By Tena Cook CSC Marketing Coordinator
A first for Chadron State College occurred July 19 as Dr. Kurt Kinbacher, Social Sciences Professor, and Jace Demeranville, a senior majoring in History from Gering, NE, concluded a 70 day cross-country bike ride.
Demeranville, who plans to graduate this winter, will earn six capstone credits for Biking USA, an Essential Studies requirement based on his report about the culminating college experience of his cross-country biking trip.
“At first, finishing felt like any other ride. I was more than ready to brush it off as no big deal. That changed when I saw my mom and sister and realized what I had accomplished. The trip reinforced my never-ending search for adventure and showed me how grand adventures can be,” Demeranville said.
Dr. Mary Clai Jones, associate professor of English, and Markus Jones, assistant professor of English, also joined Kinbacher and Demeranville for portions of the route.
They biked from Chadron to Washington, D.C., then took a train to Seattle, where they began the second leg of their journey. The group averaged 60-80 miles a day, recording 103 miles on their best day.
According to Demeranville, the rolling hills of Iowa combined with rough roads made for some long days.
“We rode a lot of gravel roads. They were resurfacing the paved roads, which meant golf ball-sized gravel and made for slow going,” Demeranville said.
During the ride, he decided to buy a new bike with better components and shipped his other bike home.
Repairing or replacing tires was the most frequent mechanical issue.
“We got lucky finding bike shops each and every time we needed one,” Kinbacher said.
This was the first time Kinbacher has traveled with a group for a long distance since he usually rides solo.
Although bike riding across the country may sound lonely, they found time to socialize along the journey.
“On (the train), the four of us splurged and had sleepers. It was a nice respite from cycling. We really caught our breaths. When I was young and used (the train) a lot, I slept on the observation decks when they were empty. But in my later years, I’ve taken to staying in sleeper cars,” Kinbacher said.
People on the train were interested in the CSC endeavor and there was plenty of time for conversation. Demeranville agreed the train ride was a good experience.
“Hopefully, it’s not too long before I’m back on one,” Demeranville said.
After they arrived in Seattle, they unpacked their bikes and rode east to Chadron.
“We met other bicyclists, Summer and Remy, over and over again at the same campsites. They were from Bellingham, Washington, and were headed to Boulder, Colorado,” Kinbacher said.
Some pleasant surprises along the way included the CSC riders’ discovery in Montana that many communities provide a no-frills shelter for hikers and bikers. They stayed in one in Wisdom. In Darby, Montana, they discovered a tent hostel.
“We thought were going to pitch our tents, but they had big canvas tents set up, and real beds, so we stayed there instead,” Kinbacher said.
For Demaranville, seeing the Tetons was a highlight.
“It’s somewhere I’ve never been, and always wanted to go. It was everything I wanted it to be, definitely a reward,” Demeranville said.
As they neared Chadron, the forecast for July 18 was listed at 109 degrees. Kinbacher was cautiously optimistic about their projected progress.
“I thought since we left at five in the morning, maybe we could do it, but we had three or four mechanical issues that day. We still made good time. When we got to Harrison, we stayed at the Harrison House, just a lovely place,” Kinbacher said.
Kinbacher said he had a nightmare when he was in Harrison, Nebraska, that he was back in Jeffrey City, Wyoming, and still had three more days to go.
“But I woke up, looked out the window and was relieved to see I wasn’t in Jeffrey City,” Kinbacher said.