Adventurer Sandy Thorpe finished biking through her 28th state after completing the Tour de Nebraska from June 16 to 20.
Her pedaling through Nebraska took five days and covered about 400 miles. The circular route started in Kearney, about 185 miles west of Omaha. Along her journey, she visited museums, restaurants and cooled off by swimming. She stopped in Hastings, the birthplace of Kool-Aid, and spent time along the Platte and Missouri rivers and the Oregon Trail.
“I really enjoyed seeing the replicas of the sod houses, pioneer history along the Missouri River. The cities were nice, and they had so many different breweries, museums and trails,” the Beloit cyclist said.
Part of the magic of checking off a state from her list is discovering places and sites she might not expect.
“Going inch by inch, you smell, hear and see everything. It’s different from a car or train. It’s usually very beautiful,” she said.
Thorpe’s most recent venture wasn’t without its challenges. She had two flat tires on the first day and the weather was sizzling, reaching 116 degrees one morning. She would get up at dawn to start her rides to try to avoid the hottest times of day.
Thorpe began her goal of biking all the states in 1996 during her off time from being a speech pathologist. She would participate in events that allow for support vehicles to travel along with riders to provide gear or other assistance. Thorpe also rides in events that cover large swaths of the states she is trying to check off her list.
On her travels, Thorpe typically sleeps in a tent, either outdoors or at gymnasiums or churches set up for the tours. Along with her clothes, she packs some instant coffee, a portable PocketRocket stove for boiling water, an extra tire tube and tools, and “whatever will fit in a duffel bag.”
She said she meets many fellow adventurers on her journeys. In Nebraska, she met two 80-year-old sisters going on the ride. She also ran into former Beloit resident Rich Rodenburg, who founded the Nebraska tour. Rodenburg sold the Tour de Nebraska in 2017, which allowed him and his wife to embark on their dream to lead cycling excursions in Europe and beyond with Hound Dog Cycling Adventures.
Thorpe usually bikes from about 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. although she is free to stop anytime.
“There’s no race involved and no pressure. You just enjoy it. If you want to stop and get a popsicle, swim or take pictures, you can. People do anything they want to do,” Thorpe said.
She joked some actually gain weight on the rides as they have so much time to explore local restaurants and take in church suppers.
Some of Thorpe’s favorite locations have included the Rocky Mountains and spots in Tennessee.
“We biked 500 miles to all of the state parks, which was interesting,” she said about her Tennessee experience.
Wisconsin was her first state to bike.
“You can’t beat the north woods by Superior and the Great Lakes,” she said. “Every ride has its own personality.”
Thorpe isn’t slowing down anytime soon. At the end of the month, she will be paddling for a week on the Mississippi River, launching north of Dubuque, Iowa.
“Every single day we will paddle, find a sandbar and put up tents,” she said.
She will then embark on a kayak trip with friends in Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota along the border with Canada, where it’s not uncommon to spy a wolf or bear.
Then she’ll see what other states she can pedal toward.
“Who knows if I will get to Hawaii, but it’s kind of fun to have a little goal and the promise of something new. Any adventure you go on, you get some kind of an outcome, and it’s always an uncertain one.”