Day 9: Crawford , NE – Valentine, NE, miles – 171.4, climbing – 3289 feet
In the morning of day 8th racing across US, I found myself on US 20 Nebraska Medal of Honor Highway The road is paying homage to our nation’s most heroic soldiers and basically runs between the Wyoming border and Valentine, Nebraska. I would essentially stay on the same route the entire day.
Few interesting notes about portion of US20 named Crazy Horse Memorial Highway:
It is named after Lakota war leader of the Oglala band in the 19th century. In November, 2010, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman approved designating US-20 from Hay Springs to Fort Robinson in honor of Crazy Horse, capping a year-long effort by citizens of Chadron. Crazy Horse took up arms against the United States federal government to fight against encroachment by white American settlers on Native American territory and to preserve the traditional way of life of the Lakota people. His participation in several famous battles of the Black Hills War on the northern Great Plains, among them the Fetterman Fight in 1866 in which he acted as a decoy and the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 in which he led a war party to victory, earned him great respect from both his enemies and his own people.
This morning I was not feeling all that great . So far, there was nothing to really see in Nebraska – rolling sandhills but also a lot more vegetation here. Services were still far apart but not as bad as it was in the beginning of the race. Because of the change in nature, there were much more farms and animals here. I was racing sleep deprived for a week, my wounds from the crash were still a problem and the heat was not letting off. At least the pavement here was nice, some cracks across the road but not as deep as those in Wyoming. Some roadwork appeared to be done between Crawford and Chadron but a lot of Semi-trailer trucks were present as well – US20 was the main road heading W-E in northern Nebraska.
I did experience a little bit of tailwind in the morning but that was short lived. The elevation profile was in my favor but mother nature was not. The headwind was just relentless and although I had no way measuring it, it was way more than 20 or even 30 Mph. Keeping the bike upright in the crosswinds was a challenge to the point where certain muscle groups had to work overtime.
I had hard time concentrating, it really messes with your head when you are fresh, delivering a lot of power and only moving with 7 Mph. Very demoralizing I should say but this was part of the experience and there was nothing to complain about. I chose to do this , nobody forced me so lets move on!
My dad is a farmer and I snapped a picture of this super old CASE tractor on the side of the road. It looked like the legendary CASE 150 steam tractor. If I am correct, this is the largest steam traction engine ever produced back in 1905.
Three miles before Chadron, NE I passed by The Museum of the Fur Trade. Some history about it:
It stands on the site of James Bordeaux’s trading post, which was established for the American Fur Company in 1837 and is now included in the National Register of Historic Places. All items in the collection are original pieces and include the oldest known point blanket from 1775, firearms that were owned by Kit Carson and Tecumseh, and crop seeds that were obtained directly from American Indians over 125 years ago. The Museum of the Fur Trade is dedicated to preserving the rich history of the North American fur trade by illustrating its diverse stories through the over 6,000 authentic artifacts on display.
It was so funny to see Taco John`s in Chadron, NE 🙂 I guess they have some war with Taco Bell and came up with their own knockoff brand name. I stopped to get breakfast and drink a cup of coffee at the Conoco gas station. After quick stop here I pushed further east on the boring flat road while still fighting mother nature.
It was now early afternoon, some 60 miles after the day started when I arrived in Hay Springs, NE. It looked like another farming town in Nebraska with a lot of grain silos. I was already overheating and stopped at the Sacker’s Gas Station / Mart to cool things down a bit and grab a bite. Lots of Ice and cold drinks were consumed here. The new trick was to leave the ice bag 25% full and throw it under the jersey to cool off my back, truly the best feeling ever. There were some very friendly folks here who stopped to chat with me and wish me luck on my adventure. I checked Trackleaders – 8 days 9 hours after the race started and I was still in 3rd position, covering 1377 miles so far. In the meantime, Barry was at mile 1558 and Mike at1608. 200 miles is really one day of racing and we are not even halfway done and a lot can still change.
Few hours later I arrived in Gordon, NE. They had pretty cool Helicopter sitting right next to the main road on display.
The next village to visit was Merriman, NE. It was close to 8pm , getting dark, I was super tired and decided to see If I can find shelter here. Luckily, a USPS store was off main street and I decided to stop by. All in all, I was able to charge my light and phone but did not get much sleep. I tried my hardest but each time I fell asleep , I was woken up by the sounds of gunshots. I was in the middle of deserted town and after few more gunshots I decided to take off into the darkness.
The night was just beginning but the surprises did not stop. Next thing I know, I was riding my bike into the night and could hear various animals around, kind of peaceful right? Not until I turned my handlebars to the right and noticed a white wolf ! ! ! This was definitely one of the craziest animal sightings during my trip. After doing some research now, maybe I was hallucinating , but maybe not 🙂 White or Arctic wolfs are typically inhabiting the Arctic regions of North America. However, grey wolfs can range in color from grey, white, black to brown. Although they are known to be in Alaska, Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana … some were actually spotted in Nebraska. DNA testing links them to the upper Great Lakes wolf population. Either way, the visual never left my head through that night or riding.
Around midnight , I was in the village of Cody, NE. To my surprise , I found really nice campground here by the city park and slept for over 2 hours. I was 30 miles before Valentine, NE and the beginning of the Cowboy Trail. I’ve heard how bad that trail was so this day I didn’t push myself super hard and only covered around 170 miles. The reports from Barry and Mike were that the trail is nasty, some sections were washed out and detours were coming up. The campground was really nice and also featured showers and bathrooms.
Few hours before sunrise I packed my gear and took off towards Valentine, NE. My day ended some 5 miles before town.
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