Day 13: Alliance to Crawford - The Empty Middle 2015 - CycleBlaze

October 5, 2015

Day 13: Alliance to Crawford

On the road at 8:30. 53F (12C), overcast, still a south tailwind.

I backtracked to US 385 and turned north, After 8 busy miles I turned left onto NE 2 which has much less traffic. I followed NE 2 all the way to Crawford. It has a wide shoulder for the first few miles, then no shoulder. Not a problem because the traffic is so light. All the traffic is farther east on US 385.

Most sunflower fields were far past their prime. This one looked pretty good.
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Hemingford, Nebraska.
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I stopped for an early lunch in Hemingford (population 803) because it has the only services between Alliance and Crawford. Nice little coffee shop that has one lunch item on their menu. I was stunned when the lady said she gets many touring cyclists.

After Hemingford NE 2 goes west for 12 miles, gradual uphill with a crosswind. Then I finally get the tailwind back for the final 26 miles to Crawford.

Today's route stays close to the BNSF railroad and close to the historic Sidney-Black Hills stagecoach route. Starting in 1874 this route supplied freight to the Sioux tribe and to Fort Robinson. The route was extended north to Deadwood after gold was discovered in the Black Hills. Several stagecoach stops developed along the route. They are all ghost towns now, so today I saw more abandoned buildings than on any other day of the tour.

Abandoned hall-like building.
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Inside the big abandoned building.
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Smaller abandoned building.
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Looking out the windows.
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The trend is uphill for most of the day. I climb Pine Ridge today.

I like the rippled landscape.
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Rolling hills. Forested Pine Ridge in the distance.
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I can't resist this Great Plains stereotype.
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I was amused to see the small size of the Niobrara river. It's the main river in northwest Nebraska but is smaller than my local creek in Oregon.

Niobrara river.
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When climbing Pine Ridge I finally leave the High Plains region and enter the Missouri Plateau region.

Pine trees become more common as I climb Pine Ridge.
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Clouds parted slightly at 4 PM. The temperature warmed to 63F (17C). Not warm, but much better than the last 3 days. Unfortunately the flies are back with a vengeance.

Momentary sunshine on Pine Ridge.
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The summit of Pine Ridge is 4680 feet elevation. Highest point so far. For the last few days I have seen trees in low lying areas where water collects. Now I'm finally high enough to see trees on hilltops.

Descending through forest on Pine Ridge.
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There was a glorious 800 foot descent from Pine Ridge to the town of Crawford. Great scenery all around. Good view of Pine Ridge to the east. To the northwest are big sandstone cliffs that I can't see very well in the afternoon sun. Definitely more of a mountain feel than a Great Plains feel.

Today's route has more abandoned structures than any other day.
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Looking east at Pine Ridge. It continues northeast into South Dakota.
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I wandered around the town of Crawford (population 997). Downtown is half a mile from both highways. The motel is on the highway, inconveniently far away from stores and restaurants. Crawford has a lot of early 20th century homes. Charming town.

Crawford High School.
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Downtown Crawford, Nebraska.
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I got a room at Hilltop Motel on the south edge of Crawford. $97 for 2 nights. Tomorrow I will take a rest day and visit nearby Fort Robinson State Park.

I don't make a habit of taking a picture of every motel, but wanted to share one picture that shows the typical motel in small towns of the Great Plains. Always independently owned with about 10 rooms. No breakfast. Usually quite old. Construction workers are the main customers.

Hilltop Motel in Crawford is a typical small town motel.
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Today had a longer distance and more climbing than the previous 3 days, but it seemed easier because of the warmer weather. Still a gentle south tailwind. The weather and my strength are now back to normal.

Distance: 66.4 mi. (106 km)
Climbing: 1659 ft. 503 m)
Average Speed: 11.0 mph (17.6 km/h)

Today's ride: 66 miles (106 km)
Total: 752 miles (1,210 km)

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