Day 10 – Historic Oregon Trail by Bicycle

April 15, 2022

Hastings to Kearney, Nebraska

Miles/total: 58/348

Weather: 28-48 degrees, Wind NNE 12-19 mph (cross/tailwind)

Plan for the worst, and hope for the best.


Today we really wanted to ride, but we knew it would be a challenge. When we woke up the temperature was 28 degrees, there was a 12 mph cross/tailwind, and the windchill was 11 degrees. Seriously! Not willing to try the 11 degree windchill with the clothes we have with us, we decided to wait until 8:30 a.m. to leave when the windchill would be 16 degrees. Ha!

After breakfast at the hotel, we loaded the bike and then got dressed. I put on two pairs of sox, covered with plastic bags, biking shorts, tights, pants, a thermal t-shirt, long-sleeved turtleneck zip-t, fleece jacket, wind shell, headband, helmet, and winter gloves. I wasn’t comfortable, but I was warm. Tracy had on one more layer as she tends to get colder than I do.

We weren’t sure we would be warm enough, but we thought we could give it a try.

Our first goal, and our bail out point, was the small town of Juanita, eight miles west of Hastings. By the time we got there we were a little cold, but not too bad. Our real challenge wasn’t riding, but staying warm, if we had to stop mid-ride for some reason, likely to change a flat. After a warm cup of coffee in a gas station, we decided it was reasonable to try and make it to the small city of Minden, 26 miles away.

The wind was our friend today. The prediction was for a NE wind early at 12 mph, building to 19 mph by late morning, then shifting to the NNE and dropping to 15 mph in the early afternoon. When the temperatures are so low, these small shifts in the wind make a big difference, mostly in how long it takes to get from one safe point to another. From Hastings to Juanita we had a cross/tailwind and were able to average about 15 mph. Manageable. From Juanita to Minden we would head due west for about 16 miles (cross/tailwind again) and then we would turn southwest. If the wind persisted from the NE, we would fly into Minden. But, If the wind shifted to the NNE too early, our progress would be significantly slowed and we would be stuck in the cold way longer than we would like. Luckily, the wind held and we made it to Minden and a Casey’s gas station with hot coffee and donuts by 10:30. It’s always nice when a plan works out.

On the way to Minden we stopped at two historical markers, one for the Pony Express, and another for the Oregon Trail. In the cold and the wind, it was much easier to imagine the hardship these pioneers, my pioneers, had to endure.

Our next challenge was a ten-mile slog, straight into a 15 mph wind, to the north and Fort Kearney State Historical Park. It wasn’t fun, but we got it done.

Just before we reached the park we came across a field with maybe 1,000 Sandhill Cranes in it feeding and flying above. Neither one of us has ever seen that many cranes in one place at one time. It was wonderful. These birds are undoubtably stranglers from the annual migration that sees from 500,000 to 1,000,000 cranes in a 75 mile stretch of the Platt River, just a mile or so north of where we were.

Fort Kearney is still closed, but we were able to walk around the grounds anyway. So much important history here, particularly to me.

From the park we headed back east and then north to the Kearny Recreation Area where we picked up the Fort Kearney Hike-Bike Trail (12ft wide concrete) which took us 1.8 niles north, across the Platt River and Under I-80. Once we were north of the interstate we followed the trail another 2.5 miles to the famous Archway over I-80, and then three more miles to the Kearney business district.

We stopped at a Starbucks to refuel and figure out where we were going to stay for the night. We ended up at a Fairfield Inn in a cluster of hotels near the interstate. Not exactly the camping we were hoping for, but we were warm, out of the wind and safe for the night. We did it, we made it to Kearney, Nebraska. Not sure what the plan is for tomorrow, we will come up with one in the morning. It has been a heck of a day.


-Kearney, Nebraska

“From there (Marysville) we traveled up the Platte River to Fort Kearney or “Dobe Town” as we called it. All of the houses were made of adobe. This place could provide us with some much-needed food and feed for our stock. We needed to haul some because we would hit places of scarce grass.”

“My Life in the Walla Walla Valley” (1978)

 By Cecil S.G. Cummings

“No bridge on the Big Blue so we had some trouble to get across, but finally without much trouble by doubling up teams we made it in half a forenoon. So we traveled up the Big Blue, for one day on more fine roads and no trouble, only the grade was short. We traveled on the main California road along for about 15 days until we arrived at Fort Kearney, or what we called Dobey Town where were garrisoned a few soldiers, and quite a town of settlers and several good stores where we could get goods cheap. Though we were only 300 miles from the Missouri River we had a fine campground on the bottom land of the Big Plat (Platte) River where no bridge was – only a mail wagon built on purpose to carry the Government mail and soldiers. It was a sight to see it cross the river. Oh, if they had only had a gasoline engine for it, it would have been something. Also, we had a man over take us there, and he wanted to travel with us for protection and he had a distance measurer so could tell how far we went a day and that was fine.”

Gid Cummings’ (and family) Trip Across the Plains in 1862

(Copied from a journal of Gideon Cummings)

-West of Kearney on the Platte River (Deer Creek)

Soon after leaving fort Kearney and reaching the Platte River, we were overtaken by a dispatch courier with information that some of our friends were trying to catch up with us so we laid over at Deer Creek for a week waiting for them. Here we had a very good camp; plenty of driftwood to burn and good grass for our horses.

When our friends caught up with us, our party was increased by four men, three women and two boys. We thought we had a much stronger party by this addition.

One of the wagons had an instrument attached on a front wheel that would register our mileage each day. We all liked that fact and it was good to know how far we had traveled.

We followed the Platt River to Fort Lawrence where we remained for two weeks, awaiting the arrival of a large train. It was safer to have a big train as we were getting into more danger each day that we traveled.

On May 20th, we started the big travel on west. There were sixty-five men, eight women and one girl aged twelve, who was George Dudley Goodwin’s daughter, Lottie. At Deer Creek there was a telegraph station and we received the first word of the Civil War.

The news was bad as the Federals were being pushed back at the time. We continued our journey along lodge Pole Creek, Plum Creek and the Black Hills. In many places, the road was worn deep into the ground. There was no way to turn out making it hazardous for the wagon training case of an attack by Indians. The entire train could be lost. We escaped harm then, and many times later in bad places.

“My Life in the Walla Walla Valley” (1978)

 By Cecil S.G. Cummings

-Julesburg, Colorado

“Though we passed most all of the trouble that year by with but a little trouble, no loss of life and as we came along the great Platt(e) River with no timber and plenty of grass and any amount of buffalo chips to burn. We used sacks to sack them up and hauled them along to keep them from getting wet when it rained, and it did sometimes. I tell you we came along fairly well until we got to Fort Laramie at the mouth of the Laramie Forks. The Commander stopped us saying the Indians are bad and our government has no soldiers to spare to guard us so we will have to stay until enough catches up with us so we can take care of ourselves. They gave us all the room we wanted there. There was only five or six families at that time. We stayed two weeks and by that time Captain Penny arrived with about 50 men and no women in it. At that time through there were some families came while we were there so we started on up the South Plat(te) River and went as far as where Julesberg (Julesburg, Colorado) now stands and we forded the Plat(te) there though it was dangerous.”

Gid Cummings’ (and family) Trip Across the Plains in 1862

(Copied from a journal of Gideon Cummings)

Chimney Rock, Courthouse Rock, Black Hills, Independence Rock, Devil’s Gate, South pass through the Rocky Mountains, Green River (left the California party). Sept 27 nine mile crossing of the Walla Walla River.

About Tracy and Peter Flucke

We inspire people to explore the world by bike and foot through our cross-country bicycle adventures, and our book, “Coast to Coast on a Tandem.” This blog details our past trips and provides updates on our current adventure. Enjoy the ride! Tracy and Peter Flucke

2 responses to “Day 10 – Historic Oregon Trail by Bicycle”

  1. lastyearteachingblog says :

    My wife and I stayed in the Kearney Holiday Inn, in that cluster of hotels where you stayed at the Fairfield Inn Driving I-80 west on April 9, we were just a day ahead of you. We wouldn’t have noticed you cycling, however, as tens of thousands of sandhill cranes feasting in the fields along the interstate captured our attention. I was behind the wheel mesmerized, wishing my Honda was a self-driving vehicle.
    It was one of those religious/emotional moments where one recognizes how small a part one plays in the natural universe. We literally took in a good 100,000 cranes in the dozen miles east of Kearney. Unbelievable.

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