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

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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