Goofy sign at the park in Norfolk, NE where the mother of all R2T paths begins.
I almost scratched the Cowboy Trail ride. Last night I drove out about 20 miles on a road that parallels the trail and just took a look at what the vistas and environment might be like on the ride. BORE-ING. I drove back to the Super 8 and dove into my laptop and re-researched Nebraska bike trails. Nothing to hang my hat on. Turned in at midnight not knowing what I was going to do in the morning. And fell asleep to the sound of heavy rain.
Sure enough, after a Super 8 waffle and watered down OJ and coffee in the bright sunny morning the choice was clear: Cowboy Trail, baybee. That's what I planned 3 months ago and that's what I did.
Jumped into the Town and Country and drove all 2 miles to the park where the trail starts and I was off. Beautiful trail. Concrete paving as smooth as Jackson's okole. Perfect. For 2.5 miles, then it turned to gravel. The isty bitsy kind - about the size of Hinode poured right out of the bag. With soft powdery, I don't know what you call it, "sand", in and amongst it. But it was still pretty firm because it was wet from the rain and I kept going OK. And then, at about 5 miles.....
Bridge out! Sign said, "Cowboy Trail Closed Until Further Notice." Bummers. But then.....
I met Dale, local resident who rides at least 10 miles on the Trail daily. He turned out to be my English speaking native guide and showed me - actually rode with me - a way around the kapu section and back on the trail. Dale's biking tales were fascinating, like the day he rode 100 miles for the first time, but that's a story for another day. Mahalo, Dale!
Once I settled into my rhythm the scenery opened up and I began to dig what the Cowboy Trail is about.
Beautiful spots along the river with benches for Fredericking. (Ask Donivee what that means, if you don't already know.)
"Who's yo daddy, who's yo daddy. No, seriously, who is your actual father 'cause I'm pickin' up a strange vibe here."
St. Patrick's Cemetery in Battle Creek, NE beckoned and I was fascinated by the surnames of the settlers who arrive two hundred years ago to tame the plains, raise their families and become the original Americans.
Our heritage. In repose beside a biking trail. It's more than just "rails to trails," isn't it?
There were many more ah ha moments this morning, and endless unanswered questions. Like, why is it called the "Cowboy Trail?" Though the answer might seem obvious, how come it wasn't named the "Nation Builders' Trail" or the "Settlers' Trail?" All of these thoughts surrounded me this morning as I dawdled and took pictures and fought the growing headwind that joined forces with the now dry and fluffy gravel to make every revolution of the crank a mini-masochistic moment. Then, just as I hit my 17 mile turn around point, my cellphone rang.
It was the desk clerk at the Super 8 reminding me that check out time was 11am but she would give me until 11:30 because "At Super 8 we're Super Great!" She didn't really say that. But it fact it was 10:30 am and I wasn't at all sure if I could power back the 17 miles, jump in the T & C and make it back in an hour to forestall a late check out charge. So I just went for it and lo and behold my old friend Tailwind saved my bacon. The gravel trail was like a magic carpet with 15 knots of wind on my port quarter. Got back to the park, dove into the Chrysler, blasted back to The 8 (that's what the road warriors call it), power slid into the first parking stall like a Duke, swaggered up to the desk at precisely 12:29pm (OK so I was an hour late) and of course no one was there at the desk. She was having lunch with the housekeeper in the breakfast lounge. Neither could care less what time I checked out, they just needed to know if I was staying another night. And neither was old enough to remember the Dukes of Hazard.
So the racing back thing was unnecessary but the ride turned out to be very memorable. Thanks, Dale. Thanks Cowboys. And thanks, neighbors.