Tuesday, July 10, 2007

July 2nd: Kearney, NE to North Platte, NE

The longest day of our trip thus far, the segment from Kearney to North Platte was our first “century,” or hundred-mile day. The day started on a cheerful note as we set out on a Nebraska scavenger hunt. To keep us entertained and alert, a group of riders put together a list of items to spot throughout the countryside. Some of the items on the list included a western license plate, an Israeli flag, a sign from God, and even proof of the gender binary. Our first stop along this hunt was a giant dilapidated replica of a cow pulling a caravan (whose rump our fearless riders kissed). As our bodies ached from the strain of the flat terrain some riders, including Meg and Saskia, took a short nap atop giant bales of hay. Then we continued on our way. And continued. And continued. With only the occasional grain elevator to keep our interest piqued we took full advantage of the rest stops along the way. Rob, Laura, Meg, and I guzzled giant bottles of Surge (a sugary energy drink) and vaulted onto our bikes on a caffeine high. The unrelenting flatness continued so Alexis and I took a quick lottery break to try our luck at some big Nebraska winnings. We took home $40 apiece. Well, not exactly, but we did get our dollar’s worth of fun. Well, five dollar’s worth of fun. No hard feelings for Nebraska, but I don’t recommend playing that state’s scratch tickets.

The unrelenting heat and monotony continued until we reached a well-deserved lunch break after riding a mile in our special birthday clothes. Niko surprised us with a vegetable platter, a rare treat between the usual tuna and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We inhaled the lunch and set off for the next 50 miles of our journey. Corn and wheat followed. That is, until we arrived at the most stunning site of the day: a Stonehenge of abandoned antique cars. Rob, donning his cycling helmet, climbed into a 50’s Chevy and posed for some seductive pinups.

With 90 miles behind us the legs started to give. Alexis discovered a double-shot espresso power gel in her sweaty jersey pocket. Rob and I slurped down the sludge and sped off at 25 miles an hour toward North Platte. Some arrived in the town with an even 100 miles showing on the bike odometers. But as Rob and I pulled into the church at four o’clock we spotted Nick riding in tiny circles around the parking lot in a vain attempt to boost his mileage from 99.36 to 100. Our final stop before dinner included a mandatory Dairy Queen visit. After declining ice cream all together, I went on to order a massive waffle cone with a big dollop of chocolate sauce. Others indulged in lesser ice creams or burger “snacks.”

After a brief shower, we were treated to a hearty meal at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church. We then took an exciting trip to the neighboring Rodeo. It was an authentic affair with local cowboys competing for a “day’s pay.” People of all ages gathered at the rodeo where both men and women took part. It was a fitting end to the birthplace of Buffalo Bill. The sun set over North Platte as we curled up in our sleeping bags in the church loft.

-Alex Rabin


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