Bicycling without Coffee: The New Bike, Council Bluffs Trails, & Jackson Street Booksellers in Omaha

Wabash Trace Nature Trail

Wabash Trace Nature Trail

It had to be done.

It had to be replaced.

My old bicycle has had its pedals replaced, its seat replaced, its chain replaced, and probably needs a new derailleur.

It broke down.  The gears don’t work, and the chain keeps falling off.

Two days without a bike ride and I was crazy.

On Friday night, I bought a new bike.  And it is not quite as sleek a bike as my husband thought I should get.

It is a perfectly normal, inexpensive 21-speed bike.  Okay, it’s not as good as his bikes, but I need a city bike.  I ride for exercise and transportation.  I ride along streets and (usually) paved trails.

He said of a bike that cost $1,000, “Think of how many miles you’d get out of that.”

I was appalled.  I could fly to London on $1,000.

You really don’t want to have a too expensive, fashionable bicycle in a city.  Four of my bikes have been stolen over the years, three in my hometown, Iowa City, and one from an  apartment house in a big city.  In Iowa City, somebody will chop off the lock of your three-speed and ship the bike to Chicago while you’re flirting with your (future) husband at the Java House or playing hacky sack on the Pentacrest.  In big cities there is slightly less interest in bicycles, thank God.

In the small city where we now live, there are many great bike trails:  even David Byrne, formerly of the Talking Heads and the author of Bicycle Diaries, has commented on it.  And the city is beginning to develop bike lanes, which make the streets safer:  the presence of bicyclists has slowed down the traffic very slightly, so there are fewer accidents.  Cool, right?

Anyway, I  insisted this weekend that we go to Council Bluffs, where there are two great bike trails, the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, which goes 63 miles to a small town on the Missouri border, and the Iowa Riverfront Trail, which leaves from the same trailhead and goes 7 miles to the spectacular Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge across the Missouri River to Omaha, Nebraska.

Jackson Street Booksellers

Jackson Street Booksellers

Why did I really want to go?  I wanted to go to Jackson Street Booksellers in Omaha, across the river from Council Bluffs.

Now that I’ve been to London, I can assure you that Jackson Street Booksellers is one of the world’s best used bookstores.   It is bigger than Skoob, my favorite used bookstore in London, and the collection is of course very different.  You can buy your Simenons for $1.50 or $2, Black Sparrow Press editions of Wyndham Lewis, Wright Morris, and Paul Bowles for perhaps $7, classics by your favorite authors–I picked up a book by William Howells I had never seen for $4–everything Laurence Durrell ever wrote, and many books by offbeat writers I’d never heard of.

They have something by all of my favorite writers.

Jackson Street Booksellers

I only had half an hour–my husband wanted to get going on our bikes–so I only made it through about one-fourth of the fiction books.

And here’s how he got me to leave.  “If  we ride the trail to the Bob Kerry Bridge, we can ride across the bridge and back to the bookstore.”

First we rode along the scenic Wabash Trace Trail through the Loess Hills, and then turned around and started off toward the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge.  I couldn’t wait to cross that bridge and ride back to the bookstore.

But there was a very strong South wind–I had forgotten how hard it is to ride on the prairie in a wind–and though we pedaled part of the way through a beautiful state park with a lake, we also had to ride past an industrial wasteland with a power plant, and by malls.  It was getting late so we turned around.

So, damn, I didn’t go to Jackson Street Booksellers twice.

“Did you believe that?”  my husband asked, amused.

I certainly did!

Usually I also write about coffee when I travel, but I did not have a single cup of coffee.  No coffee review.

We did drink tea out of a thermos, though.  Excellent Lapsang Souchang.  I made it myself.