March 22-23, 2016
Tuesday, March 22
Into Nebraska at 2:28, temp 53, overcast, sun trying to break through over me. The clouds have a little more definition but not much. Valentine, population 2820, at 2:37, in prairie-covered hill country. Stopped at the Coach Light Cafe for coffee and a piece of strawberry-rhubarb pie. The Skylite Bar and Young's Western Wearhouse, which covers about a block.
An old windmill at the Cherry County Historical Society Museum as I get on US 20 at 3:08, across the street from the Bunkhouse Restaurant then over the Nebraska River and past the Cowboy Trail State Recreation Area, hilly country without trees, just yellow grass prairie, not particularly interesting but at least better than the flat Great Plains I'll be going through soon. Blake at 3:44, temp 60, just a couple of houses, not much to it. Johnstown population 63 at 3:53.
In 1975, I wrote This Moment."
The South Dakota state line to Ainsworth, Nebraska.
Ainsworth, population 1728, at 4:03, and the Rodeway Inn at 4:10, temp 59, odometer 127114. Nice room, a desk with lots of plugs on it, a small round table with 2 chairs as well as the chair in front of the desk, small refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave, a 3-drawer chest, large bed with small tables on either side, a plush armchair. The bathroom is small with the sink outside with a fair amount of counter space. The usual open closet and two (!) of the foldaway luggage holders. However, the lighting leaves a little to be desired.
Spaghetti and salad at Big John's Restaurant then $24 worth of $1.999 gas at a Cenex station. Free popcorn and drinks at the motel between 6 and 8. Snow is predicted for tomorrow so, instead of heading west along US 20 as I had planned, I'm going to head south then east to Adel and Des Moines.
Wednesday, March 23
1973: "My energy and exuberance put one girl off completely and Gloria said she didn't know if she could keep up with me."
Ainsworth, Nebraska to the Iowa line
Up at 7:40, scrambled eggs, sausage, bagel and cream cheese, Rice Chex, yogurt, coffee, and apple juice at the motel. Back on to US 20 at 8:45, temp 35, odometer 127116, windy and cold but no snow, speed limit 65, grain elevators east of Ainsworth. The town of Bassett (pop 619) at 9:05. An old windmill whirling like crazy, its vane pointing south, yellow prairie as far as the eye can see punctuated by stands of trees, mostly naked deciduous trees, an occasional one standing alone by itself, an occasional house far off the road surrounded by trees. Welcome to Stuart (pop 590). The town of Atkinson (pop 1245), at 9:34, farm equipment lined up alongside the road and a grain elevator. 9:52, the rain has started, cattle on both sides of the road, Emmet (pop 94). Lots of black cattle, quite a few calves, all jammed together in one area, whether by choice or necessity I don't know.
Leaving US 20 for US 281 at O'Neill (pop 3705) at 9:52. The Elkhorn River, another pond with 10-20 small water birds in it, the pond after (and all others) with no birds. This is Boredom with a capitol B, mostly yellow flat prairie with occasional green, the road going straight into the distant haze. Bartlett (pop 117), at 10:54. Every time a big truck goes by the other way, it really rocks this little car. Windmill out there, standing still, steady light rain.
Leaving US 281 for Nevada 91 east, suddenly feeling the wind again, apparently from the north, windshield wipers on full, a lot of idle irrigation rigs standing by the road, an old abandoned house. The Cedar River looked like it was about to overflow its banks. Spalding (pop 537), at 11:18, a bright blue tank on wheels out in the fields. Welcome to Albion. Make Yourself at Home, population 1650, at 11:37, temp 35, the Zion Lutheran Church, Homestead Bank, Pump & Pantry, Wild Bill’s Guns & Archery, the Cornerstone Bank, Casey’s General Store, Goodrich Ice Cream, the Dunes Motel. Lindsay (pop 320), at 12:02, stopping for the second time to rest my eyes for a few minutes.
US 81 south at 12:15, past Humphrey, a divided highway with a grass median strip, the usual flat country, light rain, wipers on intermittent, the spire of a church in the middle of a group of small buildings off to my left, railroad line to my right with a very long string of gondolas.
The rain stops when I get to Columbus, Nebraska, (pop 22,111), and US 30 at 12:36, 40 degrees and very windy. Stopped at an A&W for a root beer; four middle-aged guys were playing cards at a table. The rain ended. US 30 is a divided highway, grass median, grayish to my right then a railroad line then green. Then it turned to one lane each way, making passing a bit dangerous since not everybody has their lights on on this gray dark day.
Into North Bend (pop 1213), 3 big gray storage silos, North Bend Grain Inc, Farmers Mutual of Nebraska. Back to a divided highway at Fremont at 1:44. Off the freeway onto 30 east and got confused and went the wrong way. What a mess. The sign said 30 east but I wound up on business 30 going back west, got turned around, and went over the freeway. Arlington (pop 1245), at 2:20, nice houses, one with scalloped shingles in the triangular roof peaks, white at the top, pink in the middle, and red at the bottom, a boarded up brick building. Blair (pop 7990) at 2:32, temp 42, Balls Out Motors, Blair Maple Restaurant, gingerbread on a brick building that is for rent, Dale's House of Bottles, Runza New Chicken Salad. Over Cameron Ditch/Fish Creek and now over the Missouri in 2:41 into Iowa.