Day Sixteen - September 18, 1997
Nebraska Road Hogs
Sioux City, Iowa - Valentine, Nebraska
We were off early enough to be riding in the hour before sunrise. This is really the best time of day - there's no traffic, it's still very cool, and the air is still, no winds pushing us around. If we could take this two-hour period and stretch it out, we could go forever. I don't like to ride at night, but I do like riding as the day is dawning.
We ride in quiet solitude for quite some time, and suddenly we come upon a semi on its side. There is a policeman on the scene - apparently the truck driver fell asleep and careened off the road, with the truck ending up laying in a ditch alongside the road. We stop to see if there's anything we can do, but the driver is walking and talking to the policeman, so we continue. We are very happy that this did not happen while we were passing him - it would have been terrifying to see the truck go over, wondering if it would hit us or explode.
Nebraska is an agricultural state, so it makes sense that we would encounter lots of slow-moving farm vehicles. But I suspect that today may have been "drive your slow-moving vehicle on the major east-west artery across the state" day, because we encounter an unbelievable number of them.
Our first major encounter is as we're coming up behind a semi, which is in turn behind a slow-moving dump truck. We can't see the dump truck's signals, because the semi is right behind him, we presume, preparing to pass. We come up, and Mark pulls out to pass both trucks. There is no traffic in the oncoming lane, so I pull out to follow Mark. As Mark is passing, he suddenly hits his brakes, the semi puts on his flashers, and it all becomes clear in an instant - the dump truck is turning left. We see this just as we are at his tailgate. Mark does the right thing and blasts past him, and I do the same. I can see the large front left tire 1/3rd the way into the left lane as I veer around him. Most motorcycle accidents are with vehicles turning left in front of the bike. I always envision this as someone from the oncoming direction; today I learned that it can happen in your direction too. Neither of us are shaken by this - it wasn't that close, but it was enough of a reminder for us to be extra careful for the rest of the day.
Here's an assortment of the kinds of vehicles we've approached and passed today.
We stop for fuel in O'Neill. There are a couple of elderly ladies doing a road trip at the pump next to me. I can tell they're on a road trip because a) one jumps out of the passenger seat and says "I'll fuel up" and b) they have a Wall Drug bumper sticker. The driver goes inside for a bio-break. I finish fueling and walk in to pay for my gas just behind Louise (or, maybe it was Louise, I can't be certain) who is waving a $5 bill and saying "I should pay for it, it was my fault!" The clerk is looking puzzled, I'm puzzled, as Thelma (or maybe it was Louise) comes out of the restroom with her purse, loudly proclaiming "Good thing I always keep this with me!" More puzzlement as the two argue about who will pay for the gas. I take advantage of this momentary diversion to pay for MY gas, much to the relief of the clerk. Thelma turns to me and says, "I always keep a spare set of keys in my purse, just in case. And today I needed 'em." Yup, they locked themselves out of the car at the gas station. I make my exit, and busy myself cleaning the windshield. They actually manage to leave before us, having repeated the "I locked the keys in the car so I paid for the gas" story several more times to all within earshot.
As we catch up with them, their left turn signal is on. My first reaction is, uh-oh, I've seen this movie once already today, and assume that they might mean it. But after a couple of miles it's pretty clear that when they signal left, they probably mean they're headed for Denver. So we pass them. Undoubtedly reliving the wisdom of having a spare set of keys handy when on a road trip.
We arrive in Valentine shortly after noon, after putting in a fairly short day. The temperature is already approaching 90 degrees, and the winds are getting nasty. It's the shortest day we'll have on the return route, but we are well positioned to tackle Casper WY tomorrow.
We check into the Comfort Inn near "old" Valentine, as opposed to the Super 8, closer to the "new" Valentine. We hit the pool, I do my laundry, and get caught up. The Weather Channel says that we have cold weather tomorrow (mid-50's) and a 50% chance of rain. What a contrast to the last two days. We are ready.