Two days later we left the safety of our motel room and joined the i80 again to see how well we were. It became clear very early on that I couldn't keep going along that road with the noise of the trucks passing so closely. So back we went to Evanston. The good thing here was that we had options. We needed to keep in mind that the storms could keep coming through and going remote off the main highway would put us at risk of not getting help quickly if something went wrong again. We went back and forth through dozens of ideas and the main thing we had to keep in mind was that we needed to compromise heavily for each other. Mike hated the idea of skipping any more of the road, I hated the idea of carrying on along the i80.
We stayed one more night at a different motel and bumped into Laura who offered to give us a lift in two days time when she was driving back towards Salt Lake City. Our final decision was to hire a car and evacuate the mountains down to Denver. It wasn't ideal, it wasn't the perfect story for cycling across America, but it kept us both safe mentally and physically. It also meant we had time to see parts of Colorado we wouldn't have otherwise have had time to see.
To pass the next evening we got in contact with a warmshowers host in Evanston. We hadn't wanted to go straight to a warmshowers host when we got there because we needed time to ourselves. It turns out we could really help Nick out because we had hurt his back and Mike could mow his lawn in return for a night's kip.
The plan unfolded without a problem. We picked the car up in Salt Lake City and drove back to Evanston, where we'd left our bikes. We said goodbye to Nick and headed into the mountains to find a freecamp for the night. It was a full day's drive the next day to make it across Colorado because we wanted to take the scenic route. If we had to make part of the journey by car we might as well make it exciting. Colorado is a pretty awesome state; it has dinosaurs, mountains, snow, towns named after people and some really stunning views.
Arriving in Denver, we were due to stay with Tracy just south of downtown. By this point, we really needed to chill out with a beer and thus began a great evening over drinks telling Tracy lots of small anecdotes about our adventure so far. We even managed to watch back the footage of Faxian, the little kitten we found in Malaysia who sadly passed away.
We really needed to crack on again with the cycling and luckily Denver has a great network of bike paths which take you straight out of the city along the river. Before we knew it, we were making great time headed north east towards Nebraska where we'd hoped to find a church we could ask for a camp spot. Along the small service roads and bike paths which took us to Hudson I didn't have any problems like I did back in Wyoming. My brain wasn't concentrated on what happened and the noise from the trucks wasn't making me jump. At Hudson we stopped for a cold drink and a storm was brewing overhead. I remembered the warning that the paramedics had given us about the almighty storms which blew across these plains and we decided to wait this one out since we'd made such great time that day, even with a long stop in at REI (an outdoors shop). The winds picked up and the thunder rolled across the sky as my bike was blown over and dust devils spun across the roads. They weren't kidding about these storms! Eventually it looked like it had gone far enough ahead of us so off we went to the church we'd spotted on the map just down the road. These cross country roads were narrow and as the traffic picked up at rush hour, we waited out the squeeze in some shade watching a couple of episodes of The Office we'd downloaded on Netflix.
The church we stopped at was Prospect Community Church where Brian, the pastor, welcomed us heartily, showed us inside the church and left us to have a great night sleep at the side of the house. The wind was still up and there were thunderstorms on the horizon as we fell asleep when suddenly the wind stopped. Creepy.
The next day took us to Brush where there's a Municipal campground; the first night is free and there's electricity. Even the campgrounds in Australia weren't that generous! The rain began falling just after we'd set up camp under a picnic shelter but we felt pretty warm and snug. The storm got stronger as the evening wore on and at one point the thunder and lightning was right overhead with cracks which you could feel through the air. By morning, our tent had flooded within but Charlie had come over with coffee and a heater. Charlie was a long term resident, it seemed, who lived in a tent with his dog. By the time we had packed away the soaked through tent, our feet were so wet that we figured we just needed to ride anyway. We went up the road to McDonalds to check the weather forecast and saw no change for 24 hours, with the potential for strong winds. We couldn't use the tent that night in the state it was in and the motels up the roads had awful reviews (like... cockroach related reviews), so we stopped for another night in Brush to be able to fix the tent, dry the tent, dry ourselves off and wait out the storm. We spent the rest of the day seam sealing the tiny tiny holes in the bottom of the tent which had let so much water in and were ready to go the next day.
Crook was our final night sleep in Colorado where we found a beautiful spot in the small park in town. Crook is tiny and the friendly chaps in the gas station-come-auto repair shop said we'd be very welcome to stop in the park and no one would bother us. We had a much better night sleep in a dry tent and we were ready to head on over to Nebraska!
We wanted to try out the small-town-park tactic again since we felt really safe in these small towns and in Brule we asked permission at the only place open in town: the general store which really did have everything for sale. We'd seen on the map that next to the local park there was a 'haunted attraction' which definitely put the creeps up me when we woke up to thick fog covering the town. It must have come in off the South Platte river which was the valley we were now following because it cleared pretty quickly and we made it all the way to North Platte that day. Nebraska is pretty much flat, especially when you follow the river valley but we didn't quite have the wind with us.
We spent the night at Cody Park where there's basic camping. We'd inadvertently run out of oatmeal and forgotten to go to a grocery store (I think this was partly deliberate considering how much Mike hates oatmeal but we eat it every morning), so we treated ourselves to a diner breakfast. The diner was super busy and we turned a lot of heads when we pulled up on our bikes and just before we finished our eggs on toast a stoutly man by the name of Kenneth Cox came over and said he'd paid for our meal and 'welcome to Nebraska'.
If it hadn't been for the strong headwind that day, we'd have floated along on the warm fuzzy feelings all the way to Lexington. Instead we battled the wind all day but enjoyed a generous shoulder along the US30. We were headed to a warm showers host in Lexington and Bryan (with a Y this time) met us outside and said there'd be another cyclist joining us that evening. We'd actually bumped into Will on our way from North Platte that day - he was leaving a shop as we were arriving. Since he was ahead of us we had expected him to already be in Lexington but he wasn't. Once he arrived it turns out he'd attempted to wait out the wind but once he realised there was no chance of it dying down, he marched on. Bryan took us all to a local Mexican restaurant where I ate an impossibly large burrito. I genuinely don't know how I got it all in my stomach, but boy it was good!
Since we'd showered in Lexington, we decided to try another small town park the next day. Our approach to showers has become extremely lax the longer this journey goes on, please don't judge us! We knew from looking at our maps that there were parks in a little town called Wood River. The "park" at the edge of town was really just a couple of baseball diamonds and not much open space so we had a bit of an issue. We didn't really have the legs to keep riding and there was virtually no other space in the town to pitch a tent so we did the only thing we could - went to the pub. There wasn't much inspiration there, even asking the barmaid if she knew where we could sleep since she wasn't local, so we decided to wait til the sun went down and pitch our tent behind the city library right in the centre of town. It wasn't the best campsite we ever had. Shortly after we pitched the tent, a flood lamp came on illuminating us brightly for the entire night. Shortly after that, some drunk teenagers gleefully spent a couple of hours drinking in the park and occasionally yelling things in our direction or simply just shrieking right next to our tent. Clearly they got bored of that though. And then the sprinklers came on in the middle of the night ensuring by morning that the tent was completely soaked and revealing the fact that the repair we had made a few days before wasn't entirely successful. On top of all of that we were about 150m from the Union Pacific railroad mainline which by law requires all trains to blast their horn for 15 seconds at every rail road crossing. This includes overnight. The maximum volume a horn can be is 110 decibels which is the level at which it causes human pain. WHAT THE HELL!?
The wind was finally behind us as we zoomed along to Central City and turned east towards Omaha. It had got pretty hot and we were due to experience record highs as we approached Memorial Day weekend. We finished the day in Osceola where there's a town park with free camping. We felt pretty safe for this spot compared to the day before and we set up the tent in the shade. The mercury had hit 37 degrees C and we were hankering for a shower and Mike spotted an amenities block where he bumped into Bill, the groundskeeper of the town. Mike asked him if there were showers, to which Bill replied "no but there's a shower at my house, you're welcome to use that". He understood the value of a cold shower at the end of a hot day. Sleeping in your own sweat isn't pleasant! So Bill gave us a lift up to his house a couple of blocks away where we met his wife, Jo, who gave us cold drinks and the opportunity to have a cold shower. By the time we were ready to head back to the tent, they offered us their spare room in the basement which we accepted with the warm fuzzy feelings again. We packed up our tent, brought everything to the house and unpacked again in the cool temperature of the basement. Sleeping in the cold in the absolute bee's knees. The evening got even better when pizza arrived and we settled down to watch 'The Greatest Showman' with their grandchildren and bowls of popcorn. Awesome start to the Memorial Weekend!
The temperature didn't subside the following day so it was a sweaty, hot ride during which my allergies played up. Apparently something grows in this part of Nebraska which my body doesn't like but luckily I still had some anti-histamines Heather gave us back in Brisbane. I popped a pill and then looked down at the box to read 'may induce drowsiness'. HA! One whole hilly day of riding may be fun, I'll just need to dose up on the caffeine. Considering I was fighting against medically induced drowsiness and 100 degree F, I only had to walk one hill! BOOM!
Our destination for the day was the best town name thus far - Wahoo.