Sunday, July 02, 2017

Trip West - Day 3

I am an early riser by nature. It wasn't always that way, certainly not in my teenage years, but somewhere along the line I discovered that I actually enjoy getting up early. I like the quiet of the house, and how the rising of the sun warms it's bones as it does mine, the expanding from the heat creating sounds that remind you a house is a home, living and breathing.

I woke up early outside Omaha, Nebraska. It was a little disconcerting at first because I could not remember where I was. The scene outside my window, sun rising over a cornfield with the horizon stretched out forever and eternity, made no sense from any frame of reference I had. Then, I remembered where I was, and went outside to greet the day, and see if sunrise in Omaha, Nebraska was different than sunrise in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
I walked outside, stepping onto the cold, dry stone of the walkway. I walked toward the back of the house, and stepped into the grass. The dew of early morning kissed my toes, a delicious eye opener. The day before we arrived, there was a terrible storm, the kind of which Nebraska and the Plains states are notorious. One-hundred-twenty mile-per-hour winds had toppled trees, turned over equipment and even destroyed buildings. One building we saw, on the ride into town, looked like a Marvel movie set, and the command had simply been, "Hulk. SMASH!" Half of it was still standing, the rest lay in splinters, a semi-circular hole where the remainder once stood. Yet, on this morning, all was at peace.

I noticed Ella sitting on the picnic table, enjoying the morning as I was. I made a point of not disturbing her, but it was not necessary; she called me over. Morning people are an interesting group. In my experience, they are just as comfortable being gregarious in the morning as they are with quiet, often playing off the vibrations of the people around them. We talked easily about life in Nebraska and the storm (the likes of which comes every 50 years or so. I thought, "I could live with that, for a little more of this" looking at the beauty around me).

Still, it was time to go, and after consulting with Dwight about some of the wonders of the Cornhusker state, we altered our planned path a little. I was a little sad to be leaving the Lynch's, but that is part of the gig for which I had signed up - you don't stay anywhere long, but the connections you make in the short time you are with people can last forever. I felt the same way the day before when we left Dan and his wife, the heaviness of donning the motorcycle gear mirroring some of my own.

There is a cure for any kind of melancholy that occurs on a road trip like this, and that panacea is action. The road drifted below me, the miles opening the distance between any ill feelings I might have harbored and my current location. Those big skies helped, even more.

The BNSF Railroad crisis-crosses the west, striping her back east-to-west and north-to-south, running right next to the road, her bright orange engines hauling coal, coal, and more coal for the titans of industry to power America. Those engines have a magnificent, elegant brawn about them. I thought of my dad and how much he loves trains, every time I saw one.

We stopped to eat in Broken Bow, Nebraska and I ordered some cabbage and steak salad, which was unremarkable, at best. The only reason I mention it at all is because I also had a choice of side order, and I chose cornbread, because I thought it might be good in Nebraska. When it came, with whipped butter, I split it with Brad, and took a bite. I always liked cornbread, and somewhere in the dim recesses of childhood memory, there are recollections of my mother, who was a very talented cook and baker, making cornbread for us. But, there is nothing in my memory that could have prepared me for this. If the Gods of Cornbread were in the back of that kitchen baking, it would not have surprised me one iota. It's a rare thing when you can say you have had the best _____ in your life. That day, I had the best cornbread of my life.

We also visited the town historical society. Brad found the town gun archives, and I discovered an ancient cash register. I wondered about all of those hands, ringing up all of those purchases, and now just dust in the wind or dust in the ground.

In many ways, Nebraska is exactly what you would picture. Fields. Farm equipment. Big sky. Wide-open spaces. Hard-working people.

Like John Dunbar in Dances with Wolves, there were certain things I wanted to see when I went to the west. At the top of that list was buffalo/bison. Mission: accomplished!

I loved Nebraska for her wide-open spaces and her ROADS. I was, if I am being honest, not expecting much from the state in the way of exciting roads. But I was wrong. Nebraska has loooooong sweepers and graceful hills, and they are just FUN to ride. Couple that with seeing a car every 5-7 minutes and huge passing lanes, and it's just about everything this motorcyclist could want.

I was thinking the only thing that could make this part of the trip better was a bizarre roadside attraction designed to defy explanation and sucker in tourists. Enter: Carhenge, a replica of Stonehenge made entirely of cars. America is weird, for sure. Bonus: we visited it on the Summer Solstice.

We made our way to Chadron, Nebraska and had our first restaurant dinner, from the Chinese buffet in town. It's a tradition with Brad and I, that we visit at least one Chinese buffet on our trip. This was one of the least spectacular I have ever visited, but I checked it off with joy, because I was so hungry. It was also the first hotel we stayed in, and The Bunkhouse did not disappoint - rustic digs for cheap.

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