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Day 5: 21-Aug-2002 North Platte - Broken Bow (map)

Today's distance 76.7 miles
Time moving: 5 hours, 54 minutes
Time stopped: 0 hours, 53 minutes
Ending elevation: 2442 ft
Max speed: 40.0 mph
Moving average speed: 13.0 mph
Overall average speed: 11.3 mph
Cumulative climbing: 2100 ft
Cumulative descent: 3605 ft
Total distance: 337.7 miles

What a difference a day and a change of wind makes! Today the wind shifted to the south, and I spent a good amount of time going north. Was often able to cruise along at about 20 mph. This is also much hillier terrain than following the river valley, but I enjoy the diversity of terrain. US 83 had paved shoulders, and the remainder of the roads for the day had very little traffic and the drivers again offered friendly waves and wide berths.

The biggest problem was some serious pain in my right achilles tendon. Very painful, and did not respond to ibuprofen. After a couple of hours it was obvious that for some reason I was causing more injury, and I stopped to adjust my shoe, loosening the laces, and moving the saddle forward slightly. I think I had tied the shoe too tightly, and pressure from back of the shoe was causing irritation as the achilles tendon moved. After these adjustments, it felt like the pain ceased getting worse, but it was still quite painful with every stroke of the pedals. I was far enough into the trip to know that I had the stamina and conditioning to be able to do this, but this pain was of the magnitude that if it persists, the trip will be in jeopardy. For the rest of the day I paid close attention to avoid further injury. Still, at times the pain was excruciating.

Modern technology meets pedal power.

One of the "definitions" of where the West begins is the 100th meridian. Well, with GPS, one can easily find this line with a precision of about a bicycle length. So I stopped the bike at that spot and looked around and took a few pictures. Hmmm, didn't look much different on either side of the line :). But some of the things that I notice while riding is how dramatically the topography, vegetation, and cultural features of the land can vary in just a few miles. Between the hotel in North Platte and Broken Bow, the terrain ranges from riparian river bottoms, flood plains, sand hills, and high plains dissected by steep, deep, narrow river valleys.

I have long been fascinated by anything having to do with maps, cartography, geography, and geology. I've got stacks of maps, books about maps, compasses, and a couple of GPS receivers. I've got a GPS mounted on the handlebars of the bike, not so much to know where I'm going, but to record where I've been. Its a lot of fun to download the track log of a nice ride into the computer, and look at my path. In many ways this is better than taking pictures.

Looking north along 100th meridian

Looking south along 100th meridian

Looking east from 100th meridian.   Hmm, where did my "looking west" picture go?  I seem to have lost it.

My blue gramas are hanging in there.

This corn looks quite healthy.  The locals were complaining about drought, but this is an irrigated field.  Irrigation has changed the landscape of the west tremendously.  Throughout much of the great plains, the water for all of this irrigation comes from groundwater, which has been depleted at a rate much, much faster than it is replenished naturally.  Even the most optimistic estimates are that this water will be gone in about 50 to a hundred years.  Marc Reisner's book Cadillac Desert is a fascinating discussion of this and many other western water issues.  I believe it is in this book where he makes the statement that the electric centrifugal pump is the device which has had the most visible impact upon the landscape of the west.

I enjoy the terrain around this part of Nebraska. A mix of open grassland, grazing land, and farm fields growing corn, soybeans, and sorghum. All in all a nice day, with good distance traveled, a few interesting people met, and if I can get my knee and ankle pain under control things will be great.

I checked in to the Super 8 motel in Broken Bow, and as I was unpacking my things I looked out the window and noticed a couple parking their bicycles at the McDonald's across the parking lot. The man was wearing a "New Belgium Fat Tire Ale" cycling jersey, so of course I had to go over and investigate. What a blast it would be to run into someone else from Fort Collins here. They turned out to be from Broken Bow, but were fun to talk to and I knew I could rely on their advice about routes and roads in the area. They had just finished a short ride and were getting ice cream.

Back to Day 4: Ogallala - North Platte Forward to Day 6: Rest day in Broken Bow