Day 5 North Platte to Omaha

Monday August 9, 2010

Nebraska is a wide state; we spent our third day getting almost all the way across. We again travelled on US Highway 30 rather than the Interstate; it is so enjoyable; very little traffic; speeds up to 60 MPH and we passed through a bunch of tiny, small and medium cities.

We drove without stopping until we got to Grand Island – a fairly good size city. We’ve been craving DQ milkshakes all week, so about an hour before we got to Grand Island I got on the iPhone and searched for one. Good thing we didn’t leave it to luck, this little spot was off the main drag.

It wasn’t a full on DQ with burgers but they did have a choice between Barbecue sandwiches or hot dogs and potato chips instead of fries. We went for the barbecue, which I think was a mistake judging by the noises coming from my stomach this afternoon. But we did get a couple of nice cold milkshakes which is why we went. They were very refreshing as the temp at 11:00 in Grand Island was 85* with high humidity.
We were of a more “get there” than “be here” mentality today; we wanted to get a picture of a small town, but our picture of the best looking building is marred by the rearview mirror. Sorry.

We saw a LOT of trains today. We learned yesterday that there are 36 loaded coal trains heading east out of North Platte every day and 36 empties coming back. Add to that the manifest trains, the grain trains, and container trains and you have a train about every 10 minutes.

US 30 parallels the railroad; as we pulled out of North Platte we went by 4 stopped trains headed west waiting for space in the yard.  Continuing east we saw at least 5 more empties running by. It was tough to get good pictures in the morning because the light was in front of us.

But later in the afternoon I got my favorite picture so far. We were on the southside of the tracks, talking with Andrew on the phone when I saw a set of headlights in the distance. Just after that there was a railroad crossing where I could pull of the highway jump out of the car and get the camera ready. It was a high priority container train rolling by at over 50 MPH with horn blaring. This is a sight I never get to see in Portland; trains just don’t roll through P-Town that fast.

Driving next to the river the last couple of days we wanted to dip our toes in. After passing Fremont we found a state park on the river. We pulled in and drove around a bit until we found a nice little beach on the North Platte river. The water was very warm; not like stepping into the Sandy River near home. There weren’t many people around so we had to take pictures of each other instead of getting a “couple” shot. I hope you can get a sense of how wide and slow the river is here
From there it was a short drive to Omaha – a big city: we had to get used to traffic again. We took a dip in the pool and then asked around for dinner recommendations. We ended up at the Drover where they specialize in whiskey marinated steaks. After you order your steak they dip it in a sauce of bourbon, soy sauce and garlic for 15 minutes then grill to order. One of the things we wanted to do on the trip was have a great mid-western steak, so we shared a rib eye; it was deilicious. 
We really are spoiled by the quality of restaurant food in Portland. Don’t get me wrong; the steak was excellent, but the salad bar was a bowl of iceberg lettuce, some grated carrots, shredded boiled eggs, and that hard red “bacon bits”.  The grilled summer squash and snow peas with the steak was good though.
I wish I could share sounds as well as pictures. The insects I thought were cicadas last night I think are crickets. OMG they are incredibly loud; there must be thousands of them in each tree. As soon as you step out you hear this incredibly intense, loud click/buzzing sound. It is like nothing I’ve ever experienced at home.

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