Wednesday, September 24, 2008

like butter - homage to Nebraska

A story about my roots. The family had to get back to see friends and family in Lincoln, NE last weekend for a wedding. Although I have a lot of love for my Lyons home, Nebraska is still where a lot of my original riding crew is located. I was excited to see my buddy get married, but I was also really excited to get back during prime riding season. We've been back a few times over the last couple of years, but it seems like it's been dreary, cold, and snowy most of the time. Fall riding in NE is sweet. The dirt is perfect and the trees are just starting to change.

I used to ride often in Lincoln at a place called Wilderness Park. Wilderness was actually in Bike Magazine a couple of issues ago. You know, one of those issues that highlights "best ride in every state" type of thing. When I saw Wilderness in their for NE, I thought, "Pshaw, there's better riding in NE." Maybe familiarity breeds contempt on this one. I used to ride there all of the time and never quite took it seriously how good it was. Until now.

Here's one reason why it's great, for example. Saturday AM, beautiful fall day, and an empty trailhead. The park gets plenty of use from bikes, though. Probably 95% of all bike users ride the park from home. At furthest, it's only a 6 or so mile ride thru town to get to the park. Still, empty trailheads are good. This particular one is only a 5 mile gravel road ride from the in-laws house.
Wilderness is a 7 or 8 mile long river trail that flows from north to south along the Salt Creek. Hikers are on the east side of the creek, and bikers and centaurs each have their own trail on the west side of the creek. I guess we were spoiled back in NE. In all of my riding, I think I've only once ever seen a sign like this that wasn't in Wilderness. That's a good sign.
Lincoln Parks and Rec has also installed a couple of really nice suspension bridges over the creek for trail users. Really cool architecture that matches the scenery well, I think. Oh, this was also the first time I've ridden my Croll hardtail in about 2 years. I didn't exactly forget how sweet the ride was, but it was good to have a refresher. This Croll is one of my favorite bikes ever. It's also the only bike I've ever had custom made specifically for me, right down to the paint. For zipping around smooth singletrack on nice organic dirt, this bike is perfect. It's 11 years old and still sweet as ever.
Since I've moved away from Lincoln, they've added a couple of sections. Here's one of the only technical things in the whole park. It's a tributary that drains to the Salt Creek. There's a couple of rocks in the bottom of the water so you can ride across. Rocky streambeds don't really exist back there. Folks place rocks in the bottom because otherwise, it's a muddy, soupy mess. I put a foot down in the drink on the way back thru. Those muddy rocks get slippery.
Here's a couple pics of the trail. Smoove like butter. It's one of those trails that you lets you put it in the big ring while leaning back and forth, back and forth, as you navigate all the twists and turns. The dirt is super tacky and the singletrack is all about 12" wide despite the use the trail gets.
Smoove and fast. With nothing really technical in the park, it becomes a factor of how well you can take the corners. A good bike handler can easily walk away from someone with lesser handling skills just by taking the corners smoother.
Thought I'd take a picture of Lincoln's rural acreage development style. Take a cornfield, doze it, create some "lakes" then put a covered bridge over a drainage. The neighborhood is called "The Bridges." There's even a covered bridge over a paved bike path. Sheesh. And $600k for a custom house is a ton of money, especially in Nebraska.
The next day, I rode thru the park with homeboy Matty. It was good to hook up with an old buddy. Also good is that he's coming out for our deathmarch on October 5. We talked a lot about the Lincoln scene.
Lincoln isn't the first place you think about when mountain biking or cycling comes to mind. Hell, the residents don't think that either. What I've found, though, after living there and moving away, is that Lincoln has one of the strongest cycling scenes I've ever witnessed. There's lots of really good talented riders that have banded together over the years. There's events, races, and they even have their own Pirate Cycling League to conduct 100+ mile endurance grinders.

When I saw Wilderness highlighted in Bike Mag, I thought twice. After riding there again in perfect conditions, I'm inclined to say that Bike was right. It's not an epic destination or anything, but Wilderness is a prime example of perfect midwest singletrack, perfect midwest dirt, and it's surrounded and supported by a super strong cycling scene. What more could you ask for.

It'll be a while before we're back to Lincoln, but you can bet I'll be hitting the trail again when I make it.


debaser said...

Nice to see the Croll out. I miss Wilderness!

Cellarrat said...

just spent a few days there in April and it rocked!

I think there is good riding everywhere if you look hard nuff!

redstone said...

Amen Dave.