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Defining the region

December 22, 2013

When I moved to Nebraska from Illinois, the place felt different to me. Different from Illinois. Different from further-west Iowa where I’d lived for seven years. As I’ve learned, western Nebraska itself is different from the rest of the state.

I’m a bit of a geography nerd, so I had delved into the phone book to take a peek into how the region’s identity shows up in business names.

I’ve been geeking out lately about the flurry of maps popping up online that show different ways of dividing up the country by population, politics, culture, sheer imagination, etc. (One such map, which was recycled from a 2009 Kansas State project, defines the connectedness of various regions of the country to the seven deadly sins, based on demographic data.)

I always look to see how western Nebraska fares.

In this map from Tufts Magazine, we’re in the “Far West Nation.”

US nations

If the country were divided up into states of equal population, Neil Freeman would put us into the state of Ogallala.

new states

If geographer C. Etzel Pearcy had his way, we’d be in the state of San Luis.

38states

I also found interesting this 1940 map of Rural Cultural Regions I found on the Oklahoma State University site. We’re in the “Southern Homestead” region.

Rural Cultural Regions

Some folks at MIT looked at how connectedness of cell phone calls can define regions of the country. Note to our state leaders: western Nebraska is more closely tied to Denver than to Lincoln.

regions_by_call

I think a lot of the disgruntlement western Nebraskans have with our government in Lincoln, “back east,” is linked to the cultural differences between the regions.

A December 2013 article and photo essay from the New York Times, “Life Along the 100th Meridian,” which has been shared by just about every one of my local Facebook friends, captures well a portion of what makes this region different from the rest of Nebraska.

If you’ve run into other identity / imaginary maps like the ones I’ve posted, please share in the comments.

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

Your ’2 cents’ can make a difference at Scotts Bluff National Monument

August 4, 2013

Remember way back in November 2012, when comments were being gathered on trails out at Scotts Bluff National Monument? No? Here’s a blog post on that to remind you.

If you are a regular visitor to SBNM, if you have ever been there, if you plan to go there, or if you just like the idea of the place existing – here is your opportunity to help make the place even more awesome, simply by voicing your opinion.

The gist is, there is currently a planning document open for comment (only until August 21!) about possible future trails on SBNM property. “Alternative C” – my favorite – would add 7 miles of trails to the existing 4.2 miles of trails, and 3.6 miles of “e-trails.”

Here is a screen shot of "Master Plan Alternative C" - the dotted pink lines are proposed trails (the ones with the little circle icons are "virtual trails" with GPS points you'd be able to follow with a smartphone.)

Here is a screen shot of “Master Plan Alternative C” – the dotted pink lines are proposed trails (the ones with the little circle icons are “virtual trails” with GPS points you’d be able to follow with a smartphone.)

I think the proposed trails are awesome. If you think the proposed trails are awesome, and your neighbor thinks the proposed trails are awesome, and enough other people think the proposed trails are awesome, THEY MIGHT BECOME REALITY!

This is the U.S. Government we are talking about – none of this will happen quickly, if at all, but having a strong public response in support of the proposed trails greatly increases the odds of those trails getting built.

Before I blather on with my own opinion about these trails, here is some important info for you.

You can download the entire PDF planning document here: “SCBL Trail Plan and EA“. (If that link does not work the link to the planning page is here: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=164&projectID=44254&documentID=54690.) This document is very thorough. It is 64 pages long. I think you will be most interested in chapter 2, pages 11-19, which talks about the proposed trails.

Once you’ve read enough to develop an opinion, here is the most important part: SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS IN WRITING BY AUGUST 21, 2013! Don’t just comment on this blog post or on a Facebook page – actually register your comments with the government by clicking on the “Comment on Document >>” button!

Click the button!

Support the trails with your comments!

All the cool kids are doing it!

OK, now for some comments that I will send to the government, gussied up with some pictures for the viewing pleasure of my blog readers:

I am strongly in support of Alternative C. I believe the trail options outlined in the report will serve our community in multiple ways.

1. SAFETY. A pedestrian/bike pathway along Old Oregon Trail is sorely needed. This is a 45-mile-per-hour two-lane road that handles a significant amount of truck traffic, yet is one of the most popular routes in the area for running and biking because it is so scenic, historically iconic, and challenging. The hill at Mitchell Pass means there is not the clearest line of sight, so an oncoming driver might not see a biker or runner until it is too late. Please, please develop a pathway here pronto, before there is an accident.

The participants in the Don Childs run during Oregon Trail Days are a small portion of the folks who run Old Oregon Trail through the park on a regular basis.

The participants in the Don Childs run during Oregon Trail Days are a small portion of the folks who run (or bike) Old Oregon Trail through the park on a regular basis. This road is part of the Monument Marathon route, too.

2. PRESERVATION. I am very glad the trails proposed for the South Bluff and along the Oregon Trail through the park are E-trails. I have always considered the South Bluff to be one of the best-kept hiking secrets of the area. An e-trail would improve access but would not scar the landscape with a constructed trail. An e-trail would also be less obvious to the hordes of visitors, so I can selfishly hope those trails stay somewhat peaceful and solitary. And avoiding any sort of construction activity atop the Oregon Trail swales while helping visitors get out to explore them is the best of all possible scenarios.

A view from atop the South Bluff

A view from atop the rarely-hiked South Bluff

3. HEALTH. Scottsbluff keeps winding up on “fattest community” top-ten lists. By increasing the trails at SBNM from about 4 miles to 14, we would be providing community members one more option to get out, explore, and get fit. I am especially interested in the connectivity between these proposed trails and existing community trails. I extra-specially would like to see that “community link trail boardwalk” get constructed to connect SBNM to the dead-end Monument Valley Pathway on the north side of the North Platte River.

It's sad that such a lovely pathway has a dead end.

It’s sad that such a lovely pathway has a dead end.

4. TOURISM. SBNM and its pathways are already a tourist draw. If we could increase those pathways and link them in to other scenic pathways in the community – specifically the Monument Valley Pathway on the north side of the North Platte River – I think we could get more multi-day visitors to the area and increase tourism revenue.

The views from the Monument Valley Pathway are quite lovely in all seasons.

The views from the Monument Valley Pathway are quite lovely in all seasons.

Those are my 2 cents – what’s your opinion of the proposed trails?

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

Snake encounters, May-June

June 16, 2013

When you’re outdoors, wildlife encounters are expected.

In this area, those wildlife encounters may include snakes.

Bugman and I have had two encounters this year. Both go to show that snakes aren’t the vicious attackers some people think they are.

While biking down Scotts Bluff National Monument a few weeks ago, we zoomed past this little guy:

This baby prairie rattlesnake was only about a foot long.

This baby prairie rattlesnake was only about a foot long.

He just sat there. Even when Bugman rolled a bike tire up next to him for scale photo, he just flicked his tongue. Hardly a threat. Unless you happen to step on him. Or do something dumb like try to pick him up or prod him into irritation for a more exciting photo.

While hanging out on the deck of the Wildcat Hills Nature Center yesterday, we heard a birdwatcher squawk when he nearly stepped on a bullsnake.

The bullsnake did not turn and bite. The bullsnake undulated the heck out of Dodge and disappeared under a bush.

He came out a little later for a photo op. How kind of him.

This bullsnake was between 2-3 feet long.

This bullsnake was between 2-3 feet long.

Really, snakes aren’t that scary.

It’s the squirrels I’d keep an eye on.

Shifty little tree rats …

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

Evening thunderstorm

June 11, 2013

As Bugman and I were leaving a meeting around nine this evening, we both caught a glimpse of lightning through the trees to the east.

As we drove home from the northwest side of Scottsbluff, this is what we saw:

tstorm 1(Please forgive the grainy photos. iPhone camera does not do well in low light.)

There was a near-constant flicker of lightning in that cloud.

I had envisioned going home and heading straight to bed, but instead, Bugman and I headed for the soccer field north of town to watch the show.

tstorm2 tstorm3 tstorm4 tstorm5The soccer field is a great place to watch distant thunderstorms.

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

A new distraction: Wyobraska Tandem

April 7, 2013

Hey, gentle readers. You may have noticed that I am not posting as often as I once did. I’m a bit busy.

Busy coordinating the merger of two nonprofit history museums (North Platte Valley Museum and Farm And Ranch Museum into Legacy of the Plains Museums) and working on organizational development, planning for exhibit development, staying on top of the construction project, and assisting with a major fundraising effort, in addition to keeping regular museum activities going.

Oh, yeah. And I’m busy because I’m training for a half marathon, a week-long 400-some-mile bike ride, and a full marathon. And that bike ride? It’s going to be on a tandem. Bugman and I just got a sweet new ride, and we’re learning how to manage it on the road.

So, I’ve started a new blog – Wyobraska Tandem (I wanted to call it Big Red Bike, with a nod to the Husker Nation, but there is a bike-sharing service at Cornell with the same name) – to post updates on my running and biking world and to try to rally some financial support for my physical efforts that will funnel into the museum development project.

wyobraska tandem

I won’t be abandoning this blog, but the number of posts will likely decline even further for awhile.

Just wanted to let y’all know …

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

Liquid comfort at a cafe

March 2, 2013

This post is about a café. A French-style café, to be specific. And while actual French cafés do tend to serve alcohol in the evenings, the title of this post does not refer to that type of liquid comfort.

I refer instead to the comforting warmth of French onion soup. MADE-FROM-SCRATCH French onion soup, that is.

Ever since my days of studying la langue française avec Mme Spangler at Schaumburg High School, and the concomitant visits to a French restaurant for pain au chocolat et, bien sûr, soupe à l’oignon (but not escargot – I abhor the texture of escargot!), I have become a French onion soup snob. I can’t stand it when a restaurant serves up a French onion soup that’s more notable for its sodium content than its hearty onion-browned-in-butter flavor.

Family-owned-and-operated Café de Paris in Scottsbluff (15 West 16th Street, around the corner northwest of Bluffs Bakery, 308-633-2529) serves up the real deal. Next to the café’s order window, you can read a bit about the gentleman, a WWII vet, who makes said soup.

The cafe has food in addition to coffee. I shall have to stop by sometime and do a post just on this place.

On a bone-chilling day this winter, Bugman and I decided we needed to get out of the house, so we walked over to Café de Paris.

He ordered a cappuccino and a reuben.

reuben

I ordered a spiced chai and a bowl of French onion soup.

french onion soup

The combination of the walk in the cold and the warming meal hitting my belly made me feel relaxed and blissful, like after a good soak in an old-fashioned clawfoot tub.

I do miss the crunchy edges of browned cheese provided by the typical presentation of ramekin-broiled French onion soup, but the addition of a side crêpe helps make up for that.

And, if crêpes are your thing, and good coffee (the café serves Mark Ferrari Coffee roasted nearby in Oshkosh), they’ve got you covered, too. (Note to vegetarians: in addition to the fruit crêpes, vegetable quiche has been a feature on the menu.)

crepe

When I last checked, Café de Paris’ hours were 7:30-5 Tuesdays-Fridays and 8-5 Saturdays. The café has both table and couch seating, a conference room, a small boutique, and (key in my mind) wifi access (just ask for the password when you order).

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

Putting the ‘fun’ in fundraiser

February 17, 2013

Here in Scottsing, the first part of the year is a bonanza of gala fundraiser events.

January brought the Soroptimists Bits and Beverages, at which I might have gotten a little carried away on the silent auction tables.

knife basket

Bugman had mentioned not having the proper knife for cleaning the geese he shot. So, I got him this for Valentine’s Day. His comment when he posted the pic on Facebook: “Nothing says ‘be my valentine’ like a bouquet of knives?”

February brought the Legacy of the Plains Bandana Benefit Ball, which was the same night as the Golden Halo fundraiser, alas. (Thanks to all of you who contributed, attended, and purchased, the Bandana Ball raised over $17,000 for Farm And Ranch Museum / North Platte Valley Museum operations!)

Image credit to Rick Myers. I love so many things about this photo: the quilt backdrop, the black hat, and the whole cachet of kicking off the meal by ringing a handmade dinner bell, which is traditionally the last item auctioned.

Image credit to Rick Myers. I love so many things about this photo: the quilt backdrop, the black hat, and the whole cachet of kicking off the meal by ringing a handmade dinner bell, which is the final item up for bid in the live auction.

A perusal of the Scottsbluff-Gering United Chamber of Commerce community calendar shows the Rotary Gold (benefiting the Midwest Theater this year; last year it benefited the museum merger project) and the Leadership Scotts Bluff Hoops 4 Heroes in March, and the CAPWN Night at the Races in April.

Backing up to January again, we get to the focus of this post: the West Nebraska Arts Center “Uncork Your Winter Blues” FUNdraiser event. I missed this event the past two years (missing last year because it was the same night as the Bandana Benefit Ball), so I was determined to go this year, particularly since this year’s theme “Hollywood and Vines” included the invitation to “dress as your favorite movie character.”

I love to dress in costume! When we lived in Iowa, Bugman and I hosted themed costume parties every year at Halloween. That was great fun, and we miss it! (Have not had the time to plan such things in recent years.)

So, we plotted our Hollywood and Vines costumes, ordered a couple of items online, and prepped for the evening by re-watching our favorite movie characters to pick up lines and signature moves.

The night of the event, we walked over to the WNAC. It’s less than a mile from our house, and, with the wine available at the fundraiser, we did not want to drive. We got honked at on our way. We were that cool.

I’ll reveal our characters at the end of this post. First, some of the other characters present. I missed snapping pix of Katniss Everdeen and Beetlejuice, but there were plenty more stars out that night.

Maverick

Maverick

Caddyshack Gopher Slayer (this photo misses the furry rodent glommed onto the back of his hat).

Caddyshack Gopher Slayer (this photo misses the furry rodent glommed onto the back of his hat).

A flapper and Juno. (Good momma - she was serving the wines and not drinking them.)

A flapper and Juno. (Good momma – she was serving the wines and not drinking them.)

Wild West characters serve up some beverages to Indiana Jones.

Wild West characters serve up some beverages to Indiana Jones.

You had to watch out for the Penguin. If you annoyed him, he'd get all up in your face and poke you with his nose.

You had to watch out for the Penguin. If you annoyed him, he’d get all up in your face and poke you with his nose.

My favorite ironic juxtaposition - Church Lady and Hellboy.

My favorite ironic juxtaposition – Church Lady and Hellboy.

Another star of the show: chocolate-dipped bacon, mini cheesecakes, and homemade moon pies.

Another star of the show: chocolate-dipped bacon, mini cheesecakes, and homemade moon pies.

And here we are, in our “Sweet Home, Chicago” alter egos, on our mission from God:

"Four fried chickens and a Coke." "And some dry white toast, please." "I hate Illinois Nazis." "Your women. I want to buy your women. The little girl, your daughters... sell them to me. Sell me your children!" "Honest... I ran out of gas. I... I had a flat tire. I didn't have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn't come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts! IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!" "Shit." "What?" "Rollers." "No." "Yeah." "Shit." " It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses." "Hit it."

“Four fried chickens and a Coke.” “And some dry white toast, please.” “I hate Illinois Nazis.” “Your women. I want to buy your women. The little girl, your daughters… sell them to me. Sell me your children!” “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Yup.” “Shit.” “What?” “Rollers.” “No.” “Yeah.” “Shit.”

So, how’d we do?

the-blues-brothers-film

Got the details down, like Elwood wearing his watch on his right wrist.

elwood

And the hand “tattoos.”

jakeWe even performed a short Jake-and-Elwood dance. There is no videographic evidence of this, alas.

Wonder what the theme will be next year?

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

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