Thursday, March 31, 2011

Total Eclipse of the Sun

"North Platte? You must be really excited for 2017." Such was the opening line of a science teacher from Winnipeg who approached our Nebraska booth at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair in Brandon.

Unless he was another doomsday prophesier the only thing I could think of is Nebraska's Sesquicentennial which I believe happens in 2017. But no...

"North Platte Nebraska is going to be just about the best place in the world to see the total eclipse of the sun in 2017," was his reply. News to me and my other Nebraska booth-mates.

It turns out he is right. August 21, 2017 to be exact.

According to the website
The eclipse path really shines in this great midwestern state, cutting across endless miles of prairie, lots of good-sized cities, and one more state capitol! Take a long lunch hour, and see an eclipse! Alliance (2m30s at 11:49am) and Scottsbluff (1m43s at 11:48am) are the first larger cities to see the shadow, and North Platte (1m40s at 12:54pm CDT) hugs the southern edge. Folks there should hop up US83 to Stapleton, to get more than two and a half minutes!

Moving east, the shadow engulfs Hastings at 12:58pm (for 2m13s of totality), but Grand Island (22 more seconds!) is an even better place to be!

Omaha is not in the path! Get down to Lincoln, or better yet, farther south toward Beatrice (2m35s at 1:02pm), for a better show! Speaking of Lincoln, this second capitol city in the path lies near its northern edge, so totality is shorter there - only 1m 25.5s (at 1:02pm) on the grounds of the beautiful State Capitol. The 50-yard-line at Husker stadium gets five seconds less time in the shadow, so you can see how important it is to get as far south as you can!

To give you an even better idea of how important your location is when you're this near the edge, you need look no further than the airport at Lincoln: Planes waiting to take off on the departure end of runway 17 (at the north end of the runway) will get only 1m7s of totality, while those at the south end of the runway (if traffic is departing on 35 that day) will get 18s more!!! Don't laugh - when you see the beauty of the eclipse, you will wish like anything that you had eighteen more seconds to see this most glorious sight!

The shadow leaves the capitol, and the centerline then passes over Falls City at 1:04pm. The path's great trek through the Cornhusker State, after having traveled its entire length in only eight minutes(!), will be over at 1:07:50pm.
While North Platte is in a good position to see a lot of the eclipse (a minute and forty seconds), the "umbral shadow" will make almost a direct hit on Tryon and Stapleton (visible for nearly two and a half minutes). You can't get more smack-dab in the middle of the outback than Tryon Nebraska. What could be better than seeing a total eclipse of the sun, for most, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, in a place with almost NO light pollution? If stargazing in the Nebraska Sandhills is so wonderful, and it is, then this is absolutely the place to be to watch a total eclipse.

So what are you waiting for? August 21, 2017 is fast approaching, so you better start making your plans now. Know anybody in the Nebraska Outback who could hook you up with a Sandhills rancher to view the eclipse from the solitude of a pasture? And arrange comfortable lodging in a town just 30 or so miles away boasting 1500 sleeping rooms? I think you do. The only thing I won't be able to arrange is a clear, cloudless day, but in August, we have a pretty good chance.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Travel NOW! It's Later Than You Think...

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” - Mark Twain

That inspirational travel quote is more than appropriate as I post this from the beautiful Hotel Julien in Dubuque Iowa overlooking the rapidly-rising Mississippi River. I have just finished up a week long conference with the directors of 71 Bank Travel Clubs, members of Heritage Clubs International, sharing ideas about fun trips they can present to their members. Of course, my job is to steer them across Nebraska and to North Platte, but my greatest take-away from this meeting is the conversations with new friends. These travel club directors are not only hard-working bankers and tour guides, but they change lives by helping their members broaden their horizons with travel. Thank goodness there are people out there like them to help people who may otherwise not have the courage or ingenuity to plan amazing trips. Dubuque is a beautiful city, even in the starkness of a late March cold snap. This is taken from a bluff overlooking the river at the top of a cog railroad (naturally, closed at this time of year.) The downtown and riverfront area have been revitalized recently and offer great attractions, dining and shopping. Art isn't forgotten in Dubuque either. This 30-foot tall sculpture graces the entrance of the city's art museum, and there are lots more little galleries and theatres. Of course I would find an Irish pub! The Busted Lift is right on the corner across the street from the Hotel Julien. It is reminiscent of The Dubliner in Omaha, except the original sandstone walls of its basement home are much more picturesque. If this pub was in my hometown, I would be a regular. I counted 26 draft beer taps! Pub Trivia, traditional Irish session and regular live music round out the experience. One of the components of the revitalized Riverfront area is the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. It is a wonderful attraction, sadly, we didn't have much time to explore. It would definitely be a "don't miss" if you make the trip. One of the landmarks of the city is the beautiful courthouse. I thought at first that it was "just" an historic site, but found out that it is also the actual courthouse. When you walk in you'll go through metal detectors (something we don't have to do in many parts of Nebraska), then you're free to roam the halls admiring the beautiful woodwork and architectural details. It was begun in 1890 and completed in 1893 and I'm absolutely amazed that it is still in use! The officers manning the metal detector can offer some advice about what not to miss. The last improvement made to the exterior was the application of gold leaf to the dome, which is quite a sight glowing in the rising or setting sun. Grammercy Park is on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi river in East Dubuque, which is actually in Illinois. Besides the great views, it is the home of 26 ancient burial mounds from the Hopewell culture. Very interesting. I didn't know I would get a chance to see mounds on this trip. The park was constructed in the 1930's as a CCC project. Though it is kind of hard to find, the views are worth it, and there are a lot of trails that wind through the property, complete with informational panels. Heading on into Galena, the first hint of the amazing architecture that's been preserved there is the Ryan Mansion. Thankfully it is now a Bed and Breakfast (there are 40-some in Galena!), and is also open to tours (naturally, those begin April 1). The Galena/Joe Daviess County Visitor Center is the restored Chicago Northwestern depot, and is a sight in itself. I would say that Galena doesn't need a poor blogger like me to help tell its story, except for the fact that there is a squabble between the City of Galena and the county Convention and Visitors Bureau. They have now split, and you can tell there is just a tiny bit of animosity between the two. Don't let that stop you from visiting both visitor centers (the other one is in downtown Galena) because they both have great information. The beautiful historic downtown Galena area is protected by flood gates, which have had to be closed to protect the area. I wish it had been a prettier day and that my photos had turned out better. As it is, there is no way I can capture the spirit of this amazing city. From what I understand, after the boom of the lead mines in the middle part of the 19th century, the economy was such that there wasn't any money for "revitalization" (we all know that is a code word for destruction!), so the great architecture remained intact until the late 20th Century and the beginning years of the 21st Century when it was appreciated as it is. It is a treasure not to be missed. Downtown Galena could well have an "underground" history all its own. We were told that the streets in the downtown area were so prone to becoming mush with a little bit of rain that the street was raised nearly a full story. The brickwork you see here is the top of the original first-floor windows. In another lucky break for the city of Galena, after the death of President Grant and his widow Julia, the children deeded his home and all of the furnishings to the state, with the stipulation that it remain a museum. It is beautiful and well-preserved. The summer kitchen houses rotating exhibits, which currently is presidential china and presidential pets. The statue of Julia overlooks downtown Galena and the Galena river. She was an incredible woman, well ahead of her time. Easily as interesting as President Grant himself. There is a wonderful historic cemetery just down the road from the Grant home. Well worth a visit to read the history in the carvings. This is a very poor representation of the great times we had in Dubuque/Galena. Unfortunately, the nature of this conference is that it must be held in an off-season, and that it give the bank travel leaders a taste of what can be seen in the area, in the hopes that they will bring tour groups back. We "partners" are fortunate enough to get to travel along, but none of us get to spend too much time anywhere. The area is filled with hike and bike trails, you can canoe and kayak the Galena river, golf courses abound, shopping is wonderful in both downtown Galena and Dubuque, historic tours and attractions are plentiful, there is gambling at two casinos adjacent to the Mississippi, where you can also tour the river via historic vessels. It really is an all-purpose destination. Thanks for sharing this brief visit. The coffee is always on.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March Madness

I feel a little out of sorts because I haven't been very faithful in blogging in March, and it doesn't look much better going into April. So in my defense, let me share with you my schedule:

March 1 - Denver at the Fillmore Auditorium for Dropkick Murphys concert (by the way, their new album "Going Out In Style" is WONDERFUL! Plus, their live shows are wonderful - I highly recommend!)

March 3 - 7 - Colorado RV, Boat Sport and Travel Show in Denver (work) OK, it really was work, but we managed to get our picture in front of the Miss Geico Racing team boat on display there!

March 10 - Dana and Susan Robinson at our House Concert

March 12 - Participate in interview workshop for Miss Rodeo Nebraska Pageant Clinic (work... kinda)

March 19 & 20 - Road trip to Omaha to see Captain Johnathan Hillstrand at the Qwest Center

March 21 - 27 - Dubuque Iowa for Heritage Bank Travel Clubs Peer Group Conference (work)

March 29 - April 3 - Brandon Manitoba for Royal Manitoba Winter Fair (work)

April 7 - 10 - Seattle Washington for CATCHCON!! (FUN!)

April 15 & 16 - House Concert with Jesse Terry, Megan Burtt and Espresso Yourself performance with those two plus Neely.

Whew! As I write this, I am looking out over the Mississippi River from my 6th floor window of the Hotel Julien. Fabulous view, but I'm scheming to try to figure out a way to get on the river - paddle boat? Barge? Tug Boat? Just want to get on the water... Too bad the weather isn't cooperating.

Yes, I know I could have blogged from and about all those places, but sometimes I get so busy doing that I don't have any time for telling, and given the choice, I choose DOING!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on. Laced with a little 5 hour energy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Town For Sale!"

This guest blog post is from my Sister-In-Law, the editor and publisher of the Courier-Times, serving the communities of Sutherland, Hershey and Paxton. She writes a "Weekly Focus" column in each issue, and I think this column is a good analysis of how things get done in a small town.

Did you ever hear the story about the couple who repaired, remodeled and redecorated their home to sell it, and then fell in love with it all over again and couldn't bear to part with it?

Believe it or not, all of our communities are, in a way, 'for sale', to those passing by - to those who might choose a new place to live - to those who might want to establish a business - to those looking for something better.

Our communities attract 'buyers' who fit the community or who already have personal ties to the area. The question follows, "What types of people would you like to have occupy the homes, businesses and schools of your community tomorrow? What type of neighbors would you like to have? What type of neighbor would you like to be?"

Sometimes the most important thing we can give toward the future of a family, a business, a church congregation, a club or service organization, a community, a state or a nation, is learning how to work better together.

The Japanese poet Ryunosuke Satoro said, "Individually, we are one drop, together we are an ocean.

Sometimes I have seen the best and brightest who 'generally work alone' fall far behind in achievement to the 'regular folks' who work well together. It's simply a matter of focusing our energy in one direction, rather than working in opposition to one another. It usually boils down to getting the work done without worrying about who gets the credit - or the blame.

Perhaps that's why leading companies all over the world put so much emphasis on learning how to be a 'team player.'

Yesterday I read that teamwork is the 'ability to work together toward a common vision - the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives - the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.'

Working together may mean allowing someone else to have the floor to speak their mind without our needing to correct or belittle them. It may mean volunteering our time, even if we think we've volunteered more than most. Out of respect for others, it may mean treating everything we have as if it were 'for sale.'

It has been my observation that working together in unity is rarely done on human strength alone, but rather is powered from above.

President Lyndon B. Johnson said, "The men who have guided the destiny of the United States have found the strength for their tasks by going to their knees. This private unity of public men and their God is an enduring source of reassurance for the people of America."

Whatever our focus, perhaps our best efforts and our greatest achievements will begin on our knees.

Thanks for stopping by. Join me for coffee and we'll talk about working together to make our communities better.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Season Views Redux

The Mister and I have been diligently searching for new spots from which to take new "through the seasons" pictures. It's been a tough job. Slogging through the beautiful Nebraska Outback country side, stopping to consider the merits of each view, fresh air, sunshine and all that. But we persevered through all of the hardships and finally came up with three views that we think will change magnificently throughout the seasons and give you another peek at Nebraska through the year.

The first view below is taken from the North Platte River bridge north of Sarben, Nebraska. We are very familiar with this locale as it has seen the finish of many wonderful tanking trips over the years, and I can imagine that we'll be spending a great deal of time here throughout the summer of 2011 as well.

The photo is taken looking to the south west. The tiny "no trespassing" sign in the lower right hand corner will be the anchor for the photographs. Hoping that the water doesn't rise too much more and wash it out! In the foreground is of course, the river and vegetation surrounding it. In the middle ground is a corn field, and in this shot a coal train. In the background are the hills of the "windy gap" just north of Paxton.
The photograph below is taken from the top of the outlet at the Sutherland Reservoir, looking nearly directly west. The anchor of the photograph will be the clump of cedar trees in the middle right of the photo. March 12 was an absolutely beautiful day in the Outback, with temperatures in the 60's, warm sunshine and, for once, a rare day with no wind. There are numerous fishing boats out on the water.
The photo below is the one I'm most excited about. It is a great view and should change dramatically throughout the year. It is from the crest of Haugland Hill southeast of Sutherland. The photo is taken to the north/northeast. In the foreground is O'Fallons Bluff. In the midground on the left is the South Platte River Valley and Interstate 80. In the background on the left is a corn field and on the right can be seen the Sutherland Ethanol Plant. The anchor point in the photograph will be the fencepost in the lower left.
Of course, given that it is mid March, everything is brown and dreary, but the good news is that will change inexorably throughout the seasons. Each of these photos were taken between 2pm and 3pm on Saturday March 12.
Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How Things Get Done

For awhile, it was like a voice calling in the wilderness. We started hosting House Concerts three years ago, and no one had even heard of House Concerts, or why they would want to take the time out to see an artist they had never heard of - who hadn't had a "hit" on the radio.

Slowly but surely, we have built our audience, and our community has gained a greater appreciation of independent recording singer/songwriters. Now collaborative efforts are opening up on all sides to nurture and grow the local music scene.

Last year we began teaming up with 5 Trails Winery in Paxton, not only to enjoy the artists they host, but also to share bookings to increase the return for the artists. Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Valentine's Eve Variety Show at A to Z Books in downtown North Platte, an offshoot of their twice-monthly Open Mic Nights, and had a chance to experience wonderful local talent. That opened up a conversation with the organizers George Lauby and Sharon Owen...

Which led to them coordinating an opening act of local talent for a live music show at the Espresso Shoppe that is now happening on a nearly-monthly basis.

Now I just fielded a telephone call from Mary Jo Brauer, the proprietress of a new Bed and Breakfast in North Platte. She had the good fortune of attending the Four Shillings Short concert at the Espresso Shoppe. It turns out the artists didn't have a place to stay so She offered free-of-charge a room at her B & B, and was rewarded with a great evening of getting to know two extraordinary artists, a couple of complimentary CD's of music, and the promise that the artists would distribute her business cards throughout their travels. She is now contacting A to Z Books, Da Buzz and other live music venues (including the Nebraska Outback House Concert Series) to extend the same offer to their traveling artists.

Yes, that indeed is how things get done in rural Nebraska. Friends helping neighbors and the whole community benefiting.

While I'm at it, I also need to mention that Da Buzz Coffee House offers regular music. Roadies, a T-Shirt shop in the Platte River Mall has hosted their first-ever "Gig", an open-mic style music event, and the Neville Center for the Performing Arts is looking at reviving their "Live at the Neville" series.

Great things happening on the live music scene in North Platte.

Thanks for stopping by. Let's discuss how you can become involved over coffee!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Through The Seasons Part Eleven

It's good to know the learning curve is alive and well! I just figured out that I don't have to upload all of the pictures each time I post a new "Through the Seasons" blog post! All I have to do is copy and past the code out of the previous one... ah well, one more to go for the year and I learn something new!

The picture below was taken on March 3, at about 8:45 in the morning as we headed out to the Colorado RV show to represent the local community. Please tell me it's not my imagination and there's just the slightest hint of green in the trees along the river.

If I had waited to take it when we came back, it would have been snow covered. This morning finds about three inches of snow on the ground, with maybe five more on the way. Hopefully the last gasp of winter.
February 13, 10:30a.m. Thank goodness most of the snow is gone from this photo at about 1pm on January 3.

December 4, 9:00am.

November 2, 8:30am.

October 3, 9:00am.

September 6, 7:00pm.

August 7, 8:30am.

July 5, 8:30am.

June 5, 8:30am.

May 5, 6:10pm.
Hoping for a return of the beautiful summer scenery soon!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.