Part 6: Cycling Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa

On day 47 of our cross-country tour, we entered our eighth state, Kansas! We cycled a mere 24 miles that day because it was our 9th day of riding in a row and we needed a break.

We cycled over the Missouri river, as we have several times during our tour, to Atchison, Kansas, Amelia Earhart’s birthplace. We did not know that this town had such a claim to fame until we cycled into Kansas and the town’s sign proudly displayed an image of their famous daughter. The bridge we cycled over was also named in her memory. We were happy that this was the town we had decided would be our rest town because it gave us an opportunity to visit her birth house turned museum.

To celebrate entering the eighth state of our tour, we went to a highly rated Mexican food restaurant. We never tire of Mexican food, even though most days we enjoy a bean and cheese burrito for our mid-afternoon snack.

On the way to the hotel, we saw even more tributes to Amelia, including the below timelines of her life and accomplishments. We wholeheartedly agree with her famous quote that “adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

Even our hotel room had a giant photograph of Amelia above the bed. We spoke to other guests who confirmed that their rooms had photographs of Amelia Earhart as well.

The next day, we mustered the energy to cycle 1.5 miles to Amelia Earhart’s Birthplace Museum.

Amelia was born on July 24th, 1897 in her maternal grandparents’ house. The house was one of the first houses built in Atchison and her grandfather, who was a judge, was able to make additions to the house to make it even bigger. Soon after Amelia’s birth, her parents moved into their own house but when she was 2 years old, her sister, Grace Muriel was on the way, so her mother moved home. Amelia’s father was an attorney and was always traveling for work so their mother required the help of her parents.

A myriad of memorabilia is displayed in the home, including life sized statues of Amelia, photographs of Amelia and her family, letters written to, from and about Amelia, maps of her travels, models of the planes that Amelia piloted, artwork dedicated to Amelia’s legacy, and much more.

In the photo below, Amelia is holding the antenna that kept her in contact with ground control for directions and in case of emergencies. The technology was very new, which meant that the antenna had an 80 ft cord that dangled out of the plane. On her attempt to fly around the world, the last leg of the journey from Papua New Guinea to Howland Island was the longest distance and most fuel-demanding portion to traverse. The drag that the antenna cord created was the main reason that she decided to leave the antenna behind and fly in radio silence. She also left behind equipment to make room for more fuel. This inability to communicate may have been a fatal mistake that led to her plane going down and her remains never to be found.

As we walked through her childhood home, we felt a connection to the adventurous spirit that Amelia had. When she was alive, she was a woman who broke barriers that allowed women to enjoy the same type of exhilaration that only travel can provide. We know that it is women like her who made it possible for women like us, almost 100 years later, to go on adventures like we do without as much fear and doubt in our abilities. Thank you, Amelia, for being a fearless trailblazer!

On day 49, we set off on the Lewis and Clark trail once again, which hugs closely to the Missouri River. You may notice that we are covered in sunscreen. Most days have been upward of 90 degrees fahrenheit so in order to keep from developing heat stroke and sunburns, we diligently apply sunscreen every 90 minutes. By the end of the day, we are both covered in a thick layer of bright white paste that makes us look a little like vampires, but to us that is better than looking like lobsters.

We only enjoyed 50 miles of Kansas before we entered Nebraska, our 9th state of the tour.

Historical markers regarding the Lewis and Clark expedition are numerous on our path. Our map follows the Lewis and Clark Trail, so we have the opportunity to visit many towns and villages that the young explorers passed through and camped in on their journey westward.

Many of the places that Lewis and Clark visited later became some of the first towns established in the region because of their close proximity to the Missouri River, their rich farming land, and flatlands which attracted train tycoons.

We cycled 55 miles from Atichson, Kansas to Falls City, Kansas. We intended to camp at the marina that night but as the temperatures reached 97° F we stumbled into the Subway to cool off and ask if they knew of any local churches that may be willing to host us. We knew that the temperature would not dip below 75° F that night and we would not be able to cool our core temperatures enough to cycle again the next day. Steph, in the picture below, instantly gave us water and started calling around to all of the churches and her friends to see if she could find us a place to sleep inside. With her help, the church community was activated in order to help us and pooled their funds to pay for a hotel room for the night. This is something the church community has done before for other stranded travelers. On our way out of Subway, Steph prepared us two sandwiches that she paid for herself so we could relax at the hotel without needing to go back out for supper. We are so incredibly grateful for her help and for the church’s generosity.

The hotel we stayed in was so comfortable and had one of the best continental breakfasts we have had thus far.

Bright and early the next morning, we cycled into the historic town of Brownville. Brownville is the first established town in Iowa.

History lined the streets and everywhere we looked we saw museums and historical placards. We arrived too early for anything to be open so we did a self-guided tour before heading out.

The 22 mile Steamboat Trace bicycle path connects Brownville and Nebraska City and snakes along beside the Missouri River. Along this portion of the Lewis and Clark voyage, William Clark walked alongside the shore while Meriwether Lewis stayed in the keelboat closely followed by two pirogues on the river.

A local resident, Roland Sherman, spent decades carving many artistic depictions into the soft sandstone cliffs along the Steamboat Trace bicycle path.

The Steamboat Trace bicycle path was very beautiful but not very well maintained so often we were forced to skirt around pot holes and fallen trees.

When we arrived in Nebraska City 55 miles into our day, the temperature once again was tipping the thermometer into triple digits so we found refuge in a Subway to look for a cheap place to stay. We had planned to camp but when the temperature is so high, we have little choice but to splurge on a hotel room to ensure we cool off enough. Subway has also become of the the  very few places that we can rely on to provide us with healthy food in the midwest. In fact, every state we have traveled through thus far has had limited food offerings, but we know we can rely on Subway for air conditioning, ice water, and healthy options.  Most restaurants offer a variety of fried foods that are tasty, but not ideal for athletes. Subway is a dependable option for fresh vegetables.

Early morning on day 51 we cycled into Iowa, the 10th state of our cross-country bicycle tour!

Another 56-mile, 95° F day, we hardly took pictures on our way to Council Bluffs. Moreso, our map did not indicate that we would be traveling on many dirt roads which slowed our progress.

Luckily, we planned to stay in a hotel that night for Mi’s 31st birthday. We made sure there was a pool because not only is it nice to soak our tired legs, but Milo absolutely loves to swim.

We were lucky to get to Council Bluffs when we did because the weather turned from scorching hot to lightning storms and active tornado warnings.

From the safety of the hotel, we watched in awe as the sky turned from sunny to cloudy, to stormy.

We were forced to stay an extra day in the hotel to avoid the dangerous weather. Milo had no objections and continued to take advantage of the pool which no one else seemed to want to use.

The remainder of the evening’s programs on television were constantly interrupted with tornado sightings in our area. In a town very close to Council Bluffs, the local news indicated that the post office roof had been blown off.

This was Kelly’s second time being in a tornado alert and Milo’s first so needless to say, we were very nervous that night, constantly woken by tornado dreams.

The next day, the chance of tornado had dissipated but the weather was still windy and stormy.

We opted for a short 27 mile cycling day into Missouri Valley, Iowa. We knew that we would most likely not experience a tornado warning that night and needed to camp to get back on budget so we stayed in the city park.

Missouri Valley is a quaint little town with murals and brick buildings lining Main St. It is also a town that smelled like pig feces and with trains blaring their horns every 15-30 minutes from the moment we arrived to the moment we left. Interstate 29 also runs right through the town so the sound of semi-trucks growling through town was also a feature of our sleepless night.

We arrived at the city park around 1pm to find that the kitchen keys were available for campers’ use. We gladly took advantage of the kitchen and made ourselves lunch and dinner out of the elements. Though we were up all night with the trains and semi-trucks, we at least rested with full bellies.

On day 54, we cycled 82 miles from Missouri Valley to Sioux City, Iowa. This is the last city of our short time spent in Iowa. The 82 miles we cycled that day over various terrain beat our longest cycling day ever, which was an 81 mile day on our last long tour.

We cycled through the heart of Sioux City along the bicycle path to our Warm Showers host’s house.

Mark came home and soon thereafter, his girlfriend Kathy came over so we could go out to dinner. We fed the fish their dinner before we headed out to do a bit of sightseeing before our pizza dinner. The fish pond is actually an old hot tub that Mark refurbished, one of many repurposing projects around his home.

Mark and Kathy wanted to take us around in a jeep but the clouds filled with rain and shot lightning down all around us so instead they took us to the Chief War Eagle Monument on a bluff that overlooks the Missouri River, Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.

Once we saw a good amount of the city on the car tour, Mark and Kathy took us to their favorite pizza place, El Fredos. They both have very fond memories of this pizza parlor dating back to their early childhoods. Now, they frequent the pizzeria and were greeted by many of the employees and patrons alike. They treated us to dinner and great conversation before we all were so full that we hobbled back to the car to go back to the house and sleep.

Mark set us up in one of his spare bedrooms that is decorated with bicycle posters and bicycle sheets. We turned on the window unit air conditioner and quickly drifted into a much-needed sleep.

We woke with Mark as he readied himself for work and said goodbye to him as we prepared our breakfast. His house is located so close to the South Dakota border, which we crossed early that day. We are now in our 11th state, 2100 miles in (about halfway mileage-wise), and 5/8ths through our total number of states. Until next time, stay well!

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