Circa de Nebraska is a self-supported bicycle tour endeavoring to ride the entire boundary of the State of Nebraska (as reasonably close to the border as pavement/safety will allow. See approximate route map.) This coincides with Nebraska celebrating it’s 150th year of statehood, so it is a great year to ride around the state. The tour is also registered as an event with the official NE150 Challenge. The ride will encompass about 1,250 miles, and will be completed Sep 1-24, plus/minus… depending on weather. The plan is to average at least 60 miles per day.
We rode out of Tekamah at around 7:30 am. The road was pretty flat for the first half of the day, but the headwind was steady. Seventeen miles later, we stopped in Blair (county seat of Washington County, population 7990) and refilled our water bottles. From Blair to Omaha, we faced tremendous headwinds (20-30 mph), extremely long hills, and increasing traffic.
As we rolled through Elkhorn (Douglas County, recently annexed by Omaha, population 6062), we decided to stop and enjoy an ice cream treat at Dairy Chef. Basically, we made that our lunch stop.
The most difficult part of the entire trip was the last five miles home. The road and riding conditions were challenging: pour shoulder, high traffic volume, and a 30 mph headwind.
I completed my trip where I started it… at our villa, logging in 1294 miles in 19 days. Vic plans to ride from Omaha to Pawnee City tomorrow in order to complete his loop.
We enjoyed a nice home-cooked meal and shared stories about our adventure. It is good to be home!!!
1294 Miles Round Trip
Ric rides down H Circle
Vic sails into the Hines driveway
Ric and Vic
Stats 43 Miles
1294 Total Miles
4 Hours, 58 minutes
Average speed: 8.7 mph
Blair Trivia * Blair is 20 miniles north of Omaha
* The city was named for John I Blair, a railroad official who purchased and platted the 1075-acre tract of land . Learn more about Blair
* Elkhorn has had many names: Elkhorn Station… then Chicago… then Douglas… and finally Elkhorn. It was named after the Elkhorn River.
* Elkhorn ceased to be an independent municipality on March 1, 2007. The city was annexed by Omaha. Learn more about Elkhorn
Day 18- Dakota City to Tekamah, 51 miles (9-18-17)
Last night, something smacked into our tents. I kept hearing some rustling in what I thought was Vic’s packs. He said it was coming from outside somewhere and eventually got up to check it out. It was coming from within the picnic structure we were in (due to the potential for overnight storms.) The strange noise ended up being a foil helium balloon which was up in the rafters, bouncing aound with the slight breeze. Crisis averted.
Balloon in the rafters
Well, Day 18 is starting off a bit dicey. We woke to thunder, lightning and heavy rain at 3:30 am. The park garbage was picked up at 6 am with the banging right outside our structure. A second wave of storms hit us as we were packing up (around 6:30 am). By the way, the picnic shelter was super, as it kept us perfectly dry.
Back to the ride. We had fewer miles today, but conditions were less than favorable. We faced long, steep hills; high headwinds; damp, wet riding conditions and very heavy traffic. We rode through both the Winnebago and Omaha Reservations.
I was pretty thrilled to find a Nebraska Blackshirts flag on the road. I hope that it blew off a car… not tossed out the window by a disgruntled Husker fan after Saturday’s loss to Northern Illinois!
We made it to Tekamah, (Burt County, population 1736) and decided to get a hotel for tonight. We need to get a good rest and clean up. We should be able to make it back to Omaha tomorrow, weather permitting.
Stats 51 miles
Total miles- 1250
5 hours, 27 minutes
Average speed- 9.3 mph
Winnebago Tribe Trivia * The Winnebago Reservation is located in Thurston County. The tribal council offices are located in the town of Winnebago. The villages of Emerson and Thurston are also located on the reservation.
* In 1994, the Winnebego Tribe founded Ho-Chunk, Inc, employing 1400, and strongly contributed to new resources on the reservation.
Omaha Tribe Trivia * The Omaha became the first tribe on the Northern Plains to adopt equestrian culture around 1770.
* The Omaha Tribe owns and manages two nearby casinos: Backbird Bend Casino near Onawa, IA, and Lucky 77 Casino in Walthill, NE.
* Tekamah means big cottonwood in the Omaha-Ponca language.
* The name “Tekamah” was literally chosen by the luck of the draw. It was agreed that each of the exploration parties should write their favorite name on a slip of paper and drop it into a hat. The first name drawn out would then become the official name of the community. The first name drawn was “Tekamah.” Learn more about Tekamah
Day 17- Crofton to Dakota City, 71.75 miles (9-17-17)
It was a very chilly to start today’s ride- 43 degrees. At 18 miles, we stopped for a break in Wynot (village in Cedar County, population 166). We then faced a road closure and construction bypass that caused us to ride on a gravel road for 1.5 miles and navigate our bikes through the dirt/mud to get back on the road. The terrain was very hilly. All in all, it was a challenging morning ride.
Morning break in Wynot
Detour at Wynot
We stopped for lunch in Maskell (village in Dixon County, population 76) at the Faith Lutheran Church picnic area. Maskell boasts the smallest City Hall in the nation! See photo below.
We had light winds and a relatively flat afternoon ride. We rode a total of 71.75 to Dakota City (county seat of Dakota County, population 1919), and set up camp in the City Park. We ate dinner at the gas station/convenient store, as there were no other choices available. After dinner, we moved our gear into the picnic structure. We are told that we are going to have lots of rain tonight and tomorrow.
Stats 71.75 miles
Total miles- 1198
6 hours, 57 minutes
Average speed: 10.3 mph
Wynot Trivia * In selecting a name, it is said that when one struck the fancy of the elderly gentleman from whom the land was purchased, he responded “Ja,vy not? Wahrumnicht?” The brogue sounded strange to one of the listeners, who laughingly remarked, “…why not, Wynot?” And so that name was chosen. Learn more about Wynot
Dakota City Trivia * Dakota City is one of Nebraska’s oldest communities.
* The name was chosen to honor the Dacotah (Sioux) Indians.
* The first Lutheran Church in Nebraska was built in Dakota City in 1860. Learn more about Dakota City
We woke today at 6:30 am with thunderstorms. A second round hit at 7:30 am. We were able to set off around 9:15, so it was a late start for us. We have many hills ahead of us for the next few days through two Indian Reservations (Ponca and Santee).
The morning ride was fairly flat following the Ponca Creek. We arrived in Niobrara (village in Knox County, population 370) around 1:30 pm.
It appears that Verizon does not know that Hwy 12 exists, as I have had no cell signal for quite some time. Ha. Ha.
We stopped in Monowi (village in Boyd County, population 1). Minowi is the smallest town in Nebraska. In fact, Minowi is the only incorporated municipality in the United States with just one person.
We arrived in Crofton (city in Knox County, population, 726) at 5:15 pm, and were able to attend Mass at 5:30 pm at St. Rose of Lima. Perfect! We camped at the Crofton City Park.
Stats 68.09 miles
1126 Total miles
6 hours, 7 minutes
Average speed- 11.1 mph
Monowi Trivia * Elsie Eiler, age 83, is the sole resident of Monowi.
* “Monowi” is the Indian word for flower, more specifically a flower with milky juice that we know as snow-on-the-mountain. Learn more about Monowi
Crofton Trivia * Crofton’s slogan is The GOOD LIFE Begins HERE. * Crofton celebrated its Quasquicentennial (125th anniversary) in July, 2017.
* Gavins Point Dam, Nebraska’s second largest reservoir, is near Crofton. The town is know as “the friendliest town by a dam site.” Learn more about Crofton
Day 15- Springview to Spencer, 67.59 miles, (9-15-17)
Severe storms, lightning, and some real downpours awakened us a 3:30 am. We were so glad to be in the bunkhouse when the storm hit, bringing with it 9/10 inch of rain.
We departed the Weston Ranch after enjoying a hearty breakfast. Ben and Sue were wonderful hosts!!!
We had heavy fog to start our ride and then heavy mist/wind all morning. The hills were 2-3 miles long and very steep. We stopped for lunch in Naper (village in Boyd County, population 84). Naper was having a POW/MIA Remembrance Day, so we enjoyed some free cookies!
The roads and wind were pretty good for the 26 mile ride from Naper to Spencer. (village in Boyd County, population 455).
View from the road
We landed in Spencer, where we set up camp in a nice City park. The park had a shower available, which we appreciated.
Stats 67.59 miles
Total miles- 1058
6 hours, 8 minutes
Average speed 10.8 mph
* Naper is an “inland town” (having no railroad) located 3 miles from the South Dakota border.
* Two early settlers, R. R. Naper and George Hotaling, each relinquished 40 acres of their homesteads for a townsite. The town is named for Naper. (The town was originally named Naperville.) Learn more about Naper
* Spencer has been dubbed the Sportsman’s Paradise. The Niobrara River is only 7 miles to the south and the Missouri River is 25 miles to the north, offering some of the best fishing opportunities in the state. * The first car in Spencer was a bright red Buick “buggy type” driven over from O’Neill by Fred Sedlacek in 1908. Learn more about Spencer
Day 14- Nenzel to Springview, about 84 miles (9-14-17)
We had a great start to the day. Father Lou cooked us a delicious breakfast. He decided to ride us out of town… or should I say… ride with us out of town. He joined us for the eight mile ride to Kilgore (info/trivia found on Day 13 post), where we dined last night.
Heading southeast on Hwy 20 about 22 miles, we landed in Valentine (county seat of Cherry County, population 2737).
We were glad to reach Springview (county seat of Keya Paha County, population 242), where Vic has relatives (parents of Vic’s son-in-law, Ben and Sue Weston). We will be staying in their Weston Ranch Bunkhouse, 14 miles northwest of Springview.
Stats 84 miles
Total miles: 991
6 hours, 41 minutes
Average speed: 12.6 mph
* Valentine’s slogan is Small town… Big adventure. It is also referred to as the Heart City.
* The city was named for E.K. Valentine, a popular congressman who was elected to congress for his work toward westward development in Nebraska.
* The Valentine Post Office stamps approximately 10,000 Valentine’s Day cards with their special cachet each year and then re-mails for people who want their valentines post marked from the Heart City. Learn more about Valentine
Sparks Trivia * Sparks was the last name of the four brothers who laid out the community.
* Businesses in the village include an outfitting company that caters to visitors to the nearby Niobrara River, a convenience store that houses the post office, a restaurant, and the Sparks Museum of History.
* It was named for a spring near the town’s center which has since dried up.
* Four landowners each contriubted 40 acres to comprise the town around 1885. Learn more about Springview
Day 13- Gordon to Nenzel, around 63.35 miles (9-13-17)
We have been sporadically following the Cowboy Trail (rail-to-trail) since Chadron. (The Cowboy Trail runs 321 miles across northern Nebraska, following the old Chicago & Northwestern rail route. The railroad called this the “Cowboy Line.”)
We did not stop for lunch today, but we had rest stops at 10 am in Merriman (village in Cherry County, population 128), and at 2:30 pm in Cody (village in Cherry County, population 154).
We made it to today’s destination of Nenzel, (village in Cherry County, population 20). Vic and his brother (Father Art) made arrangements for us to stay in the rectory tat St. Mary’s Catholic Church. There is one bed at the rectory, which Vic will use. I will sleep on my air mattress on the floor. It is so nice to have a warm shower and a safe/dry/quiet place to sleep!
Nenzel’s St. Mary’s Church
Vic cooling off at St. Mary’s
Our host, Father Lou Nollett, drove us to Kilgore (village in Cherry County, population 77) for dinner (8 miles east of Nenzel), as there was not place to eat in Nenzel. Interestingly, his great-great-great grandfather, George Nenzel, founded the town. The Nollett family has a winery here: the Niobrara Valley Vineyards on the Diamond Lazy J Ranch.
Father Lou’s brother (Father Neal Nollet) came in to meet us and chatted for awhile.
The radio indicates stormy weather conditions for the days to come.
Stats 63.35 miles
6 hours, 5 minutes
Average speed: 10.4 mph
Cody Trivia * Cody’s slogan: A Town Too Tough To Die! * The village was named for Thomas Cody, a railroad foreman (NOT Buffalo Bill Cody, who stopped there once). Learn more about Cody
Kilgore Trivia * Kilgore has had several name changes: It was originally Boulware (1883). In 1885 it ws renamed Georgia. In 1904 it was changed to Kilgore, in honor of the pioneer family of Henry and Alice Kilgore. Learn more about Kilgore
Nenzel Trivia * Nenzel is only 5 miles from the South Dakota border.
* St. Mary’s Catholic Church is the hub of activity for Nenzel, and for surrounding towns of Kilgore and Cody.
* The first resident of the community was George Nenzel, who filed a homestead claim in the fall of 1885. He spent that winter in La Crosse, WI, but returned the following spring to build a house. This was the first building within the limits of the present village, named in his honor. Learn more about Nenzel
Day 12- Crawford to Gordon, around 73.3 miles (9-12-17)
We rode from Crawford to Gordon today, 73.3 miles. The temps ranged from 63 degrees to 98 degrees. We had a light headwind.
The first 1/2 day of riding was pretty good. It was hot, but the roads and wind were reasonable. Twenty-four miles into our journey, we rode into Chadron (Dawes County, population 5851). We had a long stop here in order to repair my front wheel bearings/hub. I also had another flat due to truck tread wires.
Upon leaving Chadron, we saw the magnificent Pine Ridge (between the Niobrara River and the White River). The Pine Ridge National Recreation Area is part of the Nebraska National Forest.
At around 3 pm and forty-four miles into our ride, we entered Hay Springs (village in Sheridan County, population 568) and decided to have lunch. I had another flat on the trailer. This makes #3! We were forced to wait out some nasty popcorn storms, which was tough knowing that we still had a couple of hours of riding ahead of us.
Oh… and Vic is starting to smell like sardines… a couple of cans broke in his pack!
Even though we were plagued by spotty rain showers from 3-6 pm, we luckily made it another twenty-seven miles to Gordon, (Sheridan County, population 1612), where Vic made arrangements for lodging at the St. Leo’s rectory. We had a nice dinner at Pizza Hut with our host, Father Joseph, who is the priest at St. Leo’s Catholic Church in Gordon, and at two other parishes nearby. Another nice bed, shower and breakfast!!!
Gordon’s St. Leo’s Catholic Church
73.3 miles 6 hours, 8 minutes
Average speed- 11.9 mph
Day 11- Mitchell to Crawford, 84.2 miles (9-11-17)
We started the day very early, as we knew it would be a hot day. What we did not know was that we would be riding MAJOR… and I mean MAJOR hills with gusty winds. The hills were 2-3 miles long and fairly steep.
At one point, we were at 5002 ft elevation, but dropped a bit as we went into Fort Robinson and Crawford.
We chased a coyote down the highway, and saw deer and elk.
The bluffs, ridges, hills and plains are beautiful!!
Just two miles west of Crawford, is Fort Robinson State Park– with more than 22,000 acres of exquisite Pine Ridge scenery, compelling old west history, exceptional lodging, loads of fun-time activities, scenic camping and the park’s own buffalo and longhorn herds.
The park host’s one of the great historic places of the American West: Fort Robinson.
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church- lodging in Crawford
St. Francis- carved into a tree stump
We made it to Crawford (Dawes County, population 997). Vic arranged for us to stay at another rectory- St. John the Baptist in Crawford. Fr. Bernie Bergan let us into the rectory. We are grateful for the nice baths and beds.
I am very sore and tired today, as we had little sleep last night due to the trains.
Stats 84.2 miles
8 hours, 46 minutes
Average speed: 9.6 mph
Crawford Trivia * Crawford has been called: The Gate City, The Garden Beyond the Sandhills, and The Deer Hunting Capital. Learn more about Crawford
We had a late start, as Father Sagar invited us for some coffee and toast. He was an excellent host, and we are very grateful for his hospitality!
We had some long hills/bluffs as we headed out of Kimball, and a nice downhill to Gering (county seat of Scottsbluff County, population 8500) and Scottsbluff (Scotts Bluff County, population 15,039). We enjoyed lunch at a Runza in Gering.
We were able to see the Scotts Bluff National Monument- awesome! The Scotts Bluff is an important 19th-century landmark on the Oregon Trail and Mormon Trail. The Scotts Bluff National Monument contains multiple bluffs (steep hills) located on the south side of the North Platte River; it is named for one prominent bluff called Scotts Bluff, which rises over 800 feet above the plains at its highest point.
We have seen numerous small (dead) rattle snakes on the highway, so we know that we need to be careful if we ever leave the road.
I found a nice 4 foot level on the highway. It will be a challenge to carry it home 650 miles. Ha! Ha!
This was our hottest day of riding: 98 degrees and 10-15 mph head winds. 60 miles later, we arrived in Mitchell (Scotts Bluff County, populaton 1702) which is about the center of the western part of Nebraska’s panhandle.
We are camping at a nice City park in Mitchell, with clean bathrooms and nice grass. But, we will be enduring train whistles throughout the night, as the tracks are only two blocks away.
Tomorrow’s ride will be interesting, as there are very few towns between Mitchell and Crawford, our Day 11 (83 miles) destination.
5 hours, 46 minutes
Average speed- 10.4 mph
Gering and Scottsbluff Trivia * Gering and Scottsbluff are know as the Panhandle’s Twin Cities. * The two thriving communities share the banks of the North Platte River: Scottsbluff on the north bank and Gering on the south bank.
* Gering was founded in 1887 at the base of the bluff that is now the center of Scotts Bluff National Monument. It was named for Martin Gering, a pioneer merchant.
* Scottsbluff was founded in 1889. The monument and the town were named after Hiram Scott, a Rocky Mountain Fur Company trapper. Learn more about Gering and Scottsbluff.