Tuesday, April 23, 2013

US Hwy 20: Northwestern Nebraska

When I woke up yesterday morning and let my co-pilot dog out, I saw three inches of new snow on the ground in Chadron, NE. In less time than it took for me to clip Happy to her outdoor tether, I decided to call it a "snow day" then got back in bed.

The snow cleared considerably during the day and I went into town for a bit, but there's even less going on there when the weather is bad. I remained the only person in the RV park for another night, which remained clear and very cold. The sun was out this morning, so I packed up and hit the road.

Over the course of its first two hundred miles across northwestern Nebraska, US Hwy 20 has passed from rugged mountains to cross the edge of the huge and desolate Sand Hills. North America's largest system of sand dunes normally underlies a grassy pastoral scene, but for me it was more of a snowscape. The road is always two-lanes, generally straight, and occasionally trafficked by large trucks.

The rest of the time, it is a "lonesome road" with miles and miles of rolling grass/sand/snow hills. It's a very pretty drive, and on a clear day with little wind it was a pleasant, relaxing endeavor.

Every fifteen miles or so, the road passes through a small town, each with a posted population of 20-120 people. A few houses, an auto center, a what-not shop and a silo comprise the entire establishment in every case. I stopped in the fifth town called Merriman for lunch, and had a very satisfactory complement of -- you guessed it -- a bowl of soup and a BLT on rye toast!

During lunch with a few locals, I had a nice change of pace. Whereas I am normally asked by complete strangers if I can "fix the internet" -- which almost always amounts to me being a "genius" by unplugging and replugging the router -- this time I was asked for advice about how to manage content on a Kindle. Apparently the world has more or less figured out how to restart their internet routers, and I have been promoted(?) to eBook advisor. As long as they don't start asking me to program their phones, my status as "genius" is probably safe!

After lunch, I drove through a few more towns and stopped in Valentine, NE. Although this is a significant town along this upper rim of Nebraska, there's very little here. I expect to take advantage of a sunny afternoon, to bundle up against the cold while I give Happy a good walk, then pop into town to see what the nightlife is like. My expectations are decidedly low, bolstered only by the sight of a sports bar a few blocks away.

As you can see, I am continuing my string of being the only rig in the RV park. At least the manager was here to check me in, unlike in Chadron when I didn't see a soul in the park for three days!

If the weather holds -- and I don't unexpectedly find something significant to see or do here -- I will continue to push east across the vast northeast of Nebraska tomorrow… Stay tuned!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

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