|Day 2 after dropping down from Piney Ridge and the Nebraska National Forest|
|Oasis in Mullen|
These windmill pumps supply thirsty cattle with a cool endless stream of water throughout the Sandhills. Just a note of caution, collect the water as it comes out of the pipe. Don't drink from the trough or pool itself.
This inaugural edition of the Sandhills 1,000k included 8 riders from 7 different states who came with eyes wide open to capture the panoramic views. Riding in Nebraska may not be on too many bucket lists, but it should be. The sparse population density results in nearly empty roads. We completed a 100k night section and didn't see a single car. That section from Alliance to Hyannis parallels the railroad, which is a major east west route with trains passing every 10-20 minutes. Train horns work better than caffeine to keep the weary randonneur alert.
The south/north direction through the hills is significantly more challenging than the east/west. Even the "busy" roads carried very little traffic but provided a wide shoulder protected by rumble strips. The road surfaces were mainly smooth although some extended sections include frost cracks. Something to consider when choosing tires.
The night sky was mesmerizing, particularly from Valentine
to Merriman up near the South Dakota border. The sky stretches from horizon to horizon with essentially
no background light pollution to obstruct your view of the Milky Way. I found the rumble strips more than once,
as the night sky was demanding my attention. At one point I just stopped to look at the sky. It was that special.
|The posse heads north through the Sandhills on Day 1.|
In addition to the natural beauty the route included cultural sites as well, including Carhenge, the world's smallest courthouse and the only straw bale church in the US.
|Carhenge at dusk.|
|A storm approaches in Stapleton|
|After the storm, 50 miles to the pot of gold!|
Rick Dockhorn from Lincoln NE contacted his aunt and uncle who live in Broken Bow, our start/finish town. They offered to provide a pre-ride cookout at their home a short walk from our hotel.
stuffed ourselves with flame grilled burgers and dogs and heaped on the
homemade sides. A local sampling
of microbrews completed the festivities.
Our names, home towns and occupations were gathered for a story in the
local paper. I'm not sure if
Nebraskans love cyclists or they just love people. It doesn't really matter though. You are sure to be welcomed with open arms.
|Pre-ride cookout in Broken Bow courtesy of Rick's aunt and uncle.|
The ride is challenging. Although the climbing total was only a little over 18,000', it feels like much more because often we were climbing into the wind. The weather will definitely come into play. Make sure you have a good radar ap on your smart phone. Ensure that you are receiving severe weather warnings. Go up one tire size from what you normally ride if it is less than 28mm. An extra water bottle is not necessary but could come in handy. High SPF sunscreen is mandatory as you will be in the sunshine nearly constantly. Sun shade arm and leg warmers/covers would be ideal. Shade is not a thing in Nebraska.
I feel fortunate to have been a part of the inaugural Sandhills 1,000k. It is truly a unique area of the country to ride a bike. The lack of auto traffic is conducive to extended smiling. You may have never considered riding in Nebraska. You should reconsider.