Let’s see, what we I can remember now that we have made it to our Cozy Econolodge Motel (Room 133) with Kitchenette in Lovely Valentine Nebraska?…
We got on the road about 8:30AM, just as we had planned and headed west out of town via Maple street, past Elkhorn and Valley and Fremont and North Bend and bypassed all the northbound roads (still closed from flooding) until we hit Columbus. Among our many plans was to stop at historic landmarks along the way because we would not have pesky teenagers groaning about frequent stops. And so we did.
At Columbus we went North, at Norfolk we went west taking random snaps of things from the car window. Jim had the route marked on the atlas with notes next to towns with potential sites. Apparently L. Ron Hubbard is from Tilden Nebraska (not verified), but there was no posted sign that I could see when we passed through. Apparently not all press is good press. I suppose the only thing that proves is that Crazy can be born anywhere.
By the time we got to Neligh (which I am not sure how to pronounce), I was ready to get out of the car and see something. There’s a historic mill there, the first in the state I believe (not verified) and we parked and walked around a bit and it really wasn’t much. I’m less into history and more into just being outside in nature and seeing beautiful things. It was also cold and damp and the car was nice and toasty so we were quick to agree to get back in and keep going. We went north from there to our first real destination of the day, AshFall Fossil Beds State Historic Park.
We took the turn off and drove north to find the entrance road with a modest barrier across it and a chain with a sign that said “Closed”. Closed on Sundays and Mondays. Of course. We know all the roads that are closed due to flooding because that was pat of the planning process, but we do not know that one of the sites we intended to visit is closed on the day we intend to visit. Super! When we headed back down the road Jim says “There’s some great pics of it online, I can show you when we stop.” Hahaha (by the way, one of the first things he did when we unloaded our stuff into the motel room was connect to the wi-fi and show me the pics as promised. Very sweet).
By the time we hit Orchard I had started a little game of “guess the population”, with the person who is the closest being the winner. The winner gets a whole bag of nothing, but it’s fun to be right (I’ve only been closest once so far but Jim did far more research to prepare for this adventure than I have). One town on the map did not even exist and two others, Norden and Sparks, were unincorporated (whatever that means). Approaching Valentine, our stop for the night, we had a lot of daylight left, a lot of rain coming down, and a lot of growling in the stomach for food.
We stopped at the first restaurant that came up on google maps, The Coachlight Cafe. I had a cheeseburger, of course, and it was, how shall I say, less than delightful. I’m gonna drop a 2.25 out of 5 rating right here and leave it at that. Let me tell you, that is tough to do with a cheeseburger lover who is hungry (things always taste better when one is hungry). 2.25 is probably pretty generous. It was served with a bag of plain lays potato chips. Very classy. /Deep sigh.
After that we got gas and then doubled back to the Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and river valley. We saw bison really close to the road and there were several scenic overlooks that were shrouded in clouds and rain and made more beautiful by the grey mist settling itself over the horizon. Looking out over the valley it was as if God in Heaven was reaching down to earth to touch the land with a soft grace. It was magnificent.
We drove on some really sketch roads to get to the places we wanted to see. After the Fossil Bed Fauxpas, Jim was hell bent on getting us down to Smith Falls. I gripped my door handle and held my breath as we slid down muddy gravel roads to the park entrance. It was still pouring rain and the quarter mile walk to the falls would leave us soaked from head to toe. The falls did not disappoint. Due to the rotten weather, we were the only souls (save for a flock of goldfinches) for miles around. The quiet and solitude mixed with the loud rush of the falls was pretty amazing.
We lowered our umbrellas for a few quick kisses and a few quick selfies and then it was time to head back to the car. The drive up and out was slightly better but we were both visibly relieved when we were back on the paved highway. By now it was getting late and dark would be on us early as there was no sun in the sky to set. We drove into town again and found our motel and promptly removed all our wet clothes.
We cranked up the heat and Jim tried to get the TV fire stick to work with the sub-par WiFi while I started writing about our day. We never got the streaming working and just sat and talked instead, drinking our dinner and cross checking tomorrow’s forecast with the places we intend to go next. 100% chance of rain and SNOW everywhere. I didn’t pack appropriately.
Tomorrow the adventure continues as we press west. There’s a lot of nots scribbled in the atlas along our route, most of which I can hardly read. We’ll see what we can make of Day 2.
Next stop… Alliance,