As Jimmy Buffett sang:
It’s these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane
While we certainly haven’t cycled to Key West yet (although at times it feels like we’ve gone that far), our attitude is the number one thing that gets us through the tougher days. Nebraska threw us a few challenges today and although for a while we were bemoaning cycling in Nebraska, we rallied to have another good day on the road. If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane: When you spend a day riding over 90+ miles of rolling hills (which mean 5 minutes up and 1 minute down), dealing with the wind, the temperature rising to over 100 degrees, the dreaded Ka…Plunk of the uneven pavement, Grasshoppers playing chicken with you and hopping into your legs, chest and face and tiny towns that had nowhere to grab lunch you better be able to laugh and find the positive or you’ll never survive the day.
We wanted to get an early start to the today to help deal with the heat so we got up at 5:30a and walked over to the Antelope Cafe in Gordon, NE. A quick observation: this is the 2nd day in a row we’ve noticed what appears to be the local retired men getting together for coffee at 5:30-6a and playing Liar’s Dice. Now why Liar’s Dice might be a fun bar game, hearing the shaking of the dice in the cup and then the pounding of the upside down turned cup on the table at 5:30a is not my preferred way to wake up.
After our breakfast we rolled out of Gordon at 7a and immediately faced road construction and a northeast wind that was working against us. Fortunately as the day went on the wind calmed down a little and shifted to be more at our side. We set out to find something to take a picture of and while you’ll see below we didn’t find much we did have a few good ones. We also spent the day riding through the Sand Hills of Nebraska. Basically these are sand dunes where grass has grown on them. From a distance they look like normal hills, but when you get close you can see they’re all sand, but green.
While Matt and I have generally positive attitudes that helps us get through the long days, Ed has provided us with some comic relief. One of my favorite today was as we passed cow after cow Ed wondered if the cows cared what ear they had their tag in. This lead to a whole monologue between the three of us on cow earings, multiple cow ear piercings, etc. You kind of had to be there but it passed about 30 minutes of us laughing and making stupid jokes…exactly what we needed.
Today we also found our new “Smallest Town Sign” with the new record being Nenzel, NE with a population of 20. We also passed into the Central Time Zone today and lost another hour. As exciting as seeing the Nenzel town sign was, the highlights of the day occurred during the last hour of our riding. First, after miles and miles of the rough Ka…Plunk road we came to brand new pavement (it had been completed 2 weeks ago) in Kilgore, NE and got to ride the final 22 miles to Valentine, NE on it. FYI, for a cyclist new pavement is like seeing a full stocking on Christmas morning.
But the real highlight of the day was the most unexpected. The night before in Gordon we had briefly met a couple at dinner and chatted with them a little. Well as we were riding in 100+ heat and finishing the last 15 miles of the ride we saw the couple pulled over in their car at the side of the road waving us down. We thought they needed help and slowed down to see what they needed. Well they didn’t need anything. The had driven by us and pulled over to see if we wanted cold water and/or chocolate bars! I mean how cool is that. We stood on the side of the road and visited with Tom and Christy from Omaha and took them up on their offer of cold water (it was so refreshing). Between the new pavement and the unexpected kindness of strangers we finished our ride into Valentine in great spirits. After we found our hotel we immediately jumped in the pool and then went to lunch at the Bunk House and had great burgers and homemade pie (tough choice but we went with the pie over milkshakes today). Here’s a few pictures from today:
The Niobarra River outside of Valentine, NE