We did it! We managed to escape the heat.
Right now we are sitting outside at a campground next to Interstate 80 at North Platte, Nebraska. The weather is absolutely wonderful.
I started to title this “Home Again”, but the relief from the heat is just so wonderful that it only made sense for that to be the title.
When I left this town 40 years ago this last June, Interstate 80 stopped at North Platte. There were bits & pieces of it constructed further out west, but, in Nebraska, the freeway west from where I’m sitting right now had not yet been started, as I recall.
I really don’t have much of a connection here any more. I am sure that there are a number of relatives still in the area, but most of the family left years ago. My dad and step-mom are coming over to visit from a nearby town. They moved back here from Oregon over ten years ago, but they are planning to move back there where three of my siblings and most of their grandkids are. We’re planning to go out to their place on Saturday.
Tomorrow, we’re driving to visit a great-aunt of mine on my mom’s side who lives by herself on a ranch out in the sand hills. She and her husband moved out there over 60 years ago — their daughter was born out there during the blizzard of 1949. Some of my best childhood memories are from that ranch. Though I didn’t spend a lot of time there, I have some great memories of “riding the range” by myself at the age of 14, branding time, and riding up to the top of one of the highest hills with Uncle Martin during a lightning storm to watch to see if the lightning was igniting any of the grass. Great memories. If you’ve seen the movie “Dances with Wolves,” the country early in the movie that Lieutenant Dunbar (Kevin Cossner) is crossing with a wagon on his way to Fort Sedgwick reminds me greatly of the sand hills of Nebraska. The last time I was out to the ranch my oldest daughter was with me and we played the soundtrack of “Dances with Wolves” as we drove across the hills. It fit. (Wonder if I have that CD with us?)
Then, tomorrow evening, we are driving to another town to see the only one of my dad’s siblings who stayed in Nebraska, a brother, and his wife. Usually when I’m traveling through, I just sort of drop in on them, but this time I gave them a call to see if they would be in.
North Platte is a place that a lot of people can say that they’ve been through. Before Interstate 80 carried people through here, US 30 took people straight through the middle of town. US 30 was part of the first transcontinental highway that was originally called the Lincoln Highway. During World War, tens of thousands of the military stopped at the canteen in the Union Pacific Depot, where they were provided snacks and beverages by local lady volunteers. North Platte was a stop on the first continental railroad. The pony express, Oregon trail, Mormon trail, and California trail all passed near here.