Our early start was interrupted by another slow front tire leak in Jonathan's tire. After patching and seeing there were no bike shops coming up for over a day in Iowa, we decided it was best to start our day at a 24/7 Walmart. Doing this actually led us down a series of nice bike paths through Lincoln that kept us off the pre-sunrise roads. Spares tubes restocked, we rejoined traffic and headed off on Highway 6. Other than the interstate, this road is the major connector between Lincoln and Omaha, so it was quite busy on a Monday morning. We met a man commuting to Novartis at the edge of Lincoln. For about a mile and a half we talked about our trip and biking around Lincoln. We both agreed that a North-South route up to Omaha would be very helpful.
Our commuting friend headed to pulled into his pharmaceutical plant and we continued north towards Greenwood. We headed east, finally off a busy road and onto a slower county road. With this turn off came the rolling hills of Eastern Nebraska once again. Up and down we rolled for nearly 25 miles more to Louisville, NE. Here we raided the local grocery store for some sort of breakfast. We ate out on the sidewalk before continuing our eastward trek towards the Missouri River. Shortly after breakfast my bike started making a clicking sound and I noticed my back pannier was loose. Stopping to fix it, I realized the pannier was attached firmly, the rack however had lost a bolt. Over thousands of miles of vibration, the bolt had loosened and fallen out. One close inspection, I found two other bolts that were also on their way to leaving my bike.
Our climb to Plattsmouth brought more rolling hills on Highway 66. Finally we reached the downtown and headed towards the river. One final up and down, and we reached the bridge toll booth. The toll collector informed us that we could not cross today. When asked why he explained that on the Iowa side of the river, they were paving. We said that we'd ridden in paving construction zones with one way piloted traffic before. His response, "You'll be riding with your lives!" I wanted to laugh, but the thought of backtracking and finding another route across the river 15+ miles north of our location had left me in a non-laughing mood. We told him we'd take our chances and he waived the 25¢ bike toll.
We followed the pilot car and other traffic across the narrow bridge and into Iowa. We posed for our usual state sign pictures and soon struck up conversation with the man whose job it is to paint the lines on the fresh pavement. He told us about Iowa (apparently they're the second biggest wine producer after California?) and wished us well. We headed off on some flatter road before stopping for another Subway lunch.
After our break we headed off to rejoin Highway 34 which we had abandoned before Lincoln. We were met with huge rolling hills and a narrow shoulder. Then, without warning, there was no paved shoulder at all. We tried biking the packed gravel but that was too slow and unpredictable to be viable. This was really no road for biking but we had no other choice. Interestingly there's a famous annual bike tour across Iowa known as RAGBRAI. All these riders use this same shoulderless Highway 34. I guess surviving this road is possible.
We hugged the white line all the way to Red Oak. Having reached our goal destination, we realized we could bike more but needed a break from this hellish road. One pasta dinner later, it was time to bike the final 8 miles to Stanton, Iowa.
We made good time despite our stuffed stomachs and soon reached Stanton. The traffic had lessened, making this road feel much safer. This gave us hope for tomorrow morning's ride. Stanton is also a large community for Swedish immigrants. This goes along with the Swedish town and business names we have been seeing all throughout eastern Nebraska, and the 2 to 3 Lutheran churches we saw in each small town.
Hopefully Highway 34 improves. So far Iowa does not seem very bike friendly.
Photos by Jonathan Kobles