I reached Nebraska on August 7th. After spending a good amount of time in Wyoming I forgot what it was like to see trees around. Although, this feeling didn’t last long; trees soon dispersed and eventually gave way to farms. Farm after farm after farm. I know Nebraska is known for their corn but I was surprised just how much farming and cornhusks I had seen throughout my entire trip through the state. The first night in the Cornhusker State I stayed at a small campground. The lady there only charge me half-price after I told her of my journey. The next day I arose early and headed out. My goal was to reach the Chimney Rock Campground. Chimney Rock is exactly what it sounds like, a large rock that looks like a chimney. A picture of it could be seen on the Welcome to Nebraska sign in the previous blog.
In the afternoon of that same day a man pulled over and asked if I was walking across the country. I said yes and asked how he knew. Somehow his girlfriend had found me on Facebook. I’m not sure exactly how that worked out but I thought it was funny and we talked for a while. He added me on FB and him and his girlfriend have been continuing to follow my journey. The days were starting to get hotter and I started going through water a lot faster, luckily I had the large six gallon jug. Having the cart that I did really helped out. I liked being able to carry as much water as I was (although I never filled it up all the way), because I hated having to worry about refilling my 1-gallon pouch every time it got low. Anyway, that night I did reach the Chimney Rock campground. Although I called earlier in the day about camping there, I was surprised to see no one at the campground when I arrived. In fact, it was a small place out in the middle of a large field with the huge Chimney Rock in the background. It was eerie but I set up camp anyway. It was dark by the time I got settled and a storm was moving in. Storms in the Midwest are quite scary; lightning spiders across the sky and the wind howls across the plains. The wind was so powerful it was pushing my tent sideways. I know it was irrational thinking, but every time a storm moved through like this it made me think of the film Twister. So, every time I camped out with a crazy storm approaching I always made sure to have a plan of escape; a spot I would run to and hide if a tornado did appear. Small bathroom? That could work. I’ll just hunch down in the shower.
Luckily no tornadoes appeared and the storm moved through quickly. Once the sky cleared I could see Chimney Rock in the distance. It was all lighted up. I tried to take some pictures but none of them came out too great in the darkness since the rock formation was so far away… Oh well. I got some better pictures the next day.
The next day of walking was amazing! It was still really hot out, reaching upper 90’s but I met a bunch of people who helped make the day pass by quickly. Around noon a lady pulled off the side of the road and gave me lunch. She had cooked it earlier and brought it to me: Spaghetti, watermelon, and a coke. I sat on the side of the road and ate it as I watched grasshoppers jumping around. Grasshoppers! I forgot to mention just how crazy the grasshoppers in Nebraska are! They were everywhere, thousands of them. Some days there would be so many on the shoulder of a road that when I would stroll through with my cart they would go crazy and start jumping wildly, sometimes hitting me in the chest or face! It got annoying after a while, but I ended up getting good at dodging them, kind of turning it into a game.
Anyway, back to the awesome day. After lunch I set out and about two hours later another lady stopped and offered me food. She had just come back from the grocery store and said I could have whatever I wanted. I told her anything would be fine, so since many of her items needed to be refrigerated I decided to settle on some crackers, soda, and fruit. When I packed up the new food I acquired she also handed me a stack of bills: $95!! I was really surprised but she wanted me to have it. I thanked her repeatedly. Another hour passed when I reached the small town of Bridgeport. As with Basin, in Wyoming, a reporter met with me on the side of the road. It was funny because I all I saw was a man pullover, get out of his car with a large camera, and start snapping pictures of me as I walked towards him. I figured he probably worked for the local paper; that, or I had become Bridgeport’s new male model. When I approached him, he asked if he could interview me. So we talked for a while and he told me to check online for my story later in the week. I tried to find the article but sadly they have removed it from their site.
After I got out of Bridgeport I walked for another couple hours when the reporter showed back up with his wife. He stated that his camera was messed up so he had to take some more pictures. He introduced me to his wife (she wanted to meet me) and they gave me a goody bag of stuff they had picked up at a gas station: beef jerky, Gatorade, trail mix, candy bars, and gum. Oh and they brought me an ice cream from Dairy Queen!! When they left I sat on the side of the road and ate my ice cream. It started getting dark and it looked like it may rain so I tried looking for a spot to camp. Out of all the states, Nebraska was the hardest when it came to finding a place to camp. As I mentioned earlier, everything is farmland. It was really hard to find places to camp where I would be hidden and that weren’t part of someone’s private property. For this night I ended up camping in some crops.
The next few days were pretty uneventful; long days of walking and strategic camping at night. On August 14th I ran into a problem while sleeping. One of the biggest worries I have when sleeping is that someone may sneak up on me and that’s exactly what happened. When I say someone, I mean two people, and when I say two people I mean two cops. Two policemen walked up to my tent as I was sleeping. I woke up when I saw their flashlights waving around. The camping spot I had picked for the night was behind a couple of trees next to the railroad tracks. Apparently the camping spot I chose was on private railroad property. I told them what I was doing and they informed me I would have to pick a new camping spot. So at 2:00 A.M. I walked along the highway until I found another spot between two bushes. It sucked, but luckily I found a spot quickly because it soon began to rain and continued to rain until about 8:00 A.M. giving me a late start to the next day. When it rains for such a long time my tent eventually starts leaking and the bottom of the tent starts soaking in water which meant there were puddles in the corners. It truly was a horrible night. My sleeping bag, backpack, and clothes were wet. But every day can’t be great so I sucked it up, packed up my wet belongings, and took off.
The next day, a woman stopped in the middle of the road and held a bag out of her window. All she said was “Here you go”. I accepted the bag and she drove off. Inside the bag was a turkey sandwich, Gatorade, water, chips, and cookies. Score!! This kind of made up for the rough night… Kind of…
When it started getting dark I realized I would have to find a good camping spot, one that was not near the railroad tracks. Problem was that the railroad tracks followed the highway on the right side. On the left side was all corn. It wasn’t going to be easy finding a nice hidden area that wasn’t private property. So I walked and walked and it got darker and darker. Around 9:00 P.M. a cop stopped me and asked if I needed help. I told him of my predicament and what happened the previous night. He informed me that those cops I talked to were railroad police and they were sticklers when it came to the railroad property so he told me that I could camp at a historic marker up the road… 5 more miles up the road… Ugh… But I figured it was the best bet because he said it would have a good open area and he would check up on me.
As I headed to the marker, another cop stopped me and again I told him of my predicament. He said that he knew of a spot that was only another mile ahead. The spot was hidden by some trees and was often used by cops who would hide there to catch speeders. I said it sounded great and that’s where I headed. I got to the spot around 10 P.M. The cop showed up a few minutes later to check up on me. Besides the incident with the railroad police, every cop or state trooper I have met has been extremely helpful, which is both awesome and much appreciated.
The next several days were much of the same. The heat continued to rise, sometimes hitting 100 or more degrees. While many times the roads were flat, there were times that they were up and down, up and down. With the cart, down was easy, but I hated going uphill! On August 21st I decided to aim for another campground so that I could shower and do laundry. The Camp A Way campground in Lincoln was on my route and looked like a good spot to hit. Since classes were about to start I knew it would be a good idea to hit someplace with Wifi to get an early jump on homework. The problem was I was also trying to get to Kansas City by the 26th so that I could see my baseball team, the Tampa Bay Rays, play the Kansas City Royals at Kaufmann Stadium. It was going to be close but I thought if worse came to worse I could always get a taxi to take me into the city and then back to the spot where I left off.
As I walked I hit some construction areas which slowed me down, along with some hills that made me take more than the normal amount of breaks… Up and down… Up and down. When I exited the last construction site a construction worker stopped in his truck and offered me a ride. Like usual, I declined, but we ended up talking about my trip. He gave me his lunch that he had packed, along with his sunglasses (mine were broken), and his reflective vest for when I walked at night. I knew I would be walking tonight because the hills and construction had slowed my pace and I figured I wouldn’t make it to the campground until about 10. I was right on the money because that is precisely when I arrived. I picked out a spot, set up camp, and fell asleep.
When I awoke the next day I paid for the campsite and did some homework. I also averaged out the number of miles I would need to walk each day if I were to make it to Kansas City in time for the game. Sadly, I would have to walk 35 miles a day. I didn’t know if I could make that because rain was in the near future and I wanted to take a rest day to do homework. I later called my mother and told her I probably wouldn’t go to the game. She disagreed. Realizing that Lincoln was close to halfway across the country, she decided she would give me a present and rent me a car so that I could drive there. I would see the game after all!!! So, what I did was take a week vacation at the campground, which was a really nice campground by the way. Everyone who worked there was really nice. I chatted with many of them, sharing stories of my travels. One man worked there with his wife and he helped me sew the bottom of my cart (I had ripped it on a cactus while camping). He also gave me a ride to the airport where I picked up my rental car.
On the second day of being at the campground I decided I would walk to the local movie theater and catch a movie. Even though I’m a huge movie buff there wasn’t much I wanted to see over the summer, except for one movie that came out this weekend- The World’s End, the final movie in the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy. I was really excited to see it so I left early in the day and caught the 3:00 P.M. showing.
On August 26th, I drove to Kansas City to watch the Rays play the Royals. Sadly, the Royals pummeled the Rays 11-1. But it was still a fun experience and it was cool seeing a new stadium. When I returned to the campground I relaxed a bit, did homework, read a book, downloaded podcasts, and watched a few movies. One day, an older couple camped beside me with their dog. I chatted with them a bit and they invited me to join them as they traveled around the city. They wanted to visit the Capitol building, a fruit market, and some famous garden area. I instantly agreed to join them. It was a fun little adventure around the city. Many times I don’t get to explore cities like this since I’m walking. I mean I had the rental car but only for a day.
The next day they took off and I finally determined it was time for me to start walking again. Sitting around and relaxing was fun but I started getting antsy. I wanted to walk! So the next day I took off!
One of the worst places to walk is in major cities! My trek through Lincoln was troublesome. Many times the highways, when going through the middle of the city, lose their shoulders. So I had to find alternate routes. I went up and down little side streets and neighborhood avenues. What should have only taken me two hours to get to highway 2 ended up taking me 4… When I did get out of the city I was both relieved and exhausted.
Next, I aimed for another RV park that was two days away. I had a few cops stop me along the way, offering me help and/or water. One cop pulled over and gave me a vanilla pudding and strawberry applesauce!! When I reached the Victorian Acres RV Park it was still quite early in the day. The owners showed me to my spot and then I went to Subway, which was a mile away, and got dinner. When I returned the owner of the RV park offered me a little cabin/meeting area (I assumed they rented it out) for me to sleep in for the night since they knew it was so hot out. I agreed to that. The room had a TV and air conditioning! So I slept in comfort that night!
By this time I was only about 25 miles from the Missouri border and this made me giddy with anticipation. Another state was closing in. I decided I would take an alternate route for this day of walking because I had found a hiking trail that followed the Missouri River. I felt I needed a change of scenery… I was getting tired of farms and highways. I wanted to see some nature! So I followed the trail, known as the Steamboat trail all the way to the Missouri state line. The trail was nice and quiet, all 25 miles of it. In fact, I only saw two other people on the whole trail. I decided since it had been a while since I had listened to my audio books I would finish up The War of the Worlds. This helped pass the time. Around 7:00 P.M. I hit the bridge that took me over into the next state- Missouri! One more state down!