Day 11: O`Neill, NE – Fort Calhoun, NE. miles – 176 , climbing – 3279 feet
Its been four days and nearly 600 miles back in Riverton, WY when I last slept in a bed. After having a horrible day and night on the Cowboy trail, valuable rest now was much needed. My arrival at the hotel was after midnight and I did not even gather myself to leave until 10am. Sleeping 7 hours unsurprisingly does wonders to your body and mental clarify. The thing about arriving late in hotels is that you are forced to leave the room before noon. At times , it feels like a waste of time and money but what choice did I really had? Sometimes, I was extremely tired but it was the middle of the night and it made no sense to pay for hotel and leave in 5 hours. Time is also wasted just to check in, shower, wash clothes, eat, pack and unpack. I did my best to be as efficient and organized as I can.
O’Neill, NE is apparently the official Irish capital of the state as it was originally settled largely by Irish immigrants in 1882. As seen on the elevation map above, I was gradually going down and was now at 2000 feet above sea level. Nothing really concerning except few rollers around Norfolk, NE.
Perhaps out of laziness and convenience, I settled for the gas station next to the Hotel called Cubby’s. Plenty of trailers and cattle haulers were parked here. There were other options in town to eat breakfast but that meant getting away from the trail and having to bike back and re enter where I left off. That’s if I can because many trees were still down and blocking anyone from passing by. The sign on the outside was advertising chicken and pizza , but none of that was found inside 🙂 At least I was used to eating cold sandwiches and snacks. The coffee was shitty everywhere so it didn’t really matter to me.
It will be such a relief to be done with the nasty Cowboy trail later today. This was enough to keep a smile on my face. Norfolk was a double win and monumental location during the race. The town was the halfway point of the race and also where the trail would end.
It was a little warm today but at least it wasn’t raining. I felt like a $1000 bucks to be biking in clean and dry clothes. Washing them by hand and air drying is fine but the washer machine and dryer make them feel super special. Enjoying the small things in life . . .
The rain from the previous day was a problem and I was forced to get off the trail few times and take alternate route. I bumped into a sign stating that the trail was closed to the public and took the main road instead.
30 miles into my day, I was in Clearwater, NE and was faced with another detour. I was simply enjoying myself until the road ended in the middle of a swamp next to a river. I didn’t pack any boots or swimming gear so back few miles I went to get around it on Hwy 275 🙂 At least the highways here were not busy and nobody minded that I was there.
In certain places, the trail was just fine and because it was wet, the sand was more firm and I was not sinking as deep as I was the day before. Somehow, I still managed to crash that day. My bike must weight like 50 Lbs and it was super hard to keep it upright when you are pedaling in quick sand. I hit the deck again but it was minor, definitely better and softer fall than crashing at high speed on actual pavement.
Nine miles later, I arrived in Neligh, NE. My little cue sheet was pointing me towards Casey’s gas station where I stopped for 15 min. This must have been one of the first Casey`s during the race and definitely my new favorite spot. They had fresh breakfast, better coffee and the best Pizza. From this day forward, it became a norm to pack 5 to 10 slices of pizza in the seat bag and handlebar feed bags. They also had my favorite small baggies of almonds that were already pre cut. I love those since using my fingers at times was challenging due to pain and numbness. My elbows were hurting pretty bad and I had some calluses forming from the contact with the aerobar pads. I could feel the screws underneath the pads, not the best feeling ever.
Neligh, NE apparently have some interesting history:
In 1872, John D. Neligh and a few of his friends took a trip up the Elkhorn River from West Point, Nebraska. Neligh took note of the scenic landscape and thought it would be the ideal setting for a town. He immediately left for Omaha to buy 520 acres for the town site found that the Omaha & Northwestern Railroad had already chosen the property for a future town and depot location. Fortunately, a careless clerk failed to check the railroad’s choice of town locations, allowing Neligh to purchase the 500-acre tract for $6 per acre.
And then, there is the story about White Buffalo Girl:
In May 1877, the Ponca tribe was forced to leave their homeland on the Niobrara River and move to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. The rigors of the journey and resettlement led to the death of one-third of the tribe’s population. During the migration, an 18-month-old girl named White Buffalo Girl died near Neligh. Her father, Black Elk, asked the townspeople “to respect the grave of my child just as they do the graves of their own dead”. She was buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Neligh, and her grave tended by the residents; in 1960, owing to the deterioration of the monument, the marker was set on a new foundation.
I was beginning to have some minor issues with the bike but that was to be expected. The most concerning one was the chain. It was so dry from the rain that was starting to make noises. This can actually become a big problem if I end up snapping it in half. My rear tire was wearing off but I was going to wait for the next hotel stop and swap it with the front. I did carry some chain lube in a small bottle but the dahm container apparently leaked out inside the frame bag and the bottle was completely empty!
I arrived in Norfolk, NE and headed over to a local bike shop but the place was already closed about 45 min before scheduled. I rode right back to the race course on Omaha Ave and stopped at another local gas station with the interesting name Kum & GO 🙂 People were super friendly here and very curios to know where I am headed to. Once I told them Washington, DC , they game me weird looks 🙂
While laying down outside and consuming snacks, I met Tori Moser. She was fascinated about what I was attempting and offered to help if she can. Every time someone was offering help, I was telling them that the biggest gift would be to donate towards the breast cancer foundation. She didn’t just do that but also paid for my meal. Teri was sending me messages of encouragement before and after the race & I was so grateful to meet her. She truly made my day. I believe that her daughter is a volleyball player who have won Olympic and World Championship medals.
Bye Bye Cowboy Trail, I won`t miss you at all. . .
My next target was Omaha, NE sitting on the Missouri river and the Iowa state line about 120 miles away.
It was already late afternoon and I was looking forward to pedaling through the night. It was starting to get dark when I was between West Point, NE and Hooper, NE. The plan was to bike through the night but I was getting tired by the minute. I searched on my phone for hotel nearby and settled on one in the town of Fremont, some 30 miles away. It was smooth sailing that night, passing through small towns on Hwy 275 and along the Elkhorn River. The hotel was off the race route but I was tired and took the extra 4 mile penalty each way.
Long story short, I wasted valuable time once again. Apparently, there was some issue with my booking. I ended up making numerous phone calls with the booking agency and talking to the front desk manager. I was tired and frustrated and decided its best to just leave. Their solution was to book another room directly with them and pray for refund on my existing booking in the morning. Not cool at all as this trip was draining my wallet pretty fast. Just food alone was probably $50 to $80 a day so I was running a tight business. The two accountants in my family would be proud of me. At least I was able to nap for 15 minutes on the couch while waiting on a callback while sorting out this situation.
My eyes where literally closing while racing so I ended up cranking up some heavy metal music and splashed my face with water. Eventually, I got showered by some light rain. That helped to keep me up but I was so dahm tired.
In the early morning around sunrise, I was completely done. It was time to use my old trick and sleep in a cornfield. Being covered from the wind and the public, I took some leaves down, laid them down, inflated my mattress and put my head down. After about 30 minutes, the rain resumed and I decided to keep going.
Soon thereafter, I arrived in the charming town of Fort Calhoun, NE. The city includes Fort Atkinson, the first fort built west of the Missouri River. My day also ended here. Some history about this town:
Fort Calhoun is located near the site of old Fort Atkinson, a large military outpost that was active from 1819-1827 in what is now Washington County, Nebraska. The town was named for John C. Calhoun, the famed statesman from South Caroline who was serving as Secretary of War in 1854 when the Territory of Nebraska was created. The site of Fort Calhoun was claimed in 1854 by John Goss, an Iowa farmer. Goss gave his land to the Fort Calhoun Townsite Company in exchange for two shares of the company.
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