Day 51, to Alma, Neb.: Settling in to swelter and swim - Chris Cross America - CycleBlaze

June 12, 2022

Day 51, to Alma, Neb.: Settling in to swelter and swim

Here is my campsite tonight, and probably Monday night, too. On the right, my hammock hangs between two trees. In the center, Blue leans against a picnic table. In the background and to the left, Harlan County Lake glistens as the sun fades and sets behind the clouds.
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Sunday stats

Start: Franklin, Neb., at the home of Warmshowers hosts Mike and Amy Stephens

End: Methodist Cove Campground, Alma, Neb.

The Daily Progress: 25.82 miles

The Ascension: 1,060 feet

Ice cream flavors: Vanilla and chocolate twist (soft serve) in a waffle cone. Reminds me of the kind of order Jerry would make when we were kids.

Lodging expenses: $0! I probably shouldn't tell people this, but the person at the campground entrance booth asked me where how far I'd come from and she liked my jersey promoting MWABA (the Metro Washington Association of Blind Athletes), so she let me in free. "The government's never gonna know!" this person said. Let's hope the government doesn't read this blog or, if it does, doesn't care that one cross-country cyclist was let in without paying. When I told Dani this, she said she was going to tip off The Washington Post. I suggested this headline: "Washington insider gets under-the-table camping deal while locals pay full price"

In case it wasn't clear, the person at the campground entrance was referring to the federal government, because it's a federal campground. I'm glad I'm not shortchanging a local institution. But I will probably stay here soon tomorrow night and if so, I'll pay my fair share. For tonight, I appreciate the gesture.

I spent a good chunk in town, mostly on food: $24 for groceries, plus $21 for dinner and ice cream, plus $9 for odds and ends at Dollar General. Oh, and $3 for admission to the city pool. Total: around $57.

Sunday recap

Strangely, I feel like I had a very full day and also like I didn't achieve very much. I guess the latter feeling is just the fact that I didn't ride very far today. But I am trying to force myself not to ride when it's too hot and to take at least a full day to rest tomorrow, so today was mostly about settling in to stay put tomorrow.

I awoke at about 6 on the couch in the living room of Warmshowers hosts Mike and Amy. Mike made me a delicious egg scramble with lots of veggies and very tasty smoked ham. (If anyone's wondering, yes, I'm loosening up my eating habits. For a few years, I'd been trying to avoid beef, lamb and pork [and also air travel], in an effort to lower my carbon footprint. I'll still try to choose something else to eat if there is any other option readily available, especially if I can avoid beef or lamb, but when eating with others, I've decided that I'm gonna stop pushing my own preferences. Besides, avoiding pork was kind of pointless if I'm still eating cheese. And if I'm worried about climate change, well, sadly, my eating habits aren't going to make a lick of difference if there aren't larger policies in place to do something about it. So I'll indulge now and then. And if flying means the difference between being able to participate in a big new experience, then I'm not about to rule it out.)

Anyways, back to breakfast! As I ate, I asked Mike a few questions and got to learn about farming in the area and his work for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. He helps farmers get federal assistance to make the switch to no-till or low-till farming, which requires a substantial investment in new equipment but results in better soil health, less runoff and less fuel consumption. I also learned a little about the wonder that is the combine. I didn't realize that the machine could take the corn stalk and separate the kernels and leave behind everything else. I had heard before about all the fertilizer that is used and the fact that so much of what we grow is actually just to feed animals that we eat, but whatever you think of today's industrialized farming methods, you have to admit that the machinery is amazing.

Let me back up a second. I never mentioned that I got to meet Mike and his wife, Amy, and two of their sons, Justin and Seth, when they got home yesterday evening. They also have a dog, Finnegan, and two cats, Odin and Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. They had been out of town unexpectedly and were so gracious about having me despite the circumstances. 

Mike saw me off, with the leftovers from breakfast packed up in a Ziploc bag, and off I went, at 7:45 a.m., rolling with the wind.

Mike and I smile for a selfie just before I hit the road. Behind us is his house, carport and garage.
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The 22 or 23 miles from Franklin to Alma flew by, thanks to a strong tailwind and firm, smooth pavement. It felt great. My average speed was 16.2 when I reached Alma at 9:30. I knew I could easily churn out another 20 or 30 miles, but I thought the lake might be a nice place to relax so I went into town, scoped out the downtown and then rode down to the Methodist Cove Campground. It was too early to register for the night, but I picked out a campsite and would have to register this evening. I spent a fair amount of time hanging my hammock between trees that were very far apart, using the hammock straps plus the thin rope I'm carrying for the purpose of hanging my food in a tree if bears or raccoons are a problem. Then a better spot opened up so I moved and set up the hammock there. But it was a fun test of the idea of using that rope.

I went back to town, bought some groceries, went to the Dollar General for a few things, went to the city park and admired its veterans memorial (which included this sentiment: "You Bury American Hearts / Water With American Blood / You Grow Freedom"

Then to the city pool. In both Franklin and Alma, the city pool was clearly the place to be for any kid in town. Several kids had ridden their bikes to the pool and parked at the bike rack at the entrance. None were locked. I wish I had photographed them, with Blue standing taller on the side. 

The Alma city pool is very impressive. It has two large fountain-like contraptions on the right, which dump water from above, a twisty water slide, and two diving boards (not shown), just to the left.
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After the pool, I sat in the park and wrote a little mail, went to the post office to drop it in the box and then went to get an early dinner. The Mexican restaurant was closed. The bar might have been open but looked completely empty, so I went across the street to the Dairy Barn, ordered some wings and then, of course, ice cream for dessert. No shame.

I headed back to camp, stopping a few minutes to watch a bit of a t-ball game (hilarious) on the way. Back at camp, I called Dani and then my parents and then showered and climbed into my hammock, and now I'm enjoying one heck of a lightning show taking place on the other side of the lake. Luckily, the radar shows it veering off to the east without every crossing the lake, so I'm not too worried, but if it does get bad over here I can dash over to the bathhouse. 

Ah, seems to be dying down. What a nice breeze. 

Today's ride: 26 miles (42 km)
Total: 1,973 miles (3,175 km)

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