The original plan for today had been to bike the whole Steamboat Trace Trail – a 21 mile riverside(ish) rails-to-trails path from a power plant just south of Nebraska City to a nuclear power plant just south of Brownville. Have I sold it to you yet?
Slight hitch – I couldn’t hire a bike in Nebraska City. There is a big bike store here, but they don’t do rentals apparently due to insufficient business to justify the insurance costs. Very kindly, Jeanna (my B&B hostess at “Whispering Pines” (also on Twitter) found me a bike in Peru. No, I don’t know why it’s called Peru either.
This turned out to be a Good Thing. It meant I could just do the southern half of the trail, which is generally reckoned to be the better bit, and also do something else in the morning.
So, I zipped over to the laundrette (much as Lewis & Clark would have done, although they might have opted for coin-op self-service, while I was far more decadent and had a service wash that I could collect). And very nice the woman was too. She’d been to Stonehenge apparently.
Then it was off to Arbor Day Farm and the Tree Adventure. Arbor Day is one of those bits of American culture that hasn’t really reached us here in the UK, although countries from Australia to Venezuela recognise it. It’s very worthy. Read about its founder J Sterling Morton on Wikipedia. Although born in New York, he was a big cheese in Nebraska life (before such an entity as “Nebraska” even existed). The Tree Adventure is one of those attractions that could easily be terrible – all educational and dull. It’s not. It’s great. It IS educational, but not patronising and as engaging for adults as kids.
I wandered round the couple of miles of trails through the woods learning about the wildlife, the trees (of course) and general concepts of conservation. Then, without warning, I couldn’t see. Regular readers may already guess at what was about to happen – day turning to night and all. I quickened my pace, but genuinely found it hard to make out where I was going deep beneath the leafy canopy. It wasn’t raining just yet, but there was the clap of thunder.
My stride turned into a jog as I emerged from the “Exploratory Trail” and spotted the lights of the building. I just beat the rain. My reward was to watch a short film about the role trees have played in films. Sounds naff, was bloody brilliant. It clearly polarises opinion – both Jeanna and even the woman at the Tree Adventure had said that some people didn’t think much of it. I thought it was good – and makes such a nice change from a dull film about how trees are good for us, which frankly we all know. If you go, just leave 2 minutes before the end, which is abysmal. Trust me, you don’t miss anything.
I had to decline the offer of a free tree, for fear of Customs at Heathrow. But what a good idea. Every visitor can take home a free tiny sapling. And it was only $6.50 in.
Driving down to Peru (a town with 500 people but that is home to one of Nebraska’s three state colleges), I met Jerry, from whom I was borrowing the bike, at the trailhead (or car park as we would call it). “We used to have 11 bikes, mostly picked up in yard sales for a dollar or two”. No kidding. If I thought that my Katy Trail bike was towards the basic end, this one made that look like a Chris Boardman designed record breaker. Sure, this bike had more gears – or would have done if the gear shift system had worked. As it was it had “some” gears. The saddle kept tilting back every time I hit a bump – and there were many bumps, so I ended up in a sort of Easy Rider position. Which frankly is all well and good on a Harley, but less so on a steel framed mountain bike. Anyway, it was free – so I really mustn’t complain.
The route itself was ok, the bits right by the river were nice, but the surface in other parts was riddled with bumps that a bike like this wasn’t built to endure. Downtown Brownville wasn’t the most happening place I’ve been to either.
I did see/startle half a dozen white-tailed deer, which was one of the some 170 species that L&C (mostly Lewis if we’re honest) introduced to science (the politically correct way of saying ‘discovered’).
No video today of me rambling on about Lewis & Clark while you look at yet another view of the Missouri. Today I’m borrowing someone else’s video and you’ll see that they are desperate to crowbar L&C in there somehow (if anyone can tell me how to embed this, that would be great!)