A Gooner and a Giver.

When Kieran last left off we where riding into Omaha. We expected a hard day, a day much like the rest of Iowa, it was up and down all the way. We lunched in an old deserted state fair ground, which happened to have WiFi, so Kieran and I could speak to people back home. Which is always nice. We then put our thoughts into our ride for the afternoon, it was going to be our last ride for a while, we where going back to Chicago so I could spend a week with my girlfriend, I couldn’t wait.

But first we had to get through Council Bluff’s and onto Omaha. We set off, and we where pleasantly surprised, it was hilly, but nothing compared to what we where used to.

We got to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian bridge, which was the crossing into Nebraska. In the centre of the bridge it has the state crossing line. It is always a great feeling when we cross into another state, its a huge mile marker for us, and Iowa was a state we will have fond memories of, apart from the hills of course. Getting into Nebraska meant we where 7 state’s down, with 7 left. We are now on the back leg of this trip. Crazy stuff.

The State crossing.

The State crossing.

In Omaha we where going to be staying with a guy called Vince. I had met him while I was searching for a place to watch the first game of the football season. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a massive Arsenal fan, and after searching for Omaha Arsenal fans on google, Vince came up as the head honcho of the Omaha Gooner’s. So when I mentioned to him about what Kieran and I where doing, and I wanted to catch the first game of the season, not only did he say he could help us out, he offered us a place to stay.

So we rode up through downtown Omaha and to Vince’s house, partaking in a quick pint in a bar first. When we arrived Vince welcomed us in and I couldn’t believe my eyes; not only was an Arsenal beach ball in the living room, but a picture of the Emirates stadium (Arsenal’s stadium) took pride of place on the living room wall. I felt home.

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Vince showed us around, and we chatted about the lack of signings at the time by Arsenal (I’ll try to stop the football talk for all of those uninterested). His partner cam e home Andrea, and their amazing daughter Marlo (who’s middle name is Gunner, AMAZING!). Drea was so lovely to us, and both of us couldn’t believe how well Vince had done for himself (sorry Vince lol).

The Amazing Marlo

The Amazing Marlo

We then went with them to a bar downtown, where they play volleyball on a weekly basis. We chatted more with them and their friends, more football talk, which was great for me. 

 After they finished there game Patrick, a friend of Vince and Drea’s, has offered to take us for lunch the next day, which was a nice surprise. Vince had also offered us his old car to drive around town the next day. 

We didn’t get out of bed till 11, and drove down town to meet Patrick. We met him at a bar called Wilson and Washburn, it was a lovely place. We had a great lunch, and it was good to chat with Patrick some more.

We chilled out for the rest of the day, resting our legs. When Vince and Drea returned from work we discussed going out for the the evening, we had to be up early to catch the Liverpool game the next morning, kicking off at 0630 Central time.  We ended up going for a few pints at a bar called Beercade,  mix of a bar and an old school arcade, full of machines. We went home early though, ensuring we would be fresh for the next day. It was going to be a heavy one.

Our Boy-band photo

Our Boy-band photo

We woke up early, Vince, Drea, Marlo and I all got out Arsenal jerseys on and headed to Vince’s mates house, Nick. We had breakfast and watched Liverpool beat Stoke 1-0. We then picked up Kieran and headed towards the Wilson and Washburn in anticipation of the Arsenal match.

I was so surprised to see so many jerseys, unfortunately some Spurs fans tried to come in just before kick off, I made sure there where aware they where not welcome. Its not wrong to spit in someones drink because of the football team they support isn’t it? (I didn’t do that.) 

The Omaha Gooners

The Omaha Gooners

At this points the drinks really started flowing, a lot of people brought us drinks, by half time we where very merry. Unfortunately at the full time whistle Arsenal has lost  3-1. Vince and I decided there was only one way to show our disappointment, down our pints and get another one in. 

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We carried on drinking to watch Manchester United beat Swansea, unfortunately, but I think the majority of us had drunk too much to even care. We went back to Vince’s and headed to watch another game; Omaha Uni Vs Penn State at football, (proper football, not American football). Vince and I threw out a few of the usual chants, “Who Are Ya!” and “Referee’s a Wanker!” things of that nature. (We didn’t).

As the drinking began to wind down, Kieran and I had to get ready for our 10 hour bus journey for me to get back to Chicago to se my girlfriend, Charlotte, for 5 days. Vince, Drea and Marlo accompanied us to the bus stop, it was an emotional goodbye, Marlo was in tears (She is one and a half, she may have just been hungry, but I like to think it was us.) luckily we where returning when we come back from Chicago, before carrying on through Nebraska. 

Megabus isn’t to bad, we managed to get the whole back seat, and there is WiFi, but it was an over night bus journey, so being honest, it was not an enjoyable 10 hours, specially when the hang over kicked in. Maybe the Mexican wasn’t such a good idea either. I feel sorry for everyone else on the bus. Sorry guys.

I had an amazing time in Chicago, seeing my girlfriend was amazing. We know Chicago well from our last time there, so It was nice to be able to show her around. Once Charlotte left Kieran and I where ready to get back on the road, I felt a little crappy, knowing I wouldn’t see Charlotte for another few months. We felt the sooner we got on the road the better.

Charlotte and I

 

We spent 2 days before our bus journey back to Omaha with a good friend of my sister, Rory and her boyfriend Gaby. They where lovely, and had an amazing flat, it was beautiful, and had a lovely view from there window of the skyline. It was a great 2 days of relaxing, but we where itching to get back on the road.

Rory and I.

Rory and I.

We waved goodbye to Rory and Gaby at the bus stop, they sent us on our way with some tuna, limes and painkillers. (we miss madmen). Again the Megabus journey was horrible, it was another overnight bus.

Arriving back in Omaha we where greeted by Vince, and the heat. Vince and I discussed the latest on Arsenal’s transfer activity, the conversation wasn’t long, because at that point we hadn’t done anything to write home about. Any whom….. We had taken the decision to get back on the road the next day. 

That night we went to Vince’s parents house for a lovely Mexican dinner. What a lovely family, and amazing food. We told them stories of our travels, the story of Ben-jammin (the shower gel incident if you remember) and the story with our mate Channing Tatum always seem to go down a treat. We hugged it out and said goodbye to Vince’s family.

That night we slept early getting ready to leave the next day. When we woke up we could already feel the heat, it was going to be a hard day. We filled up our water bottles, got our bikes out and got on the road. Nebraska here we come.

 

Thank god Nebraska is flat, like they said. It is also a lot of nothing. After Lincoln it just consists of corn and beans. We aimed to finish in a town at the end of everyday, so we could fill up for water the next day. As a result we had to do some serious millage. It was also a hot couple of weeks, which did not help.

Nebraska

Nebraska

Western Nebraska is a bit more hilly, but it is a beautiful place, it reminded me of driving out of Sheffield towards the peak district, beautiful rolling hills. It was a real pleasure to ride through.

On our last day in Nebraska we had to really push ourselves, riding 65 miles  to reach the Colorado state sign. It was a hard day, but so worth it, to get this picture. 

 

So 8 states down now, we are getting into the harder part of our journey now, a mountain range then hundreds and hundreds of miles of desert. Hopefully our luck will keep up.

Meeting people like Vince, Drea and Marlo have made this trip a life changer, and seeing some old faces gives me the strength to carry on, and make me remember why i’m here. So please keep following and if you haven’t, and are feeling a little flush, please click HERE and donate.

Cheers

Jack (COYG)

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