I spent the first 19 days of July in Nebraska. Not something I would usually do, however I have a couple of good friends who live in Omaha and Lincoln, so there was a reason for this insanity. Nebraska is one of those fly-over (or drive through) states that one usually wouldn’t spend a great deal of time in, but I am glad I did. After all, where else besides Nebraska could you see so much corn in one place? Oh yeah, Iowa. Or Illinois. Or Indiana. But those stories are forthcoming.
Chris is someone I have gotten to know over the past two years as we work for the same company. While many of my co-workers are people I have just a work relationship with, Chris is one of my fellow employees that I have genuinely bonded with. So given the opportunity to spend some time with him and his family, I said hell yes! So Lincoln, Nebraska was my first stop in the area, arriving June 30th.
I settled into Pawnee Lake State Recreational Area just outside Lincoln, a nice 25 or so minute drive from Chris’, and I stayed at the park for the first 9 days in the area. Just a simple, electric only, campground that was crazy crowded for the 4th of July, but cleared out shortly afterwards.
I co-worked at Chris’ house for the time that I was in Lincoln, which was very nice. Spending time with his family and bumming meals off of his wife (who is an excellent cook) made the time there very enjoyable. It is always nice to have the opportunity to spend quality time with someone that you work with, enjoy being with, and have only met in person on two occasions.
I was in Lincoln for the 4th of July, which was an experience to say the least! The city of Lincoln put their fireworks show on the day before – on the 3rd – for budgetary reasons I guess. Something about they don’t want to spend the money on overtime for all the employees required if they had it on the actual holiday. So we enjoyed that show from the top of a parking garage in Lincoln. Nice, but nothing like what was to come.
The actual 4th was spent in a neighborhood that does things up right! Not only was there the requisite BBQ and great food, but apparently the thing in the midwest, or at least Lincoln, is to do things up right when it comes to fireworks. WOW! I have never seen such a display in my life. Literally wherever you turned in all 360 degrees you were treated to spectacular fireworks that rivaled what the city had, but these were fired off by people in their neighborhood. WOW! I was impressed. Had a great time!
Mike is someone I have known pushing 20 years. We were roommates back in the day in Southern California when we both worked for a couple of flight schools. Yeah, this was a few careers back for me, but Mike is still in the aviation game, currently as a corporate pilot for ConAgra Foods out of Omaha.
I was fortunate enough to have my first driveway squatting experience in Mike’s driveway. For a week he and his wonderful family were kind enough to let me park my house in their driveway. This allowed me to get to know his wife, his son, and his twin girls, and to catch up with Mike.
Mike is an avid fly fisherman and was hell bent on getting me out there to catch some fish. So out we went. The first step was to have me practice casting on his lawn. Yeah, not so pretty. Then we were off to one of the local reservoirs where the only thing biting was the damn flies on my legs. Ouch! Not sure I have ever been bitten by a fly before, and definitely not like that.
We went out fishing another day at another reservoir and had luck. I actually caught two fish in pretty fast succession, then nothing. Unless you count catching the tall grass on my back cast. Whatever. I count that as a successful first outing. We called it a day when the mosquitoes decided I would make a tasty meal as the sun slipped beneath the horizon.
Before I wore out my welcome, I relocated to Mahoney State Park in nearby Ashland (between Lincoln and Omaha) for my final 3 nights. A very nice park, and a great place to call home it if you are ever in the Omaha/Lincoln area.
Chris did a great job of showing me around Lincoln, where we hit several of the local restaurants, including one brewery, the farmer’s market, a wonderful ice cream shop and the general sites.
Mike did a great job as well, taking me around Omaha, to a concert at Jazz on the Green, a tour around the home of the baseball College World Series, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge where I was literally in two places at one (Nebraska and Iowa), and a driving tour of the rest of the sights in greater Omaha.
He also took me to his work, where I got to sit in one of the Learjet 45s in the ConAgra fleet. I had never been in a Learjet before and this airplane geek throughly enjoyed that! Oh, and let’s not forget that Mike gave me my first Iowa experience when we crossed the Missouri River into Council Bluffs to tour the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.
On my own I toured the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland, which happens to literally be right next door to Mahoney State Park, where I ended my stay in the area.
I also know a third person in the Omaha area. Andy is an iOS developer that works for the same company as Chris and I and we connected on the last Thursday for the Taco Ride. This evening/nighttime bike ride brings upwards of 1000 riders who bike a 20 mile route along a rails-to-trails path to the tiny town of Mineola, Iowa where tacos (what else?) are served to the masses. Quite the experience!
Oh, did I mention that beer drinking is involved. Yeah, lots of beer drinking. As a matter of fact, at about the 7 mile mark there is a clearing in the trail that is called Margaritaville, where beer is consumed before the riders continue to the restaurant. Apparently it is legal to consume beer on this trail as there was a Sheriff’s bike patrol that rolled through Margaritaville and they didn’t even bat an eye. They just stopped at one end and observed.
The bike ride back (10 miles) was done in the dark, which makes for an interesting experience after so many people have been consuming so much alcohol. Yeah, that ride was one of those experiences I was very glad to have, and definitely would do again.
The final night in town found Chris, Andy and me, with the addition of Andy’s girlfriend and a couple of surprise guests, hitting a local brewery in the Benson area of Omaha. Followed by some old school video game playing (and beer drinking) at the nearby Beercade. Yeah, beer and arcade games from our youth. What is better than that?
The surprise guests that I mentioned were the Snowmads. Jason and Kristin exemplify the whole social/community aspect of being a nomad that I previously talked about. The joke between us is that they are stalking me because we met up in the first three state that I travelled to (New Mexico, Colorado, and Nebraska) up to this point and I am certain we will meet many more times down the road. I love them and love their company. Fortunately they were hanging out in Des Moines, Iowa and got bored so they decided to pop over to Omaha to say farewell to me. Yeah, you can do that when your house has wheels. I love it!
So all in all I enjoyed my time in the Lincoln and Omaha area, but it was time for me leave. Further commitments called and I was off to Sioux Falls, SD and Iowa, but not before spending some quality time with great friends in the heartland.