Thursday June 12, 2014, 34 miles (55 km) – Total so far: 1,207 miles (1,942 km)
There is heavy dew on the tent this morning, but I was never assaulted by sprinklers in the night. The wind has not yet swapped to the south. The terrain is a rolling plateau with long sight lines and distant vistas. The landscape is still ridiculously green. Many areas in northwest Nebraska have had nearly their annual rainfall in the past month.
We start to gently climb out of the Ogallala sediments into the older Arikaree group which were deposited 28-19 million years ago. Hay Springs has a main street leading away from the highway, but I do not stop to check it out. Instead I head down to the park off the main highway and consume some calories. This park probably would have been better for camping than Rushville – something to keep in mind if you are ever out this way.
Just as I’m about to head back onto the highway, a woman turns the corner and stops. She smiles broadly and says out the window, “So you made it this far”! I don’t know where she has seen me before, so I look at her slightly confused. She says, “We saw you in Cody a few days ago”. Ohhhh, okaaay, now I remember her and her husband from the little market there. She’s in a different vehicle, that was several days ago, and I guess all middle-aged rancher wives kinda all look the same.
There is a long hill heading out of Hay Springs that climbs into the heart of the Arikaree group and the top of the Pine Ridge. The Arikaree group is volcanic ash blown in from the west or washed into streams and deposited by water. This same group of sediments can be seen at the top of Scotts Bluff in the southwest part of the state.
While I’m climbing the long hill, I see a couple on a tandem pulling a very full trailer heading downhill. They seem to slow down a bit as they approach me, but I can’t tell if they want to stop to chat. So I just keep pedaling. We end up just waving to one another as we go by. I keep thinking, ‘was I supposed to stop? What is touring etiquette? Is the uphill person supposed to stop to indicate they want to talk? Or the downhill? Do you cross over to indicate this? Shit, I didn’t mean to be rude.” So, if you were the couple heading toward Hay Springs that day, my apologies, I didn’t know if you wanted to stop and chat or not. I’m not used to seeing many people, unless I’m on an ACA route (in which case I generally don’t stop), so I don’t know proper procedure, I guess.
I continue the climb up to the Pine Ridge escarpment. There are long views of rolling hills and puffy cumulus clouds far into the distance. We finally make it to the top and into the Ponderosa pines which grow along the crest and down the steep slope to the road. The descent from the ridge-top is a fast ride through sweeping curves. The road goes back through time as we head down through a wide canyon. Pine trees perch high above on the steep slopes to the left. The road falls away to a creek in a wide valley to the right.
Then we find ourselves back in open, agricultural land as we ride into Chadron. I head up to a park to dry out the tent. Then I head down to gorge myself on vegetables while I do laundry. I haven’t showered or consumed adequate veggies in three days, so it’s time to get cleaned up and cleaned out.
There is no official place to camp in Chadron, so I find a cheap motel. $40 cash. It is basic but clean. They provide no amenities but a mini-fly swatter. That is a first for me – but I can think of some places in Australia where I would have loved if the motel had provided fly swatters instead of shampoo. If you’ve never been to Australia, you’ve never known flies, in my opinion.
The only bad thing about the place is that the walls are super-thin. A man, his young son and a puppy arrive after 10pm. My bed backs onto their bed. I swear I am sleeping with that man, even if he doesn’t know it or get any pleasure from it. I know I certainly am not. I can hear everything going on over there – every fart, every cough, every movement. The most disturbing part is hearing the guy abusing the puppy, and the young child pleading with the dad not to hurt the dog. Then it goes quiet for a while. Then more yelping, more conversation, TV channels changed. This goes on until 4 am. I had hoped to get up at 4.45 am and be on the road at 5.15 am. Blecch!