Day 37: Three States, One Day

Start/End: McCook, NE/Wray, CO
Mileage: 94+
Weather: Hot.

Today we woke up at the YMCA in McCook, NE ready for a really nice day. It was tough to leave the soft floor covered with mats that we could sleep on, but eventually we all got on our way, packing our bags and eating oatmeal and biscuits for breakfast. It was a very solid breakfast for our long day ahead. Thank you so much to the YMCA who has generously allowed us to stay at their facility!

Today, we dedicated our ride to a special young lady who lived in a nearby town which we passed yesterday. Her name is Olivia and she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. She recently was granted her wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation which was to go on a shopping spree for princess dolls and then she will be visiting Disney World to be treated just like the princess she is. We are so thankful to have met folks who know Olivia and her story and are honored to ride for her today.

We continued our journey today through very arid land with plenty of grazing cattle. It was really interesting throughout the day because at several times, the cows that were grazing would start running toward us or along the fence to keep up with us. It was very fun to see them do this! Along those lines, our first first rest stop was at a historical marker which was a memorial for the Old Texas Ogallala Trail, which was used for cattle driving from Texas to Ogallala, NE.

Our journey is starting to feel very western and rugged the further west we go. We encountered so many beautiful fields of wheat which were photo worthy (leading to several people stopping for pictures). Additionally, in some of the more flatter areas, the sky just seemed so big! There were some beautiful lakes, that were home to recreational areas and activities. Other than that, civilization was far and few in between. I think the team has been surprised that, even though we are out here, towns, even little ones, are not too far away. In previous Illini 4000 trips, our routes have not always been this way.

For lunch, we stopped in Benkelman, NE which boasted to be the birthplace of Ward Bond, an actor and singer. He played Bert in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, but was in many other films and TV series throughout the 1930′s-1950′s. Seemed like a nice town, and everyone we met while at lunch was super friendly.

The rest of the ride was really nice. We were still riding along a railroad track and waved at several trains receiving a friendly reply, including waving at an Amtrak train likely making its way to Denver. It was exciting because we could even see some passengers waving at us. This was a lot of fun and helped distract us from the fact that we were biking and it was over 90 F and we were in the sun with very little relief from any type of shade. There were also some beautiful wild sunflowers along the side of the road which were quite friendly, as if greeting us.

About 75 miles in, we had the opportunity to go less than a mile off-course to visit Kansas, so why not? Many of us crossed another state off the list, jumped back into central time zone and then back into mountain times we crossed back into Nebraska. Not long after that, we also crossed into Colorado! This was just so exciting, though a little intimidated as we know we will soon be doing a lot of climbing.

Riding into Wray, CO, we were a little surprised to find ourselves over 3500 feet of elevation above sea level! So I guess we have been gradually climbing for a while, but thankfully not having too many noticeable hills. We were pretty excited to arrive at the WRAC, where we were kindly greeted and made away of the showers and hot tub facilities available. After a hot day, a hot tub may not seem awesome,Mobutu it is very nice for our muscles to recover. And showers? Well they are just really nice.

So that is just another day in the life of Illini 4000. It was a long day, but there is this great feeling of accomplishment among the team and everyone, though tired, is feeling pretty great at the end of it all. Relieved that tomorrow’s ride will be shorter…

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