Posted by: Marie | June 27, 2014

(942) All aboard!

Post #942
[Private journal entry written on Thursday, August 30, 2012]

So, tomorrow I’m heading out for a four-day weekend with my best friend, Melodie . . .

We were college roommates more than 25 years ago, and we’ve stayed in close contact over the years since. She was kind of like a big sister to me during our college years (and we still call each other “sister” to this day) . . . she had more life experience than me and she led me through some pretty tough stuff, including my dealing with my abuse of alcohol during college.

We were in each other’s weddings . . . and when I was struggling to make sense of the failure of my marriage, she is the one who pointed out to me that I had been in a domestic abuse situation . . . and that was when I first started becoming aware that what I thought was “normal” behavior of men was actually abusive.

We’ve taken a number of trips together over the years . . . and one of our trips – four years ago, in 2008 – came about when we decided to meet for Labor Day weekend. We picked out a town that was located about half-way between her house and my house – the town we picked was Kearny, Nebraska – and that’s where we met for our weekend together.

For Melodie, the drive was about 350 miles (563 km), which was the farthest distance she has ever traveled by herself (driving a car). It took a lot of convincing to get her husband onboard with the plan . . . he is very fearful and I think he controls what she does to some extent . . . not to a huge extent, but significantly so when it comes to “dangerous” things like driving a long distance by herself.

He finally got onboard with the plan once she compiled all kinds of contingency plans for addressing potential problems such as if she had car trouble or if she became too sleepy to continue . . . and she had to agree to call him several times along the way to check in . . .

But, as it turned out, she made the trip just fine, with no car trouble and no trouble staying awake.

On a side note, I have a hard time understanding his fear because I’ve driven my car – and ridden my motorcycle – all over the country by myself, thousands and thousands of miles, traveling at all hours of the day and night, traveling in all kinds of weather, sleeping in camp grounds and truck stops . . . and I’ve had to draw my gun to deal with life threatening situations more than once . . . so, the idea of driving 350 miles in my car by myself to go from my home to a hotel in a civilized municipality on a nice summer day is something I can do without a second thought.

On the other hand, I have no man in my life to cause me to have second thoughts about it . . . if I want to go, I go. No one is around to debate the idea with me. But, that’s a topic for another day . . . so, now I’ll get back to the story at hand . . .

Kearny was our “home base” and we took off each day in a new direction to explore. We both enjoy poking around in ghost towns, so that is what we spent most of our time doing. We found little tiny towns, and the people living in those tiny towns invited us into their businesses and into their homes and shared the history of the area with us . . . it was an awesome trip. We had so much fun.

At the conclusion of that trip, we decided that we would get together somewhere in Nebraska every two years on Labor Day weekend . . . we decided it would be a standing date. So, two years ago, in 2010, we met in Council Bluffs, Iowa (a city that straddles the state line between Iowa and Nebraska) and stayed in a secluded cabin near the Missouri River that we used as our “home base” as we explored the surrounding area. (You can read about that trip here: Labor Day 2010)

Melodie planned the first two trips. So, for this year’s trip, I did the planning. About a year ago, I was talking with my mom about my efforts to find a good destination. A few weeks later, she came back to me with an idea . . .

There is a guy who lives in City #3 who is a retired dentist and who is also a watercolor artist . . . his name is Richard Schilling. Well, my mom loves to paint with watercolor . . . and she went to an exhibit of his work and she bought one of his books. It is a “coffee table” book of paintings he has done to illustrate the scenes described in books written by Willa Cather. His book is titled, “Portraits of the Prairie: The Land that Inspired Willa Cather”.


Willa Cather is a relatively famous author who wrote novels set in the Nebraska prairie. She lived from 1873 to 1947 and grew up when Nebraska was just becoming civilized. A large part of her growing up occurred in the little Nebraska town of Red Cloud. So, her novels reflect her own life in many ways.

Even though Willa Cather and Richard Schilling belong to totally different generations (she died around the time he was born), he still felt a calling to capture the images described in her books. He spent a lot of time in Red Cloud, painting scenes described in her books, using the present day landscape as a guide.

I learned from my mom that two sets of my great-great-great grandparents and several of their offspring, including one set of my great-great grandparents, homesteaded within about 20 or 30 miles (40 km) of Red Cloud. My ancestors would have been neighbors with Willa Cather and her family, and probably knew them well. And, a number of my ancestors are buried in cemeteries near Red Cloud.

So, my mom suggested that Melodie and I meet in Red Cloud and explore the surrounding area. It would give me a chance to look up the gravesites of my ancestors. I thought it was a great idea, and Melodie also loved the idea. So, that is where we will meet up tomorrow . . . it is a tiny town (population 1,000) located in the middle of nowhere . . .

My mom loaned me the watercolor book to take on the trip so we can find the sites illustrated in Schilling’s book . . . and she researched the location of the three cemeteries containing the graves of my ancestors . . . she printed off the names of the buried, including their birth and death dates . . . I thought it was so cool she did that!!

Additionally, Red Cloud is the home of all things Willa Cather . . . people can tour her home as well as the Opera House that figured prominently in her childhood and into her adult life. The Opera House now houses an art gallery, a bookstore and the Willa Cather Foundation’s admin offices. The second floor houses the original auditorium.

The Opera House was built in 1885 and was used for performances until 1920. Then, it was used for business, apartments and storage until it was given to the Willa Cather Foundation in 1991. During 2001-2003, the foundation renovated the building, taking it back to its near-original condition. It is being used for performances, once again.

There is a concert on Sunday at the Opera House for which I purchased tickets. The artist is Sarah Arneson, an accomplished soprano vocalist. She has performed on famous stages all over the world. She will be performing selected pieces from a number of different operas. I know this style of music is not one that Melodie favors . . . I told her that I really want to go but that it would not bother me if she didn’t want to go with me . . . I mean, we can handle being apart for an hour or two, LOL . . .

But, she said she would go to the concert with me . . . although she hopes it is not too painful to her ears, LOL. I told her that it would be worth going just to take in the history of the building and of the auditorium . . . and, I told her that it would not offend me if she wanted to bow out of the performance early and go do something else while I enjoyed the remainder of the concert.

On our last two trips, we have driven hundreds of miles to visit ghost towns. Melodie finds these ghost towns listed on the internet and she then becomes almost obsessed with visiting these towns even if it means traveling hundreds of miles to do so. Since she planned the last two trips and I didn’t have a vested interested in how we spent our time together, I haven’t been bothered by the long drives . . . I figured the point was that we were doing something together that we both enjoyed . . . it didn’t matter to me where that took us.

However, I’m more concerned about money this time around – I need to save up about $150 a month for the next year to prepare for the loss of revenue I’ll experience when I attend the CASA training next fall. Therefore, I would like to keep expenses on this trip as low as possible. That is why I made a point of finding a location where we would have plenty to do within just a few miles of our “home base” – that will allow us to minimize the amount of money we spend on fuel.

Melodie is onboard with this plan and has said that we don’t need to go to any ghost towns this trip . . . I pointed out to her that there are probably plenty of abandoned buildings and abandoned communities right around Red Cloud . . . I think all we’d need to do is to ask the locals and I’m sure they could point us to plenty of such locations. So, it’s not like we can’t do anything along those lines . . . it just doesn’t need to cost us an arm and a leg in fuel to do it. She agreed.

For our lodging, I reserved an old cottage that was moved to a farm on the edge of Red Cloud – it was recently restored and “modernized”. (Translation: inside bathroom and running water added). Adjacent to the cottage is an historical one-room school house that was built in 1887 and was used for school until 1959. It was moved to this farm in 1989 and was restored in years following. It still has the original tin siding on the exterior and the original wainscoting, ceiling and chalkboard on the interior. So, these two buildings are sitting on the edge of a pasture, at the end of the property’s main dirt driveway. It will be a peaceful place to hang out, that’s for sure!

The only bed in the cottage is the pull-out bed of the couch – a double mattress. Um, yeah . . . there is no way that is going to work for us. Melodie is quite large (tall and rotund) and though I’m short, I’m rotund also. And, I’m sure that mattress is painfully uncomfortable . . . and, there is no way in hell I’m going to share a bed with Melodie . . . I’d get absolutely no sleep. So, I borrowed a queen-size air mattress from a friend – Melodie can use it. And, the cottage owner said she had a twin-size air mattress in her garage, which I can use.

Melodie will probably arrive a couple of hours before I do, so she is going to get the twin mattress from the owner and test it out (the owner warned us that she wasn’t sure she could find the mattress in her garage, and she is only 90% sure that it will hold air). As I’m driving through Hastings (the last “big” town this side of Red Cloud), I’ll stop at Wal-Mart and call Melodie to see if I need to purchase an air mattress from Wal-Mart or if the owner’s mattress will suffice – I don’t want to buy one if I don’t need to . . .

I’ll also buy some groceries while I’m at Wal-Mart . . . I don’t want to buy groceries in Colorado and then try to keep them cool all the way across Colorado and Nebraska in 95+ degree (35°C) heat . . . it makes more sense to buy them in Hastings. Oh, and, I need to pick up a birthday card for Melodie and a little gift or two, also . . . her birthday is this weekend . . . I had wanted to proactively find a well-suited gift for her, but I ran out of time . . . hopefully I can find something at Wal-Mart that allows me to authentically express my wishes for her.

So, if all goes as planned, I should be on the road by 7:00 or 7:30am. That should put me in Hastings by around 1:00pm and in Red Cloud around 2:30pm.

It should be a really fun trip! I’m looking forward to it!



  1. ..caught up, and glad that you are posting again. :-)

    • Oh my gosh . . . I had a few minutes to spare today, so I figured I’d respond to the last set of comments to which I hadn’t gotten around to responding . . . and I just realized how long it has been since I posted. Yikes! Is it still reasonable to say “thanks for catching up” and “good to see you” when it’s been four months since you left the comment?!?!?

  2. Hope you enjoyed it.

    • Thanks for the good thoughts . . . even though it took me four months to respond . . . yikes! I have a post scheduled for tomorrow . . . LOL . . .

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