- Associated Press - Sunday, May 28, 2017

KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) - Beaming from ear to ear Randy Johnson was a young kid again contemplating which bicycle to choose.

Deciding on an old fender style Schwinn, the retired plumber from Arkansas and his wife glided along the winding paved roads at Fort Kearny State Recreation Area south of Kearney. The wind in their faces, relaxing to the sounds of nature.

It was the bike, a free loaner at the campground that took Johnson back to his childhood.

“It was just a joy to ride. Bicycle rides like this? That’s unheard of,” said Johnson, an avid camper. “This is great.”

Since 2014, Jodie and Lois Bruning, campground hosts at Fort Kearny, have loaned bikes to anyone who wants to ride. Run on the honor system, users don’t have to tell the Brunings they’re taking one for a spin.

“They can just come up and borrow what they want. All we ask is that they return them,” Lois told the Kearney Hub (https://bit.ly/2rVPcpJ ).

“The kids are like a grown-up in a car lot. They have to test drive a lot of them before they find the one that is just right,” Jodie added smiling.

Minden natives, the Brunings offer a variety of bikes for children of all ages to borrow and ride around the park. Bikes come in various colors and sizes from those with training wheels to scooters, dirt bikes and mountain bikes, ranging in size from 12 inches to 28-inch bikes.

Currently there are about 85 bikes around the Brunings’ campsite.

Campground hosts the last five years, the Brunings live in their 38-foot fifth wheel camper on the north end of the park from mid-March to mid-November, weather permitting.

“We got started doing this after we saw a lot of kiddos get out here and not realize their bikes had flat tires or they didn’t have a way to bring them,” she said. “We want families to have fun and connect,” Lois added.

Lois bought most of the bikes from an online garage sale site. In the winter the Brunings store the bikes in a shed at their Kearney County farm where Jodie, often called the “Bike Man” by kids, tries to repair the bikes during the winter months, but he’s minus the appropriate space.

So Jodie made an attachment for the back of his camper to make his repairs on. In addition to making repairs, Jodie has made bike racks out of PVC pipe and used gauge wheels off of a corn planter.

“Without him I couldn’t do this program,” Lois said.

The program, which is completely funded and run by the Brunings, is the only one of its kind, state Game and Park officials say.

“We love this place so much that we really did want something that was going to set us apart from everybody else in the state. We wanted to do something to make our park special,” Lois said. “That’s our way of giving back to Fort Kearny.”

The Brunings’ biggest expense for the program is sealant, tires and tubes.


Information from: Kearney Hub, https://www.kearneyhub.com/

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