Bike Adventure to Omaha- Part I

This is a two-part blog post because I am faster at offloading words than I am photos, especially since the photos may be stills that are distilled from the GoPro that I used on the trip.  This also constitutes a “reconstructed journal.”

This last Tuesday [August 6, 2013], a goal that I have had for quite some time was finally about to come to fruition.  I wanted to ride a bike from Lincoln to Omaha, and since it was a Tuesday, I had given Dad sufficient notice, and it was time to see it as an adventure!

The preparation is nothing to really mention, so I will start from the starting line (no, this was not a race!)  In the red Town and Country van which has umpteen problems, Mom drove Dad and me to Seacrest Field, bringing back lots of memories from high school of excitedly running from the gravel parking lot to the gates to watch my Southeast Knights do battle in football.  We unloaded the bikes, and headed off to the east along A Street.  The time was 07:50, the skies were cloudy, and Dad told me that he didn’t want to push the pace.

We started with, what was to me, a fairly easy uphill part.  Dad trailed a bit, but in some sense, taking it easy early is a good way to avoid injury from overexertion.  Once we got past 86th Street, a long downhill allowed both of us to coast from the edge of Lincoln into the wide-open road.  There were no cars in sight, going from 86th Street toward 120th Street in Walton.  Our original plan to start on the MoPac trail was derailed (pun intended since this trail was a Rails To Trails project) by road destruction at 98th Street.  Thankfully, there was no difficulty on A Street.

Walton brings back a memory that I mentioned to Dad, and recall here as well.  Back in the summer of 2004, Casey ran a “footstock” event in Walton, and when I was in the bike shop that was catty-corner from the softball fields, one of the people was talking about some number theory topics.  Unfortunately, nine years later and there is no trace of the building.  There is almost literally nothing there now.  So, we continued just past 120th and got onto the MoPac trail.

Prior to the ride, Dad had a little trepidation about taking this trail, because he wasn’t sure how his bike would perform on the crushed limestone.  After several feet, he realized that it was just fine.  Indeed, although it is not as good as paved, it is close enough when not wet.  The clouds looked like they could bring rain, but a cooling breeze also blew.  As we rode on the trail, we also saw Crooked Creek Golf Course, and recalled the Alexander Golf Clinic at that course, so many years ago.

Earlier in the morning, I read an ad in the paper for a mixed martial arts clinic that taught קרב מגע (Krav Maga).  Dad explained that the Jewish Federation of Lincoln had a demonstration of it at The Parthenon, and I learnt that it is a combination of Asian martial arts, with the idea to finish confrontation quickly.  It seems useful, but I do not feel I am disciplined enough to pursue it.

As we continued, we entered some open areas, and I asked about lightning and dangers.  Dad said that the more open you are (i.e. away from buildings and trees), the more susceptible you are to lightning.  However, he said that the clouds looked like rain clouds but not storm clouds.  That was a good thing, and indeed, there was not a bolt of lightning during the adventure.

Upon entering Eagle, Nebraska, ten miles into the ride, some houses appeared, a grain elevator, but no cars in motion or traffic lights.  From North Railroad Street back to the trail, we saw a rabbit cross our path, and it appeared that we felt some rain drops.  Indeed, it was lightly raining, such that we stopped for Dad to put his cell phone in a more rain-resistant pocket.  This was also a good quasibreak for me to get off my duff.

He was feeling fine, and I was too, although my bladder was starting to enter a reactive phase (don’t worry, nothing bad happened).  Stressors on the bladder were somewhat discussed (I will mercifully spare you the details :p).  The rain drops quickly disappeared, and the skies also started to clear as we passed high-numbered streets and endless cornfields.  As we approached 298th Street, a bridge over no water greeted us, with a big silo dead ahead, and tanks appeared along with a cat that scared Dad.

We took a left at 298th, which became 4th as we entered Elmwood.  Like the previous towns, there were no stop lights or much going on.  We stopped at a convenience store: the co-op.  I used the restroom (duh!) and then Dad did.  In addition to being a gas station, there was a small salad bar that was not yet open for the day.  Of course, I used this as a chance to Facebook-check in.

We left Elmwood by continuing north, and went down a big hill.  Of course, what goes down must come up when it comes to roads.  Although these hills weren’t killers, some of them were pretty long.  Roads in the country are more up-and-down since they are less traveled than in the city.  During the winter, for example, you have to have fairly even roads so that people don’t go sliding all over the place.  The downhills helped get our average pace up to 10 mph, which was Dad’s goal for overall pace of the trip.  We’re doing well!

In addition to cornfields (never-ending in this area), some of the barns that we saw had Dutch designs.  One that had triangles reminded me of the mystical art from צפת (Safed).  Dad had actually not heard about 100 shofar blasts (at Tifereth Israel, only 70 are done), so like always, you learn something new every day!  There was also a shed with a cartoon cow drawn on the side, so I had to take a picture of it.  At this point, we were on Nebraska Highway 1, and some discussion of county roads, highways, and others were given.  On a worse note, he recalled the time that the Interstate was diverted due to someone who committed suicide there a few years ago.  I recall the story, but was not a part of it.

On this stretch of road, we had a head/crosswind which made it tough along with the hills.  But, when we got to Nebraska Highway 50, our fortunes changed as we not only got a shoulder (good, as we saw more cars in a mile on this road than in the almost-30 miles that we had already traveled!) but had a mostly downhill journey AND had the wind at our backs!  Considering that the sun had come out, this was a good thing, especially since the previous rain was still giving evaporative cooling.

Though this leg was easy, since we traveled at higher velocities, the conversations didn’t work particularly well.  That’s OK—sometimes on rides you just need to enjoy the scenery, feeling the wind at your back (or sometimes in your face).  Both of us were getting pretty hungry, and I counted down the miles as they racked up.  Our pace had significantly improved, and as we got close to Louisville, it was down, down, downhill.  The scary part came on a viaduct above a moving train, as the shoulder disappeared.  At the bottom of the curved hill, the Louisville business district awaited, and after going up the street, we chose the Main Street Café for lunch.

Thus far, our mileage was 36.5 and the time was 11:30.  We are definitely running well here, and the day is beautiful.  I used the restroom as we got a table at the window, and after refreshing, we both ordered hot turkey sandwiches.  The café was very homey and cute, and our server was attentive.  As it turns out, the sandwich was tender turkey slices (a-la Thanksgiving) with mashed potatoes and gravy in the middle, and bread saturated in gravy.  Yay—basically like creamed turkey!  It was excellent, and although I ate slowly, it was fine.  Dad was feeling good, but had to take a phone call while eating.  I won’t go into details.

Continuing on our journey, we returned to Highway 50, and soon thereafter crossed the PlatteRiver.  There was no “pedestrian bridge” going over the river like we had heard.  Either it doesn’t exist or it is far in the distance.  My guess is the former.  (However, it turns out the correct answer is the latter.)  Our pace was still fast due to headwinds and easy roads, but we did not push the pace, given that we need time to digest the food we just ate.  Dad, however, said that when you are active, all of your processes speed up.  I had asked that, and he expanded.

It was getting hotter, and the sun was out in fairly full force.  Nonetheless, the ride wasn’t bad.  The road was a little bit boring, however, since it was mostly straight on Highway 50.  We knew we were getting closer to Omaha, because the hills started to even out, I saw more buildings (i.e. as we got closer to Springfield), and traffic became heavier.  A few points of the shoulder were pretty bad, but all in all it was easy to navigate on the shoulder.  Approaching Millard, we got to the scary part: the far right side of the road becoming an on-ramp toward Interstate 80.  We emerged unscathed from this area, and stopped at McDonald’s for a restroom/Gatorade break.

YAY—we have reached the Omaha metro area!  Down 144th Street we went, on a long hill, only to have our momentum halted by a stupid red light.  As we pedaled up the long but non-steep hill, cars gave us our requisite three-foot clearance.  The south part of 144th Street had open field in the Chalco region, but passing Harrison it became more city-like.  About a mile down the road, we waited for three cycles for a northbound light at Q Street.  Sensors don’t pick up bike tires, but I am surprised that they would have sensors still activating the lights at 13:50.  What do I know?

Down another steep hill and up a reasonable one, we snaked through Oak View Mall to avoid another set of hills, as we eventually crossed a bridge that led to a residential area.  Through this calm neighborhood of old houses and lots of trees, we reached Aunt Pam’s house at [address redacted for privacy], just before 14:00.  Once there, Uncle Bruce was home, and we discussed the shingle repair that the house was undergoing.  Aunt Pam was setting up at school, which begins shortly in Omaha.  The rest of the conversations involved stuff that HIPAA will not allow me to reproduce in public.

Of course, we hydrated and cooled off at the house, before going down steep hills to rejoin the road at Pacific Street.  Starting out on the sidewalk, we passed 132nd Street, and a few blocks later, concluded that the sidewalk was in terrible shape so that we took the road.  Pacific had even more hills than what we had seen thus far on this ride.  Despite Pacific not being a great road for biking, cars were considerate of us, and we never appeared to be in trouble.  The toughest hill was from 104th until about 90th, just after road construction that we had to rush through to avoid aggravating cars.

Passing 72nd Street, we turned north into Elmwood Park, and took the trail alongside the creek and golf course.  In the park, there was a brown picket fence and a softball diamond, which is very near where Dad and Mom proposed, a little more than 28 years ago.  The park was serene with a few people running around, some dogs, and trees to block the sun from beating down on us.  However, leaving the park was difficult as on Happy Hollow, a hill was combined with some turning.  We were averaging 6 mph up the hill, and I could tell that Dad may have been starting to run out of steam.  I was fine.

This is Leavenworth.  It started with a downhill, on a two-way street, as we passed from houses to various buildings in strips.  This included Bronco’s as we neared 42nd Street, and also the University of Nebraska Medical Center.  That area is rapidly progressing, as they probably want to find ways to attract smart med students (not to mention the need to modernize in general).  The cars again gave us the time of day, and once we got to about 30th Street, not only did the rest of Leavenworth go downhill, but at our 64th mile, we saw our first bike lane!

At 10th Street, we continued east into the ConAgra Foods campus.  However, this did not lead to the BobKerreyPedestrianBridge, but instead just in a contour that led us a few blocks north (thankfully, the bridge was north of Leavenworth).  Many people were walking on the sidewalk, and I could not tell whether they were employees, interns, or something else.  There were plenty of trees on this campus, and numbered buildings and American flags.  After this, we headed to the CenturyLinkCenter and turned onto Capitol Avenue.

This road went down toward the Missouri River, underneath the Interstate 480 bridge.  The riverfront trail snaked behind the CenturyLinkCenter, and the bridge looked a marvelous sight.  Turning onto it, I turned on my GoPro, but its battery was dead L.  Although a little bit snaky with an uphill, we crossed it, before stopping on the bridge when a line separated Iowa from Nebraska.  Dad said, “We made it!” and I insisted on a picture of me straddling the state lines.  I now have two of such pictures: Iowa/Nebraska and Illinois/Wisconsin.  Cool!  I also got a picture of Dad, with the tower too.

We crossed across the river, and simply stopped at a KYBO underneath the bridge (hey, since Dad kept making RAGRAI references, I had to use one :p).  Returning again to Nebraska, we took a different route in order to get to the Old Market.  This included some wooden bridges and riverfront views.  I really enjoyed this.

Carefully riding on the brick roads of the Old Market, we hit our final destination at Ted & Wally’s.  My trip odometer had just rolled past 70 miles.  For our victory dessert, it was mint-chip ice cream with Heath bars mixed in.  Sitting outside, on a bench, in the shade of a tree, we reveled on our adventure.  Our timing was good, as Mom came not long after with our SAG wagon as we returned to Lincoln.

My next blog post will have some of the stills from the video footage that I took.

Original notes:

* Cloudy at Seacrest, 07:50 | A Street, a bit slow start

* A to Walton: Downhill

* Walton to Eagle: Limestone, golf, קרב מגע, lightning, demographics, etc.

* Eagle to Elmwood: Rain drops, gravel, doing OK, bladder, Gatorade, bridges, film | BREAK: Convenience store / Coop

* Elmwood to L’ville: Hills, pacing, Dutch designs, 100 shofar blasts, RAGBRAI hills, Interstate suicide

* On 50, tailwind, downhills, and good shoulder

* Not much talk latter HWY 50

* Lunch: Main Street Café

* L’ville to Millard: No ped bridge over river, still on shoulder, heated up, active implies sped up processes, shoulder, why hills, fear of ramps

* McD to Pam’s: 144/Q stuck for three cycles-Sensor? / Bridges, to Pam’s

* Uncle Bruce: Roof shingles, med stuff (Jimmy), car+hail damage, Aunt Pam at OPS setting up

* Pacific: Bad sidewalk, construction, hills

* Elmwood Pk: Trail, SB diamond and fence, Happy Hollow hill

* L’worth: all downhill from Alamar, but up & down.  Bike lane at Mile 64

* ConAgra campus

* Back of CLink

* Bridge, photos, KYBO, Dad running out of energy

* Ted & Wally’s: mint chip / Heath J

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