There’s more to Nebraska than flat roads

Written by on July 3, 2012 in Americas, Blog, Nebraska - 32 Comments

“Oh my god,” I moan, pounding my head against the steering wheel as Erica and I drive east towards Nebraska from Denver. “It’s flat … forever!”

I look towards the horizon and see nothing but straight road, surrounded by flat farmland as we progress away from the Rockies and towards America’s Bread Basket.

“This is going to suck,” I say, half under my breath.

I’ve done road trips across America twice already and one thing has remained consistent: the middle of America is one hell of a boring drive if sticking to the interstates.

Two lanes on each side. A few trucks. Lots and lots of flat land that give way to gentle rolling hills.

I’ve seen it on I-70. I’ve seen it on I-40. And now, I get to see the same, in all of its flat glory, on I-80.

Only, this time, Erica and I have a plan.

Well, a little plan.

We’re going to make it fun.

So, as I kick my left foot up against the dash and roll my eyes at the landscape, Erica pulls out her iPhone and we start to shoot video of our ramblings.

When, after hours of driving, we hit the Nebraska border, I pull over and we get out to celebrate at the Nebraska sign. We have a little photo shoot. [Note: if you want to see even more cool photos of our cross-country trip, check out Erica’s post that features some amazing pics from out the window of the car.]

Then, we hop back in the car until we see a place to stop to film a “must see” spot along side the road. As trucks whizz by, she and I treat ourselves to a little break from the monotony and have fun with our stop.

We giggle like teenagers at our own silliness. (Editor’s Note: I’m pretty sure only Erica and I find any of this funny, but still!)

Hey, whatever makes the trip fly by, right?

Outside, in the heat (hello, 100-plus degrees) and humidity (I’m so very sorry, hair), we notice the beauty around us.

Yes, the road may be flat, but within that flatness is a still and a calm. A piece of nearly untouched land that is home to roaming cows, fields that will soon spring to life, and views that, on a stormy day, must be nothing short of simply spectacular.

When we finally reach Paxton, Neb., the two of us, only on our first day of our trip, are achy. Hungry. Ready to go and see this little town that has earned itself a niche for one particular spot — Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge.

As we roll through town in the Prius, we are greeted to a little snapshot of a simpler life where one main road crosses through fields. Where a gas station has painted on its side the offerings, including ammo.

“Oh my gosh,” we both say softly as we park the car on the side of the main road.

Across from Ole’s is a winery. It’s not open, but we press our faces to the glass, longing to try a pour of the Nebraska wine. Then, we cross back over to Ole’s and step inside and are instantly transported to another world.

The restaurant, known for one of the largest collections of taxidermy in the world, is dimly lit with a long bar dotted with stuffed ducks, birds and more. While I am not a fan of hunting for sport, and certainly got the creepy crawlies eating with these once-living mounted animals on the wall, I did appreciate where I was and the fact that not everyone agrees with my particular point of view.

Over a late lunch, we figure out a place to stay 300 miles down the road in Omaha, and book a hotel (Super 8) just outside of downtown.

And then, we are off … again. This time, into the Nebraska sunset, alive with glorious colors that dance off the fields of green.

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of the #winosontheroad series. Over Yonderlust and d travels ’round went road tripping and exploring America from Colorado to Maryland in June 2012. Be sure to check out all of the posts of life on the open road.

 

About the Author

Diana Edelman is a travel writer and expat currently residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She is a former career breaker and long term solo traveler. Today, she helps promote responsible elephant tourism and is the co-founder of #RTTC, a weekly chat on Twitter focusing on responsible tourism. When she isn’t writing, Diana handles the PR and social media for Save Elephant Foundation, which runs the popular Elephant Nature Park. Her writing as appeared in About.com, Thought Catalog, The Huffington Post, Matador Network, Travel + Escape, Luna Luna, Vegas Seven, World Nomads, Viator, CheapOair, OneTravel and more.

32 Comments on " There’s more to Nebraska than flat roads "

  1. Jeremy Branham July 3, 2012 at 3:06 pm · Reply

    I will get a chance to spend some time in Middle America this year. It’s been many years since I’ve been to this part of the country. SO many years in fact I was too young to even remember it. I think there is beauty in it but you have to look somewhere other than the highways. I was born and raised in the South and I think you can say the same thing about the highways there as well. Even the beautiful state of California has some pretty long, dull stretches of highways too!

    • Diana July 5, 2012 at 7:48 am · Reply

      Exactly! Enjoy your time in Middle America. :) It is lovely!!

  2. Camels & Chocolate July 3, 2012 at 3:07 pm · Reply

    We went through Nebraska on our two-month road trip last year. Not on purpose, actually, but because the interstate in Wyoming was so windy, we couldn’t tow the trailer on it so we had to reroute. I was pretty charmed by it, though after a day, I was all GET ME OUT OF THE CORN FIELD. But Carhenge totally made Nebraska worth the detour!

    • Diana July 5, 2012 at 7:47 am · Reply

      We didn’t have time to stop there, but heard about it. I was charmed by Nebraska, too. Especially Omaha. It was just adorable!

  3. Laura July 3, 2012 at 3:53 pm · Reply

    Do not miss the Missouri river valley outside of Omaha (highway 680) and if you’re driving across Iowa take some time and explore the Grant Wood Trail in the eastern part of the state (highway 64 I think) . It’s beautiful.

    Ole’s was a great treat, too. They make a mean Old-Fashioned,

    • Diana July 5, 2012 at 7:46 am · Reply

      I wish we would have had time to do this! And have a drink at Ole’s!

  4. Abby July 3, 2012 at 5:42 pm · Reply

    I love it. You have to make roadtrips fun! There are so many states in the middle that are so flat. You girls look like you’re having so much fun!

    • Diana July 5, 2012 at 7:45 am · Reply

      We definitely did make it fun!!

  5. Rease July 3, 2012 at 6:57 pm · Reply

    Being from Missouri means that all my road trips in any direction put me on a very boring route. I’ve driven from St. Louis to Omaha, Denver, and DC and all of those drives were excruciating. But hey, the fun is who you are with and it looks like Erica was a great driving buddy!

    • Diana July 5, 2012 at 7:45 am · Reply

      She WAS! I’ve done the drive on 70 from DC to Vegas; on 40 from Vegas to Atlanta; and now this drive. All of them took me across boring roads, but it was the little stops and taking a moment to breathe the fresh air and see these places for what they were that made it really amazing!

  6. Lindsey July 3, 2012 at 9:38 pm · Reply

    I have a love hate relationship with flat landscape on long road trips. I love the magnitude of the land, but at the same time I’m desperate for some proper hills!

    • Diana July 5, 2012 at 7:44 am · Reply

      Yes! When we got to Iowa, we were blown away! It was rolling hills and absolutely beautiful!

  7. Brooke vs. the World July 4, 2012 at 1:25 am · Reply

    Never been to Nebraska, but I definitely have a good ol’ American road trip on my list of things to do :) Looked like a good time!

    • Diana July 5, 2012 at 7:43 am · Reply

      I would love to take a big chunk of time and really explore America. Get off the interstates and see the country and life outside of the major cities. It is totally different than anything I am used to!

  8. Bobbi Lee Hitchon July 4, 2012 at 2:49 am · Reply

    haha love that you’ve called this series winos on a road trip. nutters!

    • Diana July 5, 2012 at 7:42 am · Reply

      That would be Erica’s brain!!

  9. Ali July 4, 2012 at 2:57 pm · Reply

    Road trips are all about having fun and being silly. NE does look pretty, though I imagine all that flat expanse can get boring. BTW I love that the state sign says “home of Arbor Day”!

    • Diana July 5, 2012 at 7:41 am · Reply

      The flat, straight roads were the worst. But, also super easy in terms of driving. Having Erica with me definitely helped the experience and made it loads of fun, too!!

  10. Alouise July 6, 2012 at 12:04 am · Reply

    This landscape reminds me a lot of the travel I did when I was a kid in Alberta and Saskatchewan. I used to hate those drives, and now I love them. Flat can be boring, but it can also be beautiful.

    • Diana July 6, 2012 at 9:29 am · Reply

      Exactly!!

  11. Emily in Chile July 7, 2012 at 2:04 pm · Reply

    I had that same “oh god, the flatness” feeling when we were driving to Torres del Paine. But then, like you, I realized the scenery was gorgeous, and the drive flew by. And we pulled over for windblown photo shoots! Who knew the Midwest and Patagonia had so much in common?

    • Diana July 9, 2012 at 10:31 am · Reply

      Haha!! Who knew?? Making the trip fun is certainly a recipe for it flying by. :)

  12. Andrew July 8, 2012 at 1:40 am · Reply

    I friend of mine is from Nebraska and talked about as a kid having to hold the car door shut when they went around corners at high speed. Umm, I imagine this occurred less than he led us to believe.

    Like Ali, I thought the “Home of Arbor Day” line on the sign was hilarious. Really? That is the best thing about the state they could find to put on the sign?

    • Diana July 9, 2012 at 10:30 am · Reply

      Yeah … the sign was … interesting. But, Omaha really stole my heart!!

  13. Pete Evans July 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm · Reply

    Did you get a chance to hit up any of the Nebraska vineyards? Soaring Wings and James Arthur both make world class sweet red and white wines. Check out their websites for their current offerings.

    • Diana July 10, 2012 at 9:14 pm · Reply

      I wish we did! Will have to take a look at this for next time! Thank you for the suggestion.

  14. Andrea Cole July 15, 2012 at 12:25 pm · Reply

    Diana,

    I so love following your journey, both through your blog and your awesome Mom! :) I just returned from my first trip to Omaha and can appreciate your appreciation. Great little city, no stress, and a soft beauty not available here in the DC area.

    • Diana July 15, 2012 at 11:38 pm · Reply

      Thanks so much, Andrea! Soft beauty is a great way to describe Omaha. It was so charming!

  15. Shanna Schultz July 22, 2012 at 10:55 am · Reply

    Ahhh, good old I-80. I have driven it more times than I can’ count on two hands (on my way from Minnesota to Colorado to visit friends). Did you guys stop at the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument (you can’t miss it, it is smack dab in the middle of the state spanning I-80)? I have always meant to stop here, but we never have. Glad to see that it is possible to make Nebraska fun!

    • Diana July 22, 2012 at 11:37 pm · Reply

      Is that the big arch with the birds on either end of it?? I think we did!! Well, not stop, but drove under it. Think Erica managed to snag a pic of it, too!

  16. Sherry July 24, 2012 at 2:17 am · Reply

    And did you actually taste the beef? Nebraska has some of the best. And from what I can tell, their landscape is beautiful as well.

    • Diana July 26, 2012 at 1:27 am · Reply

      I did not taste the beef. The landscape is beautiful, though!

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