Riding the Tide In Nebraska
By Bill Moore
Legend has it that when French explorers happened upon a broad meadow, through which meandered a lazy stream, they called the creek "Papillon" after the millions of Monarch butterflies that inhabited the area.
Two centuries later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has straightened the Papio, as it's now known, and added flood control dikes on both sides of its narrow banks. Atop those dikes are a pair of new biking and hiking trails, one which swings north, northwest up into the heart of what is now Omaha, Nebraska. It actually passes within about a mile of my office. The second trail heads more westerly along the "Little Papio," which flows slowly through Papillion, a small community of 20,000 that we call home.
It is along this latter bike path that I took my first extended test ride of the Wavecrest Tidalforce 750 electric-assist bicycle. The Washington, D.C.-based manufacturer had sent me the bike several weeks earlier, keeping a promise they'd made to me at EVS 20 in Long Beach, California last fall. Unfortunately, it arrived just as my wife and I were tackling a remodeling project, brought about, in part, by some unexpected termite damage.
Obviously, the remodel got priority, but I did have a chance to take the bike on a couple of short errands, once to the post office and a second trip to get gasoline for my lawn mover. I felt lousy about buying the gas, but good about not having also taken the car.
Finally, with most of the remodel project behind me and Wavecrest wondering when I was going to evaluate their bike, I decided last weekend to saddle up and ride the bike trail, the "Little Papio" extension of which is still relatively new, sections of it having just recently been paved. With my cellphone and a bottle of water, urged on me by my wife -- after all, I am closer to 60 than 50, she reminds me -- and my Canon G2 digital camera, as well as a full charge in the Tidalforce's nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery pack, I set off down the hill towards the center of town. There I would pick up the trail and head east towards the town of Bellevue some 7 miles distance.
I wasn't sure how far I'd actually be able to ride because after laying a new laminate wood floor the week before, my aging knees were swollen and painful. It was hard to knell down and even harder to get back up, so riding an electric-assist bike was not only going to make the trip a bit more enjoyable, it was going to be downright, essential.
I coasted down the hill, past the grade school my children had attended when they were growing up, down through the older part of town with its huge trees and modest, seventy year-old bungalows and craftsman-style homes; past the buff limestone county courthouse, which are now city offices. I stopped momentarily at the one-room Portal school house built in 1890 to take pictures of the bike. The white, clapboard building had been in continual service until just a decade or so ago. Rather than tear it down, it was moved to its present location across the street from the courthouse and next to the new library. A century old farm house shares the historic preservation site with the school, reminders of life in Nebraska one hundred years ago.
Back on the bike, I "potor" -- my fanciful contraction for peddle and motor -- towards the creek, passing the renovated day care center that was once a feed and fertilizer store, pass the barbershop, then the flower shop, and finally across the creek on the 84th Street bridge.
A pair of solid, narrowly-spaced steel posts prevent cars and trucks from driving on the path, and a sign warns about unauthorized use of motorized vehicles on the path. It is that term "motorized" that bothers me a little as I slip between the posts. I am not certain how the city, county or state view electric-assist bicycles. A narrow interpretation, like the posts at the entrance of the trail, would prohibit my riding a bike like the M750 on the path. A broader definition would distinguish an electric-assist bike from other, small motorized contrivances like handicap scooters and powered-skateboards. It's a distinction that more and more communities are someday going to have to wrestle with. It would be all too easy to just rule no motors, period.
blog comments powered by Disqus