Today we woke up in the middle of a mostly empty cornfield today. There was dust everywhere; all over our tents, all over our bikes and all over our clothes. Last night was the first night in weeks we had set up our tents. I’m still convinced that hammocks are far more comfortable.
Once we finished packing our stuff, we hopped on our bike and headed north towards Rock port. Our plan was to do 40 miles today. Fifteen miles into our ride Jesse and Dakota asked me how I felt about cycling to Ponderosa, a bike shop we had contemplated visiting for a long time. Ponderosa is located in Omaha. I asked how many more miles it would be to get to ponderosa. Dakota replied, “from this point, it’s another 85 miles.”
I don’t know what I was thinking, but without any hesitation, I said, “let freaking do it!” Just like that we committed to riding our first century ever! In the cycling community, riding a century is as notable as running a marathon in the running community.
We rode all day with a tailwind behind us and a smooth shoulder in front of us. These near perfect conditions lasted all day. We were averaging speeds in the low twenties. Part of our success was riding on interstate 29. The laws around riding on the interstate in Missouri are kind of ambiguous. We figured we’d take our chances and get off the interstate if a cop pulled us over. Better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, right?
We passed two state troopers and they didn’t seem to care at all, so I guess we were in the clear. In Nebraska however, we weren’t as lucky. As we got closer to Omaha, we saw a car route that seemed a little more direct, but would require us to change interstates to interstate 75. Their seemed to be no problems riding on interstate 29, so we took our chances again and switched to interstate 75.
Everything seemed to be going well, until I received a phone call from Jesse. I was probably about half a mile ahead of the other guys when Jesse called to tell me that they had been pulled over by the police and were told to immediately take the next exit and stay off the interstate. This threw our route off a tiny bit, but at this point we were only 9 miles away from the bike shop and we had made such great time that the slight change in direction and even getting pulled over was all worth it.
As it turns out, getting off the interstate at this point was a good idea either way. As soon as we got off, we were at the entrance of a bike trail that lead us straight to the bike shop. However, by the time we got to the bike shop, we noticed that we had only actually logged 90 miles. Our host home was only 5 miles away. This meant that in order to actually finish a century in one day, we had to somehow ride an extra 5 miles.
The extra mileage wouldn’t have been a big deal, but by the time we were done hanging out with Vince and Jessica from the Ponderosa Cyclery and Tour, it was 10:00 PM and we still had to purchase lunch food for the next day. Vince and Jess were so awesome. They helped us plan our route, talked about their own tours, and just geeked out on bike history with us. When the shop closed, they took us to some cool stores and even invited us out for some drinks at a local bar. Vince and Jess made us all very excited for our next week in Nebraska.
After dinner we made our way towards the host home. Thinking about the extra mileage we had to put in, we decided the best course of action would be to go down and back on a random trail, then continue on our last five miles to the host home. This made the last bit of our ride feel like an eternity, but it got the job done.
When we arrived at 11:30 pm to the host home, our hosts, Matthew and Olivia, were still wide awake and ready to take care of us. We felt pretty bad for arriving so late, but they were having it. The had prepared cold water for us, a variety of snacks, and separate areas for all of us to sleep. Olivia even stayed up to do our laundry. We said that we could go another day, but she insisted. This young couple truly had servants hearts. I hate using church cliches, but sometimes they just fit. At the end of day forty-five, we had hung out with some of the coolest people in the Nebraska cycling scene, completed a full century in one day, and still made it to our host home. Today was a success.