Touring - Across Nebraska
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I am planning a C to C tour this summer and would like to cross Nebraska on either US 20 or SR 2. Can anyone give me some info on places to camp and services in general on either of these two routes? TIA!
01-14-07, 05:25 PM
In July of 2003 we followed Highway 2 through west Nebraska. Hot, real hot, like upper 90s and over 100. I was expecting cornfields, but west Nebrasa seems to be mostly Sand Hills, lots of rollers, no shade, minute towns. Arthur (on 92 and 61) was an incredibly nice little town of about 150 people, with a wonderful park in the middle of town to camp in for free, and plenty of water and shade. There's even a small bar in town with beer and pizza, but not much else. A chuch if you get desperate! Hyannis, also on 2, has a sports bar. Scotts Bluff is a full amenities town with a KOA. The small roads are almost empty of cars/trucks/pickups. But that also means the towns are tiny, and almost empty of amenities. Don't let the maps fool you!
There is a good book called "Nebraska Off the Beaten Path," published by Globe Pequot, which we found quite helpful in finding some places and roads we would not have found otherwise.
Highway 20 is quite a bit busier with truck traffic, if I remember correctly.
01-14-07, 10:18 PM
I've biked across Nebraska many times - had a great time.
I driven practically every backroad - the small towns are great!
No matter where you cross in the Great Plains in mid-summer - it will be hot.
Just look at a number of journals about Kansas on the TransAm over at Crazyguyonabike.
They have a traffic volume map at the Nebraska Department of Roads website. Unfortunately it is down this weekend so I can't give you the link. Look at the variations in traffic - esp. in the east. There's also a new rail trail called the Cowboy Trail that stretches from Norfolk to Valentine. Check it out:
A number of people have commented that it was actually easier to ride on the highway - I don't know. I have biked NE 2, US 20, US 30, and NE 92 in the the west; NE 74, NE 4, and NE 2 in the east - plus a couple of more that I can't list off the top of my head. US 20 has more traffic and more trucks than NE 2. NE 2 has a railroad that generally follows it with frequent coal trails breaking the quiet. Yes, western Nebraska is largely sandhills. I find them beautiful. Shade is at a premium - but that's why they call the region the Great Plains - it's a grassland.
Depending where you are going to be in eastern Nebraska, I'd avoid NE 2. NE 4 is very nice in southeast Nebraska. If you are staying further north and using US 20 - make sure to swing over to NE 12 - it's a fabulous ride.
Most of the little towns have community parks where you can camp. The motels - where there ARE motels - may still be $30. I've never had trouble one in Nebraska - people have always helped me and been very generous.
E-mail me and I'll answer any questions you have directly.
Best - J
PS - Pic is of the Loup River in central Nebraska
01-15-07, 06:09 AM
Nebraska was an interesting ride. It had sort of a split personality: cowboy in the west that morphed into farmer in the east. When I rode US 20, I camped in Fort Robinson, Merriman, Ainsworth, O'Neill, and Randolph. The only place I paid a fee was Fort Robinson (nice state park, good facilities, etc.). Randolph, an especially nice small town, had a beautiful park with a pool. Tiny Harrison (far west on US 20) was very friendly (have a burger at the drug store). I can't remember the exact text, but there's a sign as you come into town from the west that says something like "Harrison: Next 2 Exits." Those exits are just the next two right hand turns off the two lane US 20. I like a town with a sense of humor. Have fun.
01-15-07, 10:02 AM
Here's the Nebraska Traffic Volume Map - -
01-15-07, 04:08 PM
I rode across Nebraska in 1980 as part of my cross-country ride. I entered Neb, from South Dakota on US-385 to Alliance, then east all the way to the Missouri River on SR-2 (US-34 from Grand Island to Lincoln - 2 either shares that road or the I-80 freeway.) I paid to camp at at Chadron State Park and in a private campground on the outskirts of Lincoln, and may have paid to camp in a county park on the southern fringes of Grand Island. I also camped for free in city parks or, in one case, rodeo grounds in Hyannis, Thedford, Broken Bow and Cairo. Cairo was at the end of a particular hard day, psychologically, and I just flopped down in the town park - some teenagers half-heartedly rousted me oin the middle of the night, but the gendarmes left me alone. In the other towns, I stopped in at City Hall or (better) the police station to ask if there was someplace I could camp.
The riding itself was the worst I had on the trip. Highway 2 goes through the Sand Hills, as you have read. The terrain is constantly rolling, the scenery consists of the smallish hills immediately around you, scrub vegetation, and an occasional cow. I managed to have a non-stop headwind for five solid days, and it rained all day on the fifth day. That wind made it feel as if I was on a perpetual uphill, because the hills are small and the wind was enough to cancel out the benefit of the downhill parts. Also, I found that Highway 2 had some stretches where the truck traffic was enough to be scary, especially since it was a two lane road with no paved shoulder to speak of. (That, of course, may have changed in 26 years.)
The people were great, though, in a low-key, salt-of-the-Earth sort of way. They helped keep me going. Make an effort to chat up the locals. They won't be friendly in a "golly gee-whiz aren't you cool" sort of way, but I think they will be real high point of the trip for you.
Nebraska was the hardest part of my trip. In addition to the road and weather conditions, I had several fairly serious mechanicals to deal with - it just wasn't a good time on my particular journey. I am not at all sorry I did it, though, if for no other reason than it was a necesary part of an overall excellent trip. If I were to cross Nebraska again, I would take US-20 across the north or follow the Platte River Valley (where I-80 goes), mainly to see something different. Having said that, I have thought about retracing my 1980 trip sometime to see how some of the places I saw then have changed and how they have stayed the same.
01-16-07, 09:56 AM
OK, it might not be part of your planned route. But you could take US 6 or US 34, which join near Trenton NE. SW Nebraska is pretty, esp. through the Republican River ( note: 3 left leaning guys with beers should never try to canoe on a Republican River, but that's another long story). The towns are bigger, and closer together. Parts of it are flat, parts are rolling.
Rich (a native of SW Nebraska).
01-16-07, 02:18 PM
Though it's in the southeastern part of the state, Indian Caves State Park has been one of my favorite nights camping anywhere. It's right along the Missouri and the Lewis & Clark Trail. Saw turkey, dear, and lots of birds. Ate some great sausage & beans. But a bit further south than US 20.
I loved the Sand Hills region of the state. I was driving to Wyoming and wanted to visit Omaha on the way out there. So I just saw Sand Hills scribbled on my road map and decided to cut through instead of following the Missouri to South Dakota. I was really surprised by the western part of the state and really enjoyed it, though I didn't have to camp that day. There was a national forest somewhere in there, but I didn't see any camping sites in my brief visit.
01-16-07, 02:54 PM
I know that you're talking Hwy but should you decide that limestone is OK take the Cowboy trail from Valentine to Norfolk. The trail is not quite done and will require about 27 mi back on Hwy 20 but it will be a welcome break from traffic. The western half is sandhills and the eastern half is farmground but there is some beautiful and diverse scenery along the way including the largest bicycle trail bridge in the US near Valentine.
Unfortunately you are about two years ahead of the curve for this trail as the infrastructure as far as things to do is currently being started and worked on. Still, if you have the time while stopping in Valentine make sure that you canoe the Niobrara river. It was voted one of the 10 best canoeable rivers in the US. The main stretch is 29 mi long and there are bunches of riggers that will pick you up, rent you the canoes and pick you up again at any point that you wish to stop. Oneill will make another nice stopping place. A small town of about 3500 with a good park, nice motels and good food. Just don't stop on St Pats day as they have a festival about 3 days long and it gets crazy. College kids from a three state area converge and drink green beer and forget about school. Neligh is also a nice place to stop at with a few historic sites. A tour through the mill, and visit the site of little Buffalo girl ( an Indian chlid who died on the "trail of tears" journey and who the town of Neligh keeps her grave up because of a promise made to her father....the Chief). They also have a nice park to camp in with Pool, showers and tennis courts. Norfolk will be the last stop. A town of about 25000 with a great park to camp in with showers, bathrooms etc. There is also a great little bicyle shop in Norfolk if you need any repairs.
The trail will slow you down but it just might be worth it.
01-16-07, 05:23 PM
Oh yeah, at the western end of the state (Valentine is in the middle and Norfolk in the east) you might want to camp out at Fort Robinson. This is where Crazy Horse was killed and there is a lot of history but it also very beautiful. You can rent bikes but somehow I don't think that will be an issue. You might however want to take one of their horse trail rides to the top of the bluffs (takes a couple of hours and well worth the 12 bucks). Camping is great and the food in the old mess hall is pretty good and very generous. Also for 35 bucks you can sleep in one of the barricks or if they're not booked in the officers quarters. All this only applies if you take the northern route however. If you go south.......well that's a whole nother itinerary.
01-17-07, 05:48 AM
I'm from Nebraska and once rode from Kearney to Lincoln on US 6 which runs south of I-80. Lincoln is a great town with a lively cycling scene. After making it to Kearney I would suggest riding north up to HWY 2 at Broken Bow and then crossing the Sandhills up to Ft Robinson. Along the way you'll find Halsey National Forrest which is entirely man made in the middle of the sandhills with great camping facilities. Then, as was mentioned before, Ft Robinson is nice. Most of the people you meet in NE will be extremely helpful/friendly and will no doubt want to hear about your trip and invite you over for dinner.
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