NEBRASKATHON: Day 4 – All around Bassett
It’s been the least-productive, best day of the trip so far.
We woke a bit late. It was very windy, which kept dew from forming and kept my feet dry this morning. Burwell served up a mean veggie breakfast burritto, and we hit the road around 6:30. I think.
I finally realized the maps provided for drivers are not always oriented correctly, and that was a boon! Still, the route organizers mapped was boring – I didn’t want to miss out on my most anticipated part of the state, so I winged it and made my own route.
The drives so far were lovely, but today’s drive topped them. I skimmed through the sandhills as the sun came up. Anyone who calls Nebraska ugly or boring should learn never to judge a place by its interstate. The sandhills are still my most favorite landscape in the world.
I watched loads of cows, ducks, and egrets pass by, and practiced my farmer wave.
Most ladies don’t farmer wave, but I like to do it. Pro tip: It’s usually easier to let other drivers set the tone for the farmer wave in each county. Let them start. Otherwise you’ll be waving all over the place with no recriprication.
I’d lived in this part of the state for a few years, so I knew to look out for tortoises on the road – and in keeping my eyes open I got to save two! They’re ROUND and about the size of my fist, and when I jogged to them from the car they were just dead scared. They’d peek out from a sliver in their shells when I picked them up, then snap shut – totally closed. I left them both in sunny spots on the shoulder – and saw lots of other flattened tortoises.
At camp I spend a good deal of time studying the lay of the land for cacti and giant ant hills so I could place our tents between them. Tent-building took much longer today. Then I was, as usual, on the search for wifi. I finally found it in a community commerce building, where I heard smart people saying smart things about their little community and its natural resources.
I also made a friend with a woman who told me she’d never read a blog! I made Offbeat Home her first, before learning she’s actually pretty content savvy and is interested in learning more about digital conent management. Totally cool.
Around noon I got to run an emergency errand for my Sturgii crew. On the way back to town I saw a third saveable tortoise, but couldn’t stop without creating an unsafe situation for bikers. I do hope one of them hopped off and moved him.
Ken and I tried to hit the “Rock County Hike School Nature Trail.” This sign was actually just about the extent of it.
I placed my vote for Lutherans under the category of “Best Church Lady Coffee.” So the score now stands: Methodists for Best Pie. Catholics for Best Fried Chicken. Episcopalians for Best Sausages.
Finally, I drove with Ken to Ainsworth and Long Pine, where I lived for a few years as a kid. When we moved away I was heartbroken, so going back was nice. I learned to swim in this pool – late, but I made up for that.
We trespassed in the school.
And walked my old alley.
Here’s where my first awesome cat was born. And the tree my awesome dog lived under.
My very first cat liked to walk under this spigot when I turned it on.
And this was my house. I’d painted the tree with tiger stripes just before we moved, but they’re long gone.
I used to go to movies with my best friend every weekend. Ernest Scared Stupid scared the shit out of me; I was physically unable to look under the bed for years.
The tornado slide was still there, and still so tall, and still fast.
We left town.
And went to Long Pine, where I saw a bull snake THIS BIG, and stopped at the gorgeous coldwater creek there – full of trout.
I walked in it with my jeans on, sifting through rocks.
AND I FOUND CADDIS FLY LARVAE. They build their cocoons out of surroundings – whatever they may be. These guys were using leaves and teeny tiny pebbles and they made my heart sing.
And then I started to feel like this was my favorite place in the world. I have very specific memories of this particular bend in the creek. Being 4 or 5, in my little girl swimsuit, crawling around on my belly in the water and being COLD and also HOT and it was sunny and the water was dappled. We had inner tubes and lunchmeat sandwiches…and one time there was a torndao and I was so sad to leave early that night.
So it was a good day. I’m feeling sad to leave it behind again. It’s been too long since I was there, and Long Pine is a good 7 hours from my home. I think about it often, and I want to go back far more.
And now I’m in my space coffin tent, and there are large bugs trying to get in from above and below, and I think it’s time to sleep. Tomorrow we go to O'Neill, and I need to write and write and write.
In the meantime, and if you have a smartphone, I made a great wallpaper for my phone from the bark of big pine tree in Basset.