Thursday, September 15, 2016

Pleasant Surprises

The trip last month did have some pleasant surprises, Nebraska, for instance.

Previous to this trip, I envisioned Nebraska as a giant cornfield or wheat field, flat with a very slight roll to the land with a big insurance company on the eastern side where Marlon Perkins' spent his time when he wasn't encouraging his sidekick, Jim, to be surrounded by hungry hyenas in an open Land Rover.  Like this:

I had told my daughter that she should watch for when the road was long enough and straight enough and flat enough to be a good art lesson on vanishing points, and Nebraska did have its share, like this:

I was pleasantly surprised about Lincoln, Nebraska.  After going through St. Louis, which seemed run down and completely dug up for construction--Lincoln seemed clean, cared for, appreciated, artsy...not at all what I expected.

While some of Nebraska did fit my stereotype, other parts just didn't fit.  Like this:
Chimney Rock, NE

Court House and Jail House Rocks, NE

Scotts Bluff, NE

Chimney Rock, NE
Scotts Bluff, NE
Scotts Bluff, NE

 It was awe inspiring, it was quiet, it was not what I had expected.  I had read the on-line articles about the area and it had seemed interesting, but it certainly was better in real life.  These formations were along the Oregon Trail and I imagined what it would have been like to have to walk the distance we had just driven and what it was like back then to see these rock formations for the first time, without warning and a bunch of electronic images to give you the heads up of what they might have looked like.

We stayed later than we had anticipated, we went into town right as the skies darkened and decided to find a motel instead of a campground after we found dinner at a Mexican restaurant.  We didn't have room reservations, but we were out in the middle of nowhere and the little town had lots of motels.  Bad move.  We had taken more southerly route to Yellowstone to avoid the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, we were a couple of hundred miles from Sturgis, but that didn't seem to matter.  Between the rally, some small medical conference, and highway workers doing a major construction project every motel/hotel room in the town was booked, except two.  The two most expensive ones, of course. We were exhausted, it was completely dark out--dark unlike most East Coast folks can appreciate there were no cities for hundreds of miles, just a few little towns-- it was about 10:30 PM by the time we found our outrageously priced room/suite at the Marriott, dumbfounded that a place so remote could be booked up.

The next day we turned northward to Agate Fossil Beds, it was hot!  If I were to go again I would try to choose a time more into fall or in the spring, the place seemed fascinating, but it was hovering around a hundred and there was no shade.

We didn't end up taking one of the longer hikes, just a shorter two mile hike, it was just too hot! We spent a long time in the visitor center to make up for it.

In between looking at extinct rhino skeletons and an in depth history about the man who donated the land to the US government for the park and Native American relations. The ranger in the building told the girls about what it was like for the kids who attend high school in the area.  My daughter keeps telling everyone about the kids in Nebraska who are 14 and live more than three miles from school, who can drive to school, because they don't have buses.  The ranger's son was valedictorian of his class and the top 25% in his class of 4 kids.  He received a steer roping scholarship,  despite the fact that he doesn't steer rope and another kid in his class did, because there was the requirement that the student be in the top 25% of his class. They did away with having a salutatorian unless the student had a 3.5 GPA or over.  She talked about how they would patch together sports teams with the 16 or so kids in the school.

The best parts of the trip are often when we go off the beaten path and spend time talking to people about the area we were visiting and their lives, like the day we needed a break and stopped off to look at a Pony Express stop and decided to pop in to the local historical society museum.  We saw a barbed wire exhibit, donated by a man who clearly had a different view on life than many.

We chatted with one lady about her family farm, she seemed hesitant to talk about how many acres her family had in corn and soybeans (which they grow when they have to) and seemed shocked that Maryland would have 4-H and farmers!

Yes, Nebraska was a pleasant surprise.  I was supposed to write about the Black Hills today,oops.  Maybe next time.

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