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.
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.
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.