Saturday, July 05, 2008

Nebraska and the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway

We were on the road by 8AM. When I had originally planned the three day route to get out to Colorado I had us riding the interstate and also some back roads. Now that we were behind schedule we had to make up some time on the interstate. We still wanted to stay at the original camp ground that we had picked out for tonight.

Looking at of the Super 8 window in Williamsburg, IA

The day was warm and sunny. The interstate was straight, actually Iowa is not that bad, its got some rolling hills. The two states I dread crossing via the interstate is Kansas and Nebraska, those are flat. Even though we were riding through Nebraska on this tripwere we were only going to stay on the interstate for a while, and finish off Nebraska with back roads, that is, if we can make up some time today.

Soon we were near Grand Island, Nebraska. This was the end of the interstate for us, well, at least until tomorrow afternoon. We rode through town, which was surprisingly large, and found the scenic byway called RT 2. This road also is called the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway and is 272 miles long. This scenic byway runs through some really remote Nebrasca countryside. From the pavement you can see sand hills, the largest hand-planted forest in the nation located near Halsey and running parallel with the road is one of the US busiest freight only crossings. Here you can see up to 125 trains per day pulling coal.

RT 2 called the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway travels 272 miles between Alliance and Grand Island

A coal trail running along RT 2 west of Grand Island, NE

When we left the Super 8 this morning we already knew that there was a pretty good possibility of catching some rain today. But we got lucky and went around the first storm, we could see it in the distance but never got close enough to get rained on. As we approached Broken Bow, Nebraska the skies started to look dark again. We checked the weather on the phone and found a huge storm heading our way. We were less then 50 miles from the Nebraska National Forest and the camp ground that we were hoping to camp at tonight, but this weather approaching was not camping weather. There was supposed to be lightening and very strong winds. We were pretty bummed out that we would have to spend yet another night in a motel.

We gassed up in town. The gas station attendant told us of a really nice hotel and restaurant in town, but when we checked it out it was already full. The Arrow Hotel was only $70 per night too, too bad.

We went down the road and checked the other of the “nicer” looking motels but all of them were full too. There was two rooms available at the two really dumpy places, but they were way too pricey for what we were getting. Since there are not a lot of towns with motels on this road, I guess this town fills up fast.

The Historic Arrow Hotel in down town Broken Bow, NE

A guy on a horse in Broken Bow, NE

So here we were, no motel room and big storm heading our way. We were also hungry at this point so we went to Subway to have some dinner and think about our options for tonight. We could wait for the storm to pass and still try camping tonight. The storm was supposed to be over in two hours, the only problem was there was a chance of a smaller storm coming through at midnight also.

At this point we didn’t feel like riding the 50-some miles to the Nebraska National Forest and found a closer camp site. The Victoria Springs State Recreational Area was only about 25 miles from here. The area gets its name from the mineral springs and is the third oldest park in the Nebraska Park system.

After we ate our Subway sandwiches and had some ice creamto pass the time. Mike moved the bikes closer under the small roof of the Subway building and we were ready for the show to begin. The dark clouds spun above us, the lightening danced in the sky and the winds picked up. The storm moved quickly but it was large one and took at least two hours to pass. The bikes were in the perfect place since the rain and wind was blowing from the opposite direction. Even the Subway employees came out to watch the storm pass through. We don’t get storms like this in the Midwest that’s for sure.

Waiting for the storm to pass at Subway

Mike watching the storm clouds roll through above us

And here comes the rain

After the storm had passed and a double rainbow had appeared it was time for us to get to the camp ground. We rode west out of town, the sun was setting ahead of us, illuminating the sky in pastel colors of pink, lavender and light blue. The skies behind us were still very dark and angry looking. Then a few miles ahead we saw rain falling, we crossed in to it and got wet but only for a few miles. We arrived in the next town called Anselmo and turned on to 21A heading to the park. There were more dark clouds in front of us and for a minute we though we were heading back in to the storm.

A double rainbow appeared after the storm had passed

Heading west away from the storm on RT2

Pastel skies above us

When we arrived at the park we had to ride a dirt road to registration. Registration took place at the hosts house. They had lost power during the storm so there was darkness all around us and the mosquitoes were out in full force.

The non electric campsite was $11. I think there was also a fee to enter the park but I can’t remember what it was and can’t seem to find the information anywhere. I think it was like $3-5 per person. Once we registered we had to go back to the main road and enter the camp ground on another dirt road that had a bit of mud now from all the rain. Riding a muddy dirt road on a loaded up sport bike at night is not my idea of a good time, so I was very glad when we got there. Mike rode my bike through the mud and onto the grass. The first thing I had to do was to spray myself with bug spray but it seemed that the mosquitoes had already a bunch of opportunities to dine and I was itching all over. I ended up having to spray even parts of my face and under my hair, they were very persistent.

Victoria Spring Recreation Area

We set up the tent. I took a walk in the dark to the bathroom, which also had no power and we went to bed shortly.

We did 496 miles today

We were only about 50 miles short of where we were supposed to be staying tonight, not too bad for making up some time.


Mike said...

What is the plan for your trip? Where are you headed?

Anna said...

Well... the plan right now is to check out places that we might want to live in Colorado. Looking at the Denver area, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. I’m also looking for a job here.

Also while we’re out here we’re looking to do some riding in Idaho and Utah, but first we have to find some places where we can stay. We have a tiny budget. Right now were staying with some friends.