I can’t tell you how happy I am to have (finally) ridden my bike all weekend. It wasn’t going to work out for me to camp out with the Shenandoah Gang, but I had other opportunities to tackle good long rides in the perfect September sun and for that, man, I am a lucky gal.
On Saturday, Noah was with his dad, so I rode to see Grandma and she was so much better I almost burst into tears right there in her face. At meals she complained about her food and about being fussed over and I celebrated that with her, recalling only a week ago that she was so sick the family was feeding her, encouraging every bite and sip beyond every refusal, counting her total daily food and beverage intake in ounces…. It’s amazing she has once again been strong enough to bounce back.
[hold for photo]
The route to Grandma’s is mostly via the Keystone Trail, which I do not love, even as I feel lucky to have it. It does allow a certain mind-wandering that gravel and street traffic decidedly do NOT, and it’s paved and relatively safe.
About that: I did have an experience that I’m feeling alternately scared and guilty about. Scared because of a screaming, enraged, likely drug-trippin mad Scotsman who flung his arms about, yelling FUCK YOU and various versions of FUCK THIS and FUCK THAT as he punched his fists and clomped his legs with knees high in the air, the overly exaggerated movements of a band leader, highlighting the neon yellow hi-viz vest or something tied around his ankle and kicking up the dirty pleated kilt he was wearing. Yes, kilt. And I felt guilty because I didn’t call the police.
I saw him from a long way off, far enough away to see that all around me was nothing & no one that would come to my aid. No golf course, no houses, no parking lot, no businesses. The terrain at this point fell away steeply from the trail; there was nowhere to go, so I pedaled harder, barreling on at top speed as the unthinkable happened: he stepped directly into my path, blocking the bike. Mere feet away I started yelling back at him in as deep a voice I could still scream loudly in, “MOVE! MOOVVVEE!!!”and OMG he did, he stepped back, enraged, livid, still yelling. He didn’t stop yelling as I pedaled hard away, deciding to stop the bike with I was a safe distance and call the cops. When I felt like I’d ridden a safe distance, I paused the bike and put a foot down to turn & look for him and he was RUNNING FULL SPEED AHEAD RIGHT AT ME so oh hell no, I jumped on my bike and listened to him yell behind me for what felt like the entire ride home.
No such drama on the Homestead Trail – it was AWESOME. L* and I joined a group of friendly women that I’d met before but didn’t know. We had a lovely ride from Beatrice to Marysville, KS yes that’s right I rode my bike to Kansas ! For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 78.2 miles Beatrice to Marysville thankyouverymuch and my knee, while not thrilled, did not give out on me. (Thank you, ibuprofen and ice packs!)
The trail is very well maintained, flat, and has a good bit that’s shaded and a good bit that’s alongside a river or two. It reminded me more of the Katy than the Wabash, if we’re comparing rails to trails. Other than those of us riding the Homestead 100, it was not busy. The trail has covered rest stops every 5-15 miles with picnic tables, water fountains, and bathrooms (bathrooms will be locked & water shut off November 1st). The rest stops include images of the trail network, trail history, and other interesting information. One section of the bike trail corresponds with the Trail of Tears and has been deeded over to the Ponca Nation. Another section was visited by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and a quote from her describing the area is on the wall. While I mentioned several times how “new” I found the trail and its amenities, of course it’s not new at all. Many feet –human and animal, and many travois and wheels — wooden, steel, and now rubber passed along the route long before we did. It’s good to be reminded.
I highly recommend the El Ranchero restaurant in Marysville though will caution those of you who are looking for an ice-cold beer on a Sunday ride will be disappointed — Marysville does not sell alcohol on Sundays. (I congratulated myself with pizza and an Odell’s Rupture IPA on return to Omaha.) Mmmm pizza…
I admit it: I’m very proud to have ridden this distance. It’s my longest this year, one of my longest since I got sick, and certainly the longest since I crashed in July. It made me so happy to make the trip with a good friend and make new friends besides. It made me so happy that I could use the knee without killing it. I am back home, home on the trail! Maybe there’s cross-country bikepacking hope for this grrrritty grrravel girl yet.
*I don’t use names without permission. Unless I’ve given birth to them. (Sorry, Noah!)