Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Yes, home of the corn huskers......I hit Nebraska "on my way" to Mt. Rushmore

For the last 3 weeks I had a string of hosts, all the way from Moab, Utah to Cheyenne, Wyoming, with the exceptions of one night when I camped with a random family at the Great Sand Dunes National Park.   I’d been spoiled or maybe you could say I was a bit out of practice when it came to free camping when I rolled into Scottsbluff, Nebraska this past Sunday.  I was also out of fuel.  I crossed the border from Cheyenne, Wyoming and had no services on the road for 105 miles to Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Yes,……Nebraska!!!  What am I doing here?  It wasn’t on my original itinerary for the states, but since it was just a slight detour heading north to Mt. Rushmore, I decided to ride through corn country.

This was an understatement, try 105 miles without ANYTHING! Not a good first impression on Nebraska....

There were no restaurants, no grocery stores,….not even a gas station on the road.  Do these people eat? Don’t they drink coffee or need gas? That was my initial impression of the corn huskers.  I saw countless churches, but of course none of them sold food.  I would have killed for a bake sale out front, but the only thing baking on this Sunday was me!  At 100F, the Nebraska sun beat down on me all day.  I couldn’t even think straight when I arrived in Scottsbluff and needed to take care of my immediate needs: food and water.  I rolled up to a Subway.  I could kill two birds with one stone, nourishment and free wireless.  Most people don’t know if but Subway sandwiches has great wireless, better than McDonald’s and the food is a step up.  The first Nebraskan I interacted with was Travis, who worked at Subway.  He hooked me up with a free meal and I chilled out in the air conditioned environment, taking refuge from the heat, entertained with trip planning and blogging.  What should have been an hour break turned into an entire evening.  I knew I needed to find a spot to camp in town, so an hour before they closed, I finally left Subway, not without a luxurious sponge bath in their bathroom.  Another reason I love subway.  Unlike McDonald’s, they have private restrooms that you can lock and use for a good 10 to 15 minutes while bathing!

Travis, at Subway, quickly changed my opinion of the corn huskers!  The great hospitality started here at Subway

I'm a sponge bath queen.  All I have to do is find a single stall restroom

I left, headed to the local park when I saw an ambulance pull in the Taco Bell parking lot next door.  It triggered a thought,…..I used to camp at fire stations. I had forgotten all about this option.  I could ask these paramedics where the fire station in Scottsbluff was and what it was like.  I parked outside Taco Bell and in I went.  The poor paramedics, were trying to enjoy a quick dinner break and here I was pestering them.  Unfortunately they didn’t recommend sleeping there as it was adjoined to the police station and they got a lot of calls throughout the night.  However, they told me I could camp at their service center on the outskirts of town in a more quiet location.  I accepted of course!  

Nothing but good things to say about the guys at Valley Ambulance in Scottsbluff, NE

Jordan and Dan were working the night shift along with Megan.  They were the only ones back at the station. Jordan, the owner’s son, gave me an a tour of the building and the low down on how the paramedics dispatching works.  We talked about my travels, the area, and where I was headed next. Jordan sent out a few messages to friends to see if he could find me a host for the next night.  I could have chatted with the guys all night but they needed as much sleep as possible if they average 2 or 3 calls a night, and I was pretty whipped after my long day.  They wouldn’t have anything of me pitching my tent and instead offered me a bed inside a motor home that wasn’t being used, parked in the garage.  You know me, I can’t say no to a motor home…..

Dan and Jordan look fresher than me, and they attended 3 calls during the night.  I just slept after riding 105 miles.

I probably could have slept for a day inside the camper without any noise or natural light to wake me up, but I did set my alarm so that I could say goodbye and thanks you to Jordan and Dan at the end of their shift.  Jordan already had a host for me by the time I woke up in the small town of Crawford where I was headed that evening, 75 miles away.  I hit the road and headed to Scottsbluff’s national monument.  You can’t pass through Scottsbluff without seeing their pride and joy, and to tell you the truth, the bluff really is a unique landmark.  My mental image of Nebraska was flat farmland filled with cornfield, but after cycling the western portion of the state, I have yet to see a flat stretch that last for longer than 100 yards.  In the western part of the state, there are bluffs galore.  I didn’t know exactly what a bluff is, but now that I have seen them all around western Nebraska, I recognize this rock and land formation as something I started seeing back in Utah.
I can empathize with the pioneers pulling their wagons out west
The Oregon girl finds her Oregon Trail

Scottsbluff is an interesting town historically because it is right on the Oregon Trail and as the name of the town indicates, there are bluffs all around.   Pioneers headed out west on The Oregon Trail could see the bluff and Nebraska’s Chimney Rock, another icon on the outskirts of Scottsbluff from hundreds of miles away on their journey.  I imagine when they arrived at the bluffs, they were so taken back and amazed by these unique landforms, it kept them curious and trekking further in west, in hopes of discovering more beautiful sights.  Born and raised in Oregon, although my ancestors didn’t take the Oregon trail, I think of myself somewhat as a pioneer, creating my own trail across the world, leading to Oregon.  At the monument, I got a few pictures of the covered wagons and bluffs, but I wasn’t going to ride to the top because it was getting late and I didn’t have the desire to climb.  However, they had a shuttle bus that would take me to the top, so I opted for this.  At all the other national parks, the shuttle bus is monstrous and transports dozens of tourist. Here, at the monument, the shuttle bus was a mini-van, more like a private chauffeur. 

Nebraska's Chimney Rock.  It gave the National Monument a run for it's money on the state quarter

Bluffs here, there,.....They are everywhere in western Nebraska
Doug Kent was the driver, a pleasant retired volunteer, and his company was delightful.  He was fascinated to hear my story, in fact, I thought we were never going to make it the 1.6 miles to the summit because he was driving so slowly listening to every word I said.Doug was a pleasant older man and tickled to be driving me around.   At one point in the conversation he asked me how I ended up in Spain.  So I told him, I was a Rotary scholar, prefacing that by saying, “ I don’t know if you have heard of the Rotary Club…….”.  Little did I know, he was a Rotarian!  Whenever I meet a Rotarian in person, I enthusiastically tell them how appreciative I am of all their fundraising efforts and express how grateful I am of the opportunity they gave me to go abroad.  At this point Doug was pretty much speechless.  He told me he meets a lot of interesting people driving the shuttle around at the monument, but he told me that he’d never met anyone quite like me!  In fact he said, “ Melissa, I could drive you around all day.  You are the real deal, a fascinating young lady!  I can’t wait to share this with the Rotary Club tomorrow at out lunch.”

Doug Kent, volunteer shuttle driver at The National Monument and a Rotarian

I finally said goodbye to Doug and started pedaling north.  Again, not a flat bit of terrain to be found as I crossed bluff after bluff with a headwind that blew relentlessly at about 30mph.  I hate to disappoint my hosts, but making it to Crawford, 75 miles away was going to be impossible! I was considering my options when road construction stopped me.  The car at the front of the line was switching drivers and the nice woman got out and started to talk to me about my trip.  I told her my predicament and she agreed that my destination for the night was going to be a bit too ambitious with the wind, which was blowing harder than normal for the area.  Luckily, she lived in a town just up the road, and told me they’d love to have me stay with she and her husband.  How lucky am I? I seem to find hosts in all the right places.  I didn’t want, Jill, Jordan’s friend to worry or be waiting for me, so I asked Nancy if she would kindly call her and explain the situation. 

Don't be fooled, nothing is flat here in Nebraska and the wild wild wind.....
It took me a good couple of hours from the road construction to reach Ed and Nancy’s house, but I finally arrived.  She told me Jill was really disappointed I didn’t make it, but understood with the weather conditions.  Jill was planning on taking me to the old historical army base in the area and introducing me to Iris Paris, the daughter of the first woman to cycle across the country in 1948, who happened to live in her town.   What’s are my chances that the day before, I didn’t have one friend or host in Nebraska, and now I had so many I couldn’t stay with them all!  It also was incredible, that one of these hosts lived in a small town in Nebraska where Norma Jean Belloff set of to cycle cross-country in 1948 and became the first woman to do so in history! Iris Paris, still lives in the area and wrote a book about her mom, entitled “Once Upon A Chariot: A True Story About Norma Jean Belloff, Who Established the USA Woman’s Record for Cross Country Bicycling in 1948”.

Ed and Nancy, my hosts who saved me riding towards Crawford, NE

Early bird catches the worm, except in Nebraska, the wind has a mind of it's own

I ended up having a lovely stay with Nancy and Ed.  Nancy was a cyclist herself and the retired PE teacher at the school in town.  After dinner Ed helped me a bit with my bike and in the morning, the two saw me off at 5:30 am, an early start to beat the wind (unfortunately that was wishful thinking).

The reward for an early morning start

Jill, who I wasn’t able to meet is sending me the book which will be awaiting my arrival in Oregon. Something tells me however, that I’ll be back to Scottsbluff, Nebraska and have the opportunity to meet Jill and Iris Paris personally.  You see, at the top of the monument, Doug pointed out the hiking trail up, that he hikes, by saying, “Now Melissa, I know you’ll never be back here, so I want to show you this…….”  Doug, yikes, you NEVER say the world never to me!!!! We all know what that means in my life…… Something tells me I’ll be back to Scottsbluff. I’m not sure exactly why, but this isn’t the last time I will visit this town in western Nebraska. 


  1. This was such a great read! I currently live in Henry, Ne. It's a sleepy little town of about 100 people just a stone's throw from the Wyoming border. I grew up in Scottsbluff. It was great to read abouty hometown from another's perspective. If you get back this way and do make it to Crawford make sure to visit my cousin Becky. She runs a coffee house/bed & breakfast called Perennial Haus. It's bright green. You can't miss it. Thanks for reminding me how great our neck of the woods is.

    ~Amanda Spencer

  2. Hospitality is a gift, and Nebraska is filled with many people blessed with this gift. I enjoyed reading this, and so glad you experienced a small part of Western Nebraska. Yes, the sunrises are spectacular, as are the sunsets.

  3. I haven't spoken to Ed or Nancy in several years, but they are definitely the epitome of Western Nebraska's hospitality! I wish you well on your journey!

  4. Wow! All you women just reiterate how wonderfully hospitable and kind your neck of the woods is! Glad you enjoyed the post. It is fun to read and hear about familiar places from other people's perspective! Thank you!