Trail Ramblings: Slowly but surely.

If you’d like to see a glimpse of our possible future, be a bicycle tourist. I’ve been one, and I see them pass through Lincoln. Bicycle touring has been around for a long time among a certain segment of the population, and now it’s close cousin, bike packing, has joined the variety of ways a person can travel by bike. As long as you view your trip a success, you did it right. Cycle touring generally happens with racks, rear and/or front, with panniers, possibly also loading the handlebars, fork, and rack(s). This is unless you’re on a tour where luggage is carried for you and you don’t have to pack it. Some camp the entire time, either wild camping or in parks and campgrounds, and others stay at various sorts of lodgings. Some opt to pull a trailer, perhaps not even loading the bike, making it easier to leave the trailer at the campsite or lodging and ride the area unencumbered without having to unpack the bike. Bike packing generally avoids panniers and opts for only frame, handlebar, and expanding seat bags. Items may be strapped to the fork. The bike of choice is usually a mountain or gravel bike, depending on how off-road the rider desires to go.

I am a Warm Showers host, and I’ve also been a guest. It’s a great way to see how others tour. A couple of weeks ago we hosted another young man using the trail which connects us with Marysville KS; from the Jamaica North to the Homestead to the Chief Standing Bear, then across into Kansas. He had camped in Marysville in the public park where they’d gotten a good rainstorm the night before, meaning the limestone trail was a bit soft. Even with the extra work he agreed it was a beautiful trail and really enjoyed taking it. There seem to be no Warm Showers hosts in the Marysville area, which is really too bad, we’ve hosted several riders coming and going through there. He was riding on into Omaha, but opted for pavement rather than the MoPac as he was trying to arrive to Omaha earlier. The options for riding into Omaha from Highway 6 are not great, though I’ve had several past touring guests who’ve taken that route.

This rig proved to be a bit much. He decided the extra weight of the front panniers wasn’t worth having what he was carrying.

Last weekend I did a little shakeout ride with friends on the other side of the river. It’s always fun to see how they do it in Iowa. Iowa has a bigger population and from hosting RAGBRAI, small towns get to see how bicycle tourists mean good business. I’ve toured with panniers and on pavement before, but this ride was to be on gravel roads and the well-maintained Wabash Trace. Eight small towns dot the metric century length of the trail, similar in length as from Lincoln to the Kansas border. Since both trails are abandoned rail lines, small towns appear regularly along the way, every 5 to 14 miles or so, as trains had to take on more water for the steam locomotives and make stops in the small towns.

Photo credit: Chris McClenny. Behind are the grain bin camp facilities of Imogene.

Many cyclists from the area ride the Wabash trace and the camping facilities at Imogene, population 37 and about halfway down the trail, are good. They include a repurposed grain bin with showers and restroom facilities, a bike repair stand, and more. There is even a second camping area with courtesy hammocks, a fire ring, and a porta potty for overflow campers. There are two bike camping areas at trailheads on the Chief Standing Bear Trail segment that I recall when riding between Marysville and Lincoln. One can also often camp in small town city parks. Imagine if that when the MoPac connecter is finished we could have enough bike traffic on the MoPac and the Homestead trails to warrant such facilities in places like Wabash, NE? We currently have the Nacho Ride to Eagle, the Pie ride to Elmwood, and rumblings of possibilities of a Grandpa’s Woods ride near Wabash. What do you think would create bicycle tourism in the area on a par with other regional trails?

Happening at the other Wabash across the river.
On an interesting side note, next to the overflow camping site in Imogene is a vacation rental and the owner and another cyclist came over to chat. He said that e-bikes had changed his world. He had thought his cycling days were behind him, hills and distance having become too difficult, but that with his e-bike he could continue to ride as he ever had. Retirees certainly have more cycle touring and event options now, and more time.