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McCook playing host to BRAN riders this summer
Nebraska has been derided as one of the “flyover states” in recent years, but its reputation as territory to be traversed goes back in time through the days of the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, Gold Rush and even the Fur Trade days.
What most of those travelers had in common was the direction traveled, to the West, the West Coast or simply the Rocky Mountains.
McCook will play a role in a different type of mass migration this summer, albeit smaller and shorter, but one headed east, taking place at a pace more similar to that of the early travelers than today’s jet passengers.
The 38th annual Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska will make an overnight stop in McCook this year, with about 600 bicyclists resting up here June 4 after 65-mile-ride from Imperial.
Local volunteers are already preparing to host the onslaught of riders and support staff, who jokingly compare themselves to a plague of hungry locusts, devouring mounds of high-carb food, downing gallons of liquid refreshments and moving on.
Those same riders can tell you bicycling is one of the best ways to see the state, whether it’s scenery easy to miss at normal highway speeds, out-of-the-way shops or simply the best in small-town hospitality.
Founded in 1980 by bicyclists and for bicyclists, the all-volunteer week-long event provides $30,000 in scholarships to students from host communities’ schools. The Northwest Rotary Club of Omaha and Omaha Pedalers Bicycle Club provide most of the volunteers for the event.
The theme for this year’s BRAN is “A Southern State of Mind,” starting in Ogallala on Sunday, June 3 and winding up in Ashland on Saturday, June 9.
The order of stops includes Imperial, McCook, Alma, Red Cloud, Fairbury and Seward.
Riders and support staff are in a town for only a day, but an influx of a thousand or more people has a positive economic impact, both for local businesses but also for churches and other nonprofit organizations providing food and refreshments.
That’s especially true in smaller towns, which traditionally provide some of the best, most memorable stops for riders, who vote on the best stop and choose the town to receive the scholarships for students attending Nebraska colleges and trade schools.
Check with the local chamber of commerce, church or service club to see whether you can help provide a warm welcome for visitors on two wheels, who range from 8 to 85.
Or, if you’d like to join them, check to see if space is still available at BRAN-Inc.org.
The cost of the tour is $240 for the week or $150 for either 3- or 4-day tours being offered again this year.
Included in the fee are transportation of all of the gear during the week, stationary and mobile support on the road including treats and water, private showers, coffee in the morning, a commemorative t-shirt and water bottle and the opportunity to ride with fellow cyclists who enjoy taking the full day and stopping to enjoy what Nebraska has to offer.
At a minimum, we hope area drivers will take extra care while driving along the bicyclists’ route to help maintain BRAN’s reputation as a safe summertime event.