7/16/12 Valentine to Ainsworth, NE – 48 miles
[Today starts the 8th week of the bike ride. By my count, I have pedaled over 2200 miles to date]
We left earlier than usual to try and beat the heat and wind. The forecast is for another 103 degree day, and the wind was already fairly gusty at 6:30 am.
We started out on the Cowboy Trail, a bike trail that runs to Norfolk, NE. The reviews of the Cowboy Trail on the internet were not good; however, locals had told us that the first few miles to an old railroad bridge well worth seeing were in good shape, and we could access the highway from there. They were right. I think the railroad bridge was one of my favorite spots in NE.
After leaving the railroad bridge, we exited the Cowboy Trail and got on Hwy 20 towards Ainsworth, some 46 miles away. The road was flat, with a moderate crosswind that was of little or no real effect. However, the road itself was more of one of those “bumpy” varieties, which is a bit wearing on your nerves. Still, it felt good to be back on the bike. I felt a subtle changing of the terrain. Although there were plenty of brown grasslands, I began to see more and more trees alongside the road and interspersed in little groves in the hills and fields. Saw a lot of cow herds and beautiful horses. Despite our best efforts to encourage them, there were no cow racers in the crowd. Which brings me to a follow up to the cow incident. Tim (Motel Raines) knows all about cows, having grown up in NE. He told me that a running cow is not unusual at all, and just meant she was feeling good and happy. Having a good day. Even if I buy that, I still say a cow racing a bicycle has to be out of the ordinary.
My 80 year old Mom has continued to fulfill her commitment to ride her bike every day as a way to show her solidarity with my ride. She reported that yesterday she had completed a serious ride during which she encountered a “headwind.” (by serious I mean a real bike ride as opposed to a token spin around the block to fulfill the commitment). I cracked up – headwind has never been a regular part of her bike vernacular in the past. Now, I get regular headwind updates. Wonder where that has come from? I was telling Randy about the “headwind” reports during a water break and he quipped, “just wait until she starts talking about lubing her chain!” The nearby cows mooed along with our laughter. All kidding aside, I am really touched and proud of Mom’s efforts.
Continuing towards Ainsworth, we passed by a billboard that proudly proclaimed, ” Now Entering the Middle of Nowhere.” My thoughts exactly a number of times the past few weeks, but now it was official.
We passed a couple of lovely little bitty towns that had some nice big trees. The locals were very friendly. In Johnstown, we stopped at a little bar called the L-Bow for some sodas. Randy noticed a bowling trophy won by “Ruth”, and the lady there proudly told us all about the accomplishments of her Aunt Ruth, mother and grandmother, including the fact that they had almost won the state championship. A niece had competed in a bowling tournament that was on TV. She seemed to really appreciate the opportunity to tell us about it. I think that is what we all want the most – just an opportunity to be heard and taken seriously. Afterwards, we sat in the little city park across the street. It was really windy, but a nice spot.
The last 11 miles after Johnstown to Ainsworth were a breeze. Nice wide smooth shoulders all the way, and we cruised. I did notice that some of the corn fields exhibited the effects of the drought I have been hearing about on the news. By some accounts, approx 30% or more of the corn crop has been affected.
In Ainsworth, we found a small local cafe for lunch, then checked into a motel. Tomorrow, we plan to ride 65 miles to O’Neill. The reports we are getting indicate that the road continues flat all the way. Now, if we can just get that strong tailwind.