Shelton to Central City
We rallied early and folded up the camp. Though wet, we stuffed our tents into their packs, loaded the bikes and began the pedal for our last day on Highway 30. This was significant for many reasons. We would finally leave the enormous amount of trains that carried mostly coal. The shear amount of coal that was being sent somewhere to be burned was incomprehensible. 150 trains a day, each containing up to 100 cars haul our heritage to be burned on the alter of human stupidity. This inability to alter the course of our destiny underscores humankinds self destructive nature. It seems to be the epitome of ignorance and hubris to continue down such a foolish path, especially when the light has illuminated better ways to go. Yet this system in the face of total collapse, continues complacently along. The sadness of this lack of insight or creativity or honest thinking is that the new directions available will not hurt anything of importance to our lives on this earth, but offer grand new vistas and opportunities for people world wide to come together to celebrate our short stint on this blue-green spinning orb. But no, we have elected to follow greed, fear and ignorance. Each passing train was a load of sorrow for the earth and its inhabitants.
These trains stand in stark contrast to the native person, on a bicycle, that we met in western Nebraska. Labeled as savages and backwards people, in fact we now know that their lives were far superior to the white mans. In cultural terms, they had a sustainable system that held great reverence for the earth that we so callously trash. They had friends, lovers, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. They had a rich culture that was inclusive, unlike our murderous and divisive way. That Indian man haunts our memory. For the few moments that we stood in his presence, we gained a cosmic insight into their history, who they were. They were good people. They were noble people. They lived what we have thrown away. They were much more firmly rooted in the very essence of this life, this world. The steely, cold coal trains transport the white mans misery to be compounded at some remote, dirty power plant where the earths water filter is burned and turned into noxious gasses that destroy the air as the coal mining destroys the earth.
The white man has lots of things. The white man has piles and piles of yard sale junk that have yet to bring a hint of happiness and meaning life. Pathetically, the urge to find meaning in the material world only multiplies the frenzy to attain that which moth and rust doth corrupt. The bigger the trucks that impotent men drive, the more they seek relief in the realm of earthly trash. Each new model takes us a step further from the glory of living that few will ever know in this confused society. The presence of that Indian man, though short of stature and of quiet disposition, said more than all the years of lies and graft that have ever come down the pike of the white man.
Perhaps it was the remoteness of our journey. Perhaps, the great distance from our home aided us in seeing the world through a different lens. Perhaps the chemistry of hard physical work each day altered our thinking. Whatever the reason, it was clear that the breadbasket of america is truly a basket case.
We held high hopes for a reprieve from the grinding poverty of rural Nebraska in the city of Grand Island. We knew that there was a college in town and with most college towns there comes a slight bit of enlightenment. We mostly hoped that we would find a brewpub, and a store that sold Dr. Bronners soap and maybe some Clif bars. All that we ultimately found was a mall that sold the usual assortment of crap . We were not amused by the crush of Husker trinkets. Football is big in the Midwest. They have little else to root for.
Disappointed we headed out of the city and towards to the east. Thus far we had been riding parallel to Interstate 80. Now we angled away towards the northeast. Each town has a water tower that marks its location from a distance. We assumed we were approaching a small town when we saw a water tower ahead. To our surprise the name on the tower was Cabellas. This world famous supply store for hunters and outdoors people was located right on Highway 30. THEY had Clif bars. In addition Austin was able to score a rain jacket, an item he would need that afternoon.
The temperature was near 90 degrees. By our standards that is not too hot. But with the addition of high humidity, the day was unbearable for most Huskers. As we entered Central City, few were outside. Most hunkered inside, under air conditioners fueled by the coal trains, whose day never ends. Austin took advantage of our break in the action to contact California, while I sent e-mails from the library. At this time I took the opportunity to make train reservations for the return trip. This item on the agenda had been postponed for the possibility of changes in our overall plan. We had permission to alter plans if we felt. But now we were becoming seasoned to the travel and comfortable in our routine. We knew we could travel the entire distance. Besides we were closing in on our first objective; Winside Nebraska.
When we left Central City, we left Highway 30 for good. We had paid our dues now we began to feel a sense of accomplishment and the slightly differing scenery was a pleasant change. Right off the bat the headwind issue changed. Now the wind was more favorable. Our progress towards the evening would be halted briefly as dark clouds approached from the west. We had not had any significant rain since Colorado. Now the towering cumulonimbus hung menacingly over us. We could see that rain was imminent. We tried to look for places to take shelter, but we were in the countryside with no help near. The rain began to fall. We stopped and quickly donned our raingear and put the sleeping backs in plastic bags. It rained significantly only for a short period of time. We continued to make progress towards Fullerton.
By the time we entered Fullerton it was evening. We found the local grocery store and stocked up for the night. Then we located the town park and set up camp. First we hesitated to pitch the tents. In our locality of Calistoga, camping in the park is strickly verboten. However in the small towns of the Midwest, things are different. No one seemed to mind. The sheriff never stopped by to boot us out. We did watch for hours as the local youth cruised the town and made a lap around the park. This is the american mating ritual. Instead of calls or other jungle sounds, the american revs his car, screeches the tires and honks the horn. Things finally settled down and we slept well.