Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chimney Rock...

Before I get started today I’d like to throw out a big thank you to the people who’ve responded by e-mail to the columns I’ve written the last two weeks. Evidently there are quite a few readers of the Metro News who either grew up in Nebraska or have family members who still live there.
I gotta be honest with you. When I came up here I really didn’t expect much. Actually, I figured I’d hate the place. Well, like usual, I was wrong. I’ve been here almost a month now and I’m starting to understand why so many people wrote me about growing up here. And why so many of you still think of it as home. It’s just a really cool place with a lot of really good people.
Last Sunday, rather than sit around my motel room, I took another road trip. It was another trip back in time, so to speak. I took Hi-way 26 west out of Ogallala. It pretty much follows the North Platte river to the Wyoming border. It’s the same route the settlers traveling the Oregon Trail used back in the mid 1800’s. But it’s a little easier to do it today than it was back then though.
Once you get out into the panhandle of western Nebraska, the scenery starts to change. About 90 miles west of Ogallala, close to Bridgeport, is about where the bluffs that are so famous start. Just south of the hi-way is where two formations known as Courthouse Rock and Jail Rock sit. You’d have to see them yourself. I pulled off the hi way long enough to take a couple of pictures but didn’t stay long. The things I really wanted to see were a little further down the road. Chimney Rock and Scotts Bluff.
About 15 minutes later, there it was on the horizon, Chimney Rock. It’s funny, I was really excited to see this thing. As a kid, I’d seen it in the background of so many western movies and the whole time I figured it must be in Arizona or some other mountainous state. Nope, there it was straight ahead.
It was still pretty early in the day so the Visitor’s Center hadn’t opened yet but there was a road that led around to the back side of Chimney Rock. It was just a small dead end road that took you within about a mile of it. At the end of the road is a small cemetery that became the final resting place of some of the travelers of those early days on the Oregon Trail. It was kind of sad but very interesting. I got out of my truck, took a few pictures, and just stood there trying to imagine how difficult things must have been back then.
About 25 miles to the west of Chimney Rock is another formation known as Scottsbluff. It’s a huge bluff that stands about 800 feet over the plains that surround it. The Indians of the day called it Ma-a-pa-te, or “hill that’s hard to go around.” To the travelers on the Oregon Trail, they saw it as a sign that they had finally reached the end of the Great American Desert. They were now about a third of the way into their 2,000 mile, 6 month journey to Oregon.
To get this to this point, they had traveled so far and had faced so many challenges, I’m sure they considered it quite an accomplishment But I really doubt that many of them had any idea what to expect once they finally reached the Rockies, which lie ahead of them.
Today you can drive right up to the top of Scottsbluff and once you get there you can see for miles in any direction. About 90 miles to the west you can see the mountains. I still think there were enough people back in those early days who just decided they had gone far enough and decided to call Nebraska home. And I think the descendants of those early pioneers are the people who live there today. Very proud and very independent. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that.
I’ll be heading home to Kansas tomorrow and don’t know when my travels will take me back to Nebraska but I’m very glad to have gotten to know the place and some of it’s people. I’ll never forget it. Stop on by the blog this week and join in on the conversation or e-mail me at


  1. One of my dreams is to just drive out into the plains and stop anywhere I feel like stopping. I dreamed of that all day long when I was trucking. Once in a while I did it, when I could find a place to park. It's fascinating to sit and feel the spirit of a place.

    Now, when you get back to KS, if you're looking for a topic, consider H. 2275, a bill introduced by Kasha Kelley from Ark City. It would require random drug testing of one-third of recipients of federal public assistance (cash, AFDC, and food stamps). It passed the House on Wednesday 99 to 26. I'll bet it will probably sit in Senate Ways and Means over the interim while people talk it over. I think it's an interesting bill.

  2. Yeah, I did the same thing when I was trucking. It's a great way to see the country. But for the most part, you only see it through the windshield. But then I was a young man back then and didn't really care about a lot of things back then. I was more concerned with partying and raising hell.

    That was then. Today I'm a lot older and not in such a hurry anymore. I liked your "It's facinating to sit and feel the spirit of the place" comment. Sums it up pretty well.

    Now for the H. 2275 bill. I think it's WAY interesting. My first knee jerk reaction is ABOUT TIME. But I don't know, are they going to start going into nursing homes and demand that grandma pee in a cup? You're right, it is in fact going to be interesting.

    Thanks for stopping by today...

  3. Hi Kevin ...

    Another GREAT article about your Nebraska trip.

    I just posted a video blog too.

    I wished my grand daughter a happy birthday.

    See you at the Topeka Tea Party. I'm trying to advertise The round about cafe as it's headquarters.

    Details on our web.

    God Bless,

  4. When I think back on Nebraska, I tend to think of the miles and miles of corn, wheat, and barley...with the odd patch of alfalfa...miles and miles. so large, i'm surprised Nebraska didn't end up iwth the nickname, 'big sky country.'

    I didn't see Scott's Bluff till we were leaving Nebraska for California. (my dad got PCSed to Beale.) But when I rode with my husband, when he was driving truck, we spent more than a third of our time on I-80...and every time we went west to east, western Nebraska always struck me as a whole different state than the nebraska i grew up in.

    I guess we can say that about any of the larger states...the political boundaries seem pretty arbitrary in some places.

    I never did get over feeling like I was coming home...driving through Nebraska. Sometimes those prairies still call to me...

  5. Glad you brought up the "big sky" thing, Catnapping. In that perspective you're exactly right. I never got to that in this week's column. But as I was sitting there on top of Scottsbluff I was amazed by just how big the sky was. It's hard to describe.

    Maybe someone out there would like to give it a shot.

    Thanks for stopping by Catnapping. I hadn't heard from you for a couple of weeks. Thought maybe you'd won the lottery and skipped the country or something. Have a good day...