The North Bend Eagle


BRAN sun
The sun rises as a BRAN rider heads north on Highway 79
after spending the night in North Bend.

North Bend welcomes BRAN

by Nathan Arneal
Published 6/14/17

Mel Wittmaack of Dallas graduated from Snyder High School, but hadn’t visited his hometown in 25 years.

Last week the Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska gave him a chance to return to his homeland on the seat of a bike.

“I was looking to do (a ride) anyway,” Wittmaack said. “With the route going through my old stomping grounds, it’s like, ‘That’s the one I’ll do.’”

Wittmaack was one of around 300 riders that stayed overnight at the North Bend City Park last Tuesday night. The annual BRAN ride started in Falls City June 4 and ended Saturday in Tekamah, with a stop in North Bend between days 3 and 4.

A good portion of the riders partake in BRAN on an annual basis.

“Everything just slows down when you’re on a bike,” said Susan Gifford of Scottsbluff. “You hear the birds. You’re able to smell the smells. It’s just cool.”

“Except when we went by that pig farm south of here,” her husband Rich added.

The visit brought out about 150 local volunteers to help accommodate the riders during the stay in North Bend. The Boys Scouts and church groups served meals and snacks out of the park pavilion. Van drivers navigated a route around town, hauling riders to stores, restaurants and entertainment options like bowling, golfing or airboat rides on the Platte.

Katy Bode was the co-chairman of the North Bend Chamber of Commerce BRAN committee that organized the event.

“The hard part with BRAN, it was all unknown,” Bode said. “None of us knew exactly how it was going to go.”

Tuesday’s 78-mile trek from Weeping Water to North Bend was one of the longest of the week. The first rider crossed the finish line near the North Bend City Park around 10:30 a.m. with a riders trickling in for the next several hours. The last rider came in about 7:45 p.m.

Bikers were invited to visit local restaurants for lunch, but the crowd was a bit light since the majority of the riders hadn’t arrived in North Bend yet, with some stopping in Wahoo or Prague for lunch.

After crossing the black-and-white checkered finish line under a “Welcome to North Bend” banner, riders were greeted by volunteers in an information tent, offered a bottle of water, banana and a map of North Bend activities.

Many riders opted for a quick nap. Some wandered around town to check out the community. Others took a dip in the North Bend swimming pool.

“The group was pretty low key,” Bode said. “They just wanted to relax. After a 78-mile ride, they were hot and tired, which is totally understandable.”

Bode, who shared the local BRAN committee’s chair with Dan Endorf, said one particular perk of the North Bend stay was greeted with a lot of smiles.

“One thing consistently across the board is when we said the (NBE) gym is open and it’s air conditioned, they all were excited,” Bode said. “Every single one of them. I don’t think they had air conditioning the previous two days at all.”

Many riders ducked into the gym to cool off. Some even slept in the gym overnight instead of joining the tent campground set up beyond the outfield fence of the ballpark.


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