The sun is rising and we are riding towards it in the bright early morning. My newly acquired blue reflecting sunglasses do what they are supposed to do. Newly acquired? The mishap yesterday was my RayBen sunglasses breaking a rim and loosing a glass as we were checking the map. Across the street happened to be a store that sold me sunglasses very similar to the ones I lost a few days ago.
The sun kept rising of course, but the temperature did not. So we need to stop to put on sweater and windbreaker to compensate for the lack of 70F+. My airy summer gloves allow a few finger tips to turn white. A peculiar sensation under the Big Skies of the rolling plains we are on. Left from us very dark blue clouds spelling serious rain. Right from us the light blue sky. A thin line of white clouds separates the two. And we ride and ride continuously precisely under that white cloud line blocking just enough of the sun to keep the temperature down. At the end the rain system moves away and disintegrates – the 70F mark is hit and there it stays all day.
Miniature settlements we pass as in previous days. One once probably a main street. Now a ghost street. Only the post-office – its facade literally falling down – is in operation, that is its post-office boxes. Next door a ruined house with plants and trees growing out of it, doors and windows gone, rotten wooden door and window frames sticking out over the broken pavement. An old truck and motorcycle just visible in the jungle inside. Outside the skeletons of a bus, a truc, agricultural machines of all kinds and more unidentifiable rusty rubble. Most other buildings are gone. Except a boarded-up tall brick building that once may have been a hotel. Two small low garage type structures dating back to 1906 and 1909 have no function except to serve as a place to post typewritten notices that the voluntary fire department will meet at a date long gone. The one side street is a dirt road to the cemetery – a few houses still in use line what is named Cemetery Road. Symbolic.
Strong north-eastern winds are coming in from 11 o’clock. It makes for great sailing on the road, especially negotiating the whirling turbulance from oncoming trucks. I sail them like I sail the waves on the open waters of the Mediterranean: move to the right steer into them as much as possible as soon as the truck has passed and disappears in the rearview mirror. The road is a endlessly straight line, a roller coaster over gentle hills to a narrow passageway to be seen in the tree line at the end of the visible world. When there: repeat. For hours on end. It is a Nebraska Heritage Byway – once the route of the Oregon Trail that brought pioneers and settlers to the far west after weeks and weeks of traveling by wagon pulled by horses or in case of the Mormons by the people themselves. No roads at the time, just sandy or muddy trails. Intruders into the terrain of the Indians. Historical markers along the road testify to the heroism of a few soldiers fighting off a larger group of Indian attackers less than 150 years ago and being rewarded with the Medal of Honor. (Stop for a moment to think about this.)
Big minivan stops at the fuel station we are at, too. Rather plump lady lowers herself to the ground, staggers towards me and starts shaking my hand. Now, American women are not prone to without introduction start shaking hands with strangers at gas stations, not even with motorcycle riders. A bit on the alert. “Were are you headed to?” the usual question. This time in a familiar kind of English. The uneven slur of somebody quite drunk. It is noon. When she begins talking about a Suzuki she rides or rode and starts walking towards MS, I am prepared to stop her from trying to get on MS. With large and wide gestures in general directions she manages to answer the question of David – unaware of her condition – about the possible whereabouts of a papa&mama cafe for lunch. Fueling is finished, the lady comes out of the gas station shop with a brown bag with probably more subsistence drinks she survives on, climbs back on board, drives off with a ‘have a safe ride’ wish. No, someone else is driving the minivan.
Our target for the day: Shenandoah Iowa, just across the Missouri river. Home of Tony Hansen, aka Corsaconvertible on the triples forum. Yes, again a Shenandoah meeting. Hours later than we expected and had told Tony about by phone, our two triples joined his outside his shop on the beautifully restored and well-kept classical main street of Shenandoah. My MS meets his. Tony’s wife Christina takes triple triple photos you will see posted later in the Album I will put together. It is shop closing time. Tony and Christina roll out a red carpet treatment: stay in an extra house they have available; share BBQ, beer and stories. But not before we are allowed access to the closed magnificent historical Shenandoah museum adjacent to where voting is going on for the School Board. A meet and greet that can’t be better!
Why were we hours late? The river. A very early warning along the road in Nebraska that the US 136 bridge was closed. Map. Let’s take the US 2 bridge. Once there: blocked as well. Explanation at the road block: very high waters, lots of damage. Now what? Ask around: we fear we have to make a loop all the way to Omaha Nebraska. No, say locals: take the old toll bridge at US 34. A winding road gets us to the toll booth. 1$ for per bike. The bridge a grand old iron structure, brown not of paint but rust. Over the bridge the road turns into a causeway with flooded lands left and right. Storage silos, a characteristic old reddish barn, agricultural machines: all partly under water. Side road disappears under water, only the tree line shows where once it was. Often seen on television, now for real.