Monday, September 26, 2016

Blair, Nebraska

My left shoulder remains sore and painful and has limited use, but it's improving by increments every day. I can now raise my arm to my ear when I need to reinsert an ear plug and I can drop to my bar end shifter without having to inch my fingers down the handlebar to reach it.  Bumps in the road no longer send jolts of pain to my shoulder and I can lift small amounts of weight with my bum arm.

It is still a semi-excruciating struggle to thread my arm into my jacket or even my vest.  It would be nearly impossible to put on my sweater or a t-shirt.  But all of that is incidental since it's not preventing me from riding the bike and finishing off this 1,500 mile trek from Telluride to Chicago.  I can't stand on the pedals, as it puts too much weight on the arm, nor can I pull with it.  Fortuntately, the terrain is mostly flat, so that's no great handicap.

Sleeping can be painful, as I forget I have an injured arm and move it without thinking and receive a jolt of pain for my mistake.  I haven't had a good night's sleep since my crash.  I had my worst night's sleep of the trip two nights ago when a strong wind whipped the rain fly into the tent all night and at times buckled the tent poles against me.  It just wouldn't quit.  Just before dawn the gusts turned violent and unleashed a torrent of rain.  With the tent suddenly a sieve and threatening to collapse on me I had to put on my Goretex jacket while trying to hold the poles upright as rain trickled in soaking my sleeping bag.  It rained some more during the day.  The sun never appeared, so I was unable to dry my sleeping bag or sleeping pad or tent.  It forced me into a motel for the first time in fifteen nights since leaving Telluride.  It was in David City, a town with a Carnegie.  It was my third of the day, the most of this trip.  Only one still functioned as a library, my first of the day in Clarks.

It was another basic red-brick building, but unlike the Carnegie in Ravenna, there were steps up to the entrance, the symbolic rising up to knowledge, and it was framed by a pair of faux in-set pillars, lending it a modicum of majesty.  It stood on the corner of the main intersection of this small, barely-gasping, town. Like just about every small agricultural town I have passed through in Nebraska, it was withering on the vine.  None offered much of an inducement to linger other than their Carnegie or if I were a sociologist studying what induced people to stay.  There were no hours posted for this Carnegie, just one of those clock-signs in the window of the door indicating it would reopen at one.

A couple hours later I had to drop down four miles from the highway I was following at this point across the state to check out the Carnegie in the slightly larger and healthier town of Stromsberg.  It forced me into a strong south wind, the same one that had blown all night.  Knowing I'd have it at my back on my return to my east-west artery made it somewhat tolerable.  But shortly after I arrived in Stromsberg, while I shopped at the local supermarket largely staffed by high schoolers, a storm hit, and when it calmed after half an hour, so did the wind.

I waited out the storm under an awning, as the library wasn't open on Saturday.  It had replaced the Carnegie a few years ago.  The Carnegie had stood vacant since. A local had finally come forth and  was presently converted it into a book store and a bakery.

Like every one of the nine Carnegies I had visited so far on this ride across Nebraska, it was pretty much in its orginal state without an addition other than an air conditioner.

By the time I left Stromsberg, there was a hint of a breeze from the south, giving me a little assistance, but not the turbo-charge I had been counting on.  After a couple of hours I had the option of turning north to the large city of Columbus for its Carnegie and the guarantee of a motel for the night or continuing east to the town of David City and its Carnegie, but taking a chance on finding accommodation.  I opted for the smaller town, saving the tail wind to Columbus for the next day, rather than having to push into it back to David City.  I thought I made the right decision when I found a small Indian run motel in David City that gave me a discount for paying cash.  But the wind switched during the night and I had a strong headwind for twenty-five miles to start my day.  A frolicsome hour-and-a-half ride became a brutal three-hour forced march. I'm not one to say that it always seems like I have a headwind, but I had been cursed by ill-winds for a couple days that seemed to be purposely turning on me.

At least the Carnegie in David City broke the trend of red-brick boxes.  It was still red-brick, but it had large windows and an ornamental entrance and a distinguished roof.  It houses Immunotec, a company that sells wellness products. It had the Ten Commandments on its new glass door.

I spent over an hour in the motel repairing punctured tubes.  All four of my spares needed patches, as many as three or four thanks to the insidious and unavoidable goatheads.  It wasn't even save to push my bike through the grass in small parks, as they could pick up an array of those prickly bastards.  I awoke one morning to both tires flat and the tires sprinkled with the heads I had picked up merely pushing my bike down a dirt road with small patches of weeds that were mined with them.

I had to cut some of my patches in half to complete the job.  Columbus would be the first city large enough since Denver with a store where I could buy tubes and patches--a  Walmart.  Before I tackled the tubes, I took my first shower since Telluride.  I forgot about my injury and squeezed shampoo into my left palm, which I couldn't lift to the top of my head.  I had to transfer it to my right hand.

The Carnegie in Columbus was the third of those I'd visited in Nebraska that was now law offices, though the building was for sale.  It had been red brick, but had been painted white. 

Sixteen miles east of Columbus in Schuyler was the eleventh and final Carnegie of the Nebraska sector of this ride.  And it was the saddest--vacant and with broken windows.  A musty smell oozed out of the broken front windows.

As I sat in the shade and finished off a two-pound container of Walmart's Amish macaroni salad I watched a non-stop parade of Hispanics, mostly in family groups, flocking to a Hispanic grocery store. At least fifty per cent of those shopping at the Walmart in Columbus were also Hispanics.

I had been intending to cross the Missouri River into Iowa at Omaha to visit a Carnegie in Council Bluffs on the other side of the river and also to seek out an Apple Store to try to regain access to my yahoo email.  That would have been a detour of forty miles, more than I cared to make since the miles haven't been coming so easily thanks to the wind and my injury.  Instead I continued due east to Blair, whose Carnegie burned down in 1971.

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