Day 40: Omaha to Lincoln with a dose of rules and bike unfriendliness

I said my goodbyes to Cathy and Roger as they went off to work, and I made my way to downtown Omaha to wait for the bank to open. I had lost my bank card and was using a temporary one and had my new one sent to the branch in Omaha while in Chicago. I should have planned a bit better though because I was in Omaha on a weekend, meaning I was late getting out of the city. I’m at the point now where I want to start riding around 6am to beat the heat and the wind. I’ve been of this mind for a bit now but my sleep schedule continues to be off and I always end up leaving later than I’d like. If it weren’t for the bank I would have made it out of Omaha much earlier, but the bank had to be visited. I made it there, got the card, and all was well on the way out of Omaha.

Leaving the bank took me through some more hilly roads in residential areas, and some houses had elaborate fake animals:


They made a brick-lined mulch island for a porcelain pig. I know a picture is worth a thousand words and all, but…

A few hilly roads out of Omaha and I made it to the Keystone Trail, which was a gift. Trails invariably line old railroad beds, canals, or rivers, which means they’re relatively flat. I needed flat.

I wasn’t on it too long though before it spit me out into some more Omaha suburbs, which took me through something of a warehouse district outside of town. I’ve seen quite a bit of industrial areas outside of urban areas, and given the cities I’ve been through, there’s been a lot of steel, manufacturing, and other heavy industry. Omaha was an outlier in seeming heavy in warehouses and distribution centers. I went ahead and assumed that Omaha is one of the country’s major way stations for consumer goods. It makes sense geographically, being that it’s situated advantageously between the east and the west, and it also jives with what Roger told me about the College World Series a couple days before – a major reason the tournament started in Omaha in the 50s was because all the trains lead to it, which was how the college athletes made it to the city.
Before long I was back on a trail in a park:

This highlights a couple trends I’ve noticed as I make my way across the country. The first is that places that are traditionally (and stereotypically) conservative seem to push a lot of rules on other people. I mean just look at that signage. It’s not an isolated incident either. I see a lot of “don’t do this” signs in places that tend to vote for a party that ostensibly doesn’t like regulation. The liberal places don’t have this. All this is vague and limited to my experience on this ride, but it’s something I’d been aware of… And would continue to be. 

The second trend relates to my experience coming out of Omaha. Just southwest of the city limits I rolled past Nebraska Crossing Outlets, the first outlet mall I’ve seen since starting in New York. I had zero interest in shopping, but seeing it was something of a novelty. Additionally it meant an opportunity for food, because where people buy stuff, they eat.

I made it to a Denny’s across the overpass and was already salivating at the prospect of a grand slam breakfast for lunch. But I couldn’t find a place to lock up the bike. Even though I have my frame lock which locks up the back wheel, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving it out unattached to something bolted to concrete. Nebraskans hadn’t made too much of a positive impression on me and I wasn’t feeling very trusting. I asked the manager if I could leave my bike between the doorways, and she said “no” emphatically and without hesitation. I responded just as quickly by saying she just lost money. 

All this is to say that Nebraska was emerging as the least bike friendly place I’ve been on the tour by a long shot. Two days previous I was honked at as I sweat my way to Cathy and Roger’s place, with one driver rolling down his window to cuss me out and curse me for not using the sidewalk… Which is not only illegal, but there were two lanes on Farnam Street where we were and no one else on the road around us, meaning my presence wasn’t the slightest hindrance to his driving. It wouldn’t be the last time something like this happened either.

After microwave ramen at a truck stop following Denny’s I headed southwest on US-6 for Lincoln. It seemed I’d be done with the hills for a good while, and I was right. I felt a few rain drops and started to get paranoid about my new phone getting ruined, so it went in a ziplock bag immediately. But the rain didn’t pick up and after half a mile I was dry and alright.

Just before crossing the Platte River the vast farmland was disrupted by a lighthouse:


You gotta love RV parks.

And then it was a long, straight road into Lincoln. Ever since Iowa the township and range planning system has taken over, and the roads representing a bowl of spaghetti have waned and given way to an extremely large, barren grid pattern. It doesn’t make for the most exciting riding but I guess it’s good for the king crop in this part of the country: corn. So, so much corn. Iowa just seemed to be the beginning of it, and the road between Omaha and Lincoln only gave a taste (as it were) of what I’d get in the following days.

Weather coming from the west on this continent has gotten me wet and wind-worn at times on the road, but the nice thing is that sometimes I can beat the rain. Pushing down US-6 made me feel like a winner when I was rolling into this:

While rolling past this behind me:

Not sure the pictures do it justice. They never really do, but oh well. 

Before long I made it into Lincoln:

And I kind of started to feel like I was entering the world of Alexander Payne’s Election even though that incredible satire was all Omaha. I’d think about his movies more in the coming days. 

There was a bit of “Main Street America” outside of town:

And before long I was at Camp A Way Campground, just a few miles from downtown Lincoln. This is the nicest campground I had been to since I started. There was a full shop with all sorts of cheap stuff I could cook, friendly staff that were fun to chat with, and a hot tub that I was aching to get into. Unfortunately it was closed prematurely and I never got to hop in, but it was still a nice place. 

I had wanted to see downtown Lincoln but I was ready to get off the bike and rest for the next long day to Aurora. Not much can prepare you for the “extreme Nebraskan weather”, as a list of rules (yet again) outside a cemetery told me on the way to that small town…

-J

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