Day 10: Ogallala to Oshkosh - The Empty Middle 2015 - CycleBlaze

October 2, 2015

Day 10: Ogallala to Oshkosh

Today will be a short day to recover from yesterday's long mileage. I left the motel just before 11 AM checkout time. The extra rest felt good and I was hoping the temperature would warm up.

Today is much colder than yesterday. Autumn has started! Fortunately I'm going northwest with a brisk southeast wind. The tailwind will make it tolerable.

South Platte river in Ogallala, Nebraska.
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Ogallala from the bridge that crosses over I-80 and the Union Pacific railroad.
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I looked around town a bit, killing time before stopping for an early lunch at a nice grille on the north edge of town.

First tourist development of any kind since Canyon, Texas.
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Downtown is near the river. Going north the road climbs steeply for 3 miles.

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This excellent sports complex is surrounded by hills that shelter it from the strong wind.
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The road climbs 500 feet to a plateau that separates the South Platte and North Platte rivers. The rivers converge 50 miles downstream but I will go upstream, northwest along the North Platte river.

After a couple miles the local road connects to US 26. Traffic gets heavier but the shoulder improves. The road stays 500 feet or more above the reservoir to my right. Only a handful of places have views of the distant reservoir. The highway stays 3 to 5 miles away from the reservoir to avoid having to cross multiple side canyons. The eroded side canyons are the real attraction. And I enjoyed the eroded grassy hills. The scenery is getting better every day.

First good view of Lake C.W. McConaughy miles away and 500 feet below. A reservoir on the North Platte river.
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It's kind of exciting that the road finally has curves.
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The sky was dark overcast all day. The temperature was stuck at 52F (11C) all day. 15 mph southeast tailwind meant that I was warmest when pedaling northwest at 15 mph. Colder when going slower. Much colder when stopped. Fortunately today's route goes west and northwest.

Another view of the reservoir, getting smaller.
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US 26 has moderate traffic but also a wide shoulder and a well placed rumble strip. Not ideal, but not bad.

I hoped to see interpretive signs about the Mormon emigrant trail but only saw a small sign indicating where the highway crosses the original wagon trail.

This portion of US 26 is the Mormon emigrant trail.
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Eventually US 26 gently descends 500 feet to the North Platte river. An interesting sod house exhibit is in a side canyon halfway down. I took a break inside the house because it was by far the best shelter from the relentless cold wind.

Replica of a pioneer sod house, built in the 1960's.
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Dirt floor, dirt walls.
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Emigrant settlers traveled through Nebraska for 40 years before they started settling here in large numbers. Most counties in Oregon were organized in the 1850's. The counties in northwest Nebraska weren't organized until the 1880's and 1890's. For most of the 19th century the Great Plains was simply a place to cross as quickly as possible on the way to better opportunities farther west.

Hundreds of thousands of settlers traveled this 19th century route to Oregon, California, and Utah.
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One side effect of the colder weather is that the flies are gone. I'm so covered up that they wouldn't bother me anyway.

First wetland I've seen in a long time.
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US 26 crosses the North Platte river just before the tiny town of Lewellen (pop 220). I was surprised to see that the North Platte river is much bigger than the South Platte river.

North Platte river upstream from the reservoir. Much bigger than the South Platte river.
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Downtown Lewellen, Nebraska looks good for a town of only 220 people.
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US 26 is nearly flat for 15 miles from Lewellen to Oshkosh. In the river valley following the river upstream. Fast and easy with the strong tailwind. The road stays close to the Union Pacific railroad but the river is a mile away, out of sight.

At this point it was still a novelty to see a coal train.
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I didn't take any pictures in Oshkosh. Population 820, nothing really special. I was in a hurry to get inside and warm up.

At 5:15 PM I got a room at Shady Rest Motel. $65, the only motel in town. Dinner at a decent Mexican restaurant. It's a sleepy town-the grocery store closes at 6 PM.

Some businesses have the term "panhandle" in their name. I didn't know that northwestern Nebraska calls itself a panhandle. By coincidence, I pedaled through panhandles in 3 of the 5 states during this tour.

Today I entered a new environment-the canyon of the North Platte river. The bottom of the canyon is a floodplain several miles wide. Both sides of the canyon have escarpments that rise 500-1000 feet. I'll stay in the canyon all day tomorrow before turning north again.

Today was short but the cold weather saps my energy. It seemed like a long hard day even though it was only 47 miles with a strong tailwind.

The next two days will be even colder. I will need to do short days while the weather is cold.

Distance: 47.1 m. (75 km)
Climbing: 1271 ft. (385 m)
Average Speed: 11.7 mph (18.7 km/h)

Today's ride: 47 miles (76 km)
Total: 588 miles (946 km)

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