Crossing Into the West

Saturday, August 22, 2009
Valentine, NE

Yesterday, Friday, we were rolling early. Having made most of our pre-move preparations the night before, it was easy to have a semi-leisurely morning -- coffee, check email, etc. -- and get moving before 9am. The day started out cloudy and still windier than I'd like when driving a big "billboard" down the road. But as we progressed west the clouds gave way to mostly sunny skies and the wind subsided a bit. Overall it was an enjoyable and easy drive.

We followed NE-16 and NE-35 to Wayne and then NE-15 north to US-20. I've written this before, and probably will again, but traveling on these old main roads through the west is, in my humble opinion, the best way to go. For the most part, these roads are in reasonable shape, have very little traffic, and go through interesting places and towns that the faster Interstate Highways avoid. There are more hills and valleys than their modern counterparts but the travel experience is more relaxed; and it seems like you're a part of the landscape rather than just watching it out the window like a TV show.

We'll be following US-20 now until at least Casper, WY., when we have a decision to make. But we'll leave that for another day.

Along the drive today we crossed from the Midwest to the West... at least that's the way it felt. The Midwest is farms, corn, soybeans, tractors, combines, fences, rich moist soils, rain, humidity, county fairs, and more people. The West is ranches, grass hay and grazing land, cattle, horses, few fences, poor soils, less rain, little humidity, rodeos, and far less people. Somewhere just east of O'Neill, NE., is the dividing line. To me it was almost this stark. I think if I could study it more I could paint a line across the road and say this... this is where the West begins... at least in Northern Nebraska.

I stopped for diesel fuel in O'Neill. The price seemed right at $2.66/gal and not knowing what the price/availability will be further west, I don't want to see the tank much below half. We took on 58 gallons.

People in the West just seem more friendly than people in more congested parts of the rest of the country. As I was putting in fuel a trucker pulled into the next island, started filling, and he struck up a conversation. Most of the time truckers won't even make eye contact with you. This fellow wondered what kind of fuel mileage I was getting... and before you know it we were trading info on engines, horsepower, the roads... with a little more time we might have gotten into politics and religion. He was a genuinely nice guy and wished us the best on our travels.

When we arrived at the Riverside Campground just south of Valentine, along the banks of the Niobrara River, we had added another 250 miles to our trek. We selected a campsite and set up before happy hour.

Dar tells me there's a lot to see in the Valentine area.



Slightly Better than Most