Herb came into his bike shop just as I was waking up at 7:55. I did the decent thing and put some clothes on before I made him wretch early in the morning.
I put the thermarest and sleeping bag away, had a wash, talced the nether regions and finally loaded the bike. After chatting to Herb for a bit longer, I thanked him profusely once again and I parted ways.
Since it was still early (for me) I made the decision to catch up on a couple of blogs and sat with my pizza from the previous night and a chocolate milkshake.
I was there till midday at which point the fine restaurant became overrun with a rowdy bunch of school-kids. I think the whole of Chadron descended upon here, especially since they are still off school.
My destination today wasn’t set in stone. So long as I did 45 miles I would be happy. The wind was blowing and Herb kindly pointed out that there was some uphill sections too. Armed with this information I was hoping to either make 50 or 60 miles as there were towns on these markers.
The first couple of hours ride was pretty much identical to the previous days. Vast expanses of green rolling hills, blue skies, a smattering of wispy clouds and the occasional herd of cattle. I did however see something on the horizon that looked a little different. Jutted rocks which looked like 2 tiny mountains. It wasn’t much, but it was something different.
I approached a Historical Marker at mile 17 and thought now was an ideal time for a little break. I propped the bike up against the marker and slid into the only bit of accessible shade I’d seen in the past 10 miles. Unless you go climbing over fences to get to a couple of lonely trees there is very little shelter. I’m just thankful that the temperature is still bearable compared to a few weeks ago.
Whilst taking on-board a good dose of calories through a mixture of raisins, energy drinks and honey, I suddenly got an urge to poop. I’ve not had to go in the wild yet but this sudden onset was nearly unbearable. I looked behind the placard to see if there was a suitable spot. There was a fence with a metal rope, I tried to sit on it to see if it would allow me to assume the position. The metal rope was slack and as soon as I put my weight on it I found my ass on the floor. After chuckling to myself, wondering why I didn’t see that coming, I figured the best bet was to clench and keep riding to the next town.
It arrived sooner than I expected – the town not the poop – and I was glad to see the “Welcome to Crawford” sign. I must have forgot about my toilet situation because my first thought was to go and get something to eat. I stocked up on granola bars and bought half a cantaloupe melon.
23 miles were done and I sat outside the library eating my melon with my trusty titanium spork. I then remembered about my bowel situation and thankfully the library was open, and equipped with restrooms. Phew. I shall make it across without getting caught short!
Onwards and unfortunately upwards. Not long out of Crawford and things started going uphill, the terrain did anyway. Thankfully, the wind had died down at this point and my sole focus was just on the climb. Yup, it was hard work, but at least you can get your teeth into a climb and feel a sense of accomplishment when you reach each mini-peak. Wind on the other hand is a simple, unpredictable bastard, you cannot defeat it, it serves only to break you down, make you weep and crush your soul.
The views going up this climb were brilliant, finally I had found the best of Nebraska, and it’s been hiding away out in the west for all this time. I was climbing at 5mph, slow and steady, but also sweaty. At that pace you feel the burn, and as there is a lack of rushing wind at 5mph you also begin to drip sweat. My only concern was keeping the suncreamy sweat out of my eyes. I quite wanted to be able to see the view at the top.
The peak came but not a moment too soon. I ventured to the scenic overlook and marvelled at the massive, undulating panorama beneath me. Not only were the views spectacular, but the sound was astonishing too. Silence. The occasional birdsong was in the air, but even with the twittering of birds it was pure bliss. If I had have done 40 miles by that point I would have camped there but I was only on 35 and that simply wasn’t enough on a good riding day.
The remainder of the ride was fairly flat, a few rolling hills and a couple of climbs which now seemed miniature in comparison to earlier. 50 miles was on the GPS and I arrived at the town of Harrison. It was 19:30, the sun was lowering but still bright and it was 10 miles to the next town. I tried my luck at finding a place to stay here.
I arrived at a little RV Campground and motel, which seemed ideal. I went to knock on but no answer came from the office. I trundled on to see what else the town had to offer. I spotted a small police and fire department building and thought I’d see what they could do for me. I propped my bike up, I knocked and entered. The place was void of life. There were walkie-talkies, keys, paperwork but no bobby in sight. I waited for a few minutes but figured I’d have better luck somewhere else.
Riding around the town a little longer I saw a sign for a park, pool and restroom. Inquisitively I went to check it out. It wasn’t obvious who owned it so I asked a family who had just finished dining outside if they knew. They told me it was for anyone, and it’s funded by the town so in essence is free! Awesome news.
I was all ready to go and start pitching when I got asked if I had eaten. Incredibly I got to sit and talk to this wonderful family and finish off their delicious lasagna and salad. Fed, watered, fine conversation, I was happy as Larry. It’s now starting to sink in that in fact, I’m not lucky at all. What keeps happening to me is the display of the American kind-hearted spirit, and it comes by the bucket-load around these parts.
As it was getting cooler and darker I said goodnight, thanked them again for the food, and went to pitch my tent. After being warned about the sprinkler system I pitched next to the vacant RV spots which also meant I got to charge my batteries and write some more before bed!