Sunday, November 11, 2007

Nearly Real-Time Update

As I write this, I am sitting in the lobby of the beautiful Snow King resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming after a very long drive that took us from Fall deep into Winter in the space of a few hundred miles. There's a roaring fire in front of me, and everything not designed for comfort is made almost entirely of wood. Dear readers, your heroes find themselves quite firmly in the American West.

We just spent a few days in lovely little Fort Collins, Colorado visiting some old buddies and generally having a great time (so great, in fact, we had no time to do much blogging despite having a fast wireless connection!), and we'll have a full report and pictures up before long. Part of our mission in Jackson Hole is to do very little other than refresh ourselves, enjoy the new (to us) weather and catch up the blog, so ...

Allow me to pick up the story of our trek across the midwest. As mentioned in the previous post, we left Chicago and dropped by Iowa City to visit an online pal of Heather's in the flesh. She turned out to be an awesome lady, and we enjoyed her company and tour of her town, ending up at the Hamburg Inn. We headed on to Des Moines, but didn't plan to do much and didn't end up doing much. We got a lot of "chores" done, like laundry and buying a few more winter accessories, but nothing worth writing about. We did attempt a visit to the local zoo, only to find it closed. :(

Our next stop was Lincoln, Nebraska, chosen solely because it was only a modest drive away and the largest city in Nebraska, so we could be sure of having the requisite amenities (in our world, this means name-brand hotels and wireless internet). As I think I've mentioned, anything west of Chicago and shy of the coast is largely unexplored territory for either of us, so we were interested to see this part of the US both geographically and sociologically.

The people of the midwest, we found, were uniformly polite, patient and friendly to a degree we hadn't seen as much of thus far. It seems to be quite hard to rile anyone, even if you're trying to do so (not that we were ... well not on purpose). :)

I imagine the only way to get a strong conversation going would be to bring up politics or religion.

Iowa was, as you can imagine, in the throes of caucus preparation and politics were all around us. I was quite impressed to see a bumper sticker supporting Chris Dodd on a car at the mall -- in most places he's barely a blip on the radar, but I noticed that a wide variety of candidates had visible support in Iowa. They seem well-informed and unafraid to discuss politics in public, and contrary to my belief, Faux Noise is not the pervasive channel-of-choice in public places. Shocking.

Nebraskans were not, as you might imagine, as plugged-in to the political scene -- not only does their primary come much later, it doesn't matter a whit because not enough people live there to make any difference. No candidates visit there, and most people we met seemed gently (as opposed to strongly) political, and yes we saw many "liberal" bumper stickers as well as more than a few "conservative" ones. Nebraskans don't wear their views on their sleeve the way they do in the south, that's for sure. The stereotypical stoicism of a midwesterner, we find, is real -- but serves to confound easy pigeonholing pretty effectively. That burly cowboy in the dirty pickup truck might well be a gay activist, and that gum-chewing sassy waitress might be a real anti-Hillary hawk. You can't judge these books by their covers.

That's the nice things to say about Iowa and Nebraska.

The bad thing to say is that driving through them is sheer torture. Apart from a few little pleasant surprises on the roadway, it is an unrelenting assault of flatlands and farm stuff that leaves you actually yearning for billboards. The primary highway through both states is the same one -- I-80 -- which moves westward in an incredibly efficient but mind-numbingly boring straightaway. It makes the Orlando-to-Tallahassee run seem riveting by comparison, though it still ranks second to driving across Texas. :P

Even worse, in order to move on to our next destination, we had to drive the entire width of Nebraska! Ye godz! I'm starting to black out just thinking about it. :)

As I mentioned, we didn't stay in Iowa or Nebraska all that long, but we did take a small handful of pictures. If you're interested, here they are.


Jim Donato said...

So far my favorite photos thus far are of the Space Bean! Just think what the producers of Dr. Who would have done with such a thing in the 70s! They would have built an entire year of episodes around it! And you would have loved it. But you try telling that to kids now and they won't have it!

I was kind of hoping that you would have some photos of the Nebraska Grind as it were, to help illuminate the tedium. It would have been funny if they were all THE SAME photo...

chas_m said...


Guilty as charged on the Doctor Who thing.

As for Nebraska, there could be a bit more coming. Stay tuned.