2014 Nebraska – Day 15 – Onawa to Decatur: Hand washing laundry with Harold

Monday June 2, 2014, 10 miles (15 km) – Total so far: 668 miles (1,075 km)

The Missouri River floodplain is more than seven miles wide between Onawa, Iowa and Decatur, Nebraska. The river flows in the very western edge of the floodplain here. With the river defining the boundary between Iowa and Nebraska, the floodplain lies mostly in Iowa. But the floodplain feels like a no-mans-land. Read more

2014 Nebraska – Day 16 – Decatur – Ponca State Park: When the park superintendent visits your campsite….

Tuesday June 3, 2014, 67 miles (107 km) – Total so far: 734 miles (1,182 km)

I could tell you stories about the hills of loess soil which mantle the glacial tills. I could you stories about the sad state of the Winnebago reservation where the ‘drug dependency unit’ sign is the first thing you see when passing the hospital and where a ‘wellness centre’ seems too little too late to rebuild a broken culture. I could tell you stories about Lewis and Clark, the landfill that has every possible type of windmill displayed out front, the zillions of trucks heading to and from the ethanol plant, or the lady at the gas station in Ponca that has lived there her whole life and has six daughters, 19 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren (all of whom still live in a 50-mile radius). I could describe the layers of rock visible at the boat ramp at Ponca State Park and tell you when they were deposited and what Nebraska looked like at the time.

But that is not the story of today. Today’s story is all about weather. So let’s begin. Read more

2014 Nebraska – Day 17 – Ponca State Park to Vermillion, SD: Meeting Ed Brogie

Wednesday June 4, 2014, 35 miles (57 km) – Total so far: 770 miles (1,239 km)

I wake slowly. There is flickering outside but no thunder. I open my eyes. It is just the shadows of the leaves playing with the bright sunshine on my tent fly. It is quiet. I am dry. All of my gear seems pretty dry. The tent is still very wet, however.

I climb out of the tent. Two men in a car are up the end of the road with hunting jackets and binoculars. Bird-watchers – their heads are craned upwards. Read more

2014 Nebraska – Day 18 – Vermillion, SD – Niobrara State Park: New chain and the hope of smoother shifting

Thursday June 5, 2014, 86 miles (138 km) – Total so far: 855 miles (1,377 km)

We’re flinging down the miles this morning. Vermillion to Yankton is a straight shot on a divided highway with a huge shoulder. The road traverses the floodplain well away from the river, so there is nothing distinctive about the scenery. This could be rural agricultural land anywhere. A tailwind is giving me a good push under cloudy, featureless skies. Read more

2014 Nebraska – Day 19 – Niobrara State Park – O’Neill: Rocks and rhinos

Friday June 6, 2014, 69 miles (112 km) – Total so far: 925 miles (1,488 km)

It’s going to be a rockin’ day – all sorts of geology and paleontology to check out today, let’s go!

A mosasaur fossil was found high up on a hill in Pierre shale at Niobrara State Park in 1986. While building a park road, this sea serpent (around 33 feet long with paddle fins and a big-ass head with 3-4 inch-long teeth) was unearthed. The excavation site is marked along one of the roads by the cabins. We saw the actual fossil when we visited Morrill Hall in Lincoln last year. Getting my mind in fossil mode is a great start to the day! Read more

2014 Nebraska – Day 20 – O’Neill – Long Pine State Rec Area: A biological crossroads

Saturday June 7, 2014, 60 miles (96 km) – Total so far: 985 miles (1,585 km)

The wind is gusty and out of the north. The temperature has dropped 20 degrees from yesterday. The puffy grey clouds bunch together and bump each other along while traversing low in the sky. I assess all of this and think: ugh. I’ll be heading northwest at times today. Do I want to ride with all of that wind, or just spend the day in O’Neill? Read more

2014 Nebraska – Day 21 – Long Pine SRA – Valentine: Wet and more wet

Sunday June 8, 2014, 71 miles (114 km) – Total so far: 1,056 miles (1,699 km)

The wind is still blowing in the trees this morning. It slips and slides through the cedar and pine needles and pushes back the leaves of the oaks. It is somewhere between a whisper and a roar. It has swapped from the northwest to the southeast in the night. That says I’ll have a tailwind but that I’ll also be riding into a frontal boundary. Read more

2014 Nebraska – Day 22 – Valentine: Inspiration at the bridge

Monday June 9, 2014, 7 miles (11 km) – Total so far: 1,063 miles (1,710 km)

The Cowboy Trail in northern Nebraska is a rail trail that follows the old Chicago and Northwestern rail line called “The Cowboy Line”. The railroad abandoned the line in 1992. It was purchased by the Rails to Trails Conservancy for a bit over $6 million and donated to the state of Nebraska. Read more

2014 Nebraska – Day 23 – Valentine – Merriman: Paddling and pedaling – a perfect day

Tuesday June 10, 2014, 61 miles (98 km) – Total so far: 1,124 miles (1,808 km)

Some special places immediately strike you with their beauty and importance. The hot, bubbly energy of Yellowstone, the soaring granite cliffs of Yosemite and the towering sandstone walls of Zion demand an instant response. You do not have to live deeply or think too much to appreciate the direct values of such places.

But there are other special places that require a less shallow approach. The beauty is less direct, the importance not always immediately apparent. The Niobrara is one of those places. Read more

2014 Nebraska – Day 24 – Merriman – Rushville: Gazebo gossip

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. Read more