featured a cultural demonstration of song and dance by some of the Winnebago youth. The Sacred Voice song (music video here) gave me chills. The demonstration of the different dance styles (some good explanations here, plus hoop dancing), was followed by an appreciation of the work and care the young people put into their dancing and regalia – a blanket was spread on the ground, and the audience – cyclists and Natives alike – walked up and placed money on it. There was also a singing of the Lord’s Prayer accompanied by Native sign language.

powwow grounds

Just such a beautiful place to camp! And they even provided wifi. That evening around camp, several cyclists could be found with glowing screens in their hands.

wifi

I heard that Winnebago was the winner of $6,000 in Nebraska post-secondary school scholarships in the “Best Host Community” rider vote, and I’m glad.

day 6 stats
71 miles
1,380 feet of climb
11.3 mph avg
(weather data from Sioux City, IA)
low temp 62
high temp 94
avg humidity 48%
precip 0
wind 14-25 g 32 SSE

Copyright 2017 by Katie Bradshaw

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

It was a GOAL-den sunrise at the Wayne Rugby Park. (Nothing like starting the day with a pun!)

GOALden sunrise

I really have to give Wayne credit – they had the most abundant and well-kept portable toilets of any city we stayed in. Handwashing stations and trash receptacles, too.

porta potties

I had a great breakfast from the MOPS fundraiser booth – a yogurt, fruit and granola parfait – with homemade granola.

breakfast by MOPS

Last night I’d gone back and forth about what route I would take today to Wakefield. There were three options. One – a 90-plus miler – was out of the running for sure. The question was, do I do the 46-mile route, or the 28-mile route?

I’d decided on the 46-mile route before I fell asleep, but this morning I was just feeling so tired. I decided to do the 28-mile route. I dawdled a bit in camp and was one of the later cyclists to make it out.

I rode at a lazy pace instead of trying to push myself all the time. Gentle hills, gentle breeze. It was very nice.

Except . . . my dawdling this morning meant I’d had time to drink an extra cup of coffee. Gosh, a bathroom sure would be nice about now!

I arrived at the Sag stop 10 miles in, where the 28 and 46 routes diverged. A couple of bikepacker bikes were parked nearby. A few people were using the support of the BRAN ride to test out their gear and strategy prior to undertaking a bikepacking adventure. Smart!

bikepackers

The slow pace that morning had been so refreshing, I was now rethinking my route choice. What else would I have to do the rest of the day? Might as well keep riding, right? But I was still torn. I really needed a rest.

I decided to ask the SAG volunteer whether Concord, the next town on the 28-mile route, or Laurel, the next town on the 46-mile route, had a bathroom. He didn’t know. He pointed to a tree and said, “There’s your bathroom.”

Remembering from my ruminations the previous day that Laurel was the bigger town, and thinking it would be more likely to have a publicly-accessible bathroom, I decided to take the 46-mile route.

Indeed, Laurel had relief for me: TWO gas stations (neither of which shows up in Google). I wound up learning something interesting. I saw an older gent get out of his farm truck and walk over and take a box and a paper out of this cabinet in front of the gas station.

ag parts cabinet

Another man was smoking a cigarette nearby. I asked him if he knew what the cabinet was all about. He did.

There used to be an ag implement dealer in Laurel. It was bought by a bigger company. Promises were made about the location staying open. Two years later, it closed. The cabinet is a way of accessing parts without having to drive 15-plus miles each way to the closest remaining dealer in Wayne. When you’re in the midst of a planting or harvest operation trying to beat a change in weather, taking an hour or so out of your day to get a needed part is the last thing you want to do.

An interesting conversation I had with a fellow cyclist later in the day stemmed from this ag-implement-parts dilemma. His son, who recently got into farming, thinks that if the regulatory hurdles currently blocking package delivery via drone can be overcome, farmers would some day be able to order small replacement parts for their equipment via cell phone, and have the items delivered right to wherever their malfunctioning implement was located.

This is what I love about travel by bicycle – being on a bicycle versus being enclosed in a vehicle breaks down conversational barriers and opens opportunities to learn new things. Would I have noticed the ag parts cabinet and asked questions if I’d stopped at the gas station in a car? Probably not. I probably would never have come through Laurel, since it’s off the beaten path. And I certainly never would have had that conversation with my fellow cyclist if we were traveling on that same road enclosed in separate cars.

I think being enclosed in a vehicle all the time cuts us off from our fellow human beings. I think our habit of rushing from one place to another at the highest possible speed, pushing 70-80 miles an hour, contributes to the social divide between people. I think rides like BRAN help to improve our civil society if they provide an opportunity for people who never would have a chance to meet otherwise – urban cyclists and rural residents – to learn from one another, face to face.

On a relaxed ride day, I think about a lot of things!

Once I departed Laurel and followed Highway 20’s 90-degree curve to the east, I began grumbling to myself about the quality of the road surface. The road had been chip sealed sometime in the recent past (sprayed with tar and coated with gravel), and the excess gravel had not been swept away, so I was constantly having to dodge around or carefully, carefully steer through pools of loose gravel on the road shoulder. (I rode out in the travel lane whenever I could.) I was annoyed until I started imagining that, rather than being a carelessly forgotten road hazard, the piles of pink gravel were instead the aftermath of a FABULOUS pink-gravel-confetti party. Whee! Gravel par-tay!

loose gravel

Speaking of “Wheee!” – on the last bit of Highway 20 before the route turned south onto Highway 9, there was a downhill with a 7-8% grade (per my Strava). There was no traffic at the time I hit that downhill, so I got out into the lane and let ‘er rip. Gosh, that was fun!!!

I was getting hungry, so I was glad there was a welcoming shade tent set up for us in front of the gas station in Allen. (The shade was very much appreciated!)

allen gas station

For a freewill donation, there were supplies to make sandwiches, but I was a little unsure about the food, since most of it was crowded with flies that had come for a visit from the exotic animal farm across the road.

One of the volunteers at the tent told us about a newly-opened restaurant up the main street hill in Allen – the yellowish building you can see in the above photo through the gas pump canopy. She also told us the story behind Allen’s strange claim to fame. Our ride guide had stated:

The original town was built out on a higher hill than now and the townspeople decided to lower the town. To accomplish this, its buildings were placed on stilts, the earth was excavated beneath them, and then they were lowered to their present elevation.

The volunteer elaborated that the reason for this crazy feat of earthmoving was that the slope of the main street was too steep for newly-popular automobiles to make it to the businesses downtown. She said the original slope could still be seen behind the bank at the top of the hill. Here’s the link to the town’s history website.

First things first: food!

Here’s Henry’s. You can see by the line of the building versus the slope of the road what kind of hill Allen was built upon.

henry's

Henry’s is clearly a quality establishment – there’s a bicycle above the bathrooms. 🙂

bike above bathroom

And the Chicago gal in me appreciated the random presence of the Blues Brothers up in the rafters.

blues brothers

I sat down with a group of cyclists who were already in the restaurant. It didn’t take much prompting for me to order a beer to go along with my buffet of BBQ ribs, beans, chicken alfredo and salad. I probably sat in the cool air of Henry’s for an hour and a half. I really like relaxed days on the bike!

It was soon time to get moving, though, and to check out the story of the Allen hill reduction operation.

There sure is an odd swale of hill behind the brick bank building at left, and across the field near the water tower in this image there’s a retaining wall holding back earth. Strange topography indeed.

allen hill

Still . . . if something so monumental were to occur, wouldn’t someone have photographed the effort, or written about it? I really wanted to check out the Dixon County Museum in Allen to see what evidence there was, but it was only open on Sundays or by appointment. A post office worker and customer were happy to help track down someone to open the museum, but it was already past noon, and the day was growing hotter. I wanted to get going. The mystery remains!

Another 15 miles down the road, and – TADAAA! – a Wakefield welcome! (The bigger bikes fell over, but I get what they were trying to do.)

wakefield welcome

And then there was this really weird “tandem” trike:

werid tandem

A Spin-About?

spin about

I learned it was introduced to the market in 1998 by Midwest Contracting and Manufacturing, Inc., for party rental companies and campgrounds. (I also learned that these exist, and that I kinda want one.)

A church conveniently located on the route to the campsite creatively attracted attention to its evening fundraiser meal.

church meal

I detoured a couple of blocks into the neighborhood and found this utterly delightful yard display: 3 – 2 – 1 – GO!

3 2 1 go

I did feel very welcomed in Wakefield!

welcome

And I did enjoy my stay! (I took this picture from the vantage point of the tractor that was pulling a shuttle trailer between camp and the downtown.)

enjoy your stay

In the welcome bags we got upon arrival, we got a vote ticket and instructions to head downtown to view the decorated planters and vote for our favorite one. What fun!

Here’s a compilation of some of the bicycles decorating Wakefield’s downtown:

And individual comments on some of them:

LOLWUT

monkey bars

So Americana!

americana

Gosh, do we cyclists really have that much of a reputation as drinkers?

sad stereotype

Another attempt at commercialization?

crass

Cute, but I kinda feel like this is bad juju, Crashing is not a good thing.

crash

I think perhaps the same decorator was at work at the railroad museum. (I did laugh.)

when bulls attack

This one was very cute, in front of the Little Red Hen Theatre.

little red hen

I’m a bit baffled here – why a raccoon? And why is it wearing an origami paper hat?

raccoon in paper hat

Well played, Miller Building Supply. Well played!

ET

And someone taking advantage of an opportunity. (Love the beetle-green color!)

opportunist

Here was another very cute form of fishing for opportunity. A couple of kids’ bikes in front of a restaurant? I learned from the boy who was riding one of them that his mom asked him and his sister to park their bikes in front of the restaurant so the BRAN riders would see them and come in.

bike advertising lunas cafe

Well, it worked! I was so excited to see pupsas on the menu! Ever since I learned about pupusas at the Des Moines, Iowa, farmers market, I’ve been on constant lookout for them. They’re kind of like a super thick corn tortilla, stuffed with cheese and beans and/or meat and accompanied by a spicy cabbage slaw called curtido.

pupusas

Man, Wakefield has some great food! Check out these snaps of a menu at Snack Attack. They also had AMAZING looking fruit cups and popsicles. (If I lived in Wakefield, I would be in here All. The. Time.)

There was a beer garden and band downtown, but I headed back to camp. I needed my sleep!

day 5 stats
48.5 miles
1,975 feet of climb
10.6 mph avg
(weather data from Wayne)
low temp 60
high temp 85
avg humidity 49%
precip 0
wind 7-16 g 22 SW

Copyright 2017 by Katie Bradshaw