I recently heard a western Nebraska resident proclaim that they do not plan major travel in the spring – a wise strategy, given the crazy weather swings that can happen on the High Plains at this time of year. Bugman and I got caught up in some springtime travel craziness recently.
Bugman needed to fly to St. Louis out of Denver on a Monday for a training session and planned to return Tuesday evening. I had booked a flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul for Easter family visits, departing Tuesday morning. The plan was, I would drop Bugman at the airport Monday. Then on Tuesday, I would leave the car at the airport when I took off and send him the info on how to find the car so he could drive it home that night.
Well, with the weather forecast threatening crummy weather Monday night into Tuesday, I decided that, rather than driving back home and trying to drive down to Denver again early in the morning on bad roads, I would book a hotel near the airport.
I dropped Bugman at the airport and killed some time in Denver before hotel check-in time. I settled into my room, logged into the wifi, and . . . ew. The forecast for the next day looked worse. What if Bugman gets back to Denver tomorrow night and can’t drive home on snowy roads and all the hotels are booked up with other stranded travelers? I got an email from Frontier Airlines about likely delays and cancellations the following day. What if *my* flight doesn’t go?
I walked out to the front desk and extended my stay for another night, then I went for a walk around the neighborhood. It was a lovely, mild evening.
When I woke the next morning around 5, I could hear the wind hissing around the slats of the hotel room’s window HVAC unit. I looked out my window.
After some hemming and hawing and dinking around online and an annoyingly unproductive phone call to Frontier’s customer service, I got logged in to the Frontier website. There were three seats left on the DEN-MSP flight departing the next day at the same time.
At 5:48 a.m., I canceled my original flight and snagged the next-day flight for just $14 more. (I had somewhat accidentally signed up for “The Works” ticket upgrade to get “free” checked and carry-on bags, so the $99 change fee was waived.)
Ten minutes later, snow was not just accumulating on the grass and cars, but on the streets, too, and, apparently, the trees and power lines. The power started cutting out at the hotel, plunging everyone into darkness, killing the wifi connection, and setting the alarm system ascreech – a pattern that would repeat for most of the morning.
When I went out to the lobby to cancel my shuttle ride to the airport, I had to dodge around clumps of unhappy spring-breakers clutching their ski gear. Is the airport still open? I’m sorry, the shuttle is running late. My flight was cancelled. The roads are really terrible. I’m sorry, sir, all of our rooms are booked up. I did not envy the front desk staff.
I passed the time texting Bugman and checking weather and status updates on my phone. At least the cell signal was still working! The Denver airport Twitter feed was very informative.
6:59 a.m. – Bugman texts me to say his flight home was canceled.
At some point, the status of my original flight changed from “on time” to “delayed.” Bugman got rebooked from St. Louis back to Denver via Phoenix the following morning.
About a half-hour after the airport closed (the first such closure in 10 years!), my flight status changed from “delayed” to “cancelled.”
1:25 p.m. – I heard laughter outside my window.
I dozed away the rest of the day, subsisting on food selections from a vending machine and a gas station.
Around 5 p.m., the snowfall slackened. The Denver airport announced that it would begin resuming operations at 7 p.m. I decided to go shovel off the car so Bugman could find it the next day.
The next morning, the hotel lobby was full-to-bursting again, the movement of the people standing nearest the automatic door causing it to open and close repeatedly. Everyone was waiting for the airport shuttle, which was running late on the still-slick roads. We made it slowly but safely to the airport, despite a few close, hard stops that caused the parents on the bus to clutch protectively at their kids.
An airport in the aftermath of a blizzard is a pit of misery.
There were mats, blankets and pillows strewn everywhere – some occupied, some not. Check-in lines were long, security lines were long. The seating areas at the gates were jam-packed with the overbooked and the hopeful, all trying to get onboard via standby. I felt bad for the gate agents. Many of them looked frazzled. I wondered how many hadn’t made it home the previous night.
I overheard one extended family trying to decide whether to hang out at the airport in hopes of flying home standby before their rescheduled flight on Tuesday (it was currently Wednesday!) or to try to rent two cars to drive home to Tennessee.
Bugman texted me to say that he had not yet been assigned a seat on his flight from Phoenix to Denver, and that there were 61 people on the standby list. (He eventually made it.)
My flight was delayed, but it went. After the final boarding call, two girls, faces flushed with pleasure and relief, bumped down the aisle – lucky winners of the standby lottery.
The spring snow was melting quickly in the strong sunlight, yet phalanxes of snowplows were still out there clearing the runways.
As we ascended over the city, I could see crews working along the highways to extricate stuck cars from roadside drifts.
The aerial view of the snowy landscape was beautiful.
The blizzard-made patterns on the ground were fascinating.
It was interesting to see how irregular the blizzard’s whallop had been. Vast stretches of ground looked as though they’d been missed completely.
The Minneapolis – St. Paul area had been hit by heavy, patchy snow, too.
We flew into the urban corridor of the Twin Cities, and the snow seemed a little lighter.
One thing I love about Minneapolis – St. Paul is the wilds of the Mississippi River cutting through its heart. You can have a bit of bucolic scenery in the midst of a big city.
A nice view towards downtown St. Paul!
Heading home a week later, more travel anxiety: another forecasted winter storm! As it turned out, the storm bypassed Denver but set up shop to the north – right in my path home.
A friend who dropped his spouse off at the airport that morning agreed to pick me up and drive me home. The snowstorm was hugging the I-25 corridor, cutting off the interstate route through Cheyenne, but leaving the eastern “backroads” route potentially open.
As we approached the Nebraska border on Highway 71 through the sparsely-populated Pawnee National Grasslands, it started to sleet. The roads got worse, but not terrible – until we reached the Wildcat Hills.
We managed to make it home safely. (Whew!)
Two days later, on April 1, as I headed to a meeting out east, I was strongly reminded of the fact that I live in a valley. The snow had completely melted away “down below,” but the Wildcat Hills still held onto a snow coat, looking more like mountains than sandstone bluffs, set white against the green of winter wheat.
Here in western Nebraska, we continue to vacillate between 80-degree days and icy ones. We’ve had hail and a couple of wet snowstorms.
Today, April 30, began with a sludgy coating of snow weighing down the lilac blooms.
Several people have found emerged cecropia moths languishing in the cold.
Spring weather is crazy on the High Plains. It seems to get crazier all the time.
Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw
Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I pretty much stopped reviewing restaurants.
It got to be too much trouble updating the reviews for the cute little places that didn’t make it. There started to be more societal criticism of photographing one’s food, and I was feeling more self-conscious about pulling out my phone to take a picture. There’s also the fact that I live in a small town where honest reviews of poor experiences do not fly well – sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all.
But none of the above are excuses for why I’ve not yet posted about The Mixing Bowl. Maybe because I didn’t feel like I could do it justice. It is one of my favorite restaurants.
I love the ambiance of the little place – casual, colorful and friendly (owner / operator / chef Jamie Meisner often comes out of the kitchen to say hello).
I love the commitment to using local and from-scratch ingredients – not an easy or cheap method of doing business, but a traditional and neighborly one that helps strengthen the community.
And I love the authenticity and changing variety of the food – a focus on family-favorite Midwest German comfort food (it was from Jamie that I learned what a cabbage burger should taste like), but with sparks of Mexican flavors and room for the flair of other international cuisines as the menu changes.
Here is a quick photo of my standby luncheon favorite, the (meatless!) grilled cheese chile relleno sandwich, in this instance served with a fresh side salad and my favorite Mixing Bowl dressing, caramel basil vinaigrette:
And, the reason for this blog post today: Sunday brunch. Ever since The Mixing Bowl changed its hours – closed on Tuesdays to enable being open for brunch on Sundays – I’ve been meaning to hit the rotating brunch menu, but it’s out of my routine since I usually make from-scratch whole-wheat waffles on Sunday mornings. On this particular morning, I was out of milk and thus prevented from making waffles, so I decided to venture out to The Mixing Bowl instead.
I tried the green chili biscuits and gravy: “Hash browns, flaky cheddar biscuits, and eggs your way smothered in green chili sausage gravy.” After a visit to a Louisiana diner some years ago, I learned that I liked from-scratch biscuits and sausage gravy. Given that a local culinary tradition is to smother one’s burritos, tamales, etc., in green pork chili, I felt it was my patriotic duty as an assimilating western Nebraskan to try the breakfast version of “the smother.” It did not disappoint.
I am glad Bugman was open to my suggestion to try the shakshuka. I have been intrigued by this eggs-plus dish ever since I read about it in the New York Times’ Cooking section. The Mixing Bowl’s version (another meatless option!) is described thusly: “A traditional Israeli breakfast of roasted peppers, tomatoes, onions, and spices served with poached eggs and toast.” The poached egg looked to me like a huge dollop of sour cream. Bugman enjoyed the unique dish, which left him quite full. His comment: “If you don’t like peppers, you won’t like this dish.” He let me try some of the stewed bell pepper – the hearty flavors of paprika and cayenne predominated. Good stuff!
On the occasions when I have a dinnertime burger craving, I wish The Mixing Bowl served dinner, too. They have a small but good variety of unique burger flavors on the menu. I’m partial to the Big Mac burger (it has Sriracha!).
Long may The Mixing Bowl . . . mix!
Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw
The photo doesn’t do it justice, of course, but the view from the Highway 26 overpass in northwest Scottsbluff this morning was amazing, with the thick bank of river fog tinted pinkish-orange from the rising sun and trees and buildings within the fog appearing more as suggestions than physical objects.
This year, I thought I would train for a spring half marathon, but since I can’t yet manage to run a 5K without stopping for walk breaks and a nasty cold has put me even further behind, I think I will probably scrub that goal. Instead, to provide motivation to stay active, I’d like to set a goal to run every local race I can.
I started off my fitness campaign with the Mardi Gras 5K on February 21.
What’s that? You never heard about this race?
I’m not surprised. It’s been difficult to find a comprehensive source of race information here in western Nebraska.
When I lived in Iowa, I checked the Fitness Sports race website page often for local running race information – it’s a great resource for races all over the state. Here in western Nebraska, I tried to maintain a similar list on the Western Wind Running Club Facebook page, but it was difficult to keep up with, since there wasn’t a great information pipeline and few other page users helped to update the document. Also, if you weren’t a Facebook user accepted into the group, you couldn’t see the information.
That’s why I’m ever so glad the Monument Marathon has added a local race page to its website. I learned about the page from a Star-Herald article, where the marathon race director suggested that these local races could even become part of a series leading up to the Monument Marathon in the fall.
There’s a clear contact link at the top of the Monument Marathon Nebraska Panhandle Races page (under Race Info>Regional Races) for submitting information on races, and the page is accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.
For this webpage to become a success, it needs to be publicized widely so that anyone organizing a race will know to submit their info and so anyone looking for a race to run will know where to go.
If you are interested in seeing this project succeed, please help get the word out and share the page with runners and race organizers: http://www.monumentmarathon.com/#!regional-races/ofw8o.
Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw
How many of you watched the Superbowl halftime show last weekend?
A lot of you, I imagine. (I missed it live, but there’s YouTube.)
How many of you got involved in social media discussions about Beyoncé’s performance and references to the Black Panthers?
Probably at least a few of you. (I heard some oblique references, but I’d missed the show, so I missed the kerfuffle.) The New York Times has even created a “student question” page about the issue. To quote the main question from the page:
Do you tend to agree more with people like Melina Abdullah, a Black Lives Matter activist and leader in California, who said it’s wonderful that artists like Beyoncé “are willing to raise social consciousness and use their artistry to advance social justice”?
Or are you more sympathetic to the viewpoint of the former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who said, “I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive.”
How many of you could comfortably say you know about the history of the Black Panthers, and how this social movement is relevant today?
Wow. If you can say this, mad props to you, friend. (I don’t count myself among the so educated. I think I saw a reference to the movement in a subplot of a movie I’ve seen in the last year or so, but that’s about it.)
Well, PREPARE TO BE EDUCATED with a very opportune moment, folks – the upcoming installment of the PBS Independent Lens series “Indie Lens Pop-Up”, this Thursday, February 18, 7:30 p.m., at the Midwest Theater, features the documentary film “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.”
From the film’s website:
In the turbulent 1960s, change was coming to America and the fault lines could no longer be ignored — cities were burning, Vietnam was exploding, and disputes raged over equality and civil rights. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to drastically transform the system. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is the first feature-length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. Master documentarian Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure trove of rare archival footage with the diverse group of voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it.
After the film is screened, audience members will have an opportunity to discuss the film, the Superbowl halftime show controversy, and any other relevant thoughts that arise during the course of the evening.
This is quite an opportunity to think through the history of a race-based social movement, and how that movement may be relevant to today. Many thanks to the Midwest Theater and to Humanities Nebraska for enabling a discussion like this in our community.
Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw
I’ve previously written about how the warm-ish winter daytime temps in western Nebraska can generate (sometimes beautiful) ice.
I’m writing now to warn about what those fluctuating temps can do to your house, if you’re not watching out for it.
So, what happens when snowmelt from the nice, warm, dark-colored roof at the perfect slant to capture winter rays interacts with the vertical, white, metal downspout shaded by the neighbor’s house?
Ice. Lots and lots of ice.
I’m thinking that, when the next hailstorm trashes our house, we need to replace our white gutters with darker-colored ones. All the better to absorb solar radiation, my dear.
Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw
How many of y’all out there love the summer farmers market in downtown Scottsbluff?
*raises hand* Meeee! I do! I do!
The market taps into many of the things I love about living in Scottsbluff: a walkable downtown, locally-produced fresh food, great people. I’ve made a lot of friends through that farmers market.
I want to help the market succeed, so I’m writing this post to ask a question: do you have marketing skills you could bring to bear on your love for the summer farmers market?
The Scottsbluff Downtown Association is looking for a new manager for the 18th Street Farmers Market for 2016, since last year’s manager has taken a new job that precludes her from continuing in the position.
What does being a farmers market manager involve?
- Acting as representative for the market at meetings, to customers, to vendors, and in the press.
- Getting more vendors and shoppers to come to the market, through press releases, flyers, social media and innovative ideas to keep things fresh.
- Overseeing the weekly market and its administration: setting up signage, assigning vendor booths, communicating with the vendors, keeping up to speed with state and local food permit requirements, ensuring that market operating rules are met, cleaning up the site post-market, keeping track of paperwork and mailing lists.
It seems like most of the job comes down to marketing and communication: phone calls, emails, social media posts, getting people excited about the market and keeping them excited and wanting to come back every week and keeping a good variety of producers, even during the slow-ish early season.
The position pays a flat fee, plus a bonus if the market turns a profit, and takes about 10-15 hours a week, with most of that time coming on market days during the June-September season. You get additional job-satisfaction benefits:
- Helping contribute to the local economy.
As former market manager Kat Tylee put it:
More people downtown = more sales for downtown businesses. I know [businesses see] a noticeable difference in the number of people on Saturday mornings when the market is open. By spending your money locally you keep money within the local economy. Example: You buy from Jen Rutherford, and she is liable to shop at one, or several, of the local businesses on the way home from market. Most of us vendors try to purchase our supplies and goods locally. Seeds from Meadowlark, feed from Jen and Rick, vegetables from either Jen, Beth, Tracy, or someone else, crafts from Joyce, and so on. Almost all of my fiber is produced locally, so when a person buys my yarn they are not just supporting me, but they are supporting Brown Sheep, Jen Rutherford, and Susan Boyes, along with several grocery stores and cafes (like the Mixing Bowl) because I like to spend my money locally.
- Becoming an integral part of the community of the downtown farmers market.
Again, an observation from Kat, who is a newcomer to the area:
I really love doing the market for both the vendors and the community. When I joined the market, that was when it truly felt like we had been completely welcomed to the community of Scottsbluff/Gering.
It would make sense that a market vendor would step up to the position, since it’s in their interest, but it’s difficult to both tend to your own booth and tend to the market at the same time. I would consider doing this job myself, except for the fact that Bugman and I do long training rides on the tandem on summer weekends, which would often conflict with market days.
How about you? Does this job sound like a good fit for you?
If so, contact Jeri Goodman at jerigoodman AT fnbnp.com