Wednesday June 11, 2014, 49 miles (78 km) – Total so far: 1,172 miles (1,887 km)
The sun is fighting its way through the thin overcast when I climb out of the tent in the morning. There is no wind. But in the time it takes to pack up my gear, the sun has disappeared again. A north wind picks up and escorts in a bunch of low cloud and fog.
Wispy pieces of moisture fly along the lake’s surface, skimming along with the wind. The world goes damp, cold and grey. The three-dimensional world goes two-dimension as it loses its colour and depth. The scenery now looks flat and dull – it takes effort to pick out texture.
The wind is a 15 mph NNW annoyance that I will engage with all day long heading west. It is mostly a crosswind, but at 60F degrees and no sun, it feels very cool. The dampness does not help either.
The moisture beads on the bike when we ride through the thickest of the fog. It settles on the bike computer and the top tube – I’m not riding fast enough I guess to break the surface tension of the little bubbles.
The road climbs and weaves through the Sandhills. I continue to note the difference in character between here and further south. Sometimes, the vegetated dunes feel congested – as if they couldn’t really decide which way to blow. It is hard at the surface to detect any pattern in their form.
Twenty-some miles into the day, after a bunch of gentle climbing, we enjoy a nice downhill into Gordon. This little town of 1600 doesn’t look like much as you come walloping down the hill to the flats east of town. But the main street is busy, and most of shops in the main street are occupied. There is a hustle and bustle to the place, and an impressive line at the post office.
Two grain-holding facilities look like giant, utilitarian-inspired gates on either side of the main street leading away from the highway. Trucks come and go continually, stirring up a constant film of dust that whips away toward Highway 20. The gas station is busy enough that the ‘ding’ of the opening door rings out several times a minute.
Neither museum (a county museum and a cowboy museum) is open right now. The library is not either, and there is no wifi signal to pick up from outside. So I head back down to Subway and sit inside trying to get warm while I eat half of a sub.
A young guy on a motorcycle starts chatting to me. He has a brand new Harley and is on the first big road trip of his life. He started three days ago in Ft Wayne, Indiana (a couple hours due north of my hometown) and is heading toward Casper, Wyoming tonight. He’ll end up in Salt Lake City where he is going to look for work. He says he’s absolutely freezing on the bike today, but hasn’t run into any other bad weather. He is so excited about his trip and all that he’s seen. I enjoy absorbing some of his energy on what I’m finding to be a fairly dull day.
The motorcyclist catches me a few miles out of town and honks and waves as he heads on west. I’ll get to Casper, too, in a few months time, via a much more indirect route.
My journal says, “some curves on the way to Rushville. No rocks to see really. Just more gloom. Clouds start to lift about 10 miles from town.”
Rushville, pop. 897, is a little bigger than I expect but still not much. There is a Family Dollar and a cheapo discount store but nothing indicates that there has been much wealth or investment here in recent times. How it became the county seat instead of Gordon is surely an interesting story.
One little motel on the east side of town is full of residents; the other little motel has a no vacancy sign. I’d hoped to camp tonight anyway, but it does mean inside options are out. I find the library and can pick up some wifi outside. The weather forecast says the winds will stay out of the north today and tonight but swap to a strong southerly tomorrow by noon. So I decide I’ll just stay here and hope to pick up that southerly tomorrow. Maybe it will blow me up to Chadron instead of me fighting into it any longer today.
I get permission from the sheriff’s office to camp in the city park. The dispatcher says I can camp anywhere I like, but most cyclists tend to camp somewhat close to the restrooms. She’ll let the officers know I’m down there but says they won’t come around unless there is a problem.
So I spend the late afternoon basking in the sun which is showing its beams more frequently now. I find a spot behind a gazebo that is out of the wind, but in the sun. I write letters and postcards. I nap. I catch up the journal. I eat the other half of my sub. It’s a lazy afternoon. One of the great things about bike touring is that there is no guilt in having a lazy afternoon. There’s no pressure to be productive like you sometimes feel in normal life.
Eventually, I just go ahead and set up the tent by the gazebo. Some Native American guys in their mid-20s, dressed in gangsta gear and with a vocabulary to match, come sit on the gazebo steps and drink a bunch of beer. They don’t bother me. And they don’t bother me when they come back at midnight for their second round either. It wakes me up, but their conversation of who’s sleeping with whom, who fought whom, who has a nice car and what wheels they are going to put on their car when they get their license back – well, all that talk punctuated by expletives puts me right back to sleep. I guess if you want to know the gossip of Rushville, the gazebo is the place to be.