2019-05-23 Nebraska Road Trip Days 3 and 4 and Done

After a few days of the sky closing in around us with no sunrise or sunset to speak about, driving east under a blue sky was a welcome change. Two days ago we woke up in Alliance Nebraska where there was a layer of snow quickly melting into mush on the pavement.

That morning we drove a little further west, to Scott’s Bluff, to visit the National Monument. It was still freezing when we got to the summit (which is only about five minutes from the main road) and were really not feeling compelled to walk even the quarter mile to the scenic lookout point. It was a sloppy mess and would have soaked our socks and shoes all over again. I took a lot of pics from the car window.

After that we headed south and a little east with the best intentions. There were loads of things circled and marked on our atlas but we quickly discovered that getting close to any of those things would mean more treacherous driving. We went about 10 yards on one country road and the tires just sank in the mud. We reversed out of that situation and decided that all those buttes and Chimney Rock were really quite lovely from a distance.

I’m fairly certain we had lunch in Sidney, but all the small town cafes and bars are starting to melt into one memory. I was really grateful when we crossed paths with I-80 and let that lead us to Kearney for the evening. By the time we arrived, the Kearney Arch Museum was closed so we had dinner in town and called the day done for. The room at the Candlewood was likely the nicest thus far, and it was a good night for watching a movie on Netflix. (We’re such an exciting pair).

Waking up this morning, we once again packed all our things into the car and headed out. First the Arch and then south to the Pioneer Village where I received positive confirmation that I’m not really all that into museums, or antiques, or reading blurbs printed, framed, and mounted next to some random old stuff.

I find it fascinating that a person spent a good portion of their life and finances accumulating and assembling such a collection of stuff. It’s quite impressive actually and really a shame it’s fallen into such a state of utter hopelessness. Several city blocks and buildings full of stuff – cars, planes, trucks, Art, clothing, and engines. Entire buildings configured in a circle that you can wander in and out of. Most of it meticulously labeled with commentary. All in all, there were about 6 other human beings wandering around besides us. At 14.50 a ticket, it’s probably barely enough to keep the electricity on and pay someone to take the fee and stamp people’s hands.

We spent about an hour there and that was enough. We were actually both pretty spent in general and as we drove back east, toward other historic sites and places of interest, we found our desire to “see” anything more was waning.

We passed through town after town and instead of stopping. as we had been, to have a look, we just kept going. It was early afternoon and everything became incredibly uninteresting. Quite frankly, we didn’t even want to stop for food.

Looking at the map and thinking about spending the night in yet another hotel, schlepping everything from car to room and back again in the morning, sounded silly since we were only a few hours from home. I brought up the idea of skipping the rest and going home first.

He agreed. We both perked up at the idea and suddenly had enthusiasm for stopping a few more places along the way. That’s right about the time the storm that has been looming in the distance had suddenly relocated right above us. We tried to get to two distinct “X”s on the map which took us away from the highway and we never saw whatever it was.

Somehow, we ended up on another unpaved county road in the pouring rain. There was lightning, and thunder, and for a hot-second, there was hail. I suppose we cheated fate for 3 days and the “getting stuck”, was inevitable. I’ve never been more happy than the moment we found the highway again (I’m sure I have been though). After that little tangent, I was so over all of it. I didn’t care if I ever saw the “worlds largest porch swing”.. I just wanted to get home.

***

It’s late now and it’s been a long couple of days. I can’t say I have much to show for it or say about it (that’s not already been written above). I’m glad to be home, back with my kitten and looking forward to a long relaxing weekend.. with no driving. I do love a good road trip, but coming home is pretty great too.

Until Next Time,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-05-22 Nebraska Road Trip Day 2 – Cody and Toadstool and Carhenge, Oh My!

We started our day yesterday in Valentine and, upon checking the forecast for the day and our destinations, decided it was best to make a stop at the local Shopko before heading out of town. The store was going out of business and so we got winter gloves and hats and long socks at 70% off. Score!

The first stop marked on our atlas was Toadstool Geologic Park but there were several tiny towns to pass through on our way west on highway 20. One of which was Cody Nebraska. Noteworthy because when I was 3 years old I lived there. It was my dad’s first teaching jobs out of college. I texted both my parents asking if they remember what the name of the street our house was on. Neither remembered but both provided the same turn by turn directions and which corners the houses were on. That’s right.. I said “houses”. Apparently we lived in two which were situated on opposite corners of the same intersection. Considering there are only like 40 houses in the entire town, that’s impressive.

I took pictures and both my parents confirmed the one was definitely the second house we lived in, though it wasn’t yellow then.

Today the population is about 154 people and the entire place looks like it was last loved back when I was 3 (in 1976). The school is still there, amazingly. We only lived there a short time before moving further east to Scribner Nebraska where my dad had his second and last job as a teacher. He only wanted to be a HS teacher so he could coach some sport. Apparently his distaste for teaching was stronger than his love of sports because we only lived in Scribner for a year before he abandoned all that and we moved back to Council Bluffs where my grandparents were. He never taught again.

Somewhere along highway 20 the temps dropped to 33 degrees and the rain turned into snow/sleet mix. We got as far northwest as we were going to go on the highway and then turned onto an unpaved road. It would be 19 miles to Toadstool Geologic Park and this time, I was in the drivers seat. It was slow going, with snow and slush gravel and water pooled everywhere and no way to tell how deep the ruts or puddles really were. That 19 miles took us about 50 minutes. Near the end, I almost gave up. It wasn’t that I felt we were in danger, not like other times in my life when I was afraid of the car going off the side of a steep cliff. No, this was more of a dull fear of getting stuck and being stranded and waiting for hours and hours for a tow truck in the middle of nowhere.

Interestingly, I felt slightly better about the whole thing than I did the day before when Jim was driving. No doubt in my mind that this road was way worse, but there is something about being in control that eases the mind a bit. I could speed up, or slow down, or turn the wheel as my reflexes demanded and wasn’t holding my breath or clenching my jaw nearly as much. Jim was very supportive and encouraging and we made it. I knew once we were there, that was it for me driving that road. I got us there, he would have to get us out.

The next step of our little day 2 adventure would be attempting to explore the park. He brought big rubber boots for us both and we donned the supplies we purchased that morning. The story would not be complete without me mentioning that I thought I could go without the boots and we went about a quarter mile before turning back to the car so I could change. Part of my issue were that the boots were not meant for me and they were quite large. Size 8. Well, actually size 8 and 10 and 11. He threw what he thought were matching pairs into our chariot when we packed up to leave without realizing that he did not, in fact, have matching pairs.

So I wore one 8 and one 10 and he wore the other 10 and the 11 and he also had two left feet. None of that mattered much because 1.) We were out in the middle of no-where with no other human beings within probably 30+ miles and 2.) When it’s cold and wet and muddy and you just need protection for your feet, anything would do. They were actually perfect for the task.

The trail was supposed to be a self-guided. From where we stood, there was no trail. Everything was covered in snow and there were only little streams cutting through the area to provide any sense of which way one could go to get around the rocks and hills rising up at steep angles. I knew something glorious was on the other side. Some Pulitzer Prize winning photo op or other life-altering view. We tried to go one way and got blocked when the path became too steep and too narrow. We doubled back to the base of a larger stream and went the other direction. Arriving back near the start of the so-called trail, we spotted some wood posts sticking out of the ground in various places, and figured that was supposed to be the trail and we tried to follow that.

After two or three posts I was certain that the rushing stream we were criss-crossing over again and again WAS the trail. The scenery around us was beautiful and also quite not what I expected. Of course I didn’t expect snow covered trails on May 21st. I had this picture in my head of the Badlands of South Dakota and I had imagined it would be something like that. Perhaps it is, but not right now.

We explored around for a while and came to the edge of what was humanly passable under the conditions. I followed the stick markers up and around a bend and got to a place where I could see the next one, but there was no way I could find to cross over the ravine to the other side. Again, I supposed if it was dry and it was just rocks, you could climb down and up again, but it was slippery and muddy and wet and my fingers were beginning to freeze.

It’s an interesting phenomenon that despite my freezing fingers, I continued to take my hands out of my pockets to take pictures with my phone. That means that I would rather risk the freezing cold gnawing at my flesh than miss that one picture that I somehow felt was monumentally important. One of about 100 pictures I took that afternoon of course.

The cold getting into my bones was eventually what made me decide to call it done. We backtracked the way we came and eventually got back to the car where I promptly took off my mismatched boots and climbed into the passenger seat and cranked the seat heater as high as it would go. The drive back was still stressful, but I was warm and satisfied with our time at Toadstool.

The rest of the day can’t quite compare to that. We drove a little more west and south and wound our way to Alliance Nebraska, home of the world famous “Carhenge”. By then the snow had gotten worse and the highways were covered in slush and ice. Jim had never been to the spot of painted and stacked cars in a formation similar to the rocks in England so we made a stop there.

As one might imagine, with the blowing cold and snow approaching blizzard status, we didn’t stay long. I tucked myself behind a car to block the wind and took a few pics of the area. I had been before, with Matt, and that made my desire to stay anymore than absolutely necessary quite minuscule. I would have stayed for as long as it took for Jim to be satisfied with the experience. As it was, we were in and out in about 15 minutes.

The Holiday Inn Express was our resting spot in Alliance and when we arrived we cranked the heat up, laid all our wet socks and shoes across the heater, and drew the shade on the window closed. No need for a view of the highway and a reminder of the freak May snowstorm that had become the focus of our journey instead of just something noteworthy along the way. Instead of looking at the map and asking what was there to see tomorrow, I found myself putting tomorrow’s destination into the weather app to check the forecast.

Next Stop.. warmer temps and blue skies over Kearney,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-05-21 Discovering True North

Yesterday we drove to the edge and walked to the edge and looked out beyond the edge to see what we could see. At the edge, in that quiet space of nowhere and solitude and cold and uncertainty, I thought I heard music. As I walked, in my too-big rubber boots and three layers of socks, I could hear the crunching of snow and frozen plants and the distinct sound of music traveling over the rocks to find me. It was as if there was a car in the parking lot, impossibly far away, blaring music from their stereo.

But there was no car, it was only us. And there was no music, only something bubbling up in my imagination as I pushed my body to the edge of what had previously been capable. I stopped, to allow the silence to permeate the air again. Standing completely still, facing the opposite direction of the wind and snow, I strained to hear the music, but there was nothing. Only us.

I spent time lingering back or rushing ahead so I could feel completely alone in the middle of the nowhere we had traveled so insistently to get to. I wanted to get to that place where my thoughts could roam free, unburdened by life, in all of it’s many forms. I knew once there, I would be able to uncover the stark beauty of existence and peer deep inside my soul to reveal my own true north.

In the end, I came to the edge of what I was looking for. It was more than I could have imagined.

***

There is much to say about the second day of our Nebraska adventure, but were already pressed for time to begin our third day and I need to get busy living it! I picture is worth a thousand words though, so I’m including one that reveals the contrast between expectation and reality.

Next Stop… Scotts Bluff and Chimney Rock,

~Miss SugarCookie

Toadstool Geologic Park, operated by the National Forest Service unless it’s 32 degrees and snowing, in which case it’s operated solely by Mother Nature.

2019-05-20 Nebraska Day 1 – Road Trip Shenanigans

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,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-05-20 Love the One You’re With

Namely Nebraska, my current home state.

What DOES one do when they’ve recently been released from the responsibility of work and find themselves with a week that’s also without the typical parental requirements? .. They plan a road trip!

(Of course 😉)

This little adventure we are heading out on this morning will take us to many unexplored corners, edges, toadstools, butes, skies wide with possibilities, and perhaps (according to the forecast) even snow! We’ve mapped a course that will hit several of the rarely visited highlights Nebraska has to offer.

If one passes through, as I’ve done many times on my way to Colorado, most of the view from I-80 is endless rolling hills of corn and soybean fields. It’s about 6 or 7 hours of the most boring scenery that the Universe created. One has to get pretty far from the beaten path to see the cool shit. And, there’s some really cool shit!

The other thing that happens sometimes when you live in a place is that you are always so busy rushing around all the days and exhausted at night (that’s me), that you don’t get out and experience what that place has to offer. It always amazes me when people from Omaha day they haven’t been to the Zoo (we have a world class Zoo), or that they have never been to Mahoney Park, or a college World Series game, or to any one of a dozen great restaurants around town. We’ve got Jazz and Shakespeare on the Green in Summer and there’s always some concert to go to, always.

I’m not saying it’s got all that say, Chicago or KC or Denver have to offer, but it’s just human nature to take for granted the places we dwell and not really experience them. I dunno, it could just be me, I guess I should not try to generalize the human population.

Anyway, so this week is all about “loving the one I’m with” with the one I love. How great is that?!! And in honor of that, our first destination is Valentine Nebraska. How appropriate!! 😊

As I said, the forecast is cold, raining, and possibly even snow where we are going. Of course. It’s reminiscent of the first little day trip that we took together last year to Winterset to see the Bridges of Madison County. Super romantic right up to the point where you can’t feel your toes because it’s snowing and freezing cold and you don’t have proper winter boots on. Still, I’m grinning from ear to ear in every single damn picture in front of every damn beidge. That’s what love does to a person. It doesn’t really matter what the conditions are, as long as you’re doing it together.

Cheers to that. And cheers to road trips! We’ve got all our snacks and supplies packed and are ready to take this show on the road.

Next Stop.. Ashfall Fossil Beds,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-02-08 Friday Mini Road-Trip

I’ve been pushing myself this week to get as much done before today so Jim and I can go on a little road trip. He is at work now and I’m doing that cardio thing I do but late morning we are going to cut out of town and head north-west.

Yeah, the temps are below zero, and the Midwest is covered in snow and ice but the winter is too long. Sometimes you just gotta mix things up or risk going stir-crazy with the long winter and monotony of endless cold days. In truth, he would be making this trip with or without me as there is another reason for it. However, we’ve been so focused on the move and just doing all the normal things that are required by life that we really haven’t taken the time to just enjoy each other’s company. We decided this little 3.5 hour round trip in the car is just the perfect little opportunity to catch up.

We’re going to Wayne Nebraska with a quick stop at an antique shop on the way. Antiques aren’t really my thing but everyone has interests and for me it’s just fun to hang out and chat while we look. We certainly don’t need any more stuff and antiques all just look like junk to me. I don’t know how anyone knows what has value and what’s just rubbush! 😜

We both have to be back in time to pick the kids up from school so the timeline is tight. Tonight we will have a full house of teenagers so this break from the kids where it’s just us will be great.

In other news I participated in my new Thursday writing group last night and though my writing didn’t bear fruit I got a few great ideas from folks in the group. I haven’t really put thought into reading or writing objectives for the “semester” since just after residency but I can now envision being able to do that very soon. I’ve had a few ideas brewing for nearly a month and it’s time to decide what’s possible/realistic and what’s not and set some concrete goals.

I lost the whole month of January and that was expected. We are now more than a week into February and unless I commit to something, the time will just keep slipping away. You know the SugarCookie motto — today is a good day to start!! Let’s go!!!

Wheels in Motion,

~Miss SugarCookie

2018-09-06 Quick Trips

In the last two days I traveled (via car) to Rochester Minnesota and back. I was given a quick tour of the Mayo campus and also of the town. It’s surprisingly a small town and the Mayo thing is at the center of it and pretty much all they have going on. I was actually surprised to see KMarts and Dairy Queens and the main part of town feels like an area time forgot. It was also a dreary, rainy couple of days and that always casts an unfavorable shadow on things.

After our appointment, which took like 3 hours, we had dinner at a quaint little place so Jim could reminisce about the days when he lived there. It’s always great to get an inside look at people’s pasts. I love hearing stories about “those days”. He drove my by the house he lived in and down a main strip in town where he pointed out other places he was familiar with. Like I said, it’s not a big town so it didn’t take long.

Then we went back to the hotel and had drinks at the hotel restaurant bar and talked some more.. this time about the future. We’re both very excited about continuing our journey together. It’s so refreshing to be with someone who isn’t afraid to talk about the future or plan. Some of it is pie-in-the-Sky daydreaming and some of it is serious.

There’s an element of logical strategic planning for next steps and if anything, I’m more gun-shy to discuss than he is. I’ve been fearless and open minded so far, but it’s all moved very fast and there’s a voice inside that’s going “whoa”. Then I remind myself that life has never been better and this is what I’ve been looking for my whole life.

Beyonce sings, “If you liked it, you’d shoulda put a ring in it”. That’s a song I never really liked but can’t argue with. Who am I to question a man that’s smart enough to heed that bit of wisdom? It’s a simple thought with some pretty large implications. Thinking about it had forced me to confront my own fears about commitment. These concerns melt away when we start talking about the future. That’s how I know we’re on the right track together.

It’s all very different when you’re older. 20 something’s don’t have kids or houses or established careers. 20 something’s have aspirations and goals and thoughts about what they want their lives to be without a lot of experience to validate that. Last time I got married I was 19 and had no concept of magnitude of “the rest of my life”. Hell, I didn’t even know myself or what I wanted from life. I was just riding the train, letting everything just happen.

Now I know what I want. I have direction and also established responsibilities. I’ve watched a lot of couples merge their families, so I’m no stranger to the obvious logistics. Merging households, forging positive relationships with the other persons children, and determining daily routines that work for everyone are among the top things to consider. If I try to think about it all at once it becomes a little overwhelming but like I said, when we talk about it together, I always feel better.

The quick road trip to Rochester provided the perfect oppprtunity to cover lots of ground. I’m more excited than ever. We arrived back home mid afternoon yesterday and he dropped me off at my house, my castle. I’m not as attached to it as I thought I would be. Home isn’t a building, it’s a space where your heart feels right.

Always,

~Miss SugarCookie