Omaha, NE Part II

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Socially, this trip is a big change for me. Whenever I’m not on the bike, I’m talking to strangers who walk up to me after seeing my bike and usually the sign on the back. Then we talk about my trip, about what it’s been so far and what I think it will be. Even though the majority of conversations revolve around the same dozen or so questions, I still enjoy them. If I didn’t, I would erase the silly whiteboard on the back of my bike that says “Argentina or bust!” At some point I might, but I’m still not tired of it. There are a few things about this in particular that are different. First, I never have to approach somebody to start a conversation. They all come up to me. I’m hoping I don’t lose my ability to approach people, which has actually never been as sharp as I would like. Second, the fact that people come up to talk about what I’m doing means two things: that the person in interested in my trip, and that they’re friendly enough to come start a conversation with me out of the blue. In this way I’ve got a sort of filter in place that means I spend my day talking to friendly strangers who are interested in what I’m doing, and I like that. The downside of all of this, though, is that the vast majority of my conversations are very similar, and I spit out the same canned respones to the usual questions that I start to feel like one of those pull-my-string-and-I-talk dolls, a la Woody from Toy Story. Only instead of “There’s a snake in my boot!” it’s “Whatever I feel like and whatever the situation calls for.” I don’t often get the chance to yell “Somebody’s poisoned the water hole!” but everyday say, “Anywhere from 20 to 100 miles, depending on a number of things.” When the conversation turns to something other than the trip, I often have to flip a mental switch so I can talk about something which doesn’t have the pre-programmed responses. It hasn’t been much of an issue yet, only resulting in a couple of pauses that other people may find awkward. I don’t really do awkward to begin with.

If I spend a few hours with someone in public, they soon realize my situation where I’m constantly approached, asked the same questions, and respond with pretty much the same answers in the same tone of voice. More than once a friend has asked me, “Don’t you get sick of it?” Like I said, I don’t. There are only really a couple of things that people often ask or say that I get sick of, and it almost universally is the first thing out of the offender’s mouth. The worst is “You’ve got to pedal pretty fast to get across the ocean, don’t you?” to which my response varies quite a bit depending on the amount of condescention I detect in their tone. I’m getting better at biting my tongue, or tersely telling the person to “Check a map,” but at the beginning of the trip I let it get to me. Al was convinced I was going to get into a fight one of these days with some geographically-ignorant nay-sayer. The other one that gets me, and it usually has more to do with the tone in which it’s delivered than the words themselves, is “Argentina? You’ve got a long way to go, buddy!” Yes, thank you, I’m well aware. No, I’m not halfway there, as has been suggested to me a lot recently, not even close. When I get to California I’ll be about a quarter of the way there. I at least give these people credit for knowing that Argentina is connected to the USA by land, though.

Oh, and one last quick rant. I’m not easily aggravated, but I will be if you think you should tell me what I should have done, or should do in the future. Please don’t tell me that I should be on a diffrerent kind of bike. This one goes out to you, Mr Overzealous I-work-in-a-shop-in-Denver-so-I-automatically-know-what’s-best-for-everyone. I met you on RAGBRAI when you rolled up and said “A Big Dummy, eh? What you should have done is gotten a Long Haul Trucker and bought the Xtracycle Free Radical” (For those that don’t know what any of those words mean, they don’t really matter) I already have a Long Haul Trucker and chose not to bring it with me on this trip for my own reasons. I didn’t want a Free Radical. I wanted a Big Dummy, and couldn’t be happier with the decision. I’ve been on the road for three months. I’d pedaled 2,500 miles before you came up and vomited your stupid opinions all over my eardrums. I am far more qualified to decide what’s best for me than you are. You’re an idiot, and I’m quite glad you pedaled off shortly after you started to let your thoughts escape your oversized head. Rant over. I feel better.

So Omaha is a fun place. There’s lots of music, pretty much every night of the week. There is beautiful green space, with lots of public art all over. The people are quite friendly, and quite generous, too. While I was at the coffee shop writing that last update I met a guy named Barry, who had just moved to Omaha from Hawaii after retiring from the Navy. I got an email from him offering me a place to stay and a place to leave my bike when I flew out for Lindsay and Mike’s wedding. I’m actually at 30,000 feet while I write this. I took Barry up on his offer and stayed with him and his wife Tammy last night, where he provided me with some good IPA and regaled me with some of his Navy stories. He was even kind enough to give me a lift to the airport this morning! But after meeting Barry and finishing up at the coffee shop I got some running around done. I stopped at a used book store and got a copy of Gulliver’s Travels, then hit the landromat in an effort to reduce the stench of many of my items. From there I stopped at Harley’s Barbershop, curiously run by a man named Mike, not Harley. Mike informed me that Harley was the original owner and Mike just liked the name. I told him I needed a haircut and a beard trim so that I looked a little less homeless for the wedding. I hadn’t trimmed a air on my body since I stopped at my dad’s barber in Buffalo, two months ago at this point. I had to use Mike’s expert opinion, since I’d never had a beard before, but wanted to keep the one I’ve got now, just clean it up. He had a hard time believing I hadn’t been trimming it all along- apparently I can add “Growing a naturally excellent beard” to the short list of things I’m quite good at. Overall I recommend Harley’s if you’re in Omaha and need a little help in the coiffing department. I’m picky with some things, barbers being one of them.

Being clean cut, I stopped into Rock Bottom, a brewpub chain found around the country that usually has a few qauffable beers on tap (side note- like how I just used ‘quaffable’ a couple of sentences after ‘coiffing’? I do). Im not adding Rock Bottom to my list of brewpus though, since this one didn’t brew on premise and they’re a big chain. I was originally destined for the pub next door, but Sam that I met the night before passed by as I was locking up my bike and convinced me to head over since she was starting her shift there. I had a stout, chatted with Sam, and tried some of their pretzels, which were on a happy hour special before I left to meet up with Dusty. Dusty was one of the guys from the Iowa State crew that I met on RAGBRAI, and lives in Omaha. He offered me a place to stay, so I headed to his house on the other side of town. The next day I relaxed in the Dundee area of Omaha, which is a small but fun neighborhood west of downtown. I grabbed a coffee and while I was taking care of some email, a woman named Karla came up and offered to buy me lunch at the Brasserie next door. I told her I would only take her up on it if she joined me, but she said she was busy and insisted I accept anyways, which I did. After a delicious chicken pesto crepe I went next door and checked out the gallery that she was helping her daughter Jackie with. After buying a birthday card for my mother (Happy birthday mom!) I stopped at a place called the Dundee Dell for a glass of whiskey to celebrate the three-month mark of my journey. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. They had an entire wall, stacked from the floor to the 16-foot ceiling with single-malt scotch whiskeys, two- and three-deep on their shelves. They claim to have the largest single malt collection in the world, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re right. I was in a bourbon mood though, so had a glass of the bartender’s recommendation, and sat to have a think and a drink. As usual, I met a bunch of cool people while there, including all the staff, a kid named Jesse who’s about to take off on a traveling adventure of his own, and a bunch of other patrons. I think I was the only person in there who didn’t know everyone. It’s a tight-knit neighborhood. Monique, the Dell’s whiskey director (which has to be one of the coolest jobs in the world) insisted I sample a glass of her favorite Scotch, a very rare Glenmorangie finished is Bordeaux Claret casks. I did, and it was a delightful glass of liquid indulgence. I then removed myself from the bar and sat outside to read a bit of Gulliver’s Travels.

When I left Dundee and returned to Dusty’s, he and his roommates- two Lindsays and a James- were having a barbeque with some cheddar-bacon burgers and corn on the cob. Needless to say, it was good. Nebraska knows corn and beef. Lee, a friend of Dusty’s whom I also met on RAGBRAI came over as he passed through town on his way to California. Lee had biked the length of the Baja peninsula this past spring, and we went through a bunch of his pictures as he told me stories of all the fun he had. If you remember from last time, I’ve been lacking motivation a little lately, but Lee’s adventure filled me with all the motivation I’ll need for a while. When stories were over we all went back to Dundee along with Lee’s friend Nichole. The night went quite late, and was filled with good beer and good wine, leading to my sleeping later the next morning than I have in months. I joined Lee for coffee the next morning before he hit the road, and then I hung out in the coffee place for a bit and chatted with the barrista Jordan as I did some email stuff. My early evening was spent at the Community Bike Shop Omaha, volunteering my efforts for a short while to help reduce my karma debt. I wasn’t of much use that day because it was so slow, but Andrew, Julie, Ananth, and everyone else made for good company. Julie is a leading bike advocate in Omaha, and decided she wanted to set up a bike ride with me and a bunch of like-minded people when I return from my weekend getaway. After leaving the shop and getting a burrito, I met up with Barry, bringing this long-winded post full circle.

I’m in the Milwaukee airport now, headed for New York City. After a night or two of shenanigans with my friends, I’ll drive to Connecticut for the wedding before returning to New York, causing a ruckus (yes, Emmy, I realize I use the words ruckus and shenanigans a lot, but I like them!), and then flying back to Omaha to continue my adventure where I left off. Catch you on the flipside!

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8 Comments

  1. Emmy
    Posted August 14, 2010 at 12:36 PM | Permalink

    As I was reading along I was thinking that!!! You read my mind :) You should have thrown in an Epic too! HAHA
    BTW I’m dying to see a picture of freshly groomed Jesse

    Emmy :)

  2. Samantha Bajkowski
    Posted August 15, 2010 at 10:57 PM | Permalink

    I can’t believe I made it in your blog… I feel so honored!! HAHA! Hope you had a great time in New York. Oh and Rock Bottom is not that big of a chain!!! Look me up when you roll back in to Omaha buddy!!

  3. Dave Mezee
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 11:23 PM | Permalink

    My friend and fellow traveler,

    Lately, I have been truly living vicariously through you. Hearing about your slight lack of motivation has prompted me to finally write. You must continue my friend. I say this for selfish reasons:

    1) This journey – the stories you write, the pictures you take, the adventure of it all – it’s inspiring.
    2) I want to join you for the short, California to Agentina part.

    Check your (at) JesseSteiner email!

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    -Dave

  4. Kenton Hicks
    Posted August 18, 2010 at 2:05 PM | Permalink

    Good luck on your journey. I met you in Gene Leahy park this afternoon. Hope you have fun in Omaha, NE.

  5. mom
    Posted August 18, 2010 at 5:53 PM | Permalink

    so, it just occurred to me, of how long your list of friends must be by now :) And I was wondering how on earth you are going to be able to remember who is who and from where and what their stories were and all. But, then I remembered how organized you are and I am guessing you have a seperate log some where with notes and what knots of everyone. This is just too cool!! It has become a quantum inspirational experience which has changed all of us (as readers/followers/infatuants) forever!! Jesse E. Steiner, You Rock!!
    So, when do you think Ellen (D.) is going to find out about you?? :)

  6. Liz Fell
    Posted August 19, 2010 at 11:50 PM | Permalink

    So I just spent a solid hour catching up on all you’ve been up to (it’s a hobby of mine :) … and as always, your writing is solid and it sounds like you’re meeting some fantastic folks.

    I’m planning some random travels in the coming months – checking out different cities I might want to move to – and would love to coordinate in such a way that I could catch you on your way through. I’ll let you know what that entails as it comes to me.

    Be safe, we all miss you at the Dubs!

  7. Nathan Bartell
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 12:13 PM | Permalink

    We saw your bike parked outside a shop in omaha, NE and think this is the COOLEST THING EVER! Ride on!

  8. Posted December 12, 2010 at 8:21 AM | Permalink

    I was taking pictures of Tibetan Buddhist Monks on the Ped Bridge, and saw you heading to Argentina.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/schargis/4875091204/in/set-72157624647375334/