Monday, November 10, 2008

The Great Wabash Trace Adventure.

To summarize, (in case you don't want to read the many paragraphs which will surely follow) riding in the cold was just fine, stops were chilly, only one minor mechanical issue, I almost froze to death overnight, overall it was a fun weekend.

The plans: about a month ago, Bob jokingly posted (or mentioned during a ride, I can't remember) that we should do a huge bike trip to Kearney and back.  Some plans were made, overnight stays were scheduled, families were informed of absenses, and training was supposed to start.  Well, being that was a little over a month ago, neither Bob nor I were ready to ride 180 miles each day of a weekend.  And, being the original plan was to do that this last weekend, I'm glad we changed our plans.  Bob did clear that weekend, and I had nothing else going, so we decided to try something else.  

We came up with the grand idea to ride from Omaha, to the Wabash Trace, ride to the end, camp over night, then come home the next day.  Bob found that camping in Coin, just 5 miles from the trail's end, was available, along with a bar/grill that would be open most of the day.  10am to 2am to be precise.  So we again made arrangements with families, but then had to figure out bike setups.  The Kearney trip was going to be on the road with an overnight stay at a person's house.  This trip involved camping.  I had gear and bike rack, Bob had family camping gear and no bike rack.  So with enough donations from friends/family, we got Bob's bike fitted with a rack and panniers, and my bike setup also.  Brady and Bryan both generously offered me sleeping bags since I don't have one.  I took Brady up on his offer and he also had a nice Moutain Hardwear tent which, as you'll read later, I really should have accepted.  I was busy most of the week prior to the trip, except for Friday, and that's when Bryan was going to be out of town.  Oh, and I also didn't want Redemske cooties from his sleeping bag.  Just kidding Bryan.

So the morning of the adventure arrived, and I was all set to go.  I was right on time, ready to hit the Keystone at 8:30 and meet Bob along the way so we could head across the bridge to be at the trailhead by 10am.  See, Bob posted a meeting time and place just in case others wanted to join.  Well, I get a call from Bob at 8:30 saying he's still getting ready and just needs to eat something.  I was just fine with that because I wanted to get some coffee to start the day off right.  Coffee was injected, met the Bob on the trail and off we went.  We decided to take the easy route to avoid traffic and hit all the trails to get to the Wabash.  This involved some extra mileage since it wasn't a direct route.  This made us just miss the meeting time at the trail an hour.  Oh well, I don't think anyone else was crazy enough to join our excursion.  

We were on the trail and on our way.  2 things of note so far: 1. riding in the cold was fine since we were both layered properly.  Stops, like for food at Mineola since it was lunch time, did result in very chilly restarts, but were soon forgotten within a half hour.  2. riding with camping gear/extra winter weight clothing SUCKS!!  The Wabash is rails to trails route.  Being so meant that there were no steep hills.  But basically, you were either going uphill or downhill at 1 or 2%.  FOR MILES.   So you're lugging what was once a 25 pound bike, now 55 pounds most of which is in the rear, up these slow steady false flats for an hour at a time.  Needless to say, our average speed was not what I'm used to.   10mph was about it for uphills and 12, maybe 13mph for the "downhills."  

Since we were not riding very fast, we got to Coin at 4:30pm.  We had originally planned on getting to the end of the trail to hit the Missouri State line on the first day(another 5 miles past Coin), but decided we had better setup our camping stuff first and do that trip the next morning.  After we visited the Golden Coin Bar/Grill to change into dry warm clothes, we set up camp.  Bob had a brand new tent that seemed pretty decent, whereas I had my trusty one man minimalist tent.  Very similar to this tent, great for summer, not so smart at 27 degrees.  This thing is nice and light, but I sorely regreted not having another 3 pounds of windblock overnight.  I tied down the vestibule as best I could, but by the middle of the night, I was ferr-rreeeezing.  The wind was very strong and snuck right in to my sleeping place.  If I had not used Brady's mummy sleeping bag that was rated down to 20 degrees F(Thanks Brady!!!), I might have gone the way of Peter's post.  The worst part about the camping experience, aside from waking up at least 7 times, was my first dream.  We were entirely too tired to stay awake at the diner by 9pm.  So we attempted to go to bed right then.  My mind was not having it.  My body was tired, but my mind focused too much on the wind and cold.  So, when I did figure out how to curl up in a mummy sleeping bag to gain some warmth, I drifted off to sleep.  All of a sudden, I'm riding down the trail and it's sunny and 70 degrees.  Then 20 minutes later, I'm in Omaha, where the sun's blazing, and I'm hanging out with Bob and some of my other friends.  I then realize that something doesn't seem right.  I start asking around why our ride home went by so fast.  I couldn't even remember riding back through Council Bluffs.  *Snort* I wake up and the wind's still howling and I'm freezing again.  This was going to be a long night.

Finally, it was light out when I awoke for the 8th time.  Time to get back on it.  I bundled up with basically every peice of clothing I had since it was probably around 27 degrees.  I had packed a tupperware full of cereal and dried milk for breakfast.  That went down fast.  I packed up my stuff, and helped Bob get his stuff done too.  We headed South to Blanchard, the official end of the trail.  We rode through town (3 blocks) and crossed the Missouri State line, just to say we hit 3 states in one day.  We were both sore and not very awake.  Our average again was a measly 10-12 mph.  If my Garmin GPS device is somewhat accurate (which it sometimes isn't since some downhills were showing up as 4% uphills) then getting from Council Bluffs to Coin is mostly uphill.   So our ride home felt like downhill a majority of the time.  Which was very welcome.  We stopped at Shenandoah for brunch.  The restaurant was the Train Depot or something like that?  Very good food and reasonably priced compared to the 11$ dinner at Coin the night before.  About 3pm, it got warm out.  The sun had been shining all day (another very welcome situation), and so we peeled off some layers.  One hour later, the layers all went back on since the cold came back fast.  By this point, after finding out that the Mineola Steakhouse was closed on Sundays, we decided to eat at the BBQ place at the Wabash trailhead in Coucil Bluffs.  We figured it would be an hour to ride from there to cross the river if we took the trails again.  Bob was having his wife meet him by the Quest Center since he lives by Lake Cunningham and had no rear light to help in the 5:30pm darkness.  I decided to trudge on home after I parted ways with my Great Adventure compadre.  

I have some afterthoughts to bring up, but I'm too tired from this write-up.  I may or may not post more later.  That's just how I roll.


Flanders said...

Mike I think it was the Depot Deli in Shen that you ate at. The guy that owns it is one of the founding members of the Wabash.
Maybe a spring ride and camp in Shen. South West Iowa Nature Trails ( SWINT) own a cabin just south of Shen we could rent, volleyball, pond, inside sleeping, kithen, restrooms, etc. It's called the Issiac Walton property.
Great story and good job !

Scott Redd said...

Wow, what an adventure! You or Bob must post some pics, if you took them.

You should seriously organize something like this for the warmer months with more daylight. The better weather and longer days will help newbies like me have more time to get there without killing myself in the process.

If the muse strikes, please do write more about the ride. I'm enjoying it by proxy.



Peter said...

That actually sounded pretty fun. Rustic to say the least. That kinda stuff really interests me. Thank your lucky stars for that sleeping bag! I've never been on the Wabash Trace.

I still want to ride to Western Nebraska some summer. Maybe in preparation for a big race or something (or for no reason at all). Maybe ride to Valentine or anywhere nice. I think it would be something I'd really enjoy. I think we should get a group together and do it some time. Summer 09 maybe. Pack up a bunch of beers, fire starting tools, tents, and whathaveyous...

Oh don't worry. I'll talk some of you into it. Maybe Jonny. I still owe him one from the Bike Masters Century of 06. F'er!

Yeah, throw up some pics if you took any.

munsoned said...

Alas, I have not a camera. Bob took some pics and says he has more to come.

Jim, that does sound like fun. Shenandoah was a cool little place. Coin was not so much. Or rather, maybe I have ill will toward it because of my sleeping experience there. Hmmm....

Scott, the Wabash is a great time. Similar, but with way better views is the Katy Trail. It's worth the travel down there if you ever get a chance. However, a milder version of what we did during the summer would be very nice. The suggestion that Jim (flanders) had is a great one. It's about 46-ish miles which is no small feat on crushed limestone. Maybe getting something organized for next summer is a good idea. We shall see.

Peter, I do agree on the getting back at Jonny part. There was many a ride that I'd like to make get retribution for. Western Nebraska is a maybe. Craig Schmidt spent some time up in that part of the state doing the whole ride and camp thing. He does not have a very good review of it. The scenery was good, but the riding part was not so great. I think it mostly had to do with hauling a trailer. I think hauling anything more than just you and the bare bike is not fun. I had regular road gearing on my bike during this trip (53/39 with a 12-26 cogset) and wish I had had some easier gears. You just have to keep on, keepin on and call it good. But yes, if you are going to spend time here next summer, we need to do some epicly epic rides. WE MUST REVIVE THE SHOMER SHABBOS!!

johnny said...

Anytime this spring you want to go to Kearney and back we can camp at the Reserve Center. I am in. I love Kearney.

bryan said...

I'm glad you're not dead, Mike.

Biker Bob said...

I'm also glad he is not dead. I wouldn't have had an extra set of toe warmers for the last leg of the trip if he was in deep freeze in Coin.

I did take several pictures and a few short videos. I'll try to get it all onto my blog in the near future. There are a couple up there now. One of the better pictures I got was of Mike taking a little nap mid-day on Sunday. Hmmm...

Biker Bob said...

Oh... and don't let Mike fool ya. There were no downhills to be found anywhere on the Wabash. It was up hill both ways, freezing, and it did actually snow on us Saturday (that or Mike swallowed frozen bird poo while we were riding).

Doing another ride in late spring sounds like a great idea to me. Assuming I do enough biking this winter to be ready for anything more than 10 miles.