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Coni Meyer makes no qualms about her first experience with BRAN. It was terrible.
“It was a really horrible experience the first year,” Coni said with a laugh, during a stop in Neligh Thursday on her sixth Bike Ride Across Nebraska. “It was 38 degrees when we woke up the first day. It was raining, and there was a thunderstorm with hail. And we rode through it to Cody that first day. By the time we got there, I was bawling.”
Coni and her husband, Ritchie, now laugh about their first experience on the seven-day bike ride. It doesn’t hurt that the memory is replaced with BRAN now being one of their favorite summer events.
“We gave it another shot, and I’m so glad we did. Now, we won’t miss it,” Coni said.
The Orchard High School graduates live at Page, which meant this year’s BRAN event across northern Nebraska was practically in their backyard. Instead of staying overnight in Atkinson on the fourth day, they went home and slept in their own beds and did laundry.
By the fifth day, they were back on the trail to Neligh. That means they were also back to sleeping in a tent and showering in a semi.
“You would never think, ‘I’m going to get in the back of a semi and take a shower, and it’s going to be great.’ But it is,” Coni said. “They have an awesome shower in the back of a semi truck. You don’t see that every day.”
BRAN also offers a couple of charging stations for riders to plug in their devices. But unplugging is actually what Ritchie and Coni enjoy the most about the trip. While Coni still posted photos on Facebook, Ritchie said he doesn’t even take a phone with him.
“You leave your cell phone at home,” he said. “You’re out there in the middle of nowhere from Cody to Valentine. You’re all by yourself and can just think. It’s so quiet.”
Coni said one of the best parts of the entire BRAN 39 happened during an early morning while they were biking on the trail. The landscape was so perfect that she now regrets not stopping to take a photo.
“I was coming down this hill and looked at it, and it just screamed Nebraska. It should have been a postcard,” she said. “Rolling hills, cattle on top, irrigation system, hay bales at the bottom and the sunrise. It was so beautiful, and it screamed Nebraska to me.”
Coni admitted they wouldn’t travel as much as they do without BRAN, and other biking events, and they likely wouldn’t have ever spent a day in Cody, Nebraska, without it being a stop on their first BRAN route.
Ritchie, who spends nearly every day in Neligh since its on his UPS route, didn’t take in nearly as many local stops as usual on Thursday. Instead, it was a day to relax, shoot pool at Buff’s, have lunch at Sly’s and hang out at the American Legion listening to Dave Merkel.
“Ninety-nine percent of people we meet are super cool,” Ritchie said. “They’re very welcoming and lay down the red carpet for us. Neligh and all of the stops have been great.”