A quick bowl of cereal lakeside then tended to the rig. It was back out the country roads again this morning to get back on I-80. Open farmland with zero traffic.
Long straight two lane highway. I set the cruise control and leaned back watching everybody pass me by. Prairie, farms and occasional views of the river streamed by my window. I’m not sure if they don’t have the funds or they just don’t care for strangers, but Nebraska is one of those states that doesn’t bother with a sign letting you know you’ve crossed the border let alone a big ‘welcome to Nebraska’. They do have plenty of no hitchhiking signs though. Does anybody even hitchhike anymore? I did all the way up to Montana and back one summer back in the eighties.
But it was easy to figure out – when the road went to crap, we had crossed the border. Asphalt patches on concrete roadway. Bump and rumble for a while. Then we reached a well needed rest stop only to find it closed.
The hours crawled by counting down the miles to Fort Kearney State Park. I was just beginning to sour on Nebraska when we pulled into the campground and everything turned around. What an awesome state park. Seven lakes with giant cottonwoods and campsites scattered among them.
We picked a big isolated spot between lakes 4 and 5. It has a huge level concrete pad. After cruising around the campground and seeing that no one else has concrete, I’m suspecting it might be a handicap site. But there’s no markers and if anyone needs it we’ll move over. The park is lightly populated on a Monday and most spots are empty.
The dogs are digging it. Lots of freedom and we’re being bad and letting them cruise off leash a little bit. They both jumped in the lake and cooled off. I spotted a turtle crossing the road and went to check him out. He was going from one lake to the next. A car came around the bend, so I picked him up and gave him the express transit to the other lake. Slow on land, but once he hit the water, he was off in a flash.
We untethered the bicycles and toured around camp, taking a few trails to nowhere and stopping often to check out the fishing piers and swim beach. The afternoon was warm so we decided to jump in the lake. I raced back and grabbed my trunks and PJ took the plunge in the shorts she had on. The lake is shallow and the water was warm. We spent maybe a half an hour in the water then dried off and rode on.
As we came around the loop heading back to camp, PJ spotted the bike trail that runs behind the park. We tooled on over and found a long concrete bike path that goes for several miles through the back country.
There were a couple of long wooden bridges that spanned the river. A bunch of teenagers were on the first jumping off the rails and swinging on a rope out over the water. The boards were loose and the ride across was an adventure. We picked up our pace and actually got some decent exercise in.
We turned around after crossing under the freeway and headed back. A group of people were partying in the water beneath the other wooden bridge just after the underpass. We pedaled on until it became really noticeable that PJ’s front tire was quickly losing air. We had almost made it back to the campground when we decided to walk the rest of the way home.
When we got back, I changed the tube, we fed the pups and then walked around the lake to let them stretch their legs. The wind calmed and the trees were reflected in the lake with that late afternoon lighting that makes everything look even better than it already does. It was a beautiful evening until the skeeters got too voracious. We went inside and ate salads then ventured back out at sunset to watch the afterglow and see the lightening bugs flickering in the brush along the lake. Nebraska has its charms after all.