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In case you’re wondering if the river pathway is flooded:

May 12, 2016

It is.

I’d seen pictures on social media showing that the portion of the Monument Valley Pathway where it ducks under the 10th Street/Broadway bridge was under water.

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Photo from Region 22 Emergency Management Facebook page May 11, 2016

This didn’t surprise me. That section of trail often goes under water.

I just wondered about the rest of it.

I met someone yesterday morning for a walking meeting, and we soon discovered that, yes, other sections of the pathway are under water, too.

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May 11, 2016: the pathway is closed about 1,200 feet west of the 10th Street/Broadway bridge.

The National Weather Service in Cheyenne posted: “N Platte River at Mitchell NE forecast to rise to 9.5 ft just shy of 2011 Flood level.”

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Gosh, I sure hope it doesn’t hit 2011 flood stage. That was a mess.

I love the section of Monument Valley Pathway along the river. I am ever so glad it exists.

But I got to thinking during my walking meeting yesterday: if this pathway is considered part of the connectivity of walking and biking transportation infrastructure in our community, it really shows how non-motorized modes of transportation are playing second fiddle to cars. Can you imagine if portions of the Beltline Highway were under water for months at a time? People wouldn’t stand for it.

It’s not just Scottsbluff that has this problem. River flooding shuts down bike throughways even in bike-friendly Fort Collins:

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Just some things to think about for infrastructure planning, inspired by a detoured walk on a beautiful, breezy spring day.

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

On spring travel, snow, and landscape

April 30, 2016

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.

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The moon rising amidst sunset-pinkened clouds was awe inspiring. I had good company among other hotel-dwellers pointing cameras eastward.

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.

snow at 530 am

The snow was coming down hard and fast at 5:30 a.m. This did not look good.

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.

6:51 a.m.

651 AM

6:59 a.m. – Bugman texts me to say his flight home was canceled.

10:18 a.m.

1018 AM

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.

11:17 a.m.

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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.

8 hours later

At least someone was having fun in the thigh-high drifts the wind carved around the hotel.

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.

benefit of portable snow shovel PM

BEFORE, AFTER. This was one of the times I was glad we carry an emergency shovel in the car.

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.

clear airport runway

I lost count of how many slowplows were in this lineup – at least six, maybe eight, ten? The Denver airport recently won an award for its winter operations.

As we ascended over the city, I could see crews working along the highways to extricate stuck cars from roadside drifts.

clearing stuck cars

The aerial view of the snowy landscape was beautiful.

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The blizzard-made patterns on the ground were fascinating.

pivot aerial snowscape

Pivot-irrigated land

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Strip-cropped land

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.

fickle blizzard

another dry spot

The Minneapolis – St. Paul area had been hit by heavy, patchy snow, too.

tidy farmsteads

These regular farmsteads, each of their tree-lined yards, made me think of the “Norwegian bachelor farmers” of Prairie Home Companion fame. Gosh, the Midwest looks square from the air.

We flew into the urban corridor of the Twin Cities, and the snow seemed a little lighter.

urban golf course

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.

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A nice view towards downtown St. Paul!

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.

green pivots snow traces

Nearing Denver, only traces of the blizzard were still visible along the borders and edges of the landscape. The pivot-irrigated fields of winter wheat looked green again instead of white.

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Blue skies over Denver!

DIA clear

I could even see the airport (the main terminal building is the white comb-looking structure center left). All the runways were clear and dry.

foreboding clouds

As we landed, the clouds to the north – the direction of home – looked foreboding.

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.

storm clouds over ranch lands

Spring storm clouds over ranch lands

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Sunny and pleasant at a stop in Fort Morgan.

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.

wildcat hills snow road

The little boost in elevation over the Wildcat Hills often means it’s snowier and slicker up there than in the valleys north and south.

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.

april 1 wildcat mountains

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.

snow on lilacs

Several people have found emerged cecropia moths languishing in the cold.

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Bugman to the rescue! Photo courtesy of Legacy of the Plains Museum

Spring weather is crazy on the High Plains. It seems to get crazier all the time.

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

 

 

 

I heart The Mixing Bowl cafe

April 24, 2016

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:

grilled cheese chile relleno

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.

smothered biscuits

 

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!

shakshuka

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

View from the overpass 7:21 a.m.

March 10, 2016

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.

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A source for western Nebraska race info

March 7, 2016

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.

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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

 

Beyoncé, Black Panthers in the ‘Bluff

February 16, 2016

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.”

Why?

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.”

black panthers vanguard

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

A freeze-thaw fiasco

February 8, 2016

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.

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Oh, yes – a lovely ,warming winter day, when newly fallen snow begins to melt on a dark-colored rooftop.

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Exposure to the sun makes a big difference. On my deck, the sun’s rays sneak around the upright poles of the railing to melt the snow, but below-freezing temps in the shade of the main railing keep the snow frozen.

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.

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Ice that clogs the entire downspout from ground to top, causing water to cascade down the sides, puddle next to the foundation, and create more ice.

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Ice that swells inside the downspout and bursts the metal seams, resulting in me having to replace said section of downspout.

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Standing on the porch while contorting myself around the corner of the house and using a cellphone camera to try to see screw holes on the far side of the gutter kind of makes me crabby.

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

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