Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Snowy Day in Nebraska

Thursday, April 3, 2014
Day  5
Kearney to Burwell
We are up at 4:45 a.m., so we can get back to the Audubon crane blind by 6 a.m.  The goal is to get in the blind before the cranes take off, then prepare to capture the dramatic moment when they all rise as one, known as a “blast off.”  This morning is colder and windier than last night, and there is a steady misty rain that we are sure started as snow when it dropped from the clouds.   

When we leave the preserve building to walk to the crane viewing blind,  it is pitch dark,  and no lights are allowed, so we wallow and trip in bushes a while before we find the trail, then a woman behind us literally bumps into us, because she can see no better than we.  She asks if she can hold on to Dick, and he becomes the blind leading the blind to the blind--at least for the several minutes it takes our eyes to get adjusted to the darkness.


The wind blows mist and cold into the blind, and we are chilled through our many layers, as we wait in the dark to see if there are any birds roosting nearby.  As the sky changes from black to charcoal to lighter shades of gray, we are happy to see lots of cranes nearby.  Just as we never saw the sun set last night, we never see it rise this morning, so there will be no colorful sky in the background of our blast off shots.  And, actually, we never see a blast off, either.  The cranes just hang out on the sandbars, in no hurry to get to breakfast.
After over two and a half wretchedly cold damp hours in the blind, we pack up our gear and hike back to our cars, with plenty of photos, but not the big moment we all hoped for.
The road to Burwell runs pretty much straight north through corn fields and cattle ranches, with grain elevators and farm stores marking our arrival at the towns whose names appear in tiny type on the map. In typical style, it takes us three hours to drive 97 miles, because we keep stopping to photograph abandoned farm buildings and rural landscapes that are too picturesque to pass up.

The sleet turns to snow, and  our early wake-up call catches up to us--by the time we get to Burwell, we are yearning for a hot lunch and a nap. 
 We know we picked the right lunch spot when we walk in the door of the Sandstone Grill and see two tables of certifiably senior ladies playing cards in the front of the restaurant and a side room is filled with people having a business lunch presentation.  A huge case filled with home-made pie slices in about a dozen different flavors is right by the door, reminding us to save room for dessert.  We can’t resist a warmed up slice of strawberry rhubarb pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  And, we like it so much that before we leave we make a reservation to come back for dinner tonight. 

We walk out into fluffy snow flurries.  It is definitely time for that afternoon nap.

 We check into our home for the next few days--the Rodeo Inn--authentically family owned and run, with a 1960s motor court vibe from the road, but thoroughly modernized room interiors.  For the first time in at least a month, we actually spend a whole afternoon napping and  reading and doing not much of anything useful.  We are refreshed and ready for another round of early morning wake-ups to see those prairie chickens!


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