After a good night’s sleep in an actual bed, Jamie made us breakfast before we left. She had to go back to Norfolk to attend her son’s play that evening, but would meet us in Long Pine the next morning. So it was just Carine, Bob, Jim, Verna and me now. I felt a little nervous without my trail buddy, so I picked up the pace that day to ride with Jim. (Actually, it was more like Jim riding ahead and waiting for me catch up.)
The wind was favorable. We rode past Newport, which did have a few amenities including Grandma’s Park, Myrna’s Market, H&H Lounge and Sunny’s Café and Truck Stop. We all met in Bassett at the Range Café for some lunch. The café was part of the Bassett Lodge, and it served up great burgers, sandwiches, salads and root beer floats. Of all the restaurants on our journey, the Range Café was my favorite. The employees were used to seeing cyclists, and were more than happy to refill our water bottles.
When Jamie and I planned the trip, we decided that we would have a rest day at Long Pine State Recreation Area to do some fishing and hiking. So when we reached Long Pine, I led us off the trail and took Main Street north through town. Jim and I bought fresh strawberries at Anderson’s Market. Dave Harlan pulled into the parking lot and told us that we were welcome to use the Crew Quarters Bunkhouse to shower that evening.
Leaving Long Pine, we turned left onto Eighth Street and took the winding road down to the SRA. Having set up camp, Larry was there waiting for us at the bottom of the hill at the bridge. He helped us with our bikes as we hopped over the railing to reach the campground. We would’ve had to ride over a steep hill and around to enter through the park’s entrance if Larry had not found this short cut. Unfortunately, Verna had to leave us that afternoon to prepare for BRAN. Out of 11 riders that started out in Norfolk, only five would make it to the end.
Camp at Long Pine SRA was picturesque with abundant wildlife, thick pine trees and a cold, fast-flowing crystal clear stream. Songbirds of all colors visited our camp, while curious turkeys lingered nearby. I pitched up my tent over soft spring grass and felt relieved to know that we didn’t have to ride the next day. Jim made a makeshift clothesline under the picnic shelter to hang our smelly bike shorts. Bob took out some Spam and crackers, which Jim and I devoured because we were so hungry. Carine decided to pass on the snack and fell asleep under the sun in her comfy camp chair instead. Larry took us to the bunkhouse in town to shower before dinner.
That evening, Larry cooked a wonderful dinner of grilled steak, beans and stir fried potatoes. We expressed our thanks for the great meals we had, for surprisingly good weather and for all the beautiful Nebraska sights we had seen, including our “gem” of a camp at Long Pine SRA. We fell asleep in our tents to the babbling of the creek just 10 feet away.