Tuesday, June 23, 2020

I'm Looking Uncle Fester And Feeling Gomez Addams


Pugs and I have been friends for a while now, first introduced to it's forever home on a crisp October day in 2015. The fat bike boom with dozens of new models sporting more traditional chainstays, update geometry and wider tires kept ole Pugs on the showroom floor for about a year before I pulled the trigger on my second fat bike. At the time I thought I got a pretty smokin deal on Pugs, two months later Surly said "hold my beer" and started almost giving the Pugsley away. Any way, Pugsley and I have been on many adventures and have shared almost 5.200 miles together over the years, the most recent being a windy, hot and ill prepared bike packing trip but Pugs was as solid as ever. With all the new bikes in the stable and the uptick in speed of most of the Saturday rides, Pugs has been on the sidelines a bit more recently but that's a trend I hope to put an end to. While heavy and "slow", there's just something about the fit and ride of the Pugsley that has me coming back to it for gravel.




In one of those, not time like the present scenarios, Pugs got the call up for the first official SMNDFBR since March.



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Thankfully the weather forecaster was full of shit and instead of rain we ended up with near perfect weather. As a bonus the I-80 taproom was open for business and the beers were flowing.


Also, I have decided I want to find someone who licks me like Joe licks spilled stout off the side of a can... swoon.


As a bonus we had the quartet, Bald guys with Glasses, make a special appearance.




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Since we were up Malcolm way, a stop at the Sac-O-Suds (Malcolm General Store) is always a must. Support the businesses that support you and all that, plus a cold beverage and some shade on a hot day are always a welcome respite.




Stopped at the usual bridge on Bluff Rd on the way back, I've got a line on a couch, garage door opener and satellite dish; let me know if you're in the market.

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A hop, skip and a jump later and we found ourselves at Saro enjoying a tasty cider on the patio; bringing the SMNDFBR to a close. It's good to be back.





Sunday was another day and a ride of different sort, been doing a bit of riding of a different sort on Sundays lately. A little more exploring and a little more chill, it's been a good change of pace. Hope you all got out and enjoyed the weekend that wasn't supposed to be according to the weather forecaster.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Sweating With The Groadies


As a kid I loved camping and I loved biking, so it might come as a surprise to some to learn that when cycling and camping's mashup, bikepacking, soared to popularity several years ago, I did not jump on that bandwagon. As a matter of fact my very first attempt at bikepacking came last weekend, yup not even 7 days ago. You see, born and raised a Montana boy until I was 14 sort of spoiled me to more moderate temperatures. The thought of loading up a bicycle with camping gear and spending the next several hours to days living in a Nebraska slow cooker, was not too appealing. So why now you might ask, well... that's a complicated one but basically it boils down to life being cancelled in 2020. No races, no tours, not so much as an official group ride to be had. This made the idea of loading up a bicycle and enduring the sweat-fest that is bikepacking in Nebraska in late Spring much more appealing. Last weekend things just sort of fell into place as it was announced that the annual My Little Pony Camp Out was a go after all and this seemed like the perfect excuse to give this thing a try.



In addition to the supposed tail end of the COVID pandemic we also had curfews and potentials riots to contend with, so we decided to drive to and start from Malvern Iowa rather than deal with all that mess in Omaha.

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Leaving from Malvern meant we would pass through the unique canyons of the Loess Hills, which ended up being the perfect spot to stop and have a ditch beer. If you have never experienced the Loess Hills and you are near Omaha, I highly recommend you go at least once. Formed by glacial silt from the Ice Age and stacked hundreds of feet high in some areas, it is something you can only experience in this area of the country.



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Naturally, the one weekend I decide to give bikepacking in Nebraska a try it is a hot and windy weekend with temps in the mid to upper 90° range and winds in the mid to upper 20 mph range. Keg Creek in Pacific Junction Iowa was a welcomed oasis near the end of our journey to Pony Creek Campground. My riding partner talked the ears off of a few locals and if talking turns into doing, it's possible that there might be a bicycle tour and camp out in Pacific Junction next year. Time will tell if it actually materializes or not but it sounded pretty promising.


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A few miles post brewery and we successfully made it to the campground. I unloaded the bike, pitched my 17 lbs non bikepacking tent, cleaned up a little bit and then hung out until it was decided that it was time to turn in for the night. As I suspected, I slept fairly poorly in the heat and the breeze that was strong all day virtually disappeared once the sun went down or so it seemed. I think at some point I passed out from shear exhaustion more than I actually drifted off to sleep.

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The next day was slated to be another warm and windy day so we all packed up and headed out fairly early in the morning. We retraced our route out and ran into a pretty stiff head wind but otherwise the return trip was pretty uneventful.

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Chris did capture this pretty cool picture of me in some rainbow lens flare, so that's kind of bad ass. Would I do it again, absolutely but likely on a weekend that was not quite so warm and not nearly as windy but I get it, you plan a trip months in advance and then you're locked in. It was a great time despite the weather and honestly it could have been storming, that would have been worse. I definitely need to get a new tent though, most bikepacking tents are a quarter of what mine weighs and that would make a huge difference. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Tanks, Turtles And New Towns


Saturday was pretty much a wash as far as riding went so Sunday was the day to get out, even if it meant battling less than ideal winds. Found myself in Colon Nebraska again this week, great little small town and in an area I have not ridden in much. So full explore mode was engaged.


It's nice to see that the bike-ie photo isn't limited to those on pedal bikes only.




Leaving out of Colon we were treated to a nice tailwind and we were able to make good time initially, then we got stopped by a literal pack of what looked to be Australian Sheppards. I only got the picture of the one super friendly one that greeted me after I stopped but there had to be a dozen of them. The old school house, now turned residence must be some type of breeder as there were kennels off the back, even though most of the pack seemed to be roaming free.




A little ways past the pack of mutts, and barely visible and almost mistaken as a rock, was this tiny little baby turtle trying to cross the vast expanse of gravel. Not wanting to see Squirt turned into a turtle pancake we gave the little guy a boost to the edge of the pond in the direction he was heading when we found him.


Not long after that, more dogs. Yep, it was kind of a turtle and canine sort of day as we would cross paths with a few more puppers and another turtle before the day was done.





All that pedaling, rescuing and petting worked up quite the thirst; this rusty bridge seemed like the perfect spot for a Kola Tears in Fargo matching purple. Not bad for a sour, a little high on the sour scale IMO but it twernt horrible.





13 miles northeast of Colon is the tiny village of Leshara Nebraska, only 112 souls still call Leshara home according to the last official census. The village never really had a boom, it was established in 1905 as a railroad station and only had a population of 86 in 1910, it's most populous years came right around 1980 but even then it only mustered up 133 people. The town was platted by the Great Northern Railway (my grandfather worked for them for many years) from land purchased from the Pawnee who called the area home before that, the Pawnee village was around in the days of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and is metioned in official records by one of the scouting parties. The current village was named after Petalesharo, a Skidi Pawnee Cheif; Petalesharo's most well known for saving a Comanche girl from being sacraficed by his tribe during the Morning Star Ceremony around 1817. Word of his actions carried all the way to Washington DC and he was eventually awarded a medal for his actions and even had a Naval tug boat named after him in 1973, the tug boat remained in service until 2008 when it was sold to the Hellenic Navy in Greece. Exploring these small towns is very facinating to me, there aren't many still hanging on outside of the midwest and they are a true American treasure. I often will either explore the town first and then research it a little or research it first and then plot a course for it. Being in the middle of the country, one thing Nebraska has a lot of is history from the days of the settlers.



Not much left of the village now except this structure that appears to have been the town garage and filling station once upon a time and the now defunct Longbranch Bar and Grill which was around as late as 2011 according to the final posts on it's Facebook page. Leshara wasn't always a ghost town however, in it's hayday it boasted a hardware store, meat market, lumberyard, drug store, shoe shop, blacksmith shop, hotel, not one but two grocery stores, a newspaper, tavern and even a bank! Crazy to think how quickly little towns like this are drying up.


Saw this guy, just slightly off course but we just had to give it a go.


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We both took a run up the monster, while maybe not the longest or steepest climb ever it did top 20% and had it's fair share of rocks buried in the roadbed. You definitely felt it in the lungs and legs by the top, that rush down was exhilliration, topped 35mph without a single pedal.


Another road, another turtle needing a little help crossing the road; this one much bigger than the last and also a box turtle... normall run into snappers out on gravel.


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Cannot tell you how giddy I was when we rolled into Cedar Bluffs and I spotted this tank sitting in the park! They just speak to me and I just gotta climb it.




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Once in Cedar Bluffs we decided to hit up Todd's Tavern for a bite to eat and a cold beverage. Food and beer did not disappoint and it was a pretty cool small town bar to boot, thinking this one will have to go on the regular rotation when riding in this area again.

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Thought this might have been "Todd" of Todd's Tavern but one of the servers dispelled that thought. Still could be the owner just not a Todd, he had this end of the bar all to himself almost like it was created just so he could sit there. Goals man, goals. As we sat there we pulled out our mind numbing devices and discovered that Omaha was going to be under a curfew at 8pm and did a little bit of quick calculations... 6:45 now, still 8 miles out into a stiff headwind and then a 40 minute drive back. Yup, no way we were making that. Seriously though, who in the actual eff decides that Sunday afternoon is a good time to implement a curfew? How about a little warning, like 12 hours if you're going to do it on a weekend without warning, people might be out an about and not paying attention to the little device in their pockets. Thankfully we made it back without any incidents but still seemed like a stupid thing to do on short notice, nothing, absolutely nothing was said by 2pm when we left town. As a result we had to hightail it to the vehicle so no pictures exist of that last 8 miles but that's okay as it was mostly flat, straight and wind AF.