Yes indeed there was trouble. I had planned to sleep in the Nebraska National Forest campground, but as I got to Chadron as it was getting dark and refuelled I found that the rain was upon me. I sheltered in the filling station for a while and took the decision of splurging on a night indoors. The power of the internet and of a salubrious bank account put me in a better shape that some of the other bikers that were sheltering with me. While they headed north hoping for a break in the cloud I got myself a B&B and a very interesting introduction to Nebraskan culture.
The B&B was run by a middle aged couple, him a retired evangelical pastor, her a music teacher. They took a great deal of interest in my trip and went on explaining their activities in the community. They trained missionaries, as well as running bible camps and for the first time in my life, at breakfast, I was part of a fully fledged “saying grace”. The answer to the standard “what you think is going to happen in the election?” was a mix of delirium and blatant untruths, but they were nice to me and, I suppose this might count for something. Let me just say that all the stereotypes you have in your mind about the inhabitants of the Bible Belt were met with flying colours.
Morning comes and it’s time to leave, I’m crossing back into Wyoming and then hopefully make it to Colorado where the Rockies will be in tantalisingly close reach.
Nebraska is flat and empty, almost flatter and emptier than the Dakotas, and it had another small surprise in store for me. As I was merrily going alone on a straight road that was slightly undulating like a smooth rollercoaster, I see a car in the distance. As I approach I realise it’s a Nebraska State Trouper car, read highway cop. As I pass it it u-turns and starts flashing the lights. Now I have seen enough police movies to know that this is a pull over sight so I stop. It turns out I was going 72 miles an hour in a 60 miles an hour road. The trooper does all the checking while I wait standing by the bike, like in the movies, and then lets me off with just a warning. I wonder what would have happened had I not deployer my posh english accent and instead I had been black or hispanic? We’ll never know.
Fortunately in a few miles I was back in Wyoming where the speed limit is a more generous 70 mph, 80 on the highway. next stop is Cheyenne which, as usual, I did not know was the capital of the State. They have some sort of fair on and it’s food time so I stop and get a take away from one of the stands. Wow, was that brisket BBQ sandwich good or what. I rode past the Cheyenne Airforce base, one of the most important in the States and I elected not to go on the tour as they were requiring proof of insurance of the vehicles going in and, believe it or not, my motorbike insurance nightmare is not over yet.
South of Cheyenne I have the first sights of the mountains an’ after a bit of interstate, which I normally tend to avoid I get to Colorado. The scenery is changing quickly, the plains are behind and, while the road are still rather straight I feel as if I’m steadily gaining altitude. It’s goodbye to corn and hallo to pines and wild animals.
The last 20 miles to the campsite are almost gravel road and the campsite, at the foothills of the mountains is still 8099 feet up (2600 metres). I make camp in daylight and buy $5 of wood. After some cheese and biscuit I spend a couple of hours in contemplation of the fire drinking perhaps a little too much of the bourbon I have with me as when I go to sleep I feel the unwelcome aftereffect of the too much alcohol.
Sitting by the fire in a campsite on a clear night is just magic, bourbon or no bourbon. My lack of experience meant that I left my cold night gear in the bike and by the time the real cold set in I could just not get out and get it. It was a cold night, apparently the minimum temperature in the early hours went down to 1º C. I survived and it made for good experience as well as good testing of the sleeping bag.