July 9, 1999 - Day 33 - Seward, Nebraska to Glenwood, Iowa

98.6 miles, 14.7 mph average speed, 2071 total miles, 34.7 mph max speed.

Roadkill: 11

Today left Seward County, passed through Lancaster County (Clarissa Diaz), Cass County (not done) and into Mills County, Iowa, where I'm spending the night with the Stewart family of Glenwood thanks to the contact made by Mills County student researcher Jennifer Greaney. Mike Stewart contacted me about two weeks ago to make the offer and here I am. More on the Stewarts tomorrow.

MUCH cooler day today. 70 degrees at 9:00 when I started out. But still very high humidity level. Strong wind from northwest which pushed me while I went east, but was tough when I went north.

Lancaster County
Lancaster County
Thanks to Elisabeth Reinkordt, one of the most knowledgeable high school sophomores I've met, I now know how Lincoln, Nebraska came to be. The city was originally called Lancaster because it was founded (1840's) by English families from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was re-named Lincoln in honor of the President in the 1860's (see yesterday's journal)
Now, if you look at a Nebraska map, you can't figure out why Lincoln was put where it is. No river. The railroad came to IT, not vice versa, so why right there? Once again, Elisabeth to the rescue (honest, she was excellent): Answer? Salt. There are tremendous underground salt deposits all around Lincoln. Big money. And of course, today Lincoln has to ship its water from the Platte over 35 miles away because its own water table is too salty. But, hey, big money!.
One more time, Elisabeth: Lincoln won state capital rights over Omaha and Ashland by serving ice cream to the selection committee. How did they have ice cream on that hot summer day, the committee wondered??? Salt.

Cashier cannot change $50 after dark
I haven't seen one of these signs for a long, long time

State Capitol Building
State Capital Building in Lincoln

When you get near Chicago you can see its skyline from way out in the suburbs 25 miles away. This is better. I began seeing this tower 25 miles to the west, not through a maze of Jiffy Lubes, but across a sea of corn and scattered grain bins. A beacon on the horizon.
That's our man from Illinois himself in front, but who's that on top?

The Sower
The Sower
He's The Sower, scattering seed across the Nebraska plains. The tower is gold leaf and shimmers on sunny days. It's very cool.

Husker Stadium
The Temple
But the real center of Nebraska power is here: Cornhusker Stadium! Oops, sorry - Husker Stadium. Can you believe they dropped the 'Corn'? It's absolutely true. It was hurting their national marketing image. Man, if I was a Nebraska farmer, my loyalty would be G-O-N-E with that move, but the Nebraska farmers have shown themselves to be just as sophisticated as Bulls fans: just give them a winner and don't sweat the character issues. I imagine they'd still support the team if it was called the Nebraska GirlyMen in Pink Tights... as long as it was winning.

(Hey, do you think it would be possible to actually get on the field? I mean the actual playing field? The Holy of Holies of Nebraska-ism? Nah, impossible. They've got armed guards at every gate, don't they? Forget about it - stupid idea.)

Time to Eat - NOT!!
Time to Eat
Yes, this is the mother ship, the original Valentino's in Lincoln on Holdrege and 34th. I got there at 12:15 and had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. Yes, best pizza I've ever had. Confirmed yet again. It's the crust, I'm tellin' ya.

(Maybe I could bribe one of those guards. No, what am I thinking? It's HUSKER STADIUM. They'd know I was a soccer coach before I could get my wallet out.)

Path with Grain Elevators
Prairie Path Nebraska style
Reinkordts informed me of this path, and I'm grateful for the advice. I was able to take this path about ten miles east out of downtown Lincoln and avoid a very busy stretch of Rte. 34. You don't see too many grain elevators by our Prairie Path in Illinois. (But ours is much better maintained, which reminds me - no flat tires since Glenwood Springs, Colorado. I think of Scratch every day when I ride over something that would have punctured my tire back in Nevada or Utah. I'm riding over almost anything now.)

Gussys - Home of the Quackoff
Some things you don't want to know
I'm normally a curious person, but...

(Maybe I could sneak in through a locker room or something. Mmm, no, that's right, the laser security system.)

No picture, but I wanted to share this experience: Rte. 34 turns north for about 15 miles on its way up to Plattsmouth before crossing the Missouri River into Iowa. I was bucking headwind with my head down, around 5:30. A beat-up pickup truck pulled over on the shoulder ahead of me and a guy got out. I stopped. He introduced himself, said his name was Dave, asked the usual questions. I answered them. It was clear he was envious. He began talking about his personal life, how he needed a change, hated his job, wanted to just stay in bed in the morning, was battling depression, had thought about suicide. We talked by the side of the road there for about a half hour. He said a big reason he was messed up was that his brother had been killed in the Oklahoma City bombing and the federal government still hadn't provided answers; he felt the situation was totally unresolved and he needed resolution. He said he felt like going down there and giving the federal guys hell, but they would probably kill him - that's how the government is working these days. He said the government was hiding information. I asked him why they would do that. He said to keep a social insurrection from happening. I said the economy is good; there won't be any insurrection. We talked spiritual matters, emotions, depression, therapy, 12-step, finding a confidant. I didn't know what to believe and what not to believe in things he was saying. He gave me his name and address. I didn't give him mine. He thanked me profusely for talking with him. I kept my eye on my rearview as I pulled away from him. He made a U-turn and drove off to the south. I headed north.
I just looked up the list of victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. His brother was 46, an agent with an Investigative branch of the federal government. I'll be writing Dave.

toll Bridge
Cathy the Toll Collector
This is the wonderful old 1930 toll bridge across the Missouri River on Rte. 34. You will absolutely NOT get this kind of bridge on the interstate. Cathy was sweet. She told me all about the bridge and how she really likes her job. It shows.

Missouri River
Missouri River
And there she is. Now there is absolutely NO question about whether I've left the West. The Missouri River, not the Mississippi was considered by everyone in the early to late 1800's as the official line of demarcation. Because it WAS official. East of this river lay the safety and laws of the United States of America. West of this river lay United States Territory, a whole nother ball of wax. The Oregon-California Trail pioneers called it "the jumping off point". I like the visual image of that. The fur traders brought their furs down this river to sell in St. Louis (until the fur companies got smart and established The Rendezvous on the Green River in Wyoming so that they could buy the furs on site, then get all their money back by selling the next year's supplies, as well as other more temporary 'commodities', to the trappers).
The best book ever written about the West? "Across the Wide Missouri" by Bernard DeVoto, 1947(?). Not only is it a scholarly work that stands the test of time, DeVoto could WRITE. The book is a pleasure to read.
As I was battling that discouraging headwind for ten miles northbound on 34 just a mile or two west and parallel to this river, I thought about the Lewis and Clark expedition (If you haven't read "Undaunted Courage" by Stephen Ambrose, it's the best description of their incredibly important journey you will find. You'll be a better American for reading it.). Those guys poled their way up this river against the current from the Mississippi River all the way to Montana. I suddenly felt sheepish. Ten miles. On wheels.
(My favorite statistic from that book is the fact that each man on the expedition consumed an average of 8 pounds of meat daily. That's right - 8 POUNDS!)

(I could say I was Bob Devaney.)

Girls Bob helped
Bob the Samaritan
MY turn!! Just east of the river you come to I-29 running down to Kansas City. I saw these folks walking along the shoulder and pulled over to see if they needed help. They did. That's their car back there and from what they described, it sounds like they had generator problems. I let them use my cell phone to call for help and when I left, help was on the way.
From left to right, that's Amanda Fehlner, Jayme Hatcher, Kresenz Monday (on the phone) holding little Kassidy Monday. Amanda and Jayme will be sophomores this fall at their high school near here.

(Maybe Tom Osborne? Maybe buy a Tom Osborne mask??)

Coal Trains
You should know by now
The empty train on the left is moving from east to west. The loaded train on the right is moving from west to east. Since this is the Burlington main line, for those of you loading this page on Saturday, July 10, that very train might be moving through Downers Grove right now on its way to the Commonwealth Edison plants in Chicago.

(No, nothing will work. NOBODY gets on that field. Period.)

Random Thought: I have an idea for a new Olympic event. You know the Biathlon, where people cross country ski like mad, then have to hop off the trail and shoot at small targets. Very difficult combination of ingredients. Well, I thought of making a competition out of what I do all day. We'd call it the Photathlon, where people have to ride a loaded-up bicycle for 100 miles, periodically pulling over in their exertions to take artistically-composed pictures. The winner would be determined by a combination of the speed in which the course was completed and the judgment of a panel of professional photographers as to the quality and composition of the pictures. I think I'm onto something big here. Let's do lunch!

Women Soccer Team
What's not to like here?
This is from today's 'USA Today'. Look at these guys; they're great. You can feel the personality.
My single worry about tomorrow's game: If China loses, soccer will be dropped from the national sporting budget. That's an incentive we don't have.
But our women will find a way to win the game. Great teams find a way. If I were talking to them one on one I'd say, "Akers, tomorrow will be your biggest mountain yet. Go lead."
It's amazing to me how, in the best games, so much life can be compressed into 90 minutes. The game starts out almost innocently, naively. At some point, it gets grueling. And at some point in truly great matches, one team blinks. Usually it's one player, some little thing. But the tide turns. That point is often invisible from the stands or via the tv set. And sometimes not.
We'll see tomorrow who blinks.

Inside Husker Stadium

Inside Husker Stadium
Mission Accomplished - Don't ask how

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