The View From A Slightly Twisted Angle

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Tales Of Traveling 20

on February 7, 2013

As I mentioned yesterday Monday and Tuesday of our week were spent taking our daughter to visit the college she is going to attend in the fall.  It’s the same college her older brother attends so we’ve made this trip before.  Every time we do I remember why I prefer it when he comes home rather than me going to see him.  You see, in order to make this trip you have to cross almost all of Nebraska on Highway 20.  Here is a little map I doctored just to give you a visual.


While that may not look like a great amount of distance on a map, I can assure you that in real life it is a really long way.  This is particularly true when this is what you are looking at for the lion’s share of the trip:

Excuse the photo quality - I was using my phone....while going 65 mph.

Excuse the photo quality – I was using my phone….while going 65 mph.

At least this is what we looked at once the sun came up.  We started our trip at 6:00 am in order to arrive at the college in time for her appointments and tour.  Six o’clock the morning after a black-out delayed Super Bowl.  Needless to say the local Scooters was our first stop.  Clutching our life-giving caffeine-infused drinks we headed out in the dark.  All was quiet for the first half hour or so until my husband who was sticking to his new diet threw his banana peel out the window.  My head snapped toward him, “I can’t believe you just littered.”  He gave me a side-long glance, “It’s bio degradable. It isn’t littering.”  My coffee was starting to kick in so I wasn’t going to just let this go. “What if some car skids on that peel?  Won’t you feel terrible that you caused an accident?”  (Never mind that we’d only seen about 4 other cars thus far.)  He smirked, “A car skidding on a banana peel? More likely some coon is going to have a nice breakfast now.”  At this point I think he began to figure out that he was in for a very long trip indeed. “Okay so some coon is going to be standing out in the middle of the road and cause an accident. Don’t you feel bad???”  Because he has been married to me long enough to know he wasn’t going to win nor was I going to quit, he simply chuckled and shook his head.

About the time the sun was rising we approached a lovely little town named “O’Neill.”  It is Nebraska’s Irish capital. (Not to be confused with our Danish capital, Swedish capital or Finnish Capital.  No. I’m not kidding.)  This is what the center of O’Neill looks like all year round:


Yes. That is green cement. Festive bunch of Irishmen aren’t they?  The second shot of espresso kicked in about the time we entered this green utopia so I was feeling a bit wired as we pulled into the gas station there for a pit stop.  Upon entering the bathroom my daughter and I discovered this:

flushApparently Jedi mind powers don’t work in the Irish Capital of Nebraska.    As you can imagine this set both my daughter and myself into a fit of caffeine-induced, this-trip-is-too-long laughing.  As we snickered our way out of the store my husband followed behind mumbling something about us getting banned from every town in Nebraska before we were done.  Every town?  He’s so dramatic.  I promised to be good as we pulled away and intended to keep that promise until I spied an insurance agency out my window.  A bright yellow building with a red roof the sign proclaimed, “Waldo Insurance”.  “FOUND HIM!” I yelled.  “No wonder no one knows where he’s at. He’s been in O’Neill all this time!”  I wanted to snap a picture but my husband wouldn’t slow down, assuring me that I could get one on our way back through the next day.  I think somewhere in his mind he was well aware that it would be dark the next time we went through town so I couldn’t but that didn’t occur to me at the time.  I can’t say I blame him for not slowing down.  When one is traveling Highway 20 in Nebraska the quicker you make the trip the better off you are.  Besides if he’d have let me take that one he would have had to slow down for all the signs that caught me eye. There were a lot.

I noticed a name trend in many small towns: “Eastside Mart”, “Westside Restaurant”, “Southside Gas”….we Nebraskans are very directional.  Of course I shared a loud my thought that we should open a gas station on the north-west side of town and call it “Southeast Service” or something like that but my daughter pointed out no one would ever be able to find it.  She’s so logical.  Among some of my other favorite signs was the one for bull accident insurance.  I have no idea so don’t ask.  I’ll just let you ponder that as I have for days now.  I also enjoyed the sign at the edge of town proclaiming: “Welcome To Cody: The Town To Tough To Die”.  That makes you want to pull in and visit doesn’t it?  On another pit stop along the way my daughter and I noticed this sign on the local grocery store  (Again forgive the phone picture, but if you look close at the top of that building it says, “Hi Neighbor!”  I’m not sure if that is friendly or creepy. ):

Gordon, Nebraska

I suppose it’s friendly in a big brother kind of way.  Small towns in Nebraska are like that.  Tough in that they aren’t too thrilled with “outsiders” moving in but friendly enough if you are passing through.  They are also friendly with each other.  Probably because they are all related somehow.  Take one town on Highway 20: Nenzel, Nebraska.  It’s population is 20.  Seriously.  I’m going to risk a guess that the town’s name also happens to be everyone’s last name also. Just a guess mind you.

In between those small towns is farmland in the east – ranch land once you cross into the Sandhills of Nebraska.  That sounds grand doesn’t it? “Sandhills”.  Can I just share once you’ve seen one mile of the Sandhills you’ve seen all of the Sandhills.  Ever been to “The Badlands” in South Dakota?  Same concept.  I’m not even sure where you cross into the “Sandhills” for sure but you know you’ve arrived when the land gets….well….sandy.  And the ranches get bigger.  And the towns are farther apart.  And you don’t see people trees or electrical lines for miles. Just sand, cows and a random tree here and there.  And the occasional ranch entrance.  My favorite was named “13 Bar Ranch”.  A loud my daughter and I wondered if that meant it was the local “watering hole” or if it was the only place in the area with cell service. (We sure weren’t getting any at that point.)  Either way we were dying to visit. My husband denied our request to turn in and find out.  In his defense it could have been 20 miles in to the ranch house from the road.  Still…..

Because of the lack of cell service and…well….other life forms, I became very thankful for our satellite radio. Way more thankful than our daughter was when I found “80’s On 8.”  My husband was impressed with my quick answers to all the 80’s trivia questions they asked between playing some of the best music from the best era ever.  My daughter wasn’t impressed with any of it really.  To distract me from my potential five-hour karaoke performance she suggested we play a road trip game.  Since we were driving across Northern Nebraska the license plate game was out.  So was “sunshine.” This may have something to do with the fact that you see perhaps 5 cars an hour.  The odds of those being yellow?  I didn’t mind that really because I don’t like getting smacked when my kids see yellow cars.  My daughter decided instead that we should play “windmill”. I agreed on the condition that there would be no smacking involved.  Someone would have gotten arrested for abuse because you see every few miles there is something like this in the area:


Some are close to the highway and some are far away.  All have the same purpose – pumping water for the cattle. That kept us amused for a while.  Eventually our daughter fell asleep.  Upon waking I informed her that we’d passed a windmill factory and I was now up by 500.  “AW man! Figures!” responded my competitive daughter. My husband’s eyebrow shot up, “How did I miss that?” he asked.  I’ve never been able to lie, “You didn’t. I totally made that up just to see what she’d say.”  This is why I don’t play poker.  This is also the point my daughter started throwing gummy bears at me.  I, in turn, tossed Twizzlers at her head.  My poor patient husband kicked up the cruise control every so slightly.  Car trip craze had set in.  Before a full on food fight could set in our destination came into view.

Chadron State College

Chadron State College

What a relief to get out of the car.  What a joy to see our oldest son.  What a fun time we had together that evening: swimming, eating, hanging out.

And then we got back into the car and made the trip home…..


2 responses to “Tales Of Traveling 20

  1. Fun read! Your family is hilarious!!! I loved O’Neill…the big shamrock and the restroom sign…perfect! Also I absolutely think you need to open that gas station and mess with people! This summer my family and I are making the trek to New Mexico via minivan! The shortest route is going through Iowa and Kansas…I thought that sounded too boring so we are going to go through South Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado to get there. But now you have enlightened me that you can still have fun going through any state! On the way back we will go the Iowa/Kansas route and I’ll make sure to play the windmill game or whatever else we can find….corn fields??

    • wedelmom says:

      If by hilarious you mean “on the edge of being carted away”….you’d be right. 😉
      I hate to tell you this, but the center of South Dakota and eastern half of Wyoming are pretty boring as well, Google “badlands”…. Kansas….lots of wheat fields and not a lot else but if you are into prairie you’ll love it. I’m pretty sure they have windmills too. Iowa really is kind of pretty – especially the eastern part of the state.
      What a great adventure you’ll have!!

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