Saturday, June 18, 2016

SMNDFBR - Making Lemonade


Unless you've been stuck inside for the last few weeks, you might have noticed that it's been really hot and fairly dry around here lately. So when I woke up this morning and looked out the window to see that everything was wet, I was a little bit more than surprised. Checking the computer and seeing rain totals over an inch overnight was even more troubling, surely the planned route through Wilderness Park would be muck and chances were that even the gravel would be more than a little soft... what to do, what to do. I do some of my best thinking whilst sitting atop the porcelain throne and this morning was no exception, it had been a hectic week so I knew that I wanted to ride even if that meant it would be pavement but the question was would everyone else and if so how to make it interesting. While sitting there I came up with the idea of taking a little tour of some of Lincoln's historical places, so I jotted some down, packed up the bike and gear and headed off to Cycle Works to see if anyone else would show up and if they would be up for a little detour from our normally scheduled programming.


Once everyone arrived at the shop I sprung the idea on them and they all seemed up for it, so it was settled and the 10 of us were off.



The first stop on the tour was not all that far from the shop, just a mile or so straight down R Street to Wyuka cemetery where Charles Starkweather and 5 of his victims are buried. For 8 days in late January 1958, Charles Starkweather terrorized Lincoln as he went on a 10 person killing spree that would shock the people of Nebraska and the rest of the country. Charles is responsible for the deaths of 11 people but the first victim was actually killed in November of the previous year and is the only murder for which Starkweather was tried and convicted of. When it was all said and done, Starkweather left 10 people dead in Nebraska and one person dead in Wyoming. He is still the worst mass murderer in Nebraska history, the second being Robert Hawkins who went on a shooting rampage in an Omaha mall in 2007, leaving 9 people, including himself, dead. While perhaps a bit on the morbid side of Lincoln's history, it is still part of the cities history and shouldn't be forgotten.




Leaving Wyuka, we weaved our way down Q Street to the downtown area, our fist stop (not pictured here) was the Terminal Building which sits on O Street between 9th and 10th. The building was erected in 1916 for the Lincoln Traction Company, which later became the Lincoln Street Railway Co. which as the name implies, operated some of Lincoln's rail or trolley type cars in the city. The company operated street cars in Lincoln from about 1881 until about 1943 when the company was bought by a busing company and the railways were abandoned. If you're walking on O Street on the opposite side of the street from the building and look just above the overhang of the building you'll notice that there is still a large metal bay window just above the overhang, this was where the dispatchers (for lack of a better term) sat to oversee the railcars and it is probably the last remaining remnant of what the building once was; unless of course in some deep dark covered up corner or access tunnel there are still other signs. It'd be cool to be able to poke around the bones of the building sometime and see what might still remain of it's once storied history.


From there we traveled a short distance up the street to Sandy's Bar, which is the location site of the first cabin built in what was then Lancaster Nebraska in 1864 by one Luke Lavender. There is a plaque still located on the wall of Sandy's that pays homage to that fact, even though there is some who claim the first building was actually built by Lancaster's Postmaster at at the time Jacob Dawson on 7th & O streets... who knows for sure, it was well before my time, so I'll just agree with the plaque.




The next stop on the tour was one that everyone was familiar with, the State Capitol Building. Three things that make Nebraska's legislature unique is that it is the only Unicameral legislature but it is also the only non-partisan one as well. Perhaps of less significance but also somewhat interesting, it is also the smallest of all the legislatures in the United States.


Leaving the Capitol Building we also stopped at the Kennard House on about 17th and H Streets (again no pictures, sorry) it is credited with being the oldest structure still standing that was built on the original plat that was Lincoln in 1869. Over it's time it has been a frat house, a boarding house and even various single family homes until it was bought by the state around 1960. At one time the house was in danger of being demolished for parking but luckily it was saved and registered as a historical landmark. The house has since been restored and is opened for touring if a person is so inclined, with the payment of a small fee.





A short jaunt down G Street, up 8th and then over the Harris Overpass to P Street and we found ourselves at our next location. This is one of only two remaining original markers in Lancaster County for the Detroit-Lincoln-Denver Highway. The city has put up signs on O Street recently marking that as the DLD Highway but in fact the highway was on P Street and not O Street. One of the fist "paved" sections was actually a brick section from downtown Lincoln out to Emerald Nebraska. If you drive on West P street you can still see sections of the brick that has not yet been paved over with asphalt. Not all that surprisingly since it was built in 1911, many sections of the road were not paved at that time... in 2008 they uncovered a small section of pavement from the original highway that at some point had been buried and turned into a dirt road just east of McCook while trying to repair erosion around a culvert on the dirt road.



Leaving the DLD marker we made our way south, while not of any historical significance per se it was interesting when we passed this long closed gas station (probably 6ish years now) around 14th and Van Dorn. If you look closely the price of gas when it closed was 1.97 a gallon, it wasn't too many weeks ago that it was around that price again after skyrocketing to almost $5 a gallon in the mid/late 2000s.


Our next destination was not one that I had planned or picked but is one of huge significance for these two love birds, this is the house where Ed and Janelle got engaged way back in 1994. Still going strong, congrats you two!


Behind the group here is the Nebraska State Penitentiary which opened in 1869 but didn't actually take it's current shape until the 1890's when the wall and original cell blocks were built. Portions of the wall still remain today, not the actual original wall though as it was originally built from stones,  but the cell blocks were replaced in 1980 (yes almost 100 years later) with the more modern red brick ones you see from the road today. The segregation unit was built in the 1950's and is still in use today, as is the soap factory located next to it but in a much more diminished capacity. The church, the solitary red brick building in "the yard" is supposedly one of the oldest brick structures in Lincoln but I can't confirm that 100%. Probably the least known fact about the Pen is Grasshopper hill which sits behind the Penitentiary, for 86 years (1874-1960) it was the final resting place for upwards of 100 inmates that died in the prison but were unclaimed by family. If you bring binoculars you can still see some of the headstones from the Jamaican trail but it's easiest when the trees lose their leaves so it might be best to wait until fall... for a couple of reasons, not quite as hot either.




Second to last stop on the tour was one of pure survival, while not the longest or most strenuous ride, the heat still had a dehydrating affect on the body and a cool drink was very welcomed.



The final stop on the ride was the site of the largest unsolved crime in Nebraska history, the 1864 Rock Island Train Wreck. While it was determined that the tracks were sabotaged, which caused the train to plunge off of the bridge killing 11 people, they never determined who was responsible for the sabotage and it remains unsolved to this day. It seems like it's still the site of on going crimes as the sign explaining the history of the site seems to have been removed due to vandalism. Seems like this somewhat secluded site lends itself to skulduggery.

A huge thanks goes out to everyone who came out for the ride today on a less than ideal day and put up with a couple hours of my rambling about this and that. While not a traditional SMNDFBR we still managed a respectable 22 miles and we successfully proved that you can make lemonade when life serves you up a plate of lemons. No ride next week due to Odin's Revenge that I will be racing in out in Gothenburg, if you're a gravel person and you're looking for a great medium length gravel event that is not too far from Lincoln then Odin's is worth checking out. If you're into real punishment they also have a 180ish mile version as well but its pretty brutal, so pick your poison wisely.

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