By Tom Weis
Day 27—If you asked me a year ago if I pictured myself sleeping outside in winter-like conditions in a horse pasture behind a gas station in northern Nebraska after pedaling eight straight hours, two and a half of them in the dark cold on a road with almost no shoulder to a town too small to have an inn, I would have told you no. As much as I enjoy riding bikes, I don’t really want to be out here. I want to be home, close to my loved ones. Every day proves a challenge, physically, mentally and emotionally. But some things are more important than one’s personal comfort. Since President Barack Obama won’t do his job (protecting America from international thugs like TransCanada), the American people are going to have to do it for him. That’s why I’m out here pedaling the 1,700-mile proposed pipeline route, and why we need reinforcements, and help. As the saying goes, democracy is not a spectator sport.
Fortunately, the gas station I slept behind had a diner inside with great food, so it didn’t take long to warm up and feel rejuvinated. Then the one-on-one meetings began. First were ranchers Teri Taylor and John Harter. John and Teri had called others, and soon the dining room was full of opponents of Keystone XL—Todd Cone, Terry Frisch, Byron Steskal, Lynda Buoy (thanks for breakfast) and Myrna Stewart, each with their own compelling personal story to share (look for their interviews to be posted on YouTube soon). Each in their own way shared with me the underhanded ways in which TransCanada has dealt with them and how this pipeline proposal has turned their lives upside down. If Obama goes the wrong way on this, Todd plans to erect a monument to memorialize the individuals in the Obama administration and Nebraska State Senate who contaminated Nebraska’s water. Such a Monument of Shame should be erected in every state Keystone XL threatens. Nebraskans are rising up against this travesty.
Later, after taking a group photo with the trike, we heard a loud hissing sound, with all eyes going to the rear tire. Probably a burr from the field had punctured the tube and it was just waiting for an audience before going comically flat. A good laugh was had by all, only problem being now I had to get it fixed and I was already behind schedule. Right about then, the owner of Rock County Tire, Brent Giles, drove by the lot. His friends flagged him down and he cheerfully fixed the tire in almost no time as I finished packing up my gear. Thanks so much, Brent. Then it was back on the road, where I did a roadside interview with Karl Connell, who gave me an earful on TransCanada’s shenanigans. A short while later I stopped into The Atkinson Graphic for a quick interview. Just as the reporter was about to take a picture of the trike, three young boys walked up to admire it and shared with me how they were against the pipeline proposal. So the picture included all four of us.
Hopped back on the Cowboy Trail (a bike/pedestrian trail closed to motorized vehicles), for what will probably be my only car-less stretch of the whole ride, soaking up every tranquil moment. Adding to the day’s beauty were two hawks who flew with me for short stretches. Ended the 40-mile day shortly after dusk in O’Neill, where I met up with Karl, Susan Loebbe and Ernie Fellows, who were on their way to Lincoln to testify (for the second time in three days) in the Special Session devoted to Keystone XL. Look for their interviews here soon. Am finally getting this all written down at 1:00 a.m., when what I want most is sleep. Some things just have to wait.
How fitting that the man who headed South Africa’s Truth Commission has taken such a strong interest in Keystone XL. Check out this powerful editorial by Desmond Tutu, The Devil in the Tar Sands.
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