Sunday, September 22, 2013

Day 67: North Platte to Cheyenne, WY

Our motel happens to be adjacent to a Veteran's Memorial. It is an inspiring example of a community project. It commemorates the veterans of wars in the 20th century.

20th Century Veterans Memorial

A broad walkway is lined on both sides by bronze life-size sculptures representing each branch of the armed services; and not just a generic representation, but a portrait of an actual person, with a plaque telling their achievements and service. Above each statue waves the flag of that branch of the service.

U.S. Coast Guard

Pvt. 1st Class, Robert B. Lowe, U. S. Marine Corps

The sculptures are surprisingly good; two sculptors are prominently identified; there may have been others.  Walls lining the walkway are composed of bricks representing hundreds of service people, and sometimes their families. A register out front lists the location of each stone.

A brick relief sculpture by Jay Tschetter, an artist whose work we saw on our previous visit to Lincoln, has scenes from all the major wars in that century.

Vietnam War  by  Jay Tschetter  (detail)

Outside the main memorial complex--an afterthought--is a memorial to the USO Canteen in North Platte, where thousands of soldiers had a taste of Midwest hospitality as they transited through the town. It has a lovely portrait sculpture of one of the women who led this effort.

Canteen Lady  by  Sondra L. Jonson

The donors of every sculpture and every brick and every other feature of the complex are identified; it is a true community effort, executed with great care and good taste.

Both Dan and I spent some time photographing the monument this morning. It was a beautiful crisp morning with just a few clouds. A large pond nearby gleamed in the morning sunlight.

On the way out of town, we stopped to have another look at the South Platte river. On the local level marker, it was only up one foot, but the water was moving with great energy and had ripped up some trees. We later heard that the river had peaked at almost 14 feet at the official marker, but we didn't find out when that was. We talked to a fellow from the Nebraska Department of Roads who was watching the river. He was worried about some uprooted trees that were floating toward the bridge; if they get hung up on a piling, the water's flow gets interrupted and it backs up over the land.

We drove along the South Platte river quite a long way and we saw many flooded fields. The river doesn't have one well-defined chanel; it sprawls in a lacy pattern. We were stunned by how close the water came to the road, but it was only deep enough to create a swamp.

We had another short straight drive today. Towns are rather few and far between in Nebraska and Wyoming. You find yourself making some hard choices. I thought we might see the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne.

That doesn't mean we didn't see any art. At the Ogallala Westbound Rest Area we found an excellent sculpture by an artist unknown to me. I was surprised to see such an interesting and delightful work in this setting.

Up/Over by Linda Howard

Soon after, the river turned south toward Denver, and we continued straight.  The land gained in elevation, and became flatter and more arid. The sky dominated everything. As we headed west dark clouds were gathering ahead of us. In the upper levels the clouds were gray and forbidding, but in the lower levels, they were watery blue and rain was streaking down. The cloud cover protected our eyes from the Western sun.

The rain didn't start until after six o'clock, long after we got ourselves installed in our room at the Holiday Inn. It was too late to see the museum, so we did a little creative work—editing photos, writing notes, etc.

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant. The quality was pretty good. Dan has this thing about eating steak on the road, though he rarely eats it at home. As Captain and driver, he uses up a lot of energy so he craves protein. No potatoes or bread though; instead, a double order of veggies. I had a hamburger patty and a salad.