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Kearny, Nebraska to Silver City, Iowa

This chapter was written and sent on the internet from the Malvern, Iowa High School Library.

April 30, Thursday
Spring weather seems to be slowly coming to Nebraska. The spring here is about one month behind Lynchburg. Tulips and daffodils are in bloom. Trees are just getting their leaves and the wild plum is in full bloom sending sweet fragrances through the air. We had marginally better weather today The northeast winds decreased to about 10 mph. The ADT continues to follow the Oregon Trail along the south side of the Platte River. There are many monuments and markers for forts, abandoned towns, and massacres by Indians. We stop at all of these markers to get smarter and to take a butt break! Fort Kearney State Park with its reconstructed log fort was important for protecting the wagon trains and early settlers. We had a good combination of gravel and paved road today — only 16 miles of gravel. Tonight we are camping in a city park in the town of Doniphan. They normallly don't allow camping but the mayor made an exception for us. We've met a number of the neighborhood children as we cooked our spaghetti dinner and set up our tent.

51.7 miles, 11.3 mph average, 4 hours 32 minutes, 525 miles total

May 1, Friday
So, there we were, snuggled into our tent in the city park and sleeping quite soundly, when whom should drive up about 1 am in the morning, but neighborhood rowdies who had obviously been drinking. They loudly complained about a tent in their park, shouted obscenities and proclaimed they were going to smash our bikes, and then they threw a stick at our tent. But, Brer Happy Feet, they lay low and they didn't say nuttin'. The hoodlums soon left, thus proving that sometimes the best way to extinguish a behavior is to ignore it, while the Happy Feet dreamt dreams of tar babies with bad guys mired in them.

As if that wasn't bad enough, we were abruptly awakened at 6 am by the park sprinkler system. And, to our dismay, our tent was directly on top of one of the sprinker heads. Not only did our tent and gear get drenched, but Laurie got a good soaking trying to disassemble things. Oh well, it did make for an early start!

Then, things took a turn for the better. We finally got a mild tailwind which boosted our morale and our average miles per hour by 3 mph over any previous day in Nebraska. Also, this would be our first day in Nebraska totally on paved roads — no gravel.

We stopped for coffee in a friendly cafe in Giltner. In Aurora, we picked up a mail drop and took care of some business. We rolled steadily eastward, ate lunch in Hampton, and arrived in York by 2 pm. We had been invited to meet with Jim Krejci, head of York's Parks & Recreation Dept. Jim and some other York citizens are responsible for getting the ADT re-routed into the city of York. York is trail friendly and in the forefront as it has had a bike trail for the past 22 years. Jim had arranged an interview for us with the local paper. In addition, the city Chamber of Commerce paid for a nice hotel room and we enjoyed a great dinner with Jim and his wife, Ann. All's well that ends well!

We also had a chance to visit our first bike shop in 580 miles. Bill got his wheels checked and trued while we dried out our wet tent in the hot afternoon sun. Our bikes have performed flawlessly — and only one flat so far — due to a thorn.

55 miles, 14.2 mph average, 3 hours 51 minutes, 582 miles total

May 2, Saturday
Today was a day of extremes. The morning consisted of a 25 mile segment right into a brisk northwest wind. We took turns breaking wind for each other, but our progress was slow and discouraging. Finally, shortly after lunch, we turned due east. With the partial benefit of the wind on our backs, we were able to pick up speed, but noisy traffic along the paved road we were following was irritating. We still needed to take breaks for our saddle sore bottoms. Then, finally, the glorious grand finale. We picked up the 12 mile Oak Creek Trail, a beautiful and level rail trail through rolling farmland with the wind at our backs. At one point we were able to coast at 20 mph. So we rode into Valparaiso with our butts held high, happy to have finished our longest day yet. Then, to top it off, the town has allowed us to camp in their fire station, with cots to sleep on — a nice comfy home on this rather cold night. Valparaiso is a friendly helpful town.

73.4 miles, 10.9 mph average, 6 hours 40 minutes, 656 miles total

May 3, Sunday
It seems a lot of our good fortune (sleeping in the fire station, for example) has its downside. This time, we were awakened by the radio in the fire station crackling to life at 1 am. The dispatcher was requesting the Valparaiso Fire Department to respond to fight a grass fire in a nearby community. The fire siren activated automatically and seemingly within a minute, a dozen men had arrived and four fire trucks roared to action and took off. Some of the men wondered who we were — we said we were just "visitors". They returned within 15 minutes when it became evident the nearby community had the fire under control. Just another night on the ADT!

Today was short and easy with a tailwind pushing us into Lincoln, the prosperous booming capital of Nebraska. We stopped at the Plains Indian Cultural Center which was not a museum as we thought, but more of a community center for all Indians. We were pleased to see a huge carved statue of an Indian by Peter Toth, a man from Bill's hometown in Ohio. He is in process of carving a major Indian statue in every state in the country.

On into Lincoln we rode and we stopped at the outdoor track of the University of Nebraska, where the finish line of the Lincoln Marathon was located. 2300 runners had started at 7 am and many were just finishing as we arrived. It was a festive event with lots going on.

We continued our ride on excellent trails threading our way through the city. At 40th Street, we left the trail and rode to the house of Ross and Caryl Greathouse. Ross serves on the ADT Society board with us, and he is the founder of the Nebraska Trails Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that collects funds and promotes trails within the state. Many of Nebraska's rail trails would not exist without Ross' excellent work. We had a great afternoon touring the city and going out to dinner.

28.5 miles, 13.9 mph average, 2 hours 9 minutes, 684 miles total

May 4, Monday
Ross rode with us as we linked a number of bike trails together to wind our way out of Lincoln. When we reached Walton, we stopped at the bike shop owned by Susan and Rich Rodenburg. Susan was the past Nebraska ADT coordinator. They and their son, Jack, joined us on the Mopac East Trail, a rail trail which links Lincoln to the countryside. It was fun having others to talk to on our journey for the first time on this trip.

We were impressed by the number and quality of trails and parks in Lincoln, and the whole state of Nebraska. With sunny, warm weather and more tailwinds, our spirits are high and we have opted to forego another planned day off, putting us a day ahead of schedule.

57.4 miles, 12.8 mph average, 4 hours 27 minutes, 741 miles total

May 5, Tuesday
Following a circuitous route through Omaha we were on a number of scenic bike trails around lakes and through parks. These bike trails appear to add to the property value of adjacent homes as the houses along the trails were beautiful.

Once in downtown Omaha, we were on some pretty busy streets when a bicycle policeman came up to us. He ended up pedalling with us for a few miles as he showed us scenic sites and a route to pick up the paved and traffic free levee road to our bridge over the Missouri, which brought us to Iowa. The sign said "IOWA, We Will Make You Smile!" Once in Council Bluffs, where Lewis and Clark had a big meeting with the Sioux and Otoe Indians back in 1805, we started down the Wabash Trace, a rail trail. Tonight we are camped in another city park in Silver City. This town, population 291, was very cordial to us, with a city councilman volunteering to have the water turned on at the park so we could use the bathrooms. We have noticed as we travel that each small town has its own persona. Some go out of their way to help a stranger while others are more suspicious and hesitant to make exceptions for camping, etc. We wonder what sets the tone for these differences. We notice we have broken the 800 mile mark today. Only 1000 miles to go!

63.9 miles, 10.8 mph average, 5 hours 54 minutes, 805 miles total

© Copyright, William & Laurel Foot, 1998, Lynchburg, VA.
The Happy Feet

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