Day 8: Goodland to Benkelman, Nebraska - The Empty Middle 2015 - CycleBlaze

September 30, 2015

Day 8: Goodland to Benkelman, Nebraska

Up at 7. The sky is still nearly dark and it's foggy outside.

Foggy downtown Goodland, Kansas.
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On the road at 8:35. Still foggy, 55F (13C). Through the town of Goodland for the first time. Downtown is 2 miles from the motel so I never went there yesterday.

Downtown has some nice old buildings, but many are vacant. Probably thanks to the WalMart near I-70. The brick street and the fog combine to give it an otherworldly quality.

Downtown Goodland, Kansas. The Telephone Building is not as important as it once was.
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Main street leads north onto KS 27. Wind was my friend again. 10 mph south wind. The miles were easy, through gently rolling hills with grades mostly less than 2%. The fog lifted around 10 AM but it was overcast all day.

A used 2007 model sells for $280,000.
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KS 27 connects to US 36 in the tiny community of Wheeler which has no services. I turned east, with a brisk crosswind for 9 slow miles. Suddenly it was colder and the wind was noisier. That helps me appreciate the tailwind.

I stopped for lunch in Bird City. Unlike the counties to the north and south, this county is on Central time zone. My clock said 1 PM when I arrived, but their clock said 2 PM. I arrived just as the cafe closed. So I got a sandwich from the grocery store.

The shoulder was very narrow. Some trucks, but less traffic than yesterday.

Bird City, Kansas. Stone buildings are rare in the Great Plains.
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Bird City is a cute little town, population 447. It seems to be doing better than most towns its size. Noticeable civic pride in the parks.

Bird City, Kansas.
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In Bird City I turned north on KS 161 to Benkelman, Nebraska. Tailwind once again.

Abandoned barn.
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I stopped at one abandoned farm to walk around and take photos. Didn't try to get inside the buildings.

Abandoned house next to the barn.
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A few miles before the Nebraska state line the landscape changes noticeably. More rolling and creased, with scattered trees in low lying areas.

The landscape is noticeably less flat now.
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Streams look more eroded.
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The sky became brighter in the afternoon but it stayed overcast. High of 65F (18C). Very nice when pedaling with the tailwind. Noticeably colder when I stop and feel the wind.

This ranch was founded the same year my house was built in Oregon.
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The horizon is no longer flat.
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At the state line I used an UltraPod to attach my camera to a fence post near the sign. I hardly ever do self-portraits during tours. Usually it's just the bike and the sign.

47th state I have toured by bicycle.
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South Fork Republican river is dry.
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Just past the dry South Fork Republican river the road crosses unsigned Spring creek which does have water. First stream with water since the Arkansas river.

Spring creek has water.
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The town of Benkelman (population 931) is only 4 miles north of the state line. Most of the town is on a steep south-facing hillside. The town has many Craftsman-style homes and seems to be doing reasonably well. US 34 has a bypass around the town but the bypass has few businesses.

I arrived at 5 PM and wandered around the town. The only motel in town is the Circle B motor lodge on the US 34 bypass far uphill from downtown. My $59 room was pretty good for the price. Dinner at the upscale Skyline Grille next door.

Downtown Benkelman, Nebraska.
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Theater in Benkelman.
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Courthouse in Benkelman.
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Old houses in Benkelman.
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Today was easy. Moderate distance, gentle terrain, mostly a helpful tailwind. Pleasantly cool compared to the beginning of the tour.

Distance: 68.5 mi. (110 km)
Climbing: 1074 ft. (325 m)
Average Speed: 11.4 mph (18.2 km/h)

Today's ride: 69 miles (111 km)
Total: 451 miles (726 km)

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