When Kumy Thariani cycled across Nebraska for the first time three years ago, he took along his teenage son, Samir. The next year, his wife, Ann, joined them. This weekend, the group is growing again: 14-year-old daughter Maya will be the latest addition.
The Tharianis are part of a larger cycling family that signs up for the Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska, or BRAN. The annual event — now in its 33rd year — starts Sunday near the Colorado border in Kimball, Neb. Three buses will take the cyclists west for the start, though some will drive with family or friends who will follow the ride by car.
About 550 people in all will then trek east toward the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland, Neb., the route's destination. Organizers typically cap registration at 600, so this year's turnout is slightly down.
BRAN Co-chairman Fred Jalass said the route, part of which is on Highway 30, might have scared away some people. The majority of the ride, however, will be on paved county roads that are not as heavily trafficked, he added.
“It's beautiful scenery, and once you get off the I-80 corridor, the state is pretty good-looking,” he said.
No two routes have been the same since 1991, when Jalass first helped with the ride. Sometimes the route is shaped like a “C” or an “L,” but he said this year the ride is virtually a straight horizontal line across the state.
The 471-mile trip would take less than six hours by car. It will take seven days by bike. The shortest leg of the trip — the last day — will be a 49-mile ride. The longest is 77 miles.
“It's like a book,” Kumy Thariani said. “Every day is a chapter. You don't know what's going to come, but there are surprises along the way. Some wonderful, some a little painful because of the wind and the temperature change, but it's always magical.”
Thariani, who lives in Omaha, started cycling about four years ago and registered for his first BRAN in 2011, at a friend's suggestion. He didn't need any prompting to sign up the second and third times.
“It's very relaxing. It's peaceful. You get hooked, and you want more and more,” he said.
Two in three BRAN riders are event veterans. Most people are over the age of 50. The oldest rider this year is an 89-year-old man. Thariani's daughter, Maya, will be among the youngest.
He expects her to ride about half the total distance each day before a family friend will drive her to the designated stopping point. Each day's stop brings about $20,000 to the host community in food and lodging costs. Often times there are more cyclists than town residents.
The next morning they will wake up around 4 a.m. and spend another five or six hours on the saddle. There will be road support stations every 12 to 15 miles with water, fruit and snacks. There will also be traveling road support that can perform bike repairs.
BRAN will be a family vacation for the Tharianis, though their 25-year-old son is sitting this one out. They'll take another vacation to Yellowstone National Park later this summer. Bikes in tow? “We'd just have to ride faster than the bears, right?” Thariani joked.
For that 982-mile trip, he said they'll fly.
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