Nebraska: Hiding in Plain Sight

Text: Jon Beck • Photography: Jon Beck

The most interesting stories can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places.

Writing about a state whose slogan is “Honestly, it’s not for everyone” presents certain challenges. Almost entirely lacking obvious picture-postcard scenes or renowned destinations, Nebraska forces the traveler to look deeper at wherever they are. The stories that emerge in each town aren’t always apparent at first, and seemingly unremarkable scenes often have much more to tell. Traveling through Nebraska is the tourism equivalent of reading a good book instead of taking in the latest blockbuster movie. Rather than having the story and details forced on you, in Nebraska the mind is allowed to wander away from the obvious. That’s where discoveries are made.

Red Sky at Morning, Motorcyclist Take Warning

Before these stories could be gleaned, I had to reach the state, which proved to be a challenge. Waking early to dry but red skies in Tulsa, OK, I knew that the weather was potentially going to be an issue. Surprisingly, riding conditions for the first 200 miles or so were ideal. Then the skies darkened. Then the first drops fell. Then the floodgates of heaven opened wide. I had seen “road closed” signs before, but, not hailing from the Midwest, I was not aware that “state closed” signs were a thing. 

While trying to reach Omaha, Nebraska’s largest city, with a population estimated at over 468,000, severe flooding had made portions of the state—as well as Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa—impassable. As I headed north through Missouri, at one point a light-board sign read “Route 29 closed—use Iowa.” Not “use this other road,” but “use this other state.” So I did. Rolling into Omaha from the northeast instead of the direct route from the south, the Indian Roadmaster was deep into its fuel reserve, and I was deep into my energy reserve. Nearly 100 miles of torrential rain served to remind me that denim is not waterproof. With my hands frozen beyond usability, it took several minutes of gripping cylinder head fins before I was able to operate a fuel pump, much less fumble around with a wallet and credit card to get the bike filled up again.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the November/December 2019 back issue.