Saturday, September 21, 2013

Day 66: Lincoln to North Platte

231 miles; 3:22 hours

The Joslyn Museum in Omaha was the last big art museum on our itinerary. At this point we could cut and run, and be home in a few days. But, you know, it's those long driving days—heading west into the sun—that make travel seem arduous, so we decided to continue our sedate pace, and try to find something interesting to do every day. I had various things in mind based on the research I did at home, but with Captain Dan, there's never a problem finding something interesting to do.

On our way out of Lincoln, he sprang a little treat on me by stopping for a brief tour of the Sunken Gardens, which I hadn't heard about. This is a small but gorgeous botanical garden that was established by a local philanthropist, and is maintained by volunteers. The land has been shaped into low hills and dales and threaded with brick walkways. Flowers, shrubs, and trees, both native and exotic, are arrayed in beds that conform to the shape of the ground; they are enhanced by pools and fountains.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning, and the gardens were pretty crowded. We watched a large group gathering for photos, wondering why so many were wearing red shirts, and why some of the women were so dressed up. I did see a clergyman, but no sign of a service. I surmised that it was a photo shoot, and since red is the color of the Nebraska Cornhuskers who were playing that day, the people were both wedding guests and football fans.

As you go west in Nebraska the country gets flatter and dryer. The sky was absolutely cloudless, for the first time in several weeks. We spent awhile trying to imagine how this country could use so much corn.

As we approached North Platte, Dan was interested in the South Platte river. This is the killer river that wreaked so much havoc in Colorado recently. Its floodwaters were headed this way.

As we first crossed the river in the town of North Platte, we could see that it was high, and we wanted to look at it. Fortunately, there was a Starbucks just across the bridge. We stopped for a latte, then we hiked up the boulevard to the bridge over the river. The river was high, rushing, and brown.

After taking some photos we went to a path under the bridge. Quite a few people were standing around watching the river. Being close to it gave me a feel for the river's action. We could see many trees standing deep in water that were usually dry.

There was a marker on one of the pylons for the bridge. The marks went up to 14, which was quite near the underside of the bridge. At that time the water level was 7. I didn't exactly get the significance of this until the barrista—when I returned to Starbucks later for ice water—said that the level had been 3 when he was there at 10 a.m., so the water had risen 4 feet since then. He said that sometimes the river is so low you can wade across it.

We pressed on to our motel, a Comfort Inn, where we got a free room on points. After we got settled in, we made a trip to the supermarket, which caused us to cross the river again. We could tell it had risen even further. When we got back to the motel, I stayed in and prepared a wonderful fruit salad for myself in the motel breakfast room. Dan went to Ruby Tuesday, dined at the bar, and had a good time.