On a day of average headwinds, I made an average day of 80 miles, to Gordon, Nebraska.
I slept fitfully in my highway edge campsite, though most of the night I heard . only frogs, some night birds unknown to me, and comfortably distant coyote calls. But from time to time I would be startled awake by the glare of headlights on my tent and the growl of a night cattle truck. At five am CDT, morning bird song confirmed the dawn, and I rose to break camp and get started.
It was a long way to coffee this morning through the open grasslands of the sand hills of Nebraska. A mile down the road I saw I could have done much better for a campsite. A few more miles down the road, a sign said “Entering Mountain Time.” In Cody, 23 miles down the road, there was a grocery – Cody Market proclaims itself to be the only grocery store in Nebraska run by High School students. The woman at the register was decidedly not a high school student. She explained that no high school students wanted to work at 800 am. Coffee was a Keurig machine in the corner, with coffee mate. But they had fresh vegetables.
The road rose and fell with the sand hills, and the open land had few trees and fewer towns. I saw occasional antelope. In Merriman, at mile 46, I planned to have my picnic lunch at the State historic park, but that was a mike out of the way, and a picnic table with a hand scrawled sign “RV Parking Here” beckoned. No RV had parked there in a long time, but there was a little shade. I rested my feet and took a nap on the picnic bench. When I awoke and got ready to leave, I realized I was low on water, so I went back to the Hideaway Bar. I asked if they had ice cream, and they laughed, so I had a beer instead, and they filled my water bottle.
Leaving Merriman, I crossed paths with the only other cross country cycler I have met on the trip. Will was bicycling from Portland, OR to Watertown, NY, though his accent was British and he admitted to being Welsh.
The next 30 miles were a rising upwind grind of open range. I saw many cars with bikes on the back headed west. Sunday is the start of the Bike Rice Across Nebraska – an annual mass ride that attracts 400 riders, I am told. Many drivers beeped at me today, assuming I was headed for the BRAN ride. Iowa has a similar event, called the RAGBRAI.
Though I was considering open road camping again, the highway map showed camping available in Gordon. Calls to the town were not returned. But Will told me he camped in the City park last night and there were other cyclists there. All you had to do was check in with the police. When I got to Gordon and called, the after hours number sent me to the Sheriffs department, where they told me I should camp at the fairgrounds, not the park. At the fairgrounds, a grizzled old man behind the rodeo told me that everyone camps at the park. So I went back there for the night, tucked behind the closed swimming pool.