Range Roaming – Nebraska 2013 – Day 25

Buzzed off one wheat beer – sheesh!: Hyannis to Alliance

Thursday May 9, 2013, 63 miles (102 km) – Total so far: 1,068 miles (1,719 km)

It storms again overnight, leaving the pavement damp, the air cool, and the sky full of low-flung clouds scooting overhead at speed this morning. There is a pretty stiff northeasterly breeze smashing my hopes of heading north at any point today.

The little town of Hyannis has a library with wifi, a grocery store and two gas stations. There is a hotel of sorts that serves food, but only on Friday and Saturday nights. If you want food at any other time, your choices are the grocery store or the gas stations. This morning the gas station at the west end of town is doing a booming business. There are at least 8 work trucks parked out front. The smell of bacon and eggs permeates the vicinity. I’m not a breakfast person though, so I can’t say whether the food is excellent or patronage is high just because of the lack of other options.

The wind is pretty heavy at times, but the traffic is light. The wind is actually helping me put down some miles. The climbs and descents through the dunes are gentle – most of the time the road follows the flat inter-dune depressions with the climbs coming when the road leaves one depression for another. I am simply in love with this landscape. I’m not religious and don’t believe in a god, but if there is anything to reincarnation, then I’m sure I had something to do with this place in a different life or form. For whatever reason, I’m connected to this in a way I cannot explain.

I stop for a break at the small general store and post office that used to be headquarters for the infamous Spade Ranch. There is significant history here related to cattle barons, homesteaders, fencing of the range and legal disputes.

This store was once part of the infamous Spade Ranch – an important part of history related to fencing of rangelands and cattle barons.

The man running the store has a thick, handlebar moustache and a big-ass cowboy hat. He is friendly enough.

As I walk outside with a drink, a cowboy-looking guy hops out of his big pick-up truck. He is very friendly. He asks the standard questions, then says, “gosh, you are making me feel bad. I live down that way about 7 miles. Normally, I ride my bike down here to get the mail, but I drove the truck today since I’ve got other places to go. Of all days to see a cyclist, it’s when I’m driving. Are you riding on the road?”.

Me: Um, yes. The wind is being good to me today. Sometimes it really gives me a good push.

Cowboy: “Oh, I stay off the road. Too much traffic. Doesn’t it scare you? I just ride the maintenance road along the rail line.”

Inside I laugh. Too much traffic? There is not much at all on this road, and the shoulder is huge.

We talk for a couple more minutes, then he heads off to complete his errands. I stop at the railroad tracks on my way back to the highway and look at the maintenance road. Wow – that cowboy is amazing. The maintenance road is a track at best. I can’t believe he does a 14-mile roundtrip on that. Good on him.

The clouds give way to some sun, the temperature climbs into the 60s F. On a long downhill, I feel the rear tire going squishy. Damn. On the following uphill, I stop at a ranch driveway, lean the bike against a signpost and look at the tire. I can’t see whatever is causing the leak. I pump the tire up and ride on just to see how long the pressure will last.

I get about 10 miles before I need to pump up the tire again. I’ve got about 25 miles left to Alliance, so I just decide I’ll try to keep pumping it every so often til I get to town.

If you take out the windmill, powerline and fence, this landscape has not changed all that much since the grass vegetated the dunes. Blows my little mind.

I stop to take pictures and absorb the scenery fairly often. I keep trying to get my head around the drainage system, or lack of one, here. I also keep trying to get my head around the fact this landscape has only looked like this for the past 800 years. People have been wandering around the continent for at least 12,000 years. The time scale just blows my mind.

Verne! What is it about turtles crawling out to bask in the middle of the road? That is Hwy 2 – it’s not that busy, but still….

As I ride today, I notice that the coal trains are starting to back up. Starting near Ellsworth, they’ve all been slowing to a stop. Most places they’ve allowed a big space between their train and the one in front, but as I head further west, they start getting closer together. At one point, there are 3 trains lined up back-to-front. That is 4.5 miles of solid train cars. They don’t even block any roads, such is the lack of population in these parts. The scale out here is enormous.

This museum has excellent exhibits which cover the Sandhills geology and cultural history, as well as the history of Alliance. The folks are very friendly and passionate about the history of their area. Entry is: ‘donations accepted’. Well worth the stop.

About 10 miles east of Alliance, my time with the Sand Hills comes to an end. We pedal up onto a broad, flat tableland, the dunes receding in the distance to the south and east. What a shame. I really would have enjoyed more time here. I tell myself I must come back here some day to really get to know this landscape on a much deeper level. I want to know the grasses, the birds, the dune forms and the way the wind feels on the top of a dune in an area untouched by roads. Goodbye for now, Sand Hills, I will be back.

Alliance is a railroad town – always has been. The museum in town is well done. The part of the museum about the Sand Hills doesn’t have as much depth or detail as I’d like, but it is a good overview. The section of the museum about Alliance is pretty detailed, though. The staff are all very friendly and full of information. Well worth the time.

In the evening, I find a cheap motel and then head over to a nearby pizza place. I find out that the back-up of trains is just due to line maintenance. I also hit happy hour and have my first beer of the trip. I’m celebrating the better weather, hitting 1000 trip miles yesterday, and my infatuation with the landscape.

The $2 wheat beer gives me a buzz. Sheesh. Come quick boys, I don’t usually have this level of fitness, and I’m not usually this cheap of a date, hehehehe. However, instead of having another beer, I go back to fix the flat tire instead. Diagnosis: big thorn.

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