Yet another motel. Hopefully the last one for a while – although in the first month of the trip I was successful in my goal of keeping my accommodation budget lower than what I’d spend on a month’s rent in Philly, I’m hoping to keep it even lower during the rest of the trip. It’ll help make up for how much I spend on calories to fuel the eternally hungry engine. The occasion for this motel? The Game of Thrones season finale. All aboard, cause the hype train is leaving the station, next stop Cleganebowl and continuing on to Cersei Blows Up King’s Landing and The Wall Comes Down. I assume.
Until then I have some time to walk around the Irish Capital of Nebraska, which I’m sure is just as worthy of the title as were the self-proclaimed Czech and Danish villages I’ve passed.
I’m riding the Cowboy Trail, one of the longest continuous rail trails in the country. I’ve read very mixed information on it – there have been reports of terrible surface conditions and of what sounded like layers and layers of Texas sand burs, also known as goatheads – thorns which are so bad for bike tires that they may have been the single greatest catalyst for the invention of fire sealant and tubeless wheel technology. However, the information I found was all patchy and much of it several years out of date, and none seemed to be from anyone who’d ridden more than a quarter or so of the trail. So I entered with slight trepidation, but not too much, knowing that the trail mostly parallels highways with good shoulders and low traffic.
So far, no bad surface conditions have materialized for any length of time, and I’ve yet to see a thorn, much less get a flat tire. The fact that I’m running some very tough tires with the recent addition of tire liners and inner tube sealant may be part of why, but from what I’ve heard of goatheads, they should be sticking out of my tires by the dozens even if they fail to pierce my tubes. No sign of any yet. Not bad!
Of course, the trail’s reason for existence seems a bit in question given that almost its entire length parallels roads that are perfect for touring – five foot wide shoulders, no traffic, and virtually the same views as the trail itself, plus a much smoother surface to ride on by virtue of being paved. I’m planning an 88 mile day tomorrow and I don’t know if I want to do it all on crushed stone, even if it is in good shape like the trail has been so far.
The trail has, appropriately, given me the chance to play cowboy. A herd of cattle were lounging in the trail east of Neligh yesterday, and I came to a stop, unsure of whether, if any bulls were present, I was about to be gored. If you’ve followed my hiking logs from Israel, you’ll be familiar with my apprehension about such bull-induced injuries. I tried some calls to move the cattle out of the way. “Soo-EEE!” Wait, that’s pigs , isn’t it? “Uh…get along little dogie!” That one didn’t really come natural to me. Despite my being a total poser, they did get along, and my first shot at cowpoking in the Old West was a success.
The scenery out here is flat, agricultural, and spotted with cottonwood trees to the exclusion of almost all others. Have a look.
The cows I shooed off the trail – they went too quick to photograph while still occupying the thoroughfare. Yes I’m aware that cows are thoroughly docile and getting them to scatter is no achievement. Don’t rain on my parade. You have to make your own excitement out here on the plains.
Clearwater’s Big Rodeo was on this weekend, according to the sign. I smelled a life experience. Unfortunately it wasn’t to start until 7pm, and I was passing in the morning with 30 miles yet to cover. At least it wasn’t my first rodeo, so to speak – but only if you count the cow-shooing mentioned above. I’m keeping an eye out for further opportunities to watch an event like this live.
Inman, NE, population 129. I haven’t seen a proper ghost town yet, but a lot of these tiny villages are not far off. No more than one or two businesses still open along a Main Street and an average age that can’t be below 60. As the aquifer dries up and mechanization of farming advances, I assume this trend will continue. Hopefully some prairie habitat can be restored as that happens. I know of at least two organizations working to do that, and bring back herds of bison to the plains. I hope I live long enough to see something like that.
I published this post without remembering to give it a title. So I named it after the fact that my bike, alone among all those I’ve owned, still does not have a name. I guess I need suggestions.