Made it to the Wauneta, the start town. Tent set up, trike unboxed, all checked in and picked up my bling.

Bran Goodies

Tent and trailerHad just a wonderful time at dinner, with a visit from my aunt, cousin and her two grown children. Our BRAN start town is only 19 miles from Imperial where they live. Thanks guys!

dinner with family

Sadly I am not participating in BRAN this year.  Sorry to those of you who are here to follow my trip.  I cancelled my spot for several reasons:

  • My rear tire is questionable after the local The Bike Rack store incorrectly trued the tire, stressing out the spoke nipples to the point one came through the rim on a ride right afterwards.  I brought it back to them and they loosened the spokes, replaced some spokes and a couple of nipples, but who is to say if any of the remaining ones have metal fatigue.  I sure don’t want to find that out on the side of a busy highway.
  • I’m not physically in the shape I would like to be in.  I don’t want to, in a weakened state after days of riding, do something stupid and injure myself.
  • The weather here has been so unpredictable, riding could be dangerous.  I remember the 2010 BRAN ride we were up several night from sever storms and I was just plain exhausted from lack of sleep.

Sorry to be missing what would otherwise be a great ride, but I do have RAGBRAI to look forward to the end of July and hopefully will have my trike ready by then.

We are just five weeks shy of the start date for BRAN and I can tell you today, I am NOT ready.  The Nebraska weather this year has been horrible for training.  Too cold, too wet.   I only have about 6o trail miles under me this year and that’s under the daily average ride for BRAN.  However, I’ve been out three of the last four days and steadily improving to the point I think I can be ready if I can get out several times a week.

That said our forecast this week is for rain and even snow showers.  Come On Mother Nature!  It’s the first of May!!!  I’ve got to get into shape.

The other thing that has me optimistic I can do this ride this year is the sheer lack of hills for most of the first few days.  As the ride follows the path of the orignal settlers of this region, it fallows the flat land area, the area where trains have built their tracks as well, along  side of most of the roads we will travel.  I traveled much of this route by car several years ago just for a change of pace from the interstate and although not as majestic as some prior years of BRAN, there is enough visually to make it enjoyable.

For me, though, much of the joy of this event is not in the riding, but in each destination.  The local town folk really love having us in their communities.  It’s not only an economic boost for them, it’s someone new to talk to.    The food is probably every day grub, but if you just finished  a 80 mile ride, it tastes like a gourmet restaurant every single time.

I’ve pretty much determined the trike I am building will not be ready in time.  I don’t want to rush it and I really need to road test it a few hundred miles before I take it out on a trip like this.  But trust me, it will be spectacular.

Here’s the BRAN route this year:

  • Sunday, June 2nd – 64 miles Kimball to Chappell
  • Monday, June 3rd – 57 or 72 miles Chappell to Paxton (shorter route bypasses lake and less hilly)
  • Tuesday, June 4th – 77 miles Paxton to Gothenburg
  • Wednesday, June 5th – 76 miles Gothenburg to Kearney
  • Thursday, June 6th – 72 miles Kearney to Aurora
  • Friday, June 7th – 72 miles Aurora to Brainard
  • Saturday, June 8th – 49 miles Brainard to Strategic Air & Space Museum

Total Miles – 467 miles

Much of the route is along the historic Lincoln Highway, which is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary.  Click here to download a PDF of the BRAN brochure.

At least it is a short day and through some familiar countryside, but the terrain was more like a roller coaster.  Okay, okay, I’m tired and cranky and it just seemed that way.  55 miles brings us from Oakland to Waterloo, which is just outside of my home in Omaha.  The day started out very foggy with a wet dew over everything.

But ended up one of the best days ever…

Overall it has been a great adventure.  Had you told me three years ago that I would be riding a bicycle, a recumbent at that, across Nebraska (and Iowa in July), not just one year, but two, I would have said you were nuts!  Seriously.  All I can say is once you get the bug, once biking gets into your blood, you can’t stop.  As I like to quote Lance Armstrong, from his book, It’s Not About The Bike!  I don’t have to write a book to tell you what it is about for me (although this blog is becoming dozens of pages).  It’s all about the journey for me, about getting in shape, about eating right and feeling healthy, about hours on a bike contemplating the universe or nothing at all.  It’s seriously about making new friends and visiting with old ones.  And yes, it is about the food.  I have to maintain a low fat cardiac diet at my age, but when you are burning 6,000 calories a day, all rules go out the window.  Okay, almost, but it is fun to eat that much in a day and then burn it off the next.

Cheers to all of those whom I rode with this last week.  It was a real pleasure! And thank you so much to all the volunteers who made all this possible.  Your tiring hours, your enthusiasm and your dedication made this such a great time for us all.

It' always fun to interact with the the locals, but wait a minute, did we make a wrong turn?

Today we traveled 70 miles from Battle Creek to Oakland, Nebraska, population 1300.  Darn, looks like we just missed the Swedish Festival which was held last weekend.

Our journey today was due South for about 11 miles, then the remainder due East.  Straight routes like this can be a bit boring, but I am at least thankful we are one day closer to home.  As much as I love these rides, I do look forward to getting home for warm showers and my own bed.  When you are on a ride like this you are in what they call survival mode.  Up before dawn, packing your tent and gear in the dark, searching for a hot and hardy breakfast, then off on your bike at the crack of dawn.  Food and water are all that matters for the rest of the day until you reach the next town, making sure you stay fueled and hydrated.  Because, quite frankly, if you fall behind on the food or water, especially on a hot and grueling day, you may not make it to your destination.  I know, as I had to give up on the last 25 miles or so of BRAN last year.

What today lacked in curvy roads it made up for in hills.  Geeeze, and that 300 foot climb at the end???  What joker put that there!!!

Another dreary day and misty, but at least it was not hot.

First breakfast here. Potato casarol, sausage, bacon, fruit, coffee and juice.

Second breakfast, a couple miles down the road. Pancakes, sausage, fruit cup and coffee.

70 miles in 6:25 hours, not counting breaks.

End of trip meeting and recognition of accomplishments (not all good, quite a few that werte humerous).

70 miles and barely any hills to speak of, a steady drop of 400 feet today.  Tonight we are in yet another new town for me, Battle Creek, Nebraska, “Pride City” (it says so on the sign entering town).  With a population of around 1,000 friendly folks, this is a great host town.  Too bad we can’t stay just two more days and enjoy the annual Battle Creek Fun Day on Saturday with a street dance and beer garden.  Frankly, after being invaded by over 600 Branimals, their Fun Day may seem a bit quite and tame after we leave town.

NOTE:  The blog entries for the previous two days have now been updated and I’ve added pictures.  Scroll down the screen to see the previous days posts, with changes.

Riding into the sun in the morning.

Today brings a much needed short day, only 49 miles, and nearly all downhill route from Bassett to O’Neill, Nebraska, the “Irish Capitol of Nebraska”, or so they say on their website.  But, hey, I’m feeling a little luck of the Irish today after our short trip and ventured into town to see if I could find my pot of gold (or at least a good Irish meal).

And luck must be with me as my shifter worked about 95% or the time, we had a tail wind for most of the ride and it was not hot.  This is the first time I ever got to the overnight town before noon (but then, most of the people on BRAN got here before noon as well).  Here is a picture of my bike computer showing my totals for the day.

Bike computer showing my distance, time of day and total time riding today

I’d be lost without my Garmin Edge bike computer..

Riding into Atkinson

The picture above is the temperature about 2 1/2 hour in to the ride.  I think it was 52 degrees when we started.

Now don't we look cute in our cool weather gear. Ran into my pharmacist, Sue, and her friend Laura in Atkinson

This is Roger, 87 years young, whom I have written about before. He passes me every day!

Found a perfect spot on this cold afternoon to update my blog. I'm in the school gym, sitting at the radio announcers desk.

In what surely seems an error in the route, we are heading Northwest, away from our destination of Waterloo (near Omaha).  I’m guessing since we started our ride this year more towards the middle of the state and heading North, the route selection committee needed to add some miles to the trip and are taking us a round about, but scenic, route.

Today we traveled 68 miles, 12 miles along the shoreline of the Calamus Reservior.  The first 40 miles was a long and steady climb from around 2100 feet elevation to 2600, then a steady drop to 2300 at Bassett.

One of the few drive-in theaters in the state is seven miles west of town. Too bad it is so far, I’d love to take the old Burly bike there and clip the speaker onto my handlebars. But getting up at 4:00 am kind of makes that impractical.

Sorry I do not have more to report, but internet connections have not been good.  I have lots of pictures to update, but can’t stay connected long enough or strong enough to upload them to the blog. (NOTE: Edited on Day four to add pictures.  See below.)

Suffice it to say, it has been interesting and one wild ride.  I have been plagued with shifting problems all week, and Kelly from the Bike Rack has been really working hard to fix it.  He thinks it is fixed now.  It was skipping gear so bad today I caught the support vehicle 27 miles from town.

Yesterday I caught a ride in too, but not just for the shifting problems. Temps were in the 90’s and I was really starting to feel it unlike ever before.  Drinking water by the gallons and just can’t get hydrated.

Yesterday was in the 90’s, and tomorrow morning is supposed to be 56 degrees.  Yep, I must be in Nebraska.

Oh, I hurt all over, ask myself all day why on earth I am doing this, but at the end of the day it is all worth it.

Up at 3:30 this morning and fading fast (now 10:00 pm).

The morning stated off with beautiful views like this as we went around Lake Calimus (but none of the roads had views of the lake)

A video of the same scene will appear here soon.  I think you agree the still picture does not do it justice.

As you can see from the flag, we had quite a headwind to deal with all day

Just had to pull off and get a video of these noisy cows.

Noisy cows on BRAN 2011

The very little town of Rose really went all out for the BRAN riders.  They built Bike Henge (an attempt I’m sure to out do our states Car Henge) and added a sprinkler head to the top to cool off bikers.

Bike Henge at Rose Nebraska

For several miles outside of Rose there were signs advertising the foods they were offering riders and occasionally would be a site to visit their zoo. They really made it sound interesting, signs promoting their special white bats.  Well, the zoo was quite interesting…..

Great! Just Wonderful! What next???

I have really been looking forward to my return to Burwell, Nebraska, which was one of the host towns on my first BRAN ride last year.  Sadly I was so tired each day that I really did not have any time to see any of the cities on the route.  Plus traveling alone is  not the same as if you have someone to go with on a tour of the town.  I do recall last year walking to town and stopping at the very first church that was serving dinner.  A great meal of meat and mashed potatoes (amazing we remember the food when we are burning off 6,000 calories a day…and how great it tasted).  I recall running into my pharmacist, also on the ride last year.

I woke up later than expected and, left town at 6:45.  It was already in the 60’s.   A lot of riders leave before sunrise, but for safety reasons I like the sun to be up.

Of course one of the problems with leaving early is the dew on my fairing.,something I had not considered.  Hmm, wonder how I can install a defroster on this thing???

Now in case you are wondering, my line of sight is over the top, not through the plastic faring.

The BRAN crew have a team that goes out and scouts the road the afternoon before to mark the route and any hazards.  I guess painting racoons is easier than moving them.

This year I happened to catch the shuttle (tractor and trailer) into town the same time as a friend from previous Bran and Ragbrai.  Along with her daughter and a friend we had a wonderful dinner at the Sandstone Grill.  I had an excellent rib-eye, Caesar salad and red wine. Afterwards we all went to a bar on the town square and played shuffle board for a couple hours.  The goal was to find a place that was air conditioned, but we had a great time in the process.

Shuttle rides usually are not this nice. Often they are hay bales on the back of a flatbed trailer.

A few games of shuffleboard after dinner

Started off today in the low 60’s and ended in the 90’s when I pulled i around 2:00.   It was hot,  I had a flat at the hottest part of the day and was having troubles with my gear shifter all day.  Crossed over the Platte river twice, which is about two feet over its banks.

At about 22 miles we reached Gothenburg. A Pony Express station was relocated here to the town square from a few miles north. The Pony Express and I have a lot in common. We both average about 10 miles per hour (of course, my figures don’t include all my rest stops).

Today we traveled 62 miles from Brady to Callaway, Nebraska.  I’ve never been to Callaway, which celebrated it’s 125th birthday last year. I’m always excited to see a part of Nebraska I have not seen before.  Callaway was voted the Best Host Town for BRAN 1997 and they deserve awards for their hospitality this year as well.

Reading through our BRAN guide book I see an ad from the Callaway District Hospital and Medical Clinics offering free bicycle seat removal when you get to town. Took me a bit to catch on, they were not talking about removing the seat from the bike, they were jokingly referring to removing the bike seat from ones behind! 😉 Fortunately, on my recumbent bike I don’t have problems with that. Whereas many bikers are squirming on their seats the last 10 miles of the ride, I’m pretty darn comfortable on my seat.

Looking at this hill ahead gave me the willies.  Okay, maybe it was the hill and the 92 degees.

Hopefully I have the gearing problem fixed.  Kelly from the Bike Rack worked on it and I am hopeful.  The fairing is working great.  Tomorrow we have 13 mph tailwinds so I hope it works as well as a sail.  Long day tomorrow, 72 miles and temps in the mid 90’s.  I left at 7:00 today, but hope to leave at 6:00 tomorrow to avoid the afternoon heat as much as possible.