It's nearly impossible for me to recap the five days on Tour de Nebraska -- the scenery, the cycling challenge (hills & weather), the people, the myriad of towns, and the non-stop itinerary off-the-seat as well! My main observation of Nebraska is that it has more shades of green in a single view than I've ever seen before.
It wasn't an easy ride by any means, but a gorgeous setting with stops in small towns (the smallest, Monowi with a population of one), and plenty of good food made by friendly, welcoming people. There were more than 500 riders on the Tour ranging from 9 to 82 years old, and while most were Nebraskans, cyclists came from as many as 25 states and Canada.
The Tour was a 248-mile loop in the Northeast region of Nebraska, starting and ending in Plainview (yes, the town of Hawthorne in the movie, Nebraska). While we slept in just four towns, there were 4-5 rest stops each and every day along the way, so a real experience of what the area looks and feels like. The first day was 51 miles of non-stop rain; the second, 41 miles of 20-28 mph winds; and then the sun came out for the remainder of the miles! Yeah!
The final two days were spent in Niobrara, one of the oldest towns in the state, and a spot where Lewis & Clark camped on the bank of the river. It's also where the Ponca Tribe were relocated, and home to Chief Standing Bear. It's historic, peaceful, and scenic.
I've too many stories to tell, I'm afraid, and tomorrow I rise at dawn to head into the Badlands.
It's been an interesting 10 days in Kansas as I make my way on a schedule to Nebraska. While planning my route, I chose two stops for very different reasons. The first, El Dorado, because it had a 12-mile lake with state park camping in the the Flint Hills region. While the park is scenic, and the people are kind, the lake is more accessible to boats and fishing than to people. I really didn't spend any time there, with the exception of cycling the perimeter.
El Dorado feels like it's trying hard to maintain its' main street, has some interesting architecture, but culturally I just didn't quite get it. Lo and behold, on my third day, I discovered that the biggest employer is just south of the city -- an oil refinery. Duh. El Dorado is also home to the Kansas Oil Museum. I never quite sat comfortably here, and was ready to roll after five days.
My next stop, Marysville, was selected for two very good reasons -- the first, a 12-mile rail-to-trail that connects to total 68-miles in length, and runs to Lincoln, Nebraska. The other is its' link to the Pony Express! Marysville was the first home station out of St. Joseph, Missouri going west. Situated on the Big Blue River, it was also an important crossing point for the Oregon and California Trails.
Marysville did not disappoint (as you'll see in the photos!), and the people are as friendly as can be. What I didn't know before arriving is that it's known as the "Black Squirrel City". The tale is that in the early 1900's, a carnival came to town and brought two black squirrels – one male and one female, and a small boy let them out. They've been here ever since. I did see many black squirrels running by my tent (in the city park), but you can also see the 21 "Black Squirrels on Parade" (made of fiberglass) throughout town.
In the early morning, I head north to begin the 5-day Tour de Nebraska. The weather's looking very sketchy (rain, rain, rain) but I'm looking forward to my first cycling event in nearly a year.
It was a joy to roll into south-central Oklahoma as the temperatures were 15-20 degrees cooler than Texas, and the woodlands were oak, hickory, red cedar, elm, and sycamore trees. Ah, shade and breezes. The area was a grand surprise with much to do at camp, in town, and throughout the Park. As I said following my last visit to Oklahoma in 2016, I could've used another day or two here (note to self).
I camped within the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, adjacent to the town of Sulphur, a popular spot in the late 19th century for the waters' medicinal qualities. In 1902, in an effort to preserve the springs, the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations sold acreage to the Department of the Interior. This later became a National Park, and has now grown to nearly 10,000 acres of preserved springs, trails, waterfalls, and over 500,000 trees planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the '30s. While all too busy on weekends, it seems well cared for.
With just five days to play, I didn't have an opportunity to simply sit by the lake, relax in a spring, or lunch at a local spot. That said, I lost an afternoon when the sky turned black along the horizon, and I wondered if I'd experience my first tornado. I'd say this was my first serious weather scare in nearly four years! I was torn between seeking a safe place, and heading to camp to take my new tent down. Lo and behold, the thunderstorms went on for a few hours, but there was no tornado in sight. I spent the afternoon at the library, then returned to the homestead where everything was in tip-top shape. I must say that weather is my biggest fear this year as I continue north to cycle Nebraska, and tour the Dakotas.
Tomorrow, I leave my first stop in Kansas where it's been hot and humid! More to come on Kansas before I jump on two wheels next week.
I'm in disbelief that it's been more than three weeks since I've found a moment to sit down and write. During this time, I've said "farewell" to many bike group pals, my AirBnB family, and my friend Martha and her daughter Annika. I've also spent nearly a week at the hostel on the lake to play tourist in downtown Austin (and meet new faces), then enjoyed relaxing and tourist time with family in San Antonio.
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover