Range Roaming – Nebraska 2013 – Day 30

Health scare: Fort Robinson State Park to Fort Robinson State Park

Tuesday May 14, 2013

Word travels fast in small towns.

Crawford is a town of 997, its business district just a few blocks long stretching east-west and a couple blocks long stretching north-south. Out on the highway, there are a couple motels, a gas station, a BBQ place and a Dairy Freeze. Not a whole lot seems to go down in Crawford.

I head into town to mail home my Nebraska geology book and some receipts and brochures. As I’m leaving the post office, a farmer with sad eyes, a worn and frayed baseball cap, and a belt buckle twice as big as his belly, looks at me. He looks at me again, and then says: “Excuse me, is that your bicycle outside”?

My heart sinks. Someone’s taken off with it! I reply, “Um, yes.”

Farmer: “So did I see you yesterday riding out on the Toadstool road”?

Me: (Phew! Bike is still there.) Yes.

Farmer: “Well, holy-moly, did you ever pick a day to do that!”

Me: Yeah, I know. But I really wanted to see Toadstool and I’m only here for a few days. The crazy thing is most of the time I’ve been touring it’s been really, really cold. The highest temp I’ve seen before yesterday was 67.

Farmer: “Ha! Yes, it has been a cold spring this year. Did you make it to the park? I couldn’t believe anybody could be that tough to ride a bike all the way out there.”

Me: Yes, I loved it. The rhino trackway was worth the effort of getting out there. Do you live out there?

Farmer: Oh yes, if you’d kept going straight, instead of turning right at the first turn. We’re up that way. That Toadstool is a really special place. Did you see the mammoths at Fort Robinson that they dug out from near there?

And so we start talking ranching and the dire situation most ranchers have found themselves in throughout northwest Nebraska which is under extreme drought. He tells me third and fourth-generation ranchers are selling off breeding stock and that the green in the landscape won’t last long as the last of the sub-soil moisture is rapidly drying. If it weren’t for all the snow in April, they’d be in even deeper trouble now. 94 degree days scare the ranchers like nothing else.

We talk for a good 20 minutes. Like most of the people I’ve interviewed in my research who have gone through trauma or tough times, our conversation seems to ease a bit of the load for a few minutes. Just getting all of the frustrations, disappointment and fears off his chest is probably doing him a whole heap of good. I can empathize with his troubles, and I hope my concern for him and his community comes across as genuine as I feel it.

After I leave the post office, I hop on the bike and head down to the library. I’m not half a block down the street when a man shouts out: “Hey!” I turn to look. He motions me over. As I pull up beside him, he says, “Are you the girl who rode out to Toadstool yesterday”?

I’m not sure how to answer. How does he know I rode out to Toadstool? I can’t think of any car or truck drivers that I would have pissed off, so I say that I am.

Man: “Oh, wow. That is so cool. Did you make it? Was the road okay?”

Me: Yeah, I made it. It was a really interesting place.

Man: “Are you alone?”

Me: More or less.

And so then I get asked the standard six questions. I pry out of the guy that he lives here in town, drives trucks, does farm work, does a little bit of auto-body repair. Finally, curious to know how he knows something about me, I ask: “So did you see me on the road yesterday”?

Man: “Oh no – my brother-in-law lives out that way. He saw you and was talking to my wife about this girl he saw riding all by herself out there. He was worried you might not have enough water or you’d break down or something. My wife thought you must be nuts. I thought you sounded adventuresome.”

Me: Is your brother-in-law Dave (the man who gave me his phone number)?

Man: “No, but I know the Dave that lives out there. He’s a real nice fellow. His parents live out there, too.

Good grief. I only saw about 5 ranches the whole way out there. I was only passed by 4 cars in total in the 30 miles of dirt. And now I’ve met three people who live, or are related to people who live out there.

After some time at the library, I go to the supermarket to get a couple days of food. While I’m standing in line, the man behind me says, “Excuse me, are you the girl who rode out to Toadstool yesterday”?

My god, he must be kidding!

I reply, “Yes. How did you know?”

Man 2: “Oh, I saw you come on the bike. Yesterday, I’d heard this guy at the gas station talking about how there was this nice-looking girl he’d passed on a bike coming into town. The other guy in line said that he’d heard you’d ridden out to Toadstool. And now I just seen you with that bike with the bag on it, and I made the connection.”

Me: Oh, everyone I run into seems to know me somehow, yet I don’t know a soul.

Man 2: (Laughs) “Oh yeah, not much happens around here. You’re practically celebrity and you don’t even know it! I don’t know anybody ’round here that would have the balls to try to ride out there. Let alone when it was so effin’ hot yesterday. You’re one hardcore lady.”

After this, I answer the standard six questions, and then get the heck out of town before I have to talk to anybody else. My goodness – I wish I’d done something juicy to get that town talking. I can’t believe how quick the news can travel. If only I could pedal as fast!

Once back to my campsite, I start to reorganize and pack up the gear. After an extended stay here, I’m confident we can head off tomorrow.

The other morning while relieving myself during my hike in the buttes, I discovered blood in my urine. Not good. I don’t normally worry much about health issues, generally erring on the side of “maybe it will resolve itself”. But that seemed like it could be a pretty serious issue.

So the rest of that day I drank tons and tons of water, and nothing else. I had no other symptoms, and the whole thing had come out of nowhere. After more blood in the urine in the afternoon, and a whole lot more water, the blood disappeared and I had no more symptoms.

I had no troubles out at Toadstool yesterday, but today I hung out just in case I had any other symptoms since Crawford does have a doctor. My concern was that it was a bladder infection. I didn’t have any other symptoms, but my fear was that maybe once it gets really bad or gets in your kidneys, you stop having pain or obvious symptoms. What do I know about this sort of thing?

But today, I’ve felt just fine and all my pee habits, and the pee itself, have been normal. So I’m going to push on and just try to keep an eye on things. (Post-trip Note: I never had anymore issues with this – so still have no idea what it was all about.)

I’d like to say that today I got to experience small-town life, like I’d lived out a scene of a Norman Rockwell painting. I guess I did get to experience small-town life, just not the 1950’s sentimental nostalgia kind. I got to experience the “gossip spreads like wildfire” kind instead. Introverts tend to lay low when possible, so it felt kinda funny to be ‘that girl’!

day30 NE149FtRob
I have the tent camping area to myself while I’m at Ft Robinson State Park. I try to camp in the shade of the cottonwood trunk since the branches don’t look like they’ll drop and there are no other options for shade. There are pit toilets nearby and flush toilets and showers over in the RV campground.

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