Range Roaming – Nebraska 2013 – Day 22

The scenic byway’s byway: Loup City to Taylor

Monday May 6, 2013, 68 miles (109 km) – Total so far: 865 miles (1,392 km)

The fog is so thick in the morning, visibility is reduced to mere feet. The fog has enveloped everything in its misty embrace – the whole world is grey, fuzzy and WET. It will be a while before I’m going anywhere.

And this is a very good thing. Some minutes later, I have to exit the sleeping bag and head to the pit toilet very quickly. Oh man, something has upset my stomach! I don’t feel bad at all, but over the next several hours, I make a total of about 8 visits to that very dark and tiny toilet. I try to keep my feet dry as I traipse back and forth through the grass, but no luck, it is just too wet.

I snuggle back down in my sleeping bag to get warm after each foray into the wet and cold world. I feel very appreciative that the fog has delayed my start, and I did not end up 5 or 10 miles into the day trying to ration my kleenex and napkin supply while finding somewhere to hide in a rural area with very few trees.

The fog envelopes everything until about 10.30am. Finally, it starts to lift, and within a half hour, the day is clear, crisp and sunny. We pack up the tent and set forth, my stomach now concave, not an ounce of anything left in me. I have no appetite, but I don’t feel unwell, either.

Once the fog clears, I have a gorgeous ride through loess hills and tablelands between the Middle and North Loup River valleys. Nebraska is soooo under-rated!

We immediately start climbing out of the Middle Loup River valley up into the loess tablelands. It feels good to climb high into a landscape and gaze off into the hills of the distance. I’m trying to see if I can pick out the gullies and canyons, as they are said to preferentially align in a northwest-southeast direction, but to my novice eye, I can’t definitely see this alignment, except in the major river valleys. Never mind, this is so fun, anyway. There are some interesting historical markers about severe blizzards which add to the interest along the way.

Good luck on that road!

Finally, we begin our descent out of the tablelands, down into the North Loup River valley. Yippee – it’s fun and fast. We pedal into Ord. All services are available here.

We descend out of the tablelands into the North Loup River valley. Fun and beautiful – what a great day!

I hit up every bank in town – none of them will take my Aussie Travelex Cash Passport card. This sucks. I lost my US bank card back in Iowa – it’s been cancelled and they are sending my mom a new one. She is going to send that to me in Chadron. Normally, I use that as a back-up card when I can’t find a bank to take my other card. With no back-up card, and no ATM to give me money on my Aussie card, I have less than $10 cash left.

I call the cash passport folks to see if it is a problem with the card instead of the ATM coverage – the woman says the card is fine and suggests I just use the card in major towns, as they align with all major banks. Ummm… I’m on a bicycle, and my route includes no major towns? She doesn’t care a bit – “well, you may have to find your way to one”.

This sucks big-time. They have changed how the Cash Passport works from the last time I used it. They wouldn’t let me reload an existing card back in Oz, so I was a bit unhappy to start with when I had to get a new card. In the past (and on my 2010 tour), I had no trouble finding bank ATMs in small towns that would give me money. This time I’ve been having lots of trouble. I WILL NOT use this product again. I will go back to transferring money to my US bank account before future trips. Stay away from Travelex Cash Passport!! Lesson learned.

Time wasted and nothing to show for it, we get back on the road and head to Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park. Active between 1874 and 1881, it was constructed because of confrontations between the Sioux Indians and settlers who arrived with the Homestead Act after the Civil War. The fort also protected the friendly Pawnee from their traditional enemies, the Sioux.

The buildings were made with lime and concrete, since there was a lack of trees for building material. All of the buildings have been restored and furnished with period pieces. You can tour through most of them.

An introductory video in the Post Headquarters can be played and gives enough background to understand the fort’s construction, soldiers’ duties, the social context, etc. I thought it was well worth the four-mile detour off the main road, even though I never saw another soul the whole time I was there.

We stop at Fort Hartsuff to learn more about the cultural history on the route. I see not a soul the whole time I’m there, but all of the buildings are unlocked and you can go through most of them. The video in the main building can be viewed, also. Well worth the time to ride 4 miles off the main road to see this site.

I end up taking a very scenic detour off the main byway when I decide to head north on a dirt road instead of going back the same way I came in. My bike map makes this road seem to be of a similar length to the paved road. It is not. Instead of 4 miles, it is about 7.5. Because I didn’t know this, it seemed to go on forever, winding this way and that, weaving around the loess hills and through cropped fields and pasture. It was very scenic, and I enjoyed the close-up views of the loess hills, but at one point I did wonder if I would ever see pavement again.

Our map seems to indicate we can take a dirt road to the north and not have to back track the same way to the highway. It looks about the same distance on the map – about 4 miles. Well, this road just keeps curving and heading north and east. It’s in okay shape but still takes concentration for soft spots and loose gravel. I keep going and going, drawing very odd looks from the occasional rancher I see. We are getting awesome views of the loess hills, like in this picture, but at mile 5 we start to wonder if we’ll ever make it back to the highway. Finally, at 7.5 miles, our very scenic byway off the main scenic byway hooks us back onto pavement and a highway into Burwell.

I finally make it to Burwell. I check that the grocery store will take my credit card (I don’t have much cash), then go stock up with a couple days of food. It is about 4pm and I haven’t eaten yet today – a bit afraid to after the detox session of this morning. However, I’m hungry now, which is a good sign.

I head down to the park – there is supposed to be camping and showers available. All I see are ‘no camping’ signs anywhere you’d want to put a tent. Showers aren’t available because the pool isn’t open yet. So I sit in a picnic pavillion, eat, and ponder my choices.

A guy comes to play frisbee golf. On his first round, he comes over and asks about the trip. I ask him where people normally camp. He points to the spot I thought was the only legal, but not very attractive, option right on the road. On the guy’s second golf round, he comes over, asks a few more questions and then offers that I can come over to his place for a shower. I say I’m not sure if I’m going to stay there tonight. On his third round, he offers his basement for me to stay in. I decline, though I thank him very much. I’m sure it would have been fine. He gave off no creepy vibes what-so-ever. I just don’t feel like I want to stay here for some reason.

So at 5pm, I start heading west toward Taylor which is supposed to have an RV park run by the town. Unfortunately, I hit repaving works just outside of Burwell and have to ride the milled surface for 8 miles, getting out of the way for the pilot car when it comes from either direction. 8 miles of bone-shaking vibration later, I cruise down the white line for 5 miles into Taylor. I watch the sun setting as I pedal into the dusk.

The city park in downtown is attractive, but the toilets are locked. Oh dear, I just drank a litre of chocolate milk back in Burwell! I then find the city RV park. Uh-oh. It is just a gravelled lot with hook-ups next to a tiny park on the main highway. There are no toilets and no sites for a tent. It is getting dark.

So I do what you do. I set up my tent on the grass in the park, use a plastic baggie to pee in while squatting in the vestibule of my tent, and then hope that no one will object to me staying there. Indeed, some people walk around on the gravel for a bit, talking about how it’s a tent and not an RV. There is also some confusion about the lack of a vehicle – but I just lay still and make no noise while they walk around, and eventually they go away. Sleep comes easy and fast after that.

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