Day 1 - Omaha to Blair, Nebraska

Why is Monkey the Naughty Boy looking out the door with such a pissy expression on his face?

It's because he just watched me pack the bike and load up the MINI to go to RAGBRAI! And he doesn't get to come.

I hate travelling by air. I hate waiting in line after line at the airport. But today I learned that my new Radical Designs Allfa panniers have an unanticipated benefit! Just hang them on the bike box and slide the whole thing along when it's time to check your baggage.

The stupid security people were making everyone take their shoes off again to send them through the X-ray machine. I was wearing softsole moccasins. Look out! Somebody might have made special exploding moose hide! This irritates me to no end. I decided in protest if they are going to tell me to take my shoes off, I'm going to make them tell me to put them back on. So I walked right out of the screening line barefoot. Then I wandered about the bookstore and bought some newspapers. Then I wandered over to Annie's and bought a pretzel dog. Then I went to my gate, ate my pretzel dog, and read my papers, all while barefoot.

I continued barefoot as I boarded the plane and flew to Chicago and then on to Omaha.

In Omaha, I disembarked the plane, and went down to the baggage claim.

I didn't put my shoes on until I started to assemble my bike. Here is what came off the baggage carousel, along with my traveling clothes that I just changed out of. It was a lesson previously learned that it's a bad idea to assemble the bike while wearing your only non-bike outfit.

Just a short time later, I'm ready to set off! Don't I make a good endorsement for UnderArmor? Maybe they can hire me to wear their clothes to big public events!

It's pretty easy to get out of Omaha. You go out the airport access road, and then you enter a big nice park which has no traffic.

On the other side of the park, you are in a succession of non-fancy residential neighborhoods of 1950s vintage bungalows. It's pretty hilly, because the airport is by the Missouri River, and there is a big bluff at the edge of the floodplain. Every time a creek cuts through the bluff, you have a climb. After about 10 miles, you are in the land of corn and soybeans.

I made it to the small town of Blair by about 6:00, and I stopped for dinner at a wildly popular new Mexican place. It had just opened so everyone in town was there waiting in line. As I ate, I was observing the family at the table across from me. This was the classic all-American Midwestern family. Mom, Dad, four kids, all under 10 years old. All blond. I'm thinking I sure am in the heartland now. Then mom gets up and walks by me to go to the restroom or something, and I see she has a great big tattoo on her lower back. "Hey kids, I see your mom has a great big tattoo!" (I only thought this to myself.) I would like someone to explain how tattoos have become so mainstream that middle American housewives have them.

Here I am camped for the night at the municipal campground.

I read a book on the flight out, which was "In the Company of Cheerful Ladies" by Alexander McCall Smith. This is the most recent book in the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series, which revolve around Mma Ramotswe, a "traditionally built" African woman in Botswana. As with the previous books in the series, this one is very, very charming and engaging, and has only a minimal amount of detective work. It's also too short to last all the way to Omaha, unfortunately. And I have not come across any bookstores in Nebraska, so I am reading it again until I meet up with my wife Debra at La Mars where she will deliver my copy of the new Harry Potter.

Every person who sat next to me on an airplane was reading Harry Potter.