O’Neill, Nebraska

June 29, 2008

I’m writing this evening from yet another small town, this one by the name of O’Neill, Nebraska. As the name implies, O’Neill prides itself on its Irish heritage, complete with lots of Catholic churches and shamrocks painted on public buildings and water towers. Yet another surreal moment in our small tour of this big country, finding an Irish enclave in the middle of Nebraska.

Today’s ride took us 75 miles from where we stopped yesterday, which was to the east of Valentine. We are now well past the halfway point of Nebraska. While today’s ride had its share of crosswinds, it was unlike yesterday, which had the highest winds we’ve encountered on the trip to date. During yesterday’s ride the crosswinds were at times so strong that we couldn’t stay on the bikes; I was pushed right off the road, into the grass and right off the bike. It was my second wreck of the trip to date (the first was on the very first day), but both were at very low speeds, so my injuries can only be described as minor. Nonetheless, it is a very unsettling feeling during the 1/4 second it takes between beginning the fall and hitting the ground, kind of a small terror really, wherein you know you’re going to hit the pavement and there isn’t anything that can be done about it.

We are now into farming country, there’s no doubt about it. The grass is green everywhere, there isn’t much in the way of irrigation, and we’ve been riding past trees for a full 3 days now. Trees were, of course, something of a rarity across most stretches of eastern Oregon, Idaho, and much of Wyoming. Here, they’ve begun cropping up with ever-greater regularity, first in hollows and lowlands where water collects, then along the flat stretches alongside the highway. Interspersed with the grasslands, the effect has, at times, reminded me of the East African savanna, which I’ve seen with my own eyes. I know there’s the idea that suggests the reason why we are so attracted to parklike settings (meaning light woods and grass) is that we, as a species, evolved out of this specific landscape setting and thus our genes “view” it as home, in a sense. Whether that’s pseudo-scientific garbage or a serious theory is unknown to me, but it’s worth pondering.

Well, it’s off to bed. Tomorrow it’s another day in the saddle, hopefully with a nice tailwind.

  1. Dawn Said,

    Wow! My back hurts just thinking about you all. I even have a big girl seat on my bike and one time around the neighborhood and I am complaining! Let us know when you are close to Indiana….and me and the clan will try to see ya and cheer you on! Jean……coffee…..have you found any soup and salad places? God Speed! You all ROCK!

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