Miles and Miles

As a cycling town, Omaha is surprisingly hilly. The landscape most commonly associated with Nebraska — endless, unyielding flatness — isn’t found until you’re past Lincoln on Interstate 80.

Out there, you’ll have to stretch your imagination Iowawhen you see a rise in the road and decide to call it a hill. But in Omaha, finding a non-hilly place to ride requires similar concentration.

During our Christmas-break travels, I brought a bike along in hopes of pedaling off the excess (insert every food in the house here). The landscape around my hometown (and that of my wife) is why the Midwest gets a bad name: pan flat for miles and miles and miles.

How flat is it? The destination on one of my rides this week was 17 miles away … and I could see it when I got out of the start town. If you want to feel like time is moving in slow motion, a ride in the flatlands will do it.

The distant grain elevator seems a lot closer than 17 miles, but as the gravel ticks away under your bike and you find yourself standing up and stretching again, you realize it’s going to be a long day.

And is that crosswind turning into a cross-tailwind? Yes, it is. Great.

In hilly areas, you can always count on a valley or a downhill to ease up on the pedals and turn some light circles. On the flat, a four-hour ride is four hours of pushing pedals.

The upside to all of this, of course, is when you stop at a convenience store to fill bottles. “You rode from where? How far is that? You’re riding back?”

Yes I am. Seeing a guy on a bike in a small Iowa town that isn’t piloted by the local eccentric or a pack of kids is an interesting happening.

But once you’re out on the road again, it’s all the same. It’s always great to be on a bike, no matter where you are.

So while it’s flat and wind-blown and sometimes desolate, it is, however, a pretty nice bonus to roll up to the front door to the typical holiday spread. At least I didn’t have to worry too much about finding a way to replace all of those calories.

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