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Adopt a Soldier

July 6, 2013

Nebraska – Saturday, June 29

Since I ended up in York last night, I started my day off by walking around town. Tula and I covered 2 1/2 miles in town and out into some neighborhoods, and we walked by York College. Lots of streets were paved with brick, which looks pretty, but it kind of bumpy to drive on. On my way out of town, I saw a sign about a historical marker, but I couldn’t pull off the road quick enough, so I went up to a nearby Walgreens to turn around. But I figured as long as I was in the Walgreens parking lot, I may as well run in for a couple things that I needed, and in doing so, I found my donation-of-the-day opportunity. I was waiting in the checkout line, and I saw a cardboard box on the counter with a sign that said “Adopt A Soldier” and they were hoping that customers might buy some snacks and things for the troops overseas. I read a bit more, and saw that this was a project sponsored by the American Legion, and they would collect the items that people donate, and pay for shipping it overseas. And I really liked that. It had been a long time since I had bought things to put in a care package overseas – I did that once a week for the first 7 weeks or so of my journey, but I got frustrated with shipping costs – it ate up $13 of every care package budget, so the troops were only getting about $42 worth of stuff. But in this case, I could choose out the full $56 worth of goodies, and the American Legion would pay for the shipping! So I got them cans of nuts, raisins, trail mix, dried fruit, gum, life savers, skittles, peppermints and licorice. It took a while to check out because the cashier had to put a sticker on each item saying it had been bought by a Walgreen customer. There had only been a few things in the bottom of the box before I came along, and my contribution filled it up! So this donation happened simply because I saw a sign about a historic marker, missed a turn, and the Walgreens parking lot was the closest place to turn around. It’s kind of fun when things happen unexpectedly like that! So I went back to the historical marker, and it turned out to be a big rock that marked the Nebraska cutoff for the Oregon Trail. There was also a walking path there, and Tula and I followed that for a while, so we got another couple miles of walking in.

From York I headed west to the town of Aurora. I wanted to pop into the Plainsman Museum before they closed for the day, and it was a wonderful little museum depicting life on the plains from Native American times through the pioneer years and into the 20th century. And then it was time to get some more walking in. Aurora was a good town for walking, with a big town square and neighborhood streets leading off in all 4 directions. There were black squirrels here, and I’m not sure if I’ve seen black ones before. Tula chased several of them up a tree. We walked nearly 3 1/2 miles, which finished off the walking for the day. And then there was one other thing I wanted to see before leaving town – a deep well at a historic site, which was a good stopping point for thirsty pioneers on the Oregon Trail.

And, with evening hours upon us, I started driving into the sandhills of central Nebraska, which is the largest dune system in the country. Because of the sand, it can’t be farmed, but grasses grow on it, so ranchers can run their cattle on the land. It was very easy to see where the farmland ended and the sandhills started. The whole region is just grassy, sandy, rolling hills with cattle (mostly black Angus) and working windmills pumping water into tanks for the cattle. It’s beautiful and peaceful. It’s also the place where 80% of the nation’s sandhill cranes stop over on their migrations, along with millions of ducks and geese, so I don’t imagine it’s very peaceful in March and April!

I was aiming for the town of Broken Bow (towns are few and far between in central Nebraska) but with daylight fading I didn’t want to miss the pretty scenery, so I started to think about finding a place to camp. I saw a sign for a state recreation area, and thought I’d go check out the camping possibilities. There was a place with big picnic shelters, and a boat launch into the river, and there were people camped down by the river. Most of them seemed to be pretty young, and since it was the Saturday before the 4th of July, I figured there might be some fireworks activity, so I didn’t want to camp down there by them. So I just drove back to the picnic shelter area, and since there weren’t any signs saying Do Not Camp, I figured it was okay to stay there. And it ended up being a nice spot, and I enjoyed the few fireworks the other campers set off over the river.

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