“You will never get through the Cowboy Trail in Nebraska with those tires,” said another cyclist we had met back on the Mickelson Trail in SD. “It’s now quicksand because of extensive flooding in 2019.” We were extremely disappointed as we had been focused on cycling multiple miles on the Cowboy Trail. Resourceful as we have become, we punted, rented a 10-foot U-Haul truck in Chadron, drove through the Sand Hills and dropped the truck off in Lincoln. After a night’s rest, we were back on the Great American Rail Trail, destination Omaha.
We headed east on the MoPac Trail (the old Missouri Pacific Railroad) through Lincoln, stopping for lunch in Eagle minutes before a thunderous washout kept us from moving forward. And then a subsequent downpour caused us to attempt to stay in a local park until a neighbor gave us a thumbs-down. Onward we went to South Bend, to a brand-new campground, called the Omaha Campsite, complete with a horse, several goats, chickens and a Great Pyrenees. The owner, Corey Price, was thrilled to have us as his first paying customers. “I am going to frame this $20 bill and hang it on the wall,” he said. And, after a somewhat soggy night, Corey showed up in his golf cart the next morning with a thermos of coffee and some goat’s milk soap.
Heading towards Omaha from Corey’s, we crossed the recently renovated Lied Bridge over the Platte River before the real fun began. There was the road, closed for construction, that we needed to cycle through – a bad move as our bicycles and our shoes got covered in mud. Then we got a bit confused because of the lack of trail signage and thought we were going west when we were really going northeast. Lastly, having dismissed the idea that even though two days earlier Omaha had sustained severe thunderstorms, 95-mile an hour winds and that 200,000 homes were without power, we would be able to cycle right into the city we discovered that was too optimistic. The trails were covered with downed trees, requiring plenty of bicycle carries and debris removal. Upon our very late arrival, we were welcomed to Omaha by Christopher Schmidt, our second “Warm Showers” host on this trip. He rolled out the red carpet, making us a scrumptious dinner and shared plenty of cycling stories. Because we inevitably are next to a freight train, either when camping or staying in a motel, we asked Christopher if he lived near the train tracks. “I work for the Union Pacific Railroad,” he said. Does that count? And as usual, we heard at least one freight train go by in the midst of the Omaha night.
Monday morning, we found our way to Council Bluff, IA, crossing the Missouri River on the impressive Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. You may have noticed my fascination with bridges. That’s because I majored in Civil Engineering. In the middle of the bridge, we crossed into Iowa, my first time ever in this state. Being from the East Coast, my stereotypical image of Iowa is that it is flat.
Monday’s journey solidified that as we made our way some 30 miles over flat terrain to Underwood. And then we turned right onto the Magnolia Road. Oops, big hill staring at us! Since it was already 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and there was a truck stop motel in front of us, we opted to bag the last 20 miles we had planned and rented a room.
I spent hours planning our travels for the next few days and today, Tuesday, we rode over 40 miles, from Underwood to Lorah. The trip featured hill, after hill, after hill. Iowa is not flat! This area undulates up and down like a sine wave. Along the way, we passed through Neola, Minden and Avoca, all towns that were established when the Rock Island railroad was built. And then there was Walnut, a town of 745 people, whose main street is lined with numerous antique shops and pretty much nothing else. Oh, and we saw fields and fields of corn and soybeans. Now, that’s the Iowa I was expecting.
During the heat of the mid-afternoon, as were we fighting the hills on a gravel road, a woman named Teri stopped her car and asked if I was okay. I told her I was fine but the hills were beginning to get to me. “Come up to my place and I will provide you with some chilled water,” she said. Of course, that meant one more hill climb but it was the best water I’ve tasted this whole trip.
Tomorrow we’ll be back on a rail trail, thank goodness, riding the T-Bone Trail.
Follow us as we spin our wheels
Pat and Shevonne