After we got through the worst of the peaks and valleys in the mountains, the weather continued to suck. I had thought we’d drive out of it, but the long delay through the passes ruined any hope of that and we were in rain, freezing rain, snow, and a wintry mix all the way to the Nebraska state line. Occasionally it let up to just overcast, but it was pretty rare.
We got all the way to North Platte Nebraska before we decided to stop for the night. We were going to try to get to Kearney but it was another hour, hour and a half, down the road and we were both pretty tired and hungry. We have a couple of different hotel honours cards, one for the Hilton chain of hotels, which includes Hampton Inns, Holiday Inns etc. and the other for the Comfort Inn chain, including Rhodeway Inns, Quality Inns, Sleep Inns, etc. Needless to say, the Comfort Inn card gets used a lot more on these trips because it’s more economical. So we checked into the Quality Inn at North Platte.
It was a pretty nice hotel because it’s a big conference centre with meeting rooms, catering, and so on.
We settled into the room and then walked next door to a Perkins Family Restaurant to get some dinner. Jay got the chicken fried steak (which he ALWAYS gets everywhere it’s on the menu, & I think it’s just so disgusting!) and I stuck with my usual standby, chicken fingers & fries (yes, there is a logical explanation for the reason why Ronnie’s brother nicknamed me chicken fingers so long ago lol). It was all good and after dinner we stopped into the hotel bar so I could have one glass of wine, which I hoped would help me sleep, which it did. I was out like a light and never kicked until the alarm went off at 3:30am. Then we were up, showered, and out of there in darkness.
As we were driving through Nebraska the sky and fields were full of those crazy birds that I saw the last time we were there. They’re grey (though every now and then you see a white one who kind of looks like a seagull, but there’s no sea anywhere near Nebraska, so I don’t know if they’ve adopted them or cross bred or what). They kind of look like cranes because they have these pretty long stick legs, but they’re not at tall as any kind of crane I’ve seen before, so I don’t know if they’re actually cranes or not. There were thousands upon thousands of them! It was kinda crazy.
There were signs around here too I think for Buffalo Bill’s old homestead. Here’s a link if you’re interested in knowing more about the Archway though www.archway.org. I don’t know about you, but I had never really thought of Nebraska as being part of the Old West before this trip.
Between Fairbury and Beatrice we stopped at a farm to visit quickly with Jay’s friend, Butch. Him and his brother farm something like 850 acres. A few years ago a tornado came through and took all Butch’s barns and garages, leaving just the house. At that time he also kept livestock (pigs flew that day) but afterward he gave up the animals and now it’s strictly crops. He seemed like a nice enough guy, mid to late 50’s, I don’t often meet friends of Jay’s who seem this “normal” 🙂 They talked old times, new times, and of course, politics. I’m beginning to wonder where exactly all the Democrats live in the USA, I haven’t met very many of them. They don’t seem to be in the south and they’re certainly not in the west (well except for Los Angeles), they must all live in cities up north is the only thing I can figure out. Republicans seem to be country folk … and man! Do they ever hate Obama!
We visited with Butch for maybe a half hour and then continued on to Beatrice to visit with Arnie & Emily at the RV Park where he used to live. It was about 10:30 by this time and we had already decided that we would abandon our previous plan of staying overnight and instead get back on the road to Colorado that day. The drive was longer than we thought and we knew I-70 through the mountains was scheduled for closure on Tuesday and perhaps even Wednesday in order to remove some dangerous rocks that could come down in the spring thaw and cause an avalanche. After checking the map I knew we didn’t want to take the camper through the suggested detour.
Arnie & Emily are also in their mid to late 50s and originally from Vermont, which you can tell right away from their accent. They live full-time in a huge motorhome, summering in Beatrice, where they work as caretakers of the RV Park and wintering in warmer climates. The past couple of years they’ve gone to California, spending half the winter in Las Vegas. They were there when we were there but we weren’t able to hook up because they had a lot of company that weekend and just couldn’t fit us in. Again, these are a couple of Jay’s more “normal” friends, meaning they don’t party all the time, and they seemed very down to earth and nice. They miss Jay a lot and hope he moves back there someday, which at this point is a definite possibility, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, he has applied for a job with the gas company in Fairbury and he’s got people who work there putting in a good word for him. It’s sort of every pipeliners dream job to get on with a gas company.
We visited with Arnie & Emily for about 45 minutes and then stopped by Taco John’s to pick up a lunch we could eat on the drive over to Dane’s to get the camper. Jamie, a girl who used to bartend at Gibb’s Place, was working there and was very surprised to see Jay. She did a huge double take which was funny. Everyplace we stopped in Beatrice (like convenience stores, gas stations, etc.) all the same people were working and they all remembered him, which I think made him feel pretty good, because you know, he remembered them so it would have been kind of awful to have been forgotten.
Jay got a couple of tacos and I got a crunchy chicken burrito … & we will never be going back to Taco John’s again! 🙂 Honestly, Taco Bell is better, and that’s saying something! My burrito was filled with popcorn chicken (which was fine, but there were only 3 pieces) and tater tots … TATER TOTS! The description on the menu did not mention any freaking tater tots! (and there were like 5 of them! way more tater than chicken!) There was also some shredded iceberg lettuce that was a little brown around the edges, some diced tomato, and a heaping helping of some kind of liquid cheese product that resembled microwaved Cheezewiz. NASTY! And a terrible aftertaste that lingered for hours. Ugh! Jay’s tacos were no better with the same condiments. So no, we’re NEVER going back! A Whopper or something equally disgusting from one of the burger fast food chains would have been a hundred times better.
When we got to Dane’s nobody was hanging out at his shop, so Jay had to get the camper ready to roll all by himself, which takes a little longer, but still only about a half hour. I sat in the truck on the computer and tried to figure out where we could get that day and if it was close enough to the mountains so that we’d be able to get through the part of I-70 scheduled for construction before they closed it. Jay discovered the propane had never kicked on for our fridge and he’d also not taken all the perishables with us to Vegas. So there was a chicken pot pie and a package of Ball Park Franks in the freezer that had literally exploded in the elements and spewed yucky crap everywhere, then molded. There was also a carton of eggs and some veggies that were pretty nasty. He removed everything and threw it into Dane’s garbage pile. As soon as he hooked on and pulled the camper up to level ground the freaking propane kicked on! I was like, “You mean if you had of taken the time to level the thing before we left it would have worked?!” Um yeah, it would have … so now we know I guess. But we’ve already vowed that if we ever leave the camper again, even if it’s only supposed to be for a short while we’re taking a full kitchen (hot plate, George Foreman grill, utensils, etc.) and all our perishables with us. We will never be in the situation where we have to buy new stuff to cook with in order to live in a motel again.
From my calculations using Google maps, I thought we might be able to get all the way to Denver before we had to stop, and most certainly Sterling, but as we drove off into an unbelievably strong headwind (there was a high wind warning in effect wouldn’t ya know) thoughts of reaching Denver or even Sterling by nightfall diminished. I’d already used up most of our battery on the computer so I tweeted that I needed help and got my sister to do some map calculations for me. We were definitely sure we could make it to Fort Morgan, Colorado, and if we got up early enough we could beat the Denver morning rush hour traffic and get through Empire before they closed the highway.
In Colorado there were a lot of cows too, and nearly all of them had their heads stuck through the fences trying to get to some greener grass to chew (though really none of it was very green). When we had driven to Nebraska we passed through three towns that housed prisons. I know this because we passed three signs warning us not to pick up hitchhikers … the odd thing is, you only pass one of these signs when you’re heading west on the same highway through all the same towns … so what? The escaped inmates don’t hitchhike westward from the other two towns? How bizarre!
As we were driving into the sun across eastern Colorado I took out our handy dandy Comfort Inn map that we picked up in Avon the first time through, and which has since become one of our most valuable resources, and located the phone numbers for two of their chain in Fort Morgan. I called and got the scoop on both the Comfort Inn and the Rhodeway Inn and then booked us into the Rhodeway for the night. We hadn’t stayed at a Rhodeway before, so I was a little concerned it might be a dive, but luckily it wasn’t. It was actually kind of nice. Well, the hotel itself was a bit older, not rundown though, but it was the little touches I really enjoyed. Checking in we were given a little welcome package because of our preferred member status. It wasn’t anything much, just a bottle of water, some chocolates, etc. but still nobody else ever gave us a welcome gift. In the room they had left mints on our bed with a note telling us they hoped we had sweet dreams and if there was anything we needed just to call them. Again, nothing much, but nobody else had done it. And in the bathroom they had arranged a facecloth on top of the bathmat on the side of the tub to look like a flower or lily pad. Atop it was a little round coaster with a plastic fish perched on it. The writing on the coaster said don’t steal this fish just take it as a keepsake reminder of your stay here, give it to a child or a friend or just hold onto it as a memory of your time in Fort Morgan. That was kind of nice … I forgot the fish though 😦 With a big flat screen TV (complete with HBO) and an ergonomically correct desk and chair, we were quite happy with our choice of place to stay.
We settled in for a few minutes and then headed to Maverick’s restaurant in the hotel lobby. There really wasn’t any other restaurant within walking distance and it can be hard to get parked when you’ve got a camper behind you. Jay ordered some kind of a super fajita with shrimp, chicken, steak, and all the fixings. They brought us a complimentary basket of nacho chips and salsa to start. I thought the salsa was pretty good, seemed homemade to me with huge chunks of garlic and onion and lots of fresh cilantro, Jay just thought it was so-so but he liked the tri-colour chips a lot.
I decided to be daring and order a burger … You know, I love burgers, they are like my favourite thing, but the reason I always get the chicken fingers instead is because you have to be really careful of ordering burgers in the US because they only cook them to medium not well, usually even when you specifically request well they show up all pink inside. But I was really craving a big juicy burger so I thought I’d live dangerously and take a chance. It was called the Big Burger and the description said it was a half pound of ground beef with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle. I ordered it with cheese and bacon too. I told the waitress I wanted it “very well done” and Jay said, “Yeah, when you can take that sucker and bounce it off the floor like a hockey puck, it’s done!” which kind of pissed me off because then I was worried they’d overcook it.
So I was expecting this big ass half-pound burger that I would barely be able to get my mouth around … and instead I got a processed thin patty (a Bubba burger) that was charred black on the outside and still didn’t look cooked on the inside. Not that it was pink, because you know those processed patties are never really pink, just a soft grey with a tough black outer shell. At first I was just flabbergasted. My jaw dropped. “THIS is a half pound of ground beef?!” To which my sarcastic husband replied, “Well, it shrinks when you cook it.” And then I was pissed. What a freaking rip-off! It was a $9 burger for godsake! As I grumbled and ate and complained and ate, because I was so freaking hungry I would have probably eaten the real ground beef if it ever arrived pink and running with blood, Jay laughed and made fun because he thought it was hilarious. And the more he laughed, the more pissed I got. The only saving grace was that the waitress let me know she could give me a go cup to take a glass of wine back to my room for a night cap. And lord knows I needed a night cap!
Even though supper kind of sucked I felt better with a full belly and a go glass of wine in hand as we stepped outside of the restaurant to go back to our room. The hotel is set up so you literally step outside, all the rooms aren’t accessible from the inside and many have their owns doors to the outside (although ours didn’t). The wind had either died down or changed direction while we ate because as soon as we opened the door we were hit by the overwhelming stench of what could only have been a pig farm. I gagged and nearly threw up, plugged my nose and ran to get back in. Oh my god! What a smell! It was terrible! And then it was stuck in my nostrils and I couldn’t get rid of it. Jay stayed out to have an after dinner cigarette and I don’t even know how he stood it! I totally couldn’t do it, no way, no how! While he was out there he got talking to another hotel guest about how grossed out I was and how I’d fled to the room. The guy said, “Where I come from, that’s the smell of money.” I’m telling ya, no amount of money would be worth it to have to be around that smell for any amount of time. It was the worst thing ever! I can still gag when I think about it.
When Jay came in from smoking we pretty much just set the alarm and went straight to sleep, worn out.
(…to be continued…)