When I left Chicago, I found myself back amidst cornfields within 20 minutes, and I remained that way for the next 8 hours. I finished western Illinois and drove the length of Iowa, which is green and hilly, and that’s it. Just a spoonful of outlet shopping helped the Iowa go down.
Wednesday night (August 5), I arrived in Omaha, which sits squarely on the Iowa/Nebraska state line, and whose bright lights sneak up and blow your mind when you’ve grown complacent staring at grass all day. Earlier, I had accepted an airBnB listing for an air mattress in a tent in someone’s backyard, with house access for showering, eating, etc. for $29. I chatted with the host and made the deal. Later in the afternoon, however, he tells me that the tents were damaged in a storm the previous night, so I can just stay in “one of his houses” for no extra charge – notice the plural there. He gives me the address and instructions for a place in downtown Omaha and then casually adds, “The house is a mansion and you can stay in any room you want.” When I get there, holy crap, he wasn’t kidding! The place is HUGE! It has 6 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms that I could see, and I chose to sleep in the one with the little wooden terrace overlooking the whole city.
I got dressed and went down to have a drink at an underground dive bar called T. Henery’s and chatted with the locals. It was the first night I’d gone out on the trip so far; usually when I find a spot to my lay my head, I crash instantly. I left there and walked down the street to find an awesome reggae-rock band called Resinated playing a show. I briefly spoke with two of the band members after the show, and it turns out they know a couple reggae-rock bands in Charlotte, including Sun-Dried Vibes and Treehouse. I tell them to drop me a line next time they’re passing through NC and I’d hook them up with a spot to play. Charlotte would love them.
The next morning, I gathered my things and departed from the castle. The first hour of Nebraska was more than I could bear – rain, bumper to bumper traffic, cornfields, and a headache. I abandoned the traffic of Rte 80 and rested for a bit before picking up on US-6 W. I took these at the place I stopped:
If you can’t see it, the words on the building in the last photo say PEACE PRAIRIE PARK. Tell me that doesn’t look like the ancient ruins of an old hippie compound! Ha! It has to be. I can just see the skulls of Jerry Garcia and Jimi Hendrix rolling around the attic up there. My day got better from there.
If Nebraska were a painting, it would be one of those fuzzy pixelated ones which, from far away, appear to be a giant husk of corn, but when viewed up close, is actually a mosaic of interesting images. At a teeny, tiny, family-owned bar/restaurant called The Cub’s Den where I stopped for lunch, the son-in-law/bartender/cook told me, “Despite what people think, there’s actually more to Nebraska than just corn,” to which I replied, “No, I know. There’s asparagus, too.” He laughed at this. In preparing for my trip, I had read somewhere that Nebraska is the most un-exciting state in America, and I’m inclined to agree. However, the most unexciting places often have the nicest people, the prettiest sunsets, and a slew of good photo ops. Here are some shots from across The Cornhusker State:
^^^ When your town is so small, your hospital is basically a trailer.
By this point, I’m so far away from human civilization, I’ve seen nothing but grass and cows for hours on end. Not even any corn anymore, this is far beyond any farm. It’s not even always evident whether the occasional cows and horses I see are wild or belong to a farm, as it’s dozens of miles between each house or building, and easily a few miles between each herd. Just vast, open grasslands. It’s pretty other-worldly; I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a world of such pure nature with no human presence for such a long time in my life. It’s actually overwhelming how much vast, open space there is.
I’d finally had enough in Haigler, NE where I stopped late at night in a tiny motor lodge. The owner lives there and keeps a giant map in his office/living room with pins representing hometowns of the guests. I am the first Charlotte pin. While sleeping there, I had crazy dreams about one friend back home moving away forever, and another drowning in a storm until I saved her. I woke up and asked all my friends on Facebook to please relax and sit tight while I’m gone, I’ll be home soon. I wonder what it all means.
I eat breakfast a couple miles away at the place pictured below.
Imagine the looks I got when I walked into this place wearing a purple African dashiki and black combat boots.
Stay tuned for my favorite part of the trip so far, next: DENVER.
Kisses on your faces,