Day 10: Valentine, NE – O`Neill, NE miles – 117.2, climbing – 790 feet
This was one of my worst days during the entire race, full of mishaps, injuries and bad weather.
I left my campground in Cody, NE early before sunrise and was hoping to tackle the entire Cowboy trail that day ( 186 miles ). The reports from the two racers ahead of me were not very pleasant but I had to give it a go.
My breakfast location for the day was Phillips 66 Gas station with McDonalds attached to it in Valentine, NE. I did my daily video update from here for everyone following while enjoying some hot coffee and fresh breakfast. Not knowing where my next resupply would be, I stocked up on drinks and food. Same junk due to the limited options around- some almonds for protein, bananas for potassium, 7 Days croissants because why not, Pizza, burritos and in this case McDonalds breakfast sandwiches. I kind of had to forget about nutrition and my diet preference since finding any food was a problem. My body became a trashcan and I was dropping all kinds of nasty food in it.
Right before my departure, the sky turned dark, opened up and it was pouring rain. A challenging day could lay ahead. It was time to put on rain jacket and pants to ensure that my skin will remain dry. Honestly, I don’t really care about being rained on and embrace it but cannot afford to have open wounds due to being wet and friction of all contact points. The worst would probably be my feet and saddle sores. Any chance I had, I changed to dry socks and bibs , then hung them on my seat bag to let them dry. This was only possible if the rain was kind enough to let go for a moment.
The entrance to the trail was close by but something was really wrong with me. I was feeling crappy , sick, disoriented, lightheaded and super dizzy. What in the world was happening with me again ? More than likely some sort of food poisoning, I should have never ate at McDonalds !
As I entered the trail, the rain stopped but then resumed 30 minutes later. It was still warm outside and riding with jacket and pants was resulting in overheating. I stopped numerous times to put my rain gear on and then take it off.
The trail itself was just as advertised – plain nasty. I was cussing loudly at whomever though that they should designate this a bike trail. I mean, it was some sort of clay , sand and limestone mixture but felt like riding your bicycle on the beach. At this point, I rather take the large rocks from my previous gravel experience. It was so deep in places that I was getting stuck and had to bike unclipped and put my foot down each time I was about to fall down.
There was a group of veterans on tricycles and it appeared that they were enjoying themselves a lot. On the other hand, I was miserable but still smiled and waived at them while passing them. The scenery was actually pretty spectacular, especially going over these long bridges at higher ground that opened picturesque views like a book right in front of my eyes. Honestly, I could care less as all of my attention and energy was dedicated to making sure that I keep this dahm bike upright. I hit the ground within my first few hours on the trail, and then soon thereafter I kissed the ground again. What in the world was happening? At least the road surface was sort of soft. . .
It felt like being in some bad western movie set – I looked ahead of and in between the rain drops, I could see two cowboys and 3 horses approaching fast. I guess they missed the sign stating that this trail was not allowed for horses. To be honest, it was more suitable for them than any other way of transportation. It appeared that these two gentleman were father and son. The son was riding with a rifle strapped to his back and having a second horse on a lead rope. They moved to the side and let me go, then tipped their hats down to say hello or as a sign of respect for biking in this treacherous weather.
I was really questioning what was I doing here in the middle of nowhere and will this bad dream ever end. How in the world will I make it even a mile further? My moving speed was downright miserable and I was making no significant progress. Mentally, I was in a big hole and had to dig deep. It was about time to remind myself why am I here, what am I fighting for and keep it on.
My motivation was to face my fears head on and to fight for others. As you know by now, I hate bike trails and now I really despised them. How is this even any fun ? I am biking on this flat road, the same exact road in fact for the entire day, same boring scenery and pavement that was really not pavement. To make matters worse, there was a road parallel to the trail at times but I was not allowed on it as the Cowboy trail was the official route. Just great !
I had to face my fears and conquer them, this is why I was here. I was here to fight for the win, I was here to motivate my kids and others struggling with facing their fears as well. I was here to raise funds for breast cancer. I had to remind myself again and again that what I was going through is a child play compared to those fighting with cancer, going through chemotherapy and fighting for their life.
I was so beat up mentally and physically by the time I finished my first 60 miles that I stopped numerous times and just sat down for few minutes to take a breather and clear my head. I almost fell asleep at one point under the rain, how crazy was that I thought? It took me about 9 hours to complete the 60 mile stretch to Long Pine, NE when I arrived in one of my dedicated stops, The Sand Hill Lounge. It was around 2 o`clock in the afternoon.
By this time, I was running on fumes and was in need to eat and charge my devices. The Sand Hill Lounge looked like a business out of a western movie. Except, instead of a horse to leave in front , I was on a bicycle. Being in lycra thighs did not help with these masculine gentleman to take me serious either 🙂 I opened the door and was greeted by seemingly unfriendly bartender pouring drinks to the few customers inside. His exact words were:
” Hey, what do you want”?
My reply was simple : ” Just food and water to keep going”.
His reply was even colder: ” I don’t really care”
He then started giggling together with everyone else around and I was laughing myself. Maybe these people were not mean after all but having fun? I found an outlet ,started charging my devices and sat at the bar. On the further end of the bar was heavy set gentleman and right next to me another local. The table to my left was occupied by this middle aged man with his younger friend and two ladies.
I placed my order for two burgers with fries and ordered a beer. The bartender was questioning if I can eat two of their large burgers and two sides of fries. Are you kidding me ? He was bragging with how Nebraska was so essential to the entire country beef supply and telling me how their beef was the best tasting in the US. The gentleman next to me decided to get a beer for everyone in the bar including me. We started chatting while the other man on the other side of the bar was making fun of him the whole time. The heavy set gentleman was not very friendly to say the least. He was asking me where I am from as I obviously had accent and was openly anti immigrants, anti democrat and anti color people. The things that came out of his mouth were super disturbing to tell you the truth and I wont even dare to repeat them here. After telling him that I am from DC, he immediately assumed that I am a democrat and was making attempts at some cheap jokes. After inquiring about my job and learning that I am in the business of home security systems, he insisted that such was not needed as everyone had gun around here. He was proud to announce that he owns more than 300 guns and wont allow anyone to get close to his property. The things he said about people of color, women and illegal immigrants, I rather keep to myself. My kids are biracial and It was truly sad to experience this. I felt sorry for him as time has seemingly stopped here perhaps a century ago. One of the two fellas sitting on the table apparently had German heritage and liked history so we started talking about Europe , geography , wars and such.
I was eager to eat my food and take off but the cooking was taking forever so I had another beer. The food itself was pretty good I have to admit, I ate quickly and packed the remaining to go. Whatever I heard in this bar was haunting me for the entire day and honestly I felts sad for them, their ignorance , hate and poor choice of words. Sadly, I lost about one hour here and my window on completing the entire Cowboy trail that day was closing super fast. After about 11 hours , I had covered miserable 60 miles out of 180 with average speed + stoppage time of around 5.5 mph. There was no way I can make it in these conditions.
So far, I didn’t had to reroute due to the flooding but every little town I passed through was nearly abandoned and there was no businesses opened. The rain slowed down in the afternoon and I was able to dry off a bit. I stopped few more times at random benches to regroup and stretch out. There wasn’t much to be seen around here other than large cattle farms and horses that looked like they were fed steroids. I’ve never seen this large horses before.
Five hours after leaving Long Pine, I arrived in the town of Stuart, NE around 8pm. I was tired and ready to have nice a meal and then go to bed. The thing to remember about these small towns was that businesses close early. At times , I had to satisfy myself with few vending machine drinks. I was tired, sleepy and had no food or water left. Mentally, I was a complete mess.
I searched online for hotel in town and found one called Stuart Village Inn. Something to look forward to finally. Sadly, I circled around it like 5 times and found no front desk, no entrance and no way to get a room. I called the phone number numerous times and still nothing. I felt dumb and left as I was wasting precious time.
As usual, I looked around for Postal Service and biked in reverse to get to it. It was located in the middle of town and I was happy to take shelter from the rain and charge my devices here. Sadly , it was so busy that I was unable to get much rest. Every time I put my head down, someone entered and went ahead to retrieve their mail. I was being polite and explaining that I am just taking shelter here for a minute as the storm was unravelling fast. I just didn’t want anyone to call the police on me. A mother and her son entered and the little boy was really confused seeing me, I felt like a martian, filthy and wet cyclist sitting on the floor of USPS. All in all, I wasted about one hour here, got no sleep and the rainstorm did not appear to let go anytime soon.
I made a distress call back home, explaining that I had no food, no water and no good place to sleep. To top it off, it was raining buckets. I felt like crying but also misunderstood, I did not want anyone to feel sorry for me as what I was doing was simply my choice. It just felt like one of those moments of uncertainty , will I even survive another night?
I kept searching the web for another hotel and pushed on without really deciding anything , my mind was so foggy. As soon as I left, the rain intensified, the sky was black and lightning started to struck. I could hear the animals around trying to run for safety. The trail was now barely passable by bicycle, trees and branches were down. I bumped into numerous downed trees and this kept happening on and on and on. I was feeling miserable and had to take a hike many times around the trees while carrying my bicycle that was extremely heavy while loaded.
Sometime around midnight , I made it to O’Neill NE while crossing some railroad tracks . After noticing the bright lights from this large town , I decided to go back in reverse , got off the trail and entered in search for hotel. It was not safe to continue any longer. I was completely done for the day and had only covered 117 miles. Luckily, there was plenty of opportunities for shelter here and I went with Super 8 next to a big gas station.
The gentleman in the lobby was doing his magic and getting me a room while I was watching the TV. The weather channel was on, showing the bad weather predictions for this area. I was soaked to the bones and water was dripping all over the floor. Luckily, they had coin laundry and I exchanged some of my wet dollar bills for coins. The vending machine was supplying dinner tonight. I was searching Epic Ride Weather and trying to decide when is the best time to leave. It appeared that the rain would let go in the morning. Time to go to bed without setting up my alarm clock. It was days since I had real sleep break in comfortable bed and that night I was down for 7 hours.
My day ended after just 117 miles in O’Neill NE , my second worst daily mileage. After 10 days, I was almost halfway done with the race having covered about 1608 miles.
Reminder: This race was fundraiser for breast cancer. Please consider donating at
Other ways to help:
Save $20 on Infinity Seat by using the code ” Georgi” at https://infinitybikeseat.com/
Help me race at Race Across the West and sponsor a Time Station at https://s-ultracycling.com/raw-2022-sponsor-a-time-station/