Back on the open road, and just like that...I can breathe.
I'm in a place in life where nowhere feels like home more than watching the world pass by as I sit behind the wheel of my 4Runner with my number one girl, Bella the Chocolate Lab, moving from front seat to back seat, window to window, getting the best angle on the countless exciting new scents flowing past us.
Today's journey is across Nebraska via Highway 2. I was always told as a child that highway 2 ran across the entire United States, and living in LA for the tail end of my twenties, I was always proud to tell people that if you take Santa Monica Blvd east that you'll go right through the center of my hometown of Broken Bow, NE.
For people who say that there is nothing in Nebraska, and that driving through it is torturous, I can empathize with the flat and absolutely straight route via interstate 80...especially for those who have taken it through Eastern Colorado. However, the beauty of driving through the Sandhills and open plains of Central and Western Nebraska IS the vast amount of openness. In fact, it is that endless horizon that highlights all of the treasures that you do come across.
Rolling hills covered in a blanket of snow as far as the eye can see are highlighted by an occasional windmill that looks like a painting that belongs in a hunting cabin. Speaking of hunting, you know you've been in the country when you have seen the words "No Hunting" spray-painted in white on an old truck tire hanging over a fence post.
If you feel alone, it won't be long before you're accompanied by a Locomotive pulling a load of coal going one way, and an empty one going the other. Perhaps you'll see a coyote like I did on my path today, running out of a canyon and towards the top of a hill. He was a scraggly looking fellow, and bigger than I remember coyotes being. I remember despising coyotes as a young kid working on the ranch as every set of twin calves were easy prey for the scavengers as the cow was not equipped to protect two at a time, often times losing both calves. Today, however, I looked at that guy out there in the 18 degree weather, tromping through the snow in the blistering winds and thought..."Wow...that guy is surviving out here. What a creature."
Any of my Nebraska friends would tell you I've spent too much time in California, but truth be told I've never been a hunter. I don't judge those that do, as long as there is some purpose behind it. I'm a meat eater as well, so I can't be a hypocrite. If I was surviving out in the wilderness I'd have to learn to get over that pretty quickly. I'm not sure I'd survive too well on twigs and berries.
Bringing this post out of my thought process and back to the road, which may need to happen commonly throughout my blog, I have to mention the small towns that you will drive through on the Nebraska highways. There are so many wonderful microcultures throughout the rural plains and Sandhills that are full of wonderful people with some of the best values you'll ever meet. Do yourself a favor and stop in a local bar or restaurant and strike up conversation with the staff and patrons and you'll find all the information you need to know about the town and its people. If you're from the city and are dressed like it, prepare for some looks coming your way but try not to judge them for checking you out...you're coming into a tight knit community and may just need a once over to make sure you're legit and won't cause any trouble.
There's definitely downsides of these smaller towns such as gossip and lack of options for a variety of things, yet you will not find people that are more capable and willing to help you anywhere else. Country folk are used to doing and fixing things on their own, as well as for their family and friends. Try and pay someone in the country for helping you change your tire and you'll get charged a handshake instead.
I'm fact, I can share an example from this very trip. My drive today took me to Scottsbluff and about an hour and a half outside of there I ran across a sign for Lakeside, Ne. I pulled over to the side of the road and tried to call my extended family that live there who I haven't visited in quite some time. There was no cell service. I drove into the little community and couldn't remember which house was theirs and the pitch black night sky wasn't helping me any. My instant was to turn right at the pop machine, but I turned left towards a house with lights. I knew it wasn't my relative's house but yet I knew that whoever lived there would know. I walked through the snowy sidewalk to the door and knocked. A man came to the door and when I told him who I was looking for he knew right away and directed me...to take a right at the pop machine. The best thing to share about this experience, however, is that we stood on his porch and talked for about 15 minutes about life, work, dreams, and home. Then I drove on over to meet with my family, completely unannounced, and sat down for stories and pizza.
From there I got back on the road and, once I got signal, let my buddy know that I'd be running late and would miss the first half of the Husker Bowl game. If you don't know who the Huskers are, they are the second religion here in Nebraska.
I arrived in Scottsbluff safely, and caught the rest of the game that turned out to be quite the game to watch as Nebraska was hanging in with USC until the end. They have an entire extra bedroom ready for me to go settle in for the night and Bella is already warming my spot up. She had a fun day of riding in the car and romping in the snow. Rising early tomorrow to eat breakfast with my buddy that his wife cooks before he goes off to serve and protect his community.
I'm blessed with many friends, and there's few like there are here in Nebraska.
Bella digging for snow critters In my buddy's backyard...a backyard that goes to the horizon.
St. Anselm's Catholic Church, Anselmo, NE.
Barn Door in Halsey, Ne
Scottsbluff National Monument