I’ve been planning and looking forward to going on Tour de Nebraska for about six months, but it did not happen.  I’m still having shifter problems with my bike (not as bad as on BRAN though), but I also was a little under the weather the days before the ride.  I’m hardly ever sick so I took heed, followed my instincts and stayed home.  The weather has been so bad the last couple of weeks, pollen counts exceptionally high and pressure systems are haywire.  I would not be enjoying myself on this ride I now see.

Maybe next year.

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.

Bike all torn down and ready for box


All boxed up

Now one of many on the truck

I refer to this as Day Zero as it not a ride day but the day we all put our bikes on the semi trailer and are shuttled by passenger bus to the starting point.  here are som pictures getting the bike ready.

Those of us taking the bus are meeting in Waterloo, NE, at 7:00 in the morning to get our bikes loaded on semi-trailer. Last year I designed my own box by taping two bike boxes together. This year I got lucky and the Bike Rack had an empty tandem box they offered me. This saved me a couple hours of work and is much more sturdy than my box last year.

This year the ride is starting in Brady, Nebraska, population of about 370 people.  We will essentially triple the town’s population when we arrive.

Brad is on Highway 30 which traverses a major portion of the middle of the state.  I’ve actually been to Brady once before, a few years ago on the way to my grandmothers funeral, and I remember it well as I stopped in Brady asking locals if they had seen a 1960 era vintage VW singlecab truck that a trucker said he had seen on the edge of town a few months earlier.  No one knew of it, but the cashier at the local store said there was an old junkyard on Hwy 30 between Brady and Maxwell.  Off we went, found the salvage yard and sure enough there were a couple of early 1960 VW buses.  I even found a picture from our visit.

Back during that visit I went to the door of the house and knocked on the door.  A very elderly man answered and I could tell he was not pleased to have company.   I explained my interest in the buses and he told me it was his birthday and he did not have time to talk.  I was able to get his phone number but he told me I better not wait long, he was 90 years old and might not be around much longer.  Long story short, it was a very memorable experience.  My boys and my mom took that route for something scenic, something different and we made a game of searching for old VW’s.  We discovered nearly 20 on that trip.

Back to the present, arriving in Brady we gather our bags and look for a good site to camp for the night. Lessons learned form last year are DON’T camp near the portapotties or the door to the schools (slamming and creaking all night long). Also, don’t camp under a streetlight. What I found best for me is to camp near the semi-trailer. About 4:00 in the morning you can hear riders clomping up and down the ramp to put their gear away and it is a great way to make sure I wake up in the morning. Even with earplugs I hear them clomping!

Once I picked my site  and put up my tent I went and grabbed my bike box and put the bike together. I was careful to mark where everything was so everything is properly adjusted. Don’t want to spend my first day making numerous stops to adjust seat and steering positions.

Still early in the afternoon I decided to ride towards Maxwell on Hwy 30 to find the old junkyard I spoke about.  Larry W, who is married to someone I know and I met on this ride, told me he knew of this junkyard, the owner had died and everything was up for acution (small world he even knew this).  Sure enough, when I got there all the cars were in order and a sign stating all was up for auction on July 11.  Maybe 100 cars, including three VW bugs, two split window buses and one fastback (picture below). 

Ride was much further than I remembered and ended up doing 18 miles round trip.  Got back at 6:00, had a huge plate of spaghetti with a salad.  Around 7:30 pm we gather at the high school cafeteria for a group meeting where they go over the weeks route and other important details. After 30 years, it’s a very well organized ride.

 Can’t wait until tomorrow and see what new adventure awaits me.  But look at the elevation chart they posted.

Barring bad phone reception, I should be posting my daily blog each night and promise to do more pictures this year. Please leave comments as I love to hear from all of you during the ride (but may not always be able to respond right away).