Day 45 – More Nebraska

After a good night’s sleep (we even missed breakfast) the day looked bright and felt warm and inviting. It would reach 86 degrees, according to the bank in Gering, NE.

Setting out for Chimney Rock and Scottsbluff, we continued on Highway 20 and, once again listened to “No Ordinary Time.” Along the way we watched the brilliant golden leaves fall from their trees in the gusts of wind. The landscape grew flatter and drier with each passing mile.

Finally the town of Gordon appeared and it was just in time. We needed a comfort stop. There was also a Subway there, so we shared a ham sandwich. When people started flocking into the Subway as we ate, I noticed the clock on the wall said 11:30. By my watch it was 12:30. We had passed a significant marker on the way home: Mountain Time.

Nearing the next sizable town of Alliance, we noticed off the side of the road some strange pile of something. Then we saw the sign: “Carhenge.” My driver pulled into the parking lot and laughing said, “People drive miles and miles just to see this. We have to stop.” And, so we did. It was old cars all arranged to look like Stonehenge.¬† Someone had a lot of time on their hands and more old cars than they knew what to do with! Hilarious, really!

At 2:30 (DMT) my driver announced we have now officially driven 8,000 miles so far on this trip. Our little Prius has logged 123,134 miles all together. Today her gas mileage went down from 50.1 to 45.8, but we figure she’s still doing pretty good and we can’t complain.

We stopped at Chimney Rock, the pinnacle that excited travelers along the Oregon Trail. The interpretive film said it was the most amazing formation many people going West had ever seen. Little did they know there was more to come.

Scottsbluff would be the next geological formation that would mark their journey. It became known as the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. There are still wagon tracks visible at the base of the bluffs – almost two centuries later. It’s hard to imagine what the people who traveled West had to endure. I knew most of them walked as the wagons carried all their provisions, but having just come from St. Louis, there is no way I could have WALKED that distance. We learned today that over the 20 to 30 years that this trail out West was traveled, over 20,000 people died before they reached their destinations. It’s sobering to think that someone’s ancestors are buried on the prairie, without so much as a small marker to identify their graves. How will their descendants ever find the site where they are buried?

Grateful for our car, and not a covered wagon, we went into town in search of something hot and satisfying for dinner. One person we asked said “There’s an Applebee’s by the highway.” I requested he advise us on some “local color” and that seemed to stump him for a moment. “Well, there is a Mexican place north of town.” We thanked him and went on.

My driver was feeling like Italian food tonight, so he resorted to his phone to search for the possibility. Finding “Sam and Louie’s” just seemed to fit the bill. We angled our way through town until we arrived at a little store front that seemed almost abandoned. Still, there was no where else in town that looked more appealing. So, we took the risk.

Inside, there was not another person in sight, but we waited by the sign that asked us to “Wait to be Seated.” A young man came out of the kitchen and asked if we’d like dinner. “Is it good?” my driver asked. “Well, yeah. I think it’s the best place in town.” Wanting to trust him, we followed him to a booth.

Antipasta salad and a small specialty New York style pizza sounded just about right. When the salad came, we were delighted. It was the best salad we’ve had for 8,000 miles! And, the pizza wasn’t bad either; in fact it was quite delicious. The waitress was cheerful and engaging and I imagined she probably had moved here from New York. We left them a nice tip and complimented them on their fine restaurant, agreeing it probably was the best place in town.

Just a short drive out to the highway and we found our motel. We checked into room 202 and started to relax. Just as I was pulling off my shoes, our door opened and a woman with a shocked look on her face said “Oh! I was just given this room.”

Needless to say, just another chapter in the Nebraska experience. She and my driver went back to the front desk and sorted things out. Seems the desk clerk didn’t remember she had JUST checked us into room 202. The other woman got another room.

Continuing to unwind for the evening, my driver wanted to go back to the car and get some Pepsi to bring up to the room. As he came back he couldn’t get into the room with his key card. Thankfully, I was in the room and let him in; but then I thought: I wonder if my card works. Of course, it didn’t. So, back to the front desk again. The woman didn’t seem to be flustered at all. “Oh, I probably cancelled it out,” she explained.¬†Interesting place, Nebraska.

It was a blessing to have a shorter day of driving after a good night’s sleep; to see the historic spots where over 300,00 to 500,000 pioneers passed on their way toward Westward migration; and to have a delightfully delicious pizza with a truly fresh and crunchy salad for dinner. Sometimes grace is found in the smallest things.