Monthly Archives: July 2017

The Surprise

Each year my extended family gets together for a reunion.  This year the reunion would be in a suburb of Tulsa.  My longest tour prior to this was when I rode from Russellville to Tulsa and it was for that year’s reunion.   The idea of showing up grew with each day.  When I finally decided to take a long break to restore the legs it made sense to do so with the family.  

When I left Pierce I started looking for a way to get to Tulsa.  The closest rental car company was in Norfolk, but I had passed it.  The next closest was in North Platte, which was 230 miles southwest.  That would take a minimum of 5 days to reach.  I called the Enterprise there and asked if they would really pick me up.  They said yes, as long as I was within 20 miles.  That was no good.  The Enterprise in Norfolk said they would pick me up within a 5 mile radius.  I then looked for a other rental companies.  I found a U-Haul rental in Valentine, which was a 3 days ride from me.  The bike would easily fit in the back and I would still have room to setup my bed each night.  I once thought about living in a truck like that.  Maybe one day I will.  It was impulsive, but I called and made the reservation.  I had to speak to three people before finding someone that knew anything.  That was not a good sign.  Afterwards, I did the math and it was only $80 for the four days, but it would be another $1300 for mileage.  They did not mention that on the phone.  I quickly called back to cancel.      

After speaking with a friend about my options, it was clear that the only thing to would be to go back to Norfolk.  I had to make it look like I was making forward progress and I would get too bored if I just sat somewhere so I continued West and would loop back.  I had a reasonable explanation for hitting Neligh.  It was not just reasonable, I needed to go there for food and the movie theatre did not hurt.  It put me within 40 miles of Norfolk.  

I got around that morning and went by the RV park to take a shower.  This time it cost me a dollar.  The further North the more expensive showers are.  I went back to Mamas’ & Nanas’ for another round of waffles and fries.  I could tell this was the local hangout for the 60+ crowd.  There were two tables filling up as I waited for my food.  The grandpas all sat at one and the grandmas another.  Of course the grandmas and I talked.  They liked what I was doing, one even took me by the arm to introduce me to her husband.  Before leaving, I asked the group how they would feel if it were their grandkid cycling cross country.  That gave them a little different perspective.  They thought me showing up at the reunion would be a fun surprise.  

The ride to Norfolk was slow.  Usually I try to maintain a constant, high RPM, low crank resistance pace.  This day I pedaled a few strokes, coasted, and repeated.  My legs really did need a long rest.  When I started the day,  my odometer read 974 miles.  Once I hit 1000, I was only 7 miles from Norfolk and lunch. 

After lunch I found a small park and a tree to hang from.  My rental would be ready at 5 pm, so I sat there until then.  I may have dozed off a couple times.  When I stop to rest I change out of my cycling clothes and into my running shorts and sandals.  I do this to let my riding shorts dry and to prevent saddle sores.  

I reserved a compact car from Enterprise.  Actually, I ordered the smallest car they had that would fit a bicycle.  When I got there, the lady waiting said they had a pickup, minivan, and a grand cherokee.  None of these were compact cars, but I could easily sleep in the back of all of them.  The girl helping me turned out to be a bit of an adventurer like me.  She helped me stuff the bike in the car and then we talked a while.  If I end up writing from Europe next summer you can blame her.  She also reminded me that I have been neglecting the rest of my body.  My legs and stabilizing muscles have been getting a good workout, but only in one range of motion.  I had planned to do yoga each day along with some strength exercises.  I had planned to do a lot of things.  This, I will start doing.  I am glad to have met her.  I hope she gets to go on her adventure.  If she reaches out, I may have to go with her.  Oh, and I got the 300!

I’ll skip the boring 8 hour drive.  I finished two audiobooks by the time I pulled into the hotel parking lot at 1:30.  I would have slept in the back of my Dad’s truck had it been unlocked.  I searched around for some trees and decided to just lay the car seat down.  It was only 4 hours until breakfast.  I got little sleep that night.  At 6 I got up and went inside.  I just walked into the breakfast room, grabbed some food and sat down.  I also, freshened up in the bathroom.  It crossed my mind to do this as I am traveling, wander into a hotel for breakfast.  Waiting for my parents to come down gave me time to update the blog.  At 8 I almost gave up and layed down for a nap.  I was all about to lie down when they finally walked in.  I could see their eyes get a bit misty as we sat and talked.  I was afraid my Mom would figure it out from the few clues that I left, but she didn’t.  It was a good surprise.  They said they recognized my jersey immediately.  

Later, my Mom sprung the surpise on my aunt and grandma.  My grandma I think was in disbelief and for a moment she looked like she was going to swat me.  After showering and laundry we went for lunch.  I spotted a Cici’s on the way in the night before.  I may have endulged too much.  I got a veggie pizza and a broccoli buffalo pizza, and ate every piece.

I took the bike to the shop for its 1000 mile check-up and spent the rest of the day napping and watching movies.  I will spend the rest of the weekend resting and working on my gear.  My next update won’t be until after the weekend when I return to Nebraska to continue on.


Beginning of the Long Weekend

As I pushed on, my legs got more and more fatigued.  Each morning it gets harder to wake them up and for the soreness to abide.  That morning was especially hard since I got very little sleep and it was damp and cold.  After spending every day in the sun, simply walking indoors with the A/C set at 70 degrees chills me.  It is time for another break, a real break.  I have ridden 920 miles and at 1000 I will take a three day weekend, but where?

The gas station opened at 7 AM, but the Ashfall Fossil Beds did not open until 9 and it was only 10 miles away.  So I took my time getting around.  When my clothes are wet or funky I strap them down to the rear rack.  The hammock and mosquito net were both dry enough to pack away in the saddle bags.  I grabbed a muffin for breakfast and an extra for after seeing the fossil beds.  

The ride to Ashfall was slow.  My legs were stiff, sore, and tired.  It took me an hour to do the 10 miles and it drizzled off an on.  If I was fresh it would have been a great day to ride.  Temperature was in the 60’s and the wind minimal.  When I turned North I started to see a slight change in the terrain.  The previous day had been mostly flat, with a couple long slow hills.  The hills started rolling more.  My photos don’t do justice.  Ashfall was located on the top of a large hill and from there you could see miles of untouched land.  I couldn’t help but to think of my Japanese guys and what they would think of all of that openness.  

I arrived just before 9 and the gate was closed.  I at first thought I may have read the hours wrong and felt a slight panic of having ridden those miles only to go back.  It then dawned on me that I could ride around the gate and go see the fossil beds without supervision.  Before I had time to saddle up, a car pulled in behind me and the girl got out and unlocked the gate and went through.  After checking in, I had a self-guided tour.  I was the only one there and I wondered how many people visited this treasure in the middle of nowhere.  

Giant turtles roamed North America when it was a tropical forrest

Rhinos and camels also lived in North America

Rhinos and Horses

The plan was to leave there and ride to the highway 275 junction and turn south to Clearwater.  This would keep me busy and give me the mileage for the day.  I was just too tired to make that happen, so I backetracked a few miles to take highway 14 straight south to Neligh.  Back in Royal I stopped to pet a buffalo.  He kept purring and snorting and pawing at the ground.  I think he was happy to see me.

Neligh turned out to be a wonderful decision.  The map showed a Godfather’s Pizza in Neligh and described them as specializing in deep, thick crusted pizza.  It did on say that it was gas station pizza.  My second, and better option was Mamas’ & Nanas’.

Mamas’ & Nanas’ was a small diner open for breakfast and lunch only.  They closed at 2 and I barely snuck in on time.  I had fries and waffles, both made from scratch.  Before people start yelling at me, yes, I know that waffles contain eggs.  These contained real butter too.  This tasted more like a pancake batter poured in a waffle maker.  If you do not know the difference between a waffle and a pancake, look it up and have your life changed.  As I sat there plotting my next move I noticed they had a drive-in movie theatre.  It opened at 8 and showed two movies for $8.  And, one of the movies was the new Spider-Man!  I am not a huge superhero buff, but Spider-Man was always my favorite.  

There was a huge park just south of town.  I spent the afternoon there recharging everything, drying the clothes, and napping.  Since I have been in Nebraska I have been noticing these small chipmunk looking creatures scurrying away from the road.  There were two at the park that kept a close eye on what I was doing.  They were striped ground squirrels.  I have been trying to get a good photo, but they wouldn’t let me get close enough.  These cute creatures were my entertainment while I waited for dinner time.  I found two of their holes and they played with me while I tried getting a photo.
Rather than playing it safe and going back to Mamas’ & Nanas’, I opted for a steakhouse, but not a steakhouse.  The sign said steakhouse, but inside was a bar and mexican restaurant.  This was even better!  I was so excited to have chips and salsa and to finally get a good burrito.  Unfortunately, this was not the place for it.  My food curse struck again.  My veggie burrito came out and it looked like they took a bag of frozen veggetables, nuked them, and then put on a tortilla.  I had to request all of the extras that come with and then they tried charging me for them.  It was not until I pointed it out on the menu that they understood their mistake.  When I did not leave a tip, the guy exclaimed to his co-worker in Spanish.  I should have replied to his comment in Spanish, but that would have been too much.  

It was still early before the movie started so I found a quiet place to sit.  They call it the Rainbow Fountain.  It was designed after the one at Harvard University, or at least that is what the sign read.  The day before I would have taken a seat in the middle.  That day, I stared at it for over an hour before riding to the drive-in.  I was the first there and got to claim the best seat.  I started setting up my tent as everyone else set up their camps.  They came a lot more prepared than I did.  They had chairs, mats, pillows, blankets, pizza, and drinks.  I started talking with one couple that drove there from Norfolk.  The man had four daughters!  He was on a much different and scarier adventure, in my opinion.  The movie did not start until after 9.  I crawled into the tent and snuggled up with my covers.  On warm nights I will use just the down sheet.  Cooler than that and I will use the hammock as a sheet over the silk.  Colder than that and I get the sleeping bag out.  

After the movie and before the second started I decided to head out.  I did not bother asking if I could camp there.  I rode the mile down the road back to the large park and set up the tent in the show barn.  This was my first opportunity to use my new, 100 lumen, rear light!  In the morning, I would ride to Norfolk.

Hottest Yet, maybe

I don’t know what it is about leaving Ken and Jan, but both times have been two of my hardest rides.  I had planned to try to do the 70 miles to O’Neil, but I could tell right away that was not going to happen.  It would be another long, hot day.

After packing up all of the gear, I said goodbye and left out.  Headed Northwest on highway 13 before turning West on highway 20.  The Cowboy Trail started in Northfolk and ends Chadron.  It is 350 miles long, the longest Rails to Trails in the US, and would take me all of a week to complete.  Rather than going back to Northfolk I decided to pick it up at O’Neil.  The first stretch on highway 13 was not bad.  I had a wind blowing from the southwest that helped me along.  

Ignore me, focus on the wind blown tree

By the time I got to Plainview it was already in the mid 90’s.  Passed Plainview the food options were slim so I stopped at a grocery store and got everything for chili dogs for later.  My new target was Royal, about 20 miles down the road.  It was so hot that I was dry.  My sweat was evaporating so quickly, leaving just dry salt on my skin.  Between the wind and the heat I felt like i was barely moving.  Five miles from Royal I ran out of water.  The first store I came to looked like it had been closed for a couple decades.  It wasn’t until I reached the far end of the town that I found a park and then a convenience store.  This is also where the housing started.  The town had a population of 81 so there weren’t too many houses.  I purchased two drinks and after cooling down at the park went back for a third.  That was as far as I was going for the day.  I learned my lesson the last time.  

Tar bubbling from the heat

The shop owner was kind and told me about a lake just a few miles north.  She also recommended that I see the Ashfall Fossil Beds which were ONLY nine miles north of there.  All of that sounded nice, but would have to wait until tomorrow.  The park had a pavilion, electricity, water, and a bathroom.  I couldn’t ask for more and wanted to stay close to that store for more food and drinks if needed.  I saved my chili dogs for dinner and got chips and salsa from the store for lunch.  

After getting cleaned up, another sponge bath in the bathroom, I relaxed in the hammock and watched a movie.  Midway through the movie one of the park’s neighbors came by and startled me.  He asked for me to follow him and he would show me a safe place if a storm comes through, which it did.  The clouds were getting dark and the wind started picking up from the North.  He took me to his garage, man cave, and pointed to the couch in the corner.  I loved his space.  I could definitely see myself living in something similar.  It was a two bay garage with a wall divider and a bar cut into the wall.  He offered me a beer and we talked for a while before I went back to the hammock.  And yes, I gave him one of my adventure cards so he could keep up with my travels. 

I set up the keyboard and tablet to write the latest blog post and made dinner.  It is hard to find a veggie dog in these smaller towns.  So my dinner was a couplen of hotdog buns with chili beans, chili spices, and diced onions.  Oh, and some of the leftover salsa from lunch.  Between the time I got to the park and the time I decided to go to bed I took three showers and a few times just stuck my head under the spicket.  

It started cooling down around dark.  The wind was already strong and I could see lightning in the distance for a long time before the rain started.  To keep from getting wet, I hung the hammock as high in the rafters of that pavilion as a I could.  The bike blew over and my gear scattered after one good gust.  After that I laid the bike down and packed everythig away.  I probably should have taken that opportunity to go to the couch in the man cave, but I stuck with it.  It got colder and wetter as the night went on.  I did not sleep much, but I stayed dry and made it through the storm.

Ken & Jan

The park maintenance staff woke me up.  They pulled in to do something to the bathrooms.  They didn’t clean it, and it looked like it had not been cleaned in a while.  I rode through town and found a Casey’s.  Casey’s are expensive, but all of them have donuts.  

From Columbus I rode straight north to Norfolk.  The rolling hills of eastern Nebraska had faded into long stretches of flatland with the occassional mile long hill.  Again, the wind was in my favor, coming out of the South.  In the morning most farmers have their irrigation systems running.  They look like a perfect shower.  I have not yet brought myself to try it.  I thought they may be using it to distribute fertilizer, but am still not certain.  One day maybe.  

I stopped in Norfolk for lunch.  For being such a small town they packed a lot there.  I was on my way to a Mexican restaurant when I passed by the Wood Fire Grill.  The aroma from the street was too good to pass up.  Once again, I ordered all of their side dishes: rice pilaf, sweet potato casserole, french fries, and grilled veggies.

By this time I had already ridden 45 miles, but Ken, from Indian Cave, called me while I was in Fremont and said he was camped out a little north of Norfolk.  It was another 12 miles to Pierce and then 3 miles to Willow Creek Recreation Area.  He warned me that Google would try to take me down a gravel road.  I have been down gravel roads before and managed, but this was something else.  It had a layer of loose pea gravel about 3 inches thick on top of the pack.  My tailend was fish-tailing so bad that I wrecked twice.  The Awol and I both got a little cosmetic damage on the first wreck, but only pride hurt the second.  There was no way I could go down it, so I called Ken and he said there was a paved road after going through Pierce.

I rode through Pierce and found the signs for Willow Creek.  Ken also told me there was a bike trail I could follow that would lead me to the park.  At one intersection the sign for the park said turn left, but the bike trail went on straight.  I was not riding the bike trail so I followed the sign.  This took me South and straight into that, what was favorable earlier, south wind.  It was a struggle to move the bike, even going down hill. On the map there was a road that cut straight into the park.  In real life, that road was blocked and said do not enter.  So, I ducked under the gate and went on.  It did lead me to the park and eventually I found Ken on his bike waiting to take me in.  

For being so small and out of the way this park was really nice.  It had a bike trail and a horse trail.  It had beaches and volleyball nets.  From an RV’ers perspective, it did not have sewage or a pump out.  For me, it was great.  I spent the next couple hours in their camper learning about their adventure and telling them about mine.  They sold everything, bought a very very nice camper and went exploring.

After a 75 cent shower, we loaded up in their truck and went to town for dinner.  Like most families, choosing a dinner place is always a hassle.  Even more so when you have a picky eater like myself.  We ended up at a local favorite in Norfolk.  The consensus on the food was that the locals have no taste buds, but the company was good.  Back at camp, Ken helped me set up my tent.  He warned that rain was coming so it gave me the opportunity to test out my tent’s rainfly.  On the way to the laundry I found a huge patch of muscadines.  I am hoping that Ken and Jan were able to harvest some while there.  We sat and talked while I attempted to knock out another blog post.  Once finished I crashed in the tent and prepared the gear for a rainy night.


Fremont was only the second time I set up the tent on this trip.  I was tired of getting mosquito bit through the hammock.  Fremont was the first time that I was fully hydrated.  I know this because I had to get up in the morning to pee.  The restaurant opened for breakfast at 8 so I got around, packed my gear, and got a shower before going over.  It cost me a whole quarter to take a shower (hint to all travelers: carry quarters).

I was not the first to arrive at the restaurant.  It must be a usual occurence for the man with the key to arrive when he got around to it.  I sat there with an older man, his wife, and their son.  They asked me all of the usual questions regarding my sanity and how my mother felt about it all.  He was a New Yorker and from what I gather from movies and stereotypes they are blunt, and that he was.  Nice, but blunt.  Everyone in that place new his name and everyone seemed to like him.  I talked more with his son, but for some reason he made the bigger impression.  

Breakfast was a stack of pancakes and hashbrown, the kind you get from McDonald’s.  This got me checking the map for the closest Waffle House for a real hashbrown and also breakfast burritos.  It has only been three weeks but I miss my little pancakes on Saturday.

The ride to Columbus was straight west.  It took me no time to get there, and I felt great the whole time.  I am pretty sure it was being fully hydrated, or maybe had something to do with the having the wind at my back.  Regardless, I got there fast.  I stopped at a Walmart and picked up some velcro straps, a new tire, and some carabiners.  I thought I would try hanging the tent from the handlebars.  Not sure if I like it yet, but it does take some weight off of the back.

Lunch that day was a veggie burger and onion rings from Burger King.  I have all but given up the idea of $5/day.  It is way more expensive, but I am a lot happier.  I sat in the Burger King to finish a blog post and drank I don’t know how many glasses of tea and water and powerade and lemonade.  From there I found a local park to rest, charge the devices, and try to attach the tent.  

I was welcomed to the park by the local…not really sure, but he lived around there monitored everything that went on.  A construction crew was there installing a metal cell tower that resembled a tree.  He was there watching them.  He talked to me for an hour as I messed with the gear.  Nice fella, but I needed some peace and alone time.  I asked him for food recommendations and he said go to Hy-Vee, Nebraska’s version of whole foods except without the overpriced health food.  There I got an all you can eat salad bar, which I returned for a plate of rice and veggies from the wok.  The guys behind the counter were nice and we got along fine.  I’m pretty sure the girl appreciated my riding shorts.  Maybe 800 miles has done something.

There were a couple of parks in town, but Pawnee Park was the biggest and easiest to find a place not to be seen.  It also had a water park.  I didn’t go in, but stood outside the fence like a creeper.  Unlike a creeper, I was admiring all of that cold water and wishing I was in it.  I found a large pavilion with electricity, water, and a bathroom nearby.  It was still early when I got there and it was packed with families.  One group of kids were playing soccer and I wanted to join them, but everytime one of the kids would wander close to a stranger, the whole pack would come running and yelling, “it isn’t safe, strangers!”  I then wanted to find there parents and, well I’m not sure what I would say to them.  Those kids were intense.

Everyone started leaving the park around 10, but it didn’t close until midnight.  I am always a bit jumpy when camping in a public place.  Not because of crime or “strangers”, but of getting kicked out.  It hasn’t happened yet, and I hope it never does.  After setting up the tent and checking to make sure it couldn’t be seen from the road, I layed down.  I got nervous everytime a car would come by.  They didn’t just come by, but they would stop and sit right in front of my pavilion.  One even pulled in and had his lights shining on me.  I’m fairly certain he couldn’t see me, but still.  All of this ended around 1 and I was able to get some sleep.

Party at Fremont

That morning I was prepared for the continental breakfast.  The day before, I went down to the grocery store and got some almond milk.  I had two bowls of cereal the night before and now a bowl of cereal for breakfast.  I also snatched a bagel, peanut butter, and some jelly for lunch.

The ride to Fremont was more of the same corn fields and rolling hills.  I took a short cut out of Papillion which took me on a gravel road.  This road was packed gravel and I was able to maintain the speed.  Once on the highway I hit a headwind out of the West.  This usually means cooler weather, but hard riding.

As soon as I got into Fremont I was stopped by a man in the middle of the road.  The whole downtown was closed for a sidewalk sale.  This man, a cyclist, asked me about all I was doing and made some recommendations while I was in town. He recommended I try the Asian place around the corner, which I did, and the check out the bike shop a block up, which I did.

Bill, the owner of the bike shop, was extremely friendly.  He checked out my bike and made some recommendations for how to move more weight over the front wheel.  I got some lube and a rechargeable, 100 lumen tail light from him.  I stayed there talking with him and another guy for a good two hours.  Bill makes the second pilot I have met on the road.  He even volunteered to help me take the sailboat down the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal.  

After leaving the shop I road through the university before stopping at the library.  Everyone in this town knew or were cyclists.  I didn’t get the usual stares as I entered a building with my spandex.  When the library closed, it was time for dinner.  I know I ate something, but can not remember what.  Everyone I met suggested I go to the Fremont Lakes.  The lakes were a bunch of sand pits that were filled in used for recreation.

I stopped at a bar/restaurant and they were sponsoring a volleyball tournament.  The ownere was sitting outside so I talked to her for a little bit before riding around the rest of the park.  There had to be several hundred campers there and it was packed with people.  It was like the Chuck Wagon races in Clinton, but with boats.  There was a central island that the boats made laps around.  One boat was filled with college age coeds that had music blaring and dancing on the deck.

After setting up my campsite I went back to the bar for a drink (tea) and to see what kind of entertainment they had.  The entertainment was me talking with the owner.  I was surprised how slow they were.  I quickly got tired and went back to camp for the night.

Brownville to Omaha

“Breakfast starts at 8:30.” The sooner I am up and around the less heat I have to ride in.  I sacrificed that hour out of the sun for breakfast.  The owner had made a special breakfast for me, which consisted of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some fruit.  After finally looking at a map, I decided to head North to Omaha rather than West to Maryville.  It would take me two days, but the first would be a short one.  I was not convinced I could do the 47 miles to Maryville in the heat and with the hills.  Thirty-five miles to Nebraska City was much more doable.  

I didn’t get out of the floating hotel until after 9.  I barely remember the ride to Nebraska City, but it helped to take my mind off of losing my phone.  In Nebraska City,  I remember stopping to eat something, but can’t remember what or where.  Then, I found a bike shop.  I would think a bike shop owner would be more interested in a cross country rider but this guy could care less.  Not spending any money in his shop, I went on to the library.  There I took a mini shower in the restroom and changed into my muggle clothes.  I put a brief update on the blog and instagram and then plotted the next move.  

Walmart! I went to Walmart to look for an extra pair of running shorts and short sleeve t-shirt to change into.  My riding shirts were starting to get rank and I was tired of wearing my long sleeve as an around town shirt.  I picked up the cheapest, coolest shirt I could find.  They had a Spider-Man shirt that would have been perfect if it was in my size and not black.  Very disappointing.  Oh, and I got some granola bars.  My clothes were still a bit soggy and smelly so I laid them out in an open grassy area around Walmart and set up the hammock for a quick nap.  It was hard to nap with it being so hot.

I packed up and headed to McDonalds for an iced tea and large fry (electrolytes).  The kid at the counter suggested I go to the local marina for the night.  He said there were showers and I could camp there.  What he called the marina, turned out to be the state park.  I got there and was set up by 5.  I was so bored! So bored!  My phone was my only source of entertainment.  I sat there and played with a string for 5 hours before finally calling it a night.  The rest of the night I fought with the mosquitos biting me through my mosquito net.  ENO needs to work on their design.  

The next morning I had a granola bar for breakfast and set out for Omaha.  I was 47 miles from the closest AT&T.  I wrote down the street address and memorized which roads to take to get there.  I was trucking along nicely until I was about 18 miles from Omaha.

This is what I think happened:

I was going along at a nice 16-18 mph, riding on this beautiful shoulder.  Big trucks and cars were passing with ease and some even waved. I was thinking about a blog post I have been wanting to write, concerning the law and safety for cyclists on the road.  About that time my 8 ft shoulder shrinks to a 3 ft shoulder with blacktop.  It looked like a mine field with all of the potholes and debris.  I jumped the lip onto the smooth road and rode about a foot inside the white line.  I find that cars will attempt to pass me without crossing the yellow line if I ride the white line.  If I ride a foot inside the line, it forces them to cross the yellow line to pass me and they will usually get all the way over giving me plenty of space.  

The first trucker passed me in the opposite lane.  He probably got on the radio to the truckers behind letting them know there was a cyclist in the road.  The next trucker, with his trucker friends cheering him on probably said, “we should buzz him”.  And he did.  He got close enough to me that I had to squeeze my elbows in as to not lose skin.  The next trucker seeing how much fun the second trucker had also decided to buzz me.  The third trucker could not pass me because of the oncoming cars, so he lays on the horn.  Not a honk honk, but rather a perpetual haaoonnnk.  We was going to honk until I got off the road, but I was not about to wreck my bike on the shoulder.  When the cars finally cleared he got around me, but still would not let off the horn.  So I waved at him and he waved back with one finger and continued honking.  

This guy was bad, but the last trucker was the worst.  He decided he was going to pass me no matter what.  As we climb a hill, he gets into the other lane and starts passing.  A pickup was in that lane, but he stayed his course.  The pickup was forced off into the shoulder and we went by three abreast.  Just as soon as the truck got by and back in our lane I see a pothole large enough to lay down in.  If that truck had hit a hole like that there is no telling what would have happen.

At the next town, the shoulder smoothed and widened out.  I stopped at a grocery store for a snack before going the rest of the way.  All of that excitement happened in about a 3 mile stretch.  When I left the store and hopped back on the road (shoulder), I wasn’t a half mile down the road before I saw blue lights.

The deputy approached me and asked if I was on the highway heading north.  He had a report that a bicycle was impeding traffic and swerving in the middle of the road.  I told him what had happened and then asked what the law stated about bicycles.  I had to laugh, because it would be very inefficient to swerve in the road.  I assumed it was trucker number 4 that called the cops.  If my phone was working I would have called the cops on him.  By the way, I have called the cops before and they did nothing.  This guy was nice though, and looked up the the laws. 

Nebraska law states that bicycles should ride as far to the left as possible on the roadway.  Specifically, bikes are to ride on the shoulder out of the way of traffic.  Only if the shoulder becomes dangerous should the bike ride in the lane.  Then, the bicyclist should ride on or as close to the white line as possible.  Way to go Nebraska!!

The deputy then looked up the directions to the nearest AT&T and suggested I exit that highway and go on another road.  The other road was much less busy and after a few miles had a bike lane.  City planners should discuss the difference between a bike lane and a shoulder.  A shoulder with a bike painted on it is still a shoulder.  

After picking up my phone and “free” tablet, which I am now using to write with, I hit a chinese buffet.  None of the buffets I have been to so far have compared to Mulan’s.  I want a multicultrual buffet with build your own burritos, hibachi, sushi, cereal, waffles, and a bakery.  If anyone knows of one, please let me know where.  My day consists of eating, riding, thinking about eating, and finding shelter.  My shelter for the night was a hotel 16 miles away.  It was 3 PM and extremely hot.  I gave in and called Ben, the cabbie.  

Ben was from a western African country.  We got to talking about bikes and he said I needed to see his collection.  He had a storage unit piled high with bikes.  He collects and ships them back to Africa.  He was an interesting guy.  At the hotel I laid everything out for a real laundry with real detergent.  I also took out all of my gear to inventory and tidy up.  I have determined that I have too much stuff.  Only problem is I use most of it.  I have not used the solar panel or the tarp.  Everything else gets used regular.  The old phone and possibly the GoPro may be getting sent home.

I got a shower and changed into my least smelly clothes before walking down to the shopping center.  I was hoping the Best Buy could recover the pictures and contacts off of my phone, but with no luck.  I did find another pair of Asics running shorts just like my other pair, $5 at TJ Maxx.  Veggie burger and fries from Red Robbins for dinner.  It was only a 2 mile walk, but by the time I got back to the hotel I was drenched.  A dip in the pool fixed that.

I took the next day off from just about everything except eating and sleeping.

Racing the Sun

Since my phone died I lost all of my photos from the last few days.  My last real post was in Hiawatha, KS. Since then, I crossed over to Nebraska, almost went into Missouri, almost went into Iowa, got a little heat sick, took a day off, and am now 250 miles down the road in Fremont, NE.

On Tuesday, I rode straight from Hiawatha to Brownville, NE.  It rained for the first couple of hours, which made everything I was wearing sogggy.  I tried throwing on the rainjacket, but it just got sticky inside from sweat.  In Falls City I stopped to grab a sandwich to eat at the Indian Cave State Park.  After leaving Falls City, Google took me on a gravel road tour.  It was nice to be off the main road, but the wet gravel/sand was difficult to navigate.  By this time the sun had popped out so I hung my jersey off the bike in an attempt to dry it and me.

Towards the end of the gravel road I came across these two fellas.  One of them huffed at me and bowed his chest.  I believe he was challenging me to a race.  I was tired, but not about to back down.  He took off and I took off.  It was a short race and I lost by a long stretch.  So, I yelled and goaded them into another race.  This time I kept up for all of 3 pedal strokes before they were gone.  When I reached them at the top of the stretch the winner was prancing around gloating.  If you have seen the movie “American Flyer” with Kevin Costner, this was the scene with the cowboys on their horses, except without the cowboys.  I had a great photo of the horses racing me and then an even better one of him prancing around.  

The road leading into the park was paved and uphill.  The park is located on the ridge that follows the Missouri River.  Once at the top I could sit and eat.  The park is named after a cave/overhang with drawings from the Native American locals.  The same overhang was used by generations of people after the native population “left”.  To get to the cave you must go through the entire park.  It was about a 5 mile ride from the entrance down to the cave.  This took me down a steep cliff to the river’s edge.  The river was a better site than the cave.  Too many people decided to leave their marks next to the marks of the past.  At this point, I was getting tired.  It was about 1 PM and I needed a break.  On the map I saw that the RV camping had showers and laundry, so that was where I was headed.  

The climb out of the river was a rough one.  I walked most of it, and even walking was challenging.  I have made a lot of wrong decisions on this trip.  I really wanted to kick myself for this one.  The map showed that there were two sections of RV camping.  Each section was marked having a shower and laundry.  Tired of climbing hills, I tried to pick the one with the easiest climb out.  I chose wrong.  Turns out the two shower facilities were just one.  The route I took required me to carry the bike up a 100 ft stair case.  If I had gone the other way I would have been at the top of the hill.  

The shower was working and the water fountain had cold water.  It’s a 50/50 for water fountains to be cold.  I had exactly 75 cents of change to dry my rain soaked clothes, but not all quarters.  I searched everywhere for a third quarter (now I have more change).  I went down the row knocking on RV doors.  The owner of the second RV was sweeping up outside.  I told him what I was doing and he and his wife gave me a quarter.  Turns out, there son does long rides and triathlons and such.  I thanked them and went about my washing and drying.  Oh, and the bike got a bath too.  RV pump outs are great for bike washes.  After my shower, Ken, the RV guy, came and talked to me.  I left one of my cards that way they could let there son know I was heading his way, just in case he wanted to ride with me!  

Shortly after, Jan, his wife, came up.  She had found my blog and been reading.  They were out park hopping in the RV and we compared routes and we may meet again up in Chadron.  The chances of that increase the slower I go and the more days off I take.  Before I left, Ken asked me what the heat does to me.  I should have taken that as a sign to stay put.  I had a little food in my bag and am sure I could have bummed around if needed.  It was 3:00 and hot.  I was 15 miles from Brownville, where my hotel was.  Usually, this is doable.  I had already ridden 47 miles that day, it was hot and humid, and my sandwich was all but gone.

I did alright riding down from the ridge, but the next few miles were probably the worst so far.  I quickly went through my first bottle of water and mixed Gatorade packet in the second.  The Gatorade was a big help.  Did I mention it was really hot?  The rolling hills seemed long and tall.  With about 10 miles to go I checked my phone for directions and it was fryed and I was close to it.  I started looking for a way out.  I stuck my thumb out at trucks going by with no luck.  Had I gotten Ken’s number I would have called him, but no phone.  I kept going, but gave up on riding.  My legs knew what to do, but I was getting dizzy and not riding straight.  So I walked anything not down hill.  Up the final hill to a T in the road and a sign that said 1 mile to Brownville.  It was 1 mile of downhill, taking me down to the Missouri River.  

From there, I followed the sign to the only eatery in town.  After a glass of water and a glass of tea I was feeling a little better.  The lady helping me was nice and patient.  I took something from just about every dish they offered to make a dinner plate.  The food did me a lot of good.  My head was still swimming and my stomach upset, but I could talk.  I ended up staying there for two hours before finding my hotel.  The woman helping me was on summer break from teaching at a university.  The other patron was also a professor at one of the universities.  I must have felt better, because we talked a long time after I finished eating.  I found this place by calling the hotel earlier in the day to ask about dinner options.  I then called the restaurant for a menu.  By noon, everybody in town was probably expecting to see me.  

The hotel was an old riverboat converted into a hotel.  The rooms were much nicer than I had intended.  My boat could use some upgrades after seeing what they had done.  The top deck was open with seating and football turf as flooring.  The same turf was on all of the outdoor decks.  The second deck was where the office, central lobby, and restaurant was located.  The first deck was used for lodging.  Once settled in I called home and tried to find the best way to get a new phone.  The closest AT&T was in Maryville, MO, 47 miles away.  If feeling well enough, I would pack the bike and head East in the morning.  

Update: Still Pedaling

Yesterday was a hard day.  I got off to a good start and had a lot of fun until it stopped being fun.  Full story to come.  Right now, I am at the Library in Nebraska City.  Tomorrow I will ride to Omaha and then take a rest day.

It got hot yesterday and it got the best of me.  It also got the best of my phone and camera.  Omaha is the closest place to get them replaced.  Flying semi-blind until then.

My Food Rant

Today I left Nortonville headed north to Hiawatha, a 40 mile ride.  No donuts at the gas station so I got a rice crispy treat and a lemonade.  Being the only place in town with food, this is where the old men go for their morning coffee.  They were nice and had plenty of questions for me.  When I offered to let them tag along, they said they couldn’t because their wives had chores for them to do.  

Twenty miles down the road I stopped under the shade of a grain silo and had my second rice crispy treat.  The road was anything but flat.  I was either climbing or descending, but it was a nice change from the long grinding hills over the last few days.  At one point, I topped a hill and there were more trees than corn stalks.  I was transported to a whole other place.  The hills were taller, but there was shade on the road from all of the trees.  This only lasted a mile before it went back to the long rolling stretches of corn and soybean.

Disclaimer: Rant coming.

I stopped in Horton for lunch.  I thought about trying to make it to Hiawatha for lunch, but I was getting hungry.  The choices were: gas station diner, pizza, mexican, or family diner.  I chose the family diner, only because I have had a lot of pizza the last few days.  It is hard for me to go places to eat due to my diet.  I have been a vegetarian for almost two years now and vegan-ish for almost a year.  I say vegan-ish because if you make me a cake, with an egg in it, I will eat it.  Same goes for pecan pie and cornbread.  If I go to your house and you made burgers for dinner, then I will have a bun with all of the fixings.  I try not to inconvenience anybody with my choices.  This often times leaves me hungry after dinner.  

The diner was a typical diner, minus the selection of southern vegetable side dishes I was banking on.  So, french fries again.  I’m not sure why people are still serving frozen fries.  It is so much better and probably cheaper to start with a potato.  The fries only teased my appetite, so it was time to get creative.  I told the waitress to bring me a plate of spaghetti noodles with baked beans on top, oh, and a side of ketchup.  At that request, the “chef” came out and offered to sautee some onions, peppers, mushrooms, and squash to go on the noodles.  Small town diners will usually try to work with me, especially when I am the only customer.  Plus, they can tack on the word special request and charge extra.  

On that note, my cheese-less, meat-less pizza will cost almost twice as much as your pepperoni pizza.  This would only make sense if vegetables cost more than meat and cheese, which they don’t.  It also has way fewer Calories because of the lack of fat.  If only food cost as much as it provided in Calories.  

The waitress, smiling, brings out this steaming plate of veggie spaghetti.  She said the “chef” went all out.  It had sliced toast on the side and loaded with mushrooms and fresh squash along with the other veggies.  It was also covered in parmesan cheese.  Another patron had come in and he was chatting me up so I ignored the dish for the longest time.  Usually I would send it back and request a new order, but I was so tired of being confrontational.  Every dish, every restaurant, every day, has to be wrong.  I went up to pay for the meal and she asked why I didn’t eat the spaghetti and I told her that I don’t eat cheese.  She then said,”you can’t simply pick around it?”  I wanted to say, “it would be like picking around the chocolate in chocolate milk.”  When she didn’t take it off the bill, I was really upset.  Again, instead of being confrontational I just wanted to leave to get on the bike and find a new space.

And now, I feel bad because the “chef” worked hard to make a special meal for me and I wouldn’t eat it.  As I rolled down the road, I even considered calling and apologizing.  I often wish they would just let me go into the kitchen and prepare my own meals.  My dad will say that I should have brought the stove.  The stove and all of the accessories and food would add another 15 pounds to my pack.  

I am now sitting in Hiawatha, under a pavilion, at a lake, with a cool breeze.  And, I’m hungry.  I am afraid that if I get back on the bike in search of food I will be too tempted to ride the 20 miles to the next town. I am certain that where ever I go for food, they will get it wrong and I will have to send it back or not eat again. 

It’s amazing how such a small thing has put me in such a funk.  Maybe tomorrow will be better. My mom called and I am feeling better about the day.  I now have something special planned for tomorrow evening, and a chinese (hopefully buffet) planned for my immediate future.