Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Driving Day: Nebraska, Lake McConaughy and COLORADO!!!!!!

This morning, around 4:30 AM the train game through Anita.  Anita is just a few miles from here and sound really travels.  I thought the train was coming right through the campground! The whistle was soooo loud!  Well, that was good because I was awake early to get an early start on the driving! 

Originally I’d planned to overnight tonight at Lake McConaughy in the far southwestern corner of Nebraska, right by Colorado.  This is another Gadius Family Favorite and while I know they’d never steer me wrong, the pictures I’d seen of the lake made me think it was a place that I wouldn’t be that interested in and the pull of actually putting my feet in Colorado today rather than waiting until tomorrow was just too strong.  If I pushed on it was just another hour and a half and I’d be in Sterling, CO, only 100 miles from Loveland!

It was chilly this morning at Lake Anita!  I ended up getting an extra blanket!  I wanted to drink my coffee and watch the sunrise, but it was too cold so I had to walk and drink (and I spilled coffee on my clean shirt too…). 

I was on the road by 7 am!  The rest of Iowa was as lovely as the 1st part and soon I was crossing over into Nebraska!  Omaha was hazy and smoggy and not very attractive.   That was a trend that would be followed by the whole rest of the state.  Where Iowa was scenic and pastoral, Nebraska is harsh and desolate.   There were long stretches with nothing.  The rest areas were in poor shape – very crowded and very small truck areas.  Everything seemed to be covered in dust and haze.  The good news was that the speed limit was 75, which basically meant “pick any speed under that".  I picked 70 and set the cruise and barely had to tap the brakes. I was both passing trucks and being passed.  Again, most of the traffic was trucks and RVs.  I think another part of why the driving is nice in the “1000 Mile Flats” is that everyone there is trying to be someplace else so we all just hold on and get through it!

I’d kinda decided that I wasn’t going to camp at Lake McConaughy, but I also knew that I wanted a driving break and I wanted to visit the park and see what it was like.  If I liked it, I could stay, if not, I could keep moving.  It was 10 miles from the highway!  I drove all the way out there and found the lake to be just like the rest of Nebraska, harsh and desolate.  The lake was huge and it was surrounded by sand beaches, there were few trees.  The big thing out there is to camp right on the beach.  People drive their RVs, trailer, 5th wheels, cars, etc, right out onto the sand and camp by the water.   It’s all very exposed and there’s no shelter from the sun.  As I suspected, it wasn’t my kind of place!  I still went down to the lake and paid m $5 admission to walk on the beach and swim.  I walked a ways down the beach hoping to see more of the lake but I couldn’t, so I went for a swim.  As a swimming lake, Lake McConaughy, is fabulous!  No rules, no designated swimming area – you can go anywhere.  It get’s really deep, really quick!  It was nice and cool!  I enjoyed about 20 minutes in the water and then was ready to head back to the highway.


Lake McConaughy from the top of the dam



Lake McConaughy was created for hydroelectricity!

P1130506People camping on the beach


Looks almost like a tropical island!


Piping Plover!  These birds are endangered – I got a flyer about protecting them when I came in!

I have no idea how long I spent there.  Just before I got to the exit for the lake I crossed into Mountain Time.  My phone must have still been connected in Central Time (how do people who live on the time line manage?  Does their phone constantly shift back and forth?), so I was still thinking in terms of Central Time.  Then my phone switched!  I had no idea was time was what!

Back at the van I used the outdoor shower to hose off and got changed, got a snack and headed out!  Soon I was back on the highway cruising toward Colorado! 

I was very excited to cross the state line into Colorado!  I’d made it!!!!! 

P1130522The Colorado State Line!!!!! 

(trying to take pictures and drive never works well, but I had to have a pic of the sign!)

Of course the Northeastern corner of Colorado is very different from the other parts.  It looks a lot like Nebraska in fact.  Although a few miles in the landscape changed – it’s all very low shrubs and dirt.  Very dusty.  Looks very dry and desert like. 

Tonight I’m staying at the WalMart in Sterling, Colorado.  There’s a state park up the road but it was 15 miles away via rural road and I was too tired.  Even though it’s only 7:45 I’m tucked away in my van in my jammies waiting for the sun to go down so I can hopefully sleep.  It’s pretty quiet here so I hope that continues. 

Tomorrow I’m going to stop at the Pawnee National Grassland and then head to Loveland to meet up with Mom and Dad.  They are coming in from Moab, Utah and have a 400 mile drive to make!

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