Spring rides in Nebraska 2018

     
Having battled PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome) for months, I finally broke out for EWT (Extreme Wind Therapy) last week. This has been a very long winter in Nebraska. When the forecast called for 2 days in a row with temps in the 70’s, I had to act.
 
I called in sick for 2 days in advance. (cough, cough), arranged for emergency feedings for my kittens and made a motel reservation in North Platte, 220 miles away.
 
It was a warm and sunny day when I left Lincoln. Well, warm is relative, it was 48 degrees, but it’s been icy and cold recently. I can ride very comfortably at 45 deg. F and up. I had my heated jacket liner, another liner for insulation and a very heavy leather Harley jacket. I added heated gloves, used the heated grips on the bike and wore a full-face helmet. I looked like the bride of Darth Vader. 🙂 Those who know me will say that my voice sounds like her, too. No offense to the real wife of DV. 🙂
 
I got onto Interstate 80 easily and navigated urban traffic until the sign said I could open it up a bit. Speed limit is 75. To those who travel through our wonderful Cornhusker state, our friendly local Nebraska State Troopers will nail you hard if you do 80 or faster. Every other state in which I’ve ever driven will leave you alone at 8 over the limit, but don’t even think about that in our fair land. Word to the wise.
 
But, I digress. I ran up to 78 mph, checked speed according to GPS to verify accuracy of speedometer and it was right on. Either that, or both devices are in error. I set the cruise control and waved at the Sheriff vehicle parked in the median. They let me go with a head start to the county line. This was going to be a wonderful day.
 
Traffic was fairly light for this stretch of road and most of the drivers were courteous and careful. I love that when on two wheels. A woman traveling alone must always be cautious and alert. An old lady must be even more so, as they present an easy target.
 
A great many women bikers relate great insecurity to travel solo on a bike. After all, you can’t exactly roll up the windows and lock the doors when feeling threatened. After many miles riding alone, I can say that I have great confidence in my personal safety. There appears to be considerable respect for anyone riding in full leathers on a Harley. I don’t know if others think this person might be armed or 300 of their closest friends are just over the next hill or what. I’m always treated with kindness and dignity by others, either in person or other vehicles.
 
I do my best driving on my bike. I let others in, I never forcibly insist on the right of way and quickly relinquish my position if required. When I see an 18 wheeler needing to change lanes, I quickly let off the gas and flash my lights to let them know it’s clear for them to move over. This is a universal trucker signal that everyone should know. After making their move, they’ll blink their tail lights as a thank you. Watching truckers operate will help reinforce this lesson. Always be kind to truckers, they are your best friend. However, if they have a sign on the back that says, “bikes flattened, while-u-wait”, you may assume otherwise. 🙂
 
Back to riding. The medians and ditches are just starting to turn green. The fields are barren, with only a few short stalks left from last year. The popularity of “no-till” farming has reduced airborne dust a lot. Quite a few farmers could be seen in tractors tending to their fields. This is an exciting time here in farmland.
 
As I approached Grand Island, 90 miles due west, I began to see Sandhill Cranes in the fields. They migrate from Central America, Mexico and even Florida on their way to their summer condos near the Arctic circle. They stop here along the Platte river to rest up and feed for several weeks before resuming their flights. This has gone on for thousands of years and it’s exciting to view these magnificent birds.
 
I turned off the Interstate and headed north through Grand Island. I stopped for gas so I’d have enough to complete my day’s ride. I was headed into some pretty lonesome territory from here.
 
I got on to U.S. Highway 2, the Sandhills Scenic Byway. This was native Nebraska prairie country. It is breathtakingly beautiful. I love riding out here.
13 miles down the road was Cairo, Nebraska. One of the great joys of open road bike riding is the fine dining opportunities afforded by small town bars. Small towns seldom have cafes or diners, but almost all of them have a bar. Dinner time in small town bars finds families gathered and often kids are present. This is the town gathering place.
 
I rolled up to “The Watering Hole” bar, which is featured on www.beckysbikerblog.com as one of “Becky’s Best Biker Bars and Cafes”. Their burgers are delightful.
 
Today’s special was Prime Rib Sandwich for $8.95. Are you kidding me? You’re lucky to get a bad burger and fries at a fast food place for that. This was real meat, unprocessed, from a real cow.
 
The great taste told me that the grill marks weren’t just painted on, they came off a real grill. It was great and so were the fries. I don’t eat many fries, but the prime rib was consumed in it’s entirety. It was so good. This is the way travel was meant to be.
 
I made conversation with the bartender, who is the proud owner of the other bike in the photo. He had just purchased it and said it needed a lot of work. He was extremely happy to own it and was learning to ride. I gave him 2 important riding tips and got back on the road.
 
I decided to take State Highway 11 straight south out of town to get back on the Interstate. I need to get to North Platte for a visit with friends.
 
The highway was classic rural Nebraska flatland. The road was nice and straight and flat as it could be. This was the Platte river valley. Every spring, the snow melt from the Rocky Mountains causes the Platte river to flood and over millions of years, a wide, flat valley has developed.
 
I was really enjoying this part of the ride and thinking to myself how remote and peaceful was this part of the trip. Suddenly, my inner joy was shattered at the sight of a sign that said “License and Registration Check Ahead”. Are you serious? This *is* the middle of nowhere. I should be able to ride in my underwear out here. Not that I would, I scare the cows. 🙂
 
I could see 2 State Patrol Cars parked off to the side of the road and several State Troopers were giving the car in front of me a real going over. They were inspecting the car and checking lights. Oh, my.
 
More to the story later in Part 2, Spring adventure in Nebraska.