I made about 90 miles today, to Bassett, Nebraska, and the wonderful Bassett Lodge hotel.
Last night, my right index finger was infected and swelling. It looked like a splinter, but I have not been near much wood on this trip. I suspect something got lodged in my finger when I used my gloved hand to scrape road gravel that got stuck in my tire treads. I have not seen many medical clinics, and an uncontrolled infection would be an awful way to end the trip. On Robin’s telephonic advice, I soaked the finger in hot water for a while and squeezed it out, then covered the splinter hole with a band aid and antibiotic ointment. That seemed to relieve the swelling.
There was a light rain falling this morning and it was not expected to end until eleven, so I went ahead and repacked all my stuff spread out in the motel room to get a start in the rain. The wind was supposed to be from the northwest at 10-20 mph, so average headwinds. Based on the Cowboy Trail guide website, it looked like I could make it to Newport, where you can camp in the public park, about 78 mikes away. I stopped at the Conoco gas stop for a sit down cofffee and donut before heading out in the cold rain.
Because the Cowboy Trail was indicated as closed north of Neligh, I just went ahead and rode on Route 275 with its hard pavement and wide shoulders. A few miles up the road, I gave the trail a try, since it runs right parallel to the road, but the wet fine gravel was very hard pedaling, and I quickly resumed the pavement.
With the rain and the headwinds, the first part of the day was slow going. The landscape opened up to attractive open rangeland, with contented looking cattle grazing, O’Neil, NE at 40 miles seemed like a good lunch stop, but I did not get there until just before two. O’Neil is a good sized town, with a b7nc( of national chain restaurants on the road into town – I passed up the Pizza Hut, the McDonalds, and even the Subway because I saw a billboard before town advertising a lunch buffet at the Chinese restaurant. But I arrived at the China Dragon just too late for the buffet.
As I headed west out of town, hungry, I remembered seeing a billboard for a “family” restaurant a mile west of town, and the Westside Restaurant t did not disappoint. When I finally got the chatty waitresses attention and told her I would start with the soup and salad bar, she looked at my bike clothes and said “wait, let me get you an extra large bowl and plate.” So I loaded up on ham and bean soup and.salads, and the two piece broasted chicken, and thought I would never be hungry again.
During lunch, I was frantically researching places to stay tomorrow night, in the Valentine area. I know there was a historic western hotel somewhere on the Cowboy Trail, but it did not seem to be in Valentine. When the waitress asked me where I was planning to stay tonight, I told her I planned to camp in Newport. She said I shouldn’t count on it – many of the parks around here are under water right now. She suggested I go to the Bassett Lodge, 45 miles on. But that seemed a bit too far on a day of difficult progress.
But as I pedaled up the road through the Nebraska rangeland, I realized that the Bassett Lodge was the classic hotel I had been looking for. I convinced myself that 45 more miles were doable in the diminished afternoon winds and partly sunny skies, and the long daylight hours at the western edge of another time zone. So, at mile 50 for the day, I called ahead and reserved a room, and told them I would probably arrive at 730 or 8. I stuck to the paved road, since traffic was light, travel was quicker, and the scenery was the same.
The waitress was right- Spring Valley park in Newport was under water. This year, this part of Nebraska is one big wetland. The songs of marsh birds filled the air as a rode, and ducks took wing in the drainage by the road.
Bassett looks like an old west town, but the streets were deserted, as was the hotel. I worried about getting something to eat, but the desk clerk assured me that the bar down the street would be open. So at eight forty, i landed at Corral’s Bar, which was empty except for two men at the bar. I told the guy at the bar that I had an important question: Was Nebraska the Midwest, or West? He said it was sort of a transition state – the east end was Midwest, but the west end was West. When he left, he warned me to watch ou5 for the ghosts at Bassett Lodge.
The menu consisted basically of many different kinds of hamburger. I asked what the biggest dish was, the barmaid said that the cheeseburger was. I thought of the contented looking cattle staring at me all day, and decided to indulge in a rare beef meal. And a side of fries. And six wings. And when I got back to the hotel I bought a package of chocolate donuts from the vending machine.
The road seemed to rise gently all day, and by the end of the ride, it looks like I gained about 500 feet of elevation, to about 2300 feet – so I am finally close to the elevation of the great eastern divide of several weeks ago.