Somewhere in Middle America: A Coast-to-Coast Bicycle Trek

Merriman, NE to Treynor, IA

Caroline here.
Friday July 10, 2009

After leaving the Morelands, Sybil was nice enough to give us a lift to Cody. We were hungry and went to the Husker Hub for dinner. Afterwards, we went back to the park and tried to get some sleep. Even though there were about 20 kids playing in the park, we had no trouoble passing out and going to sleep!!

Saturday, July 11
We woke up and, despite the fact that it was drizzling and rainclouds were looming on the horizon, we got on the road and started riding. After reaching the first town, about 7 miles away, we decided to push on rather than stop and wait out the storm. About 3 miles later, the storm started. It poured on us. Our clothes were soaked straight through, we could only see out of one eye it was raining so hard, and we were freezing because the rain was so cold. In short, we were miserable. Then the thunder and lightening started. Luckily, we were riding about 18 miles an hour and the headwind that had been in our faces all morning had subsided. We made it safely to Kilgore, a town near a Sioux Indian reservation.

We were the only people at the bar who were not Native Americans. And at 10 AM on a Saturday morning, it put us in a suprisingly uncomfortable situation being clearly "the outsiders". We were able to change and get some mediocre, but warm, Deli Sandwiches and beer. Oh yes, the beer was wonderful. We warmed up while we were doing so met Sharon. Sharon lived on the Reservation about 20 miles away and had apparently had a big night out on the town the night before. She presented me with a beaded cross necklace that her son, Smokey, had made for her while she was in prison. She claimed that the necklace was priceless to her but gave it to me all the same. We were flattered by her generosity to give us something for our long journey. YOu can see the necklace in the photos.

After leaving Kilgore, we were in pretty sour moods and the hills in Nebraska, the not flat state, continued. We made it to Valentine about 25 miles down the road and ran across our old stomping ground joint, Subway. We rolled in to start loading up on the free refills and decided to stay the night in Valentine and take a FULL DAY OFF the next day. Valentine wears its name proudly and has hearts on all its street signs. We hung out there and caught up with Lance and the Tour de France before picking up soup, cheese and crackers, and Star and Stripes Zebra Cakes for dinner.

Sunday, July 12
I finally was able to sleep until after 9!! I don't htink I've done this since college. It was glorious. Wills actually woke up before me and considered checking my pulse to make sure I wasn't dead. We got coffee and headed to find a place to go to church. We wandered around for about 40 minutes until we gave up and went inside a Catholic church that was just letting out. We went inside and said a few prayers and then started walking back. Then we found the Episcopal Church. We joined the service and met so  many nice people.

One particularly chatty man named Slim offered us a ride back to the motel where he happened to be staying as well. He also invited us to Sunday dinner, but was a bit too talkative for us to handle at that point. We laid low in the room for a little bit, and then he came by our room. He walked right on in and sat down on the bed, took his hat off and continued chatting. We traded addresses and he offered to show us old pictures, but we declined in favor of napping. SLim was a true cowboy and knew more about horses and such than we could ever hope to understand.  After using some of my subtle tricks - opening the door, standing up, handing him his hat, he finally took the hint to leave after giving me several kisses on the cheek.

We hung out in the room all afternoon watching the Lonesome Dove miniseries, realizing that we could never be cowboys and that they really had it tough compared to us.
Monday, July 13
we got up at 3:15 and were on the road by 4:25. Riding in the dark sucked but it was very cool. At one point, an animal I will call a bunny rabbit jumped out and nearly scared me to death. We have not ridden pre-dawn since then. Watching the sun rise was lovely and we made excellent time. We took a nap around 3pm which was just glorious!! Waking up was pretty fabulous as well and we rode the twenty miles or so into Atkinson pretty much straight in to a headwind.

We stopped at the "bar that serves food" in Atkinson and had some burgers and a six pack as order a six pack costs as much as ordering three beers "a la carte". Intersting math there. WHile we were there, we learned from every farmer in the bar that camping out was a horrible idea due to the encroaching foul weather. THey all whipped out there iPHones to show us the red radar circles which were basically over our heads.   It was hysterical In hindsight, this might be the best decision of the tirp as the county where we were was mentioned on the national Weather Channel as having dangerous weather.  While we were at the bar, we met Corey and Tate, two Rajun Cajuns who were living in the area. Corey was quite impressed with our goal to ride 100 miles ot Norfolk the next day.As well, Corey had a bit of a problem remember the cigarette ban as he lit his cigarette several times after being warned not to do so.

Tuesday, July 14

We slept in a bit this morning to see what the weather was going to do as well as to catch the next stage of the Tour de France as it was Bastille Day. ON Tuesday, we made it to NOrfolk, approximately 100 miles away and perhaps the first day that we actually stayed on schedule and followed our plan. We had fabulous tailwinds and rode through the heat. We continued the gas staion stops, downing 44 oz sodas and eating lots of Deli Express sandwiches. We continued onto Norfolk, making it there around 9 o'clock with no place to sleep. We stopped at the Econo-Lux to get a price check on the rates and it was extremely cheap as the name indicated. So, we decided to fork over the money as it was already dark. We went next door to the Village Inn for dinner and made it back by 10 so Wills could watch the season premier of Entourage.

Wills here.

Wednesday, July 15

Once again, we slept in and then treated our spoiled selves to a delicious continental breakfast. Eventually, we got on the road and Rode about 75 miles or so to Fremont, once again with frequent gas station stops. We got to Fremont and decided that we just couldn't push another 25 miles to Omaha and wanted to rest there. Wills' text book fund treated us to a hotel room at the fantastic, high scale $45 a night motel. The room was fine, after moving from the first one due to Caroline finding a bunch of hair in her unwashed sheets. A delicious trip to Taco Bell for dinner ended the day.

Thursday, July 16 

We slept through our alarms ( you start to see the pattern here right?) and then went to the "continental breakfast" or better known as bagels and coffee. While we were eating, we looked at the Weather Channel, only to discover that huge storms were headed our way all day. The 5 hour loop was just red with thunderstorms and lightning. We opted to stay another night, even though the motel didn't have Versus or the Tour.

We hung out most of the day, extremely bored. Ventured over to Taco Bell again, this time before 11 for a breakfast/lunch meal. It sounds pretty disgusting but it was extremely delicious. Afterwards, we headed over to Walgreen's for a Crossword Puzzle Book or something to do. We found a Ken Ken book, which is supposed to be like the new SuDoKu, but instead of being fun and challenging, it is instead obnoxious and dull. We watched garbage tv most of the day until the high pooint of the day occured when we went to the grocery store for supplies. However, we shopped hungry and loaded up on junk, forgetting that we did have to carry all our grocery bags a few blocks back to the hotel room. We made Pasta and Garlic Texas Toast (absolutely amazing) and watched Ghostbuster's for the 10th time this trip. It felt great not to be riding today because we had been growing tired of being in the saddle.

Friday July 17, 2009

We left the hotel really early. We were going to take 275 through Omaha, but soon discovered that bicycles were prohibited. SO there went that idea. Our other option was to take 36 to 30 to 31 or something and we ended up doing that. We eventually reached the Mormon Bridge which crossed the Missouri River! Unfortunately for us, we were not going to ride over the no shoulder bridge where the Interstate ran through. We were deciding whether to just go for it or to break another law on the sign by hitchhiking over the brdige. We tried hitch hiking for a bit, and David, manager of the Holiday Inn, stopped and picked us up. He drove us over the bridge and dropped us off. We made it to IOWA! FInally.

We rode to Crescent, a few miles away. From there we were going to take the road south until we ran into our route, 92 and then head East. We rode down through Council Bluffs and hopped on 6, instead of going down to 92. IT was an absolute nightmare as there were no shoulders and traffic was horrible. We thought that traffic would ease up and a shoulder would start after the interstate, but we were wrong. THe traffic on the highway was ridiculously crowded. We rode for a couple of miles, handling small lanes and lots of traffic. We later would discover that 92 was closed and all the detour traffic was flowing through 6, which helps explain the overcrowded traffic. After almost getting hit by a few 18 wheelers and SUV's we decided to stay on the unpacked gravel "shoulder". From that point on, we thought it best to walk our bikes on the "shoulder" of the road. About 3 miles later we hit the turn off.

Caroline again.

After turning off, the road, we fared no better. There was still no shoulder and the traffic was pretty much as bad. We pedaled on though and met a nice doctor who told us about an event called RAGBRAI that was starting Sunday in Council Bluffs, the town about 10 miles west of us. He said it was a bicycle race across Iowa that had attracted 15,000 bicycle riders this year. We thought it sounded cool and he suggested us joining up with it. We decided to push on to Treynor, which was about 3 miles south of where we were to check out the shoulder for 92, the highway we wanted to be on, to make sure it was as crappy as he told us it was before changing our entire trip. When we got into Treynor, we found an awesome shoulder on highway 92. We were a bit pissed that we had been sitting along the side of the rode for an hour trying to figure out how we were going to get across Iowa on a road with no shoulders. We rode over the hill in town (Iowa is even less flat than Nebraska) and it looked like the sholder turned to gravel a bit further down the hill. NOw, before I was going to change up my entire trip, I wanted to positive that there was in fact gravel on the highway, so I rode down the hill to make sure. Alas, we were right, it was gravel.

I turned down Heesch street to turn around and saw a man outside cutting the grass. He looked friendly, so I stopped and asked him about the conditions of the highway and suggestions for getting across Iowa. Soon after, Tom's wife, Shelia, came out to welcome us, thinking that we were in the neighborhood for RAGBRAI. Shelia had spent time with host families through a program called "Up with people" in college and graciously invited us to come on in and join them for dinner. We had amazing pizza from Casey's, the joint down the street, and let us stay in their newly renovated basement, which had a ginourmous TV and, you guessed it, Versus. We got caught up on the Tour briefly before completely crashing.

Saturday, July 18
Waking up this morning, we were pretty much in heaven. Sheila and Tom had sold us on RAGBRAI and said we could hang out with them for hte day and they would take us to the start of the race on Sunday. We happily accepted their kind offer over incredible donuts from Casey's and Dunkin Donuts coffee. Sheila also made a delicious egg caserole that we pretty much devoured.

We spent the day hanging out with the Lewises and their five-year-old daughter, Madeline and her friend. We had a great time riding bikes around the neighborhood and learning all about Hannah Montana. For dinner, we headed out for Mexican food, which turned out to be back in Nebraska. Lil Burro turned out to be one of the highlights of Nebraska!!

We saw the start line for the RAGBRAI race that we are going to join tomorrow and are excited to join with the 15,000 other crazy bicyclists for the 442 mile race across Iowa.. check it out at

We are sad to leave the Lewises as they have become like family to us over the last day. We look forward to seeing the rest of Iowa and seeing them again soon. Our Mom and Lynn are coming to meet us next weekend. They are bringing a laptop for us so you will be able to pictures of us from the Tetons as well as our disgusting tan lines and Wills' beard. Thank you all for your prayers. We appreciate them so much. Love to all!!!