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Omaha, Nebraska — 9/02/09 — I slept really well last night and woke up to an overcast morning. Well, that and a faint, funky smell which intensified when I opened the door.  A poor skunk must have met its fate on one of the roads nearby.  I have actually noticed that roadkill is fairly prevalent around here. Today,  I drove past several unfortunate creatures including a badger, a red fox, a deer, several raccoon and a few that were no longer recognizable.

World's Largest Porch Swing

World's Largest Porch Swing

This morning, I decided to go back into downtown Hebron and make a few photographs. Hebron is the home of the world’s largest porch swing and I decided I needed to get a photograph of it. Now, is a porch swing a porch swing if it’s not on a porch? The world’s largest porch swing is situated in the city park, a block behind the Main Street, and set on a structure akin to a swing set frame. It is definitely large and probably wouldn’t fit on many porches. So maybe I will cut it some slack here, besides it was moved to the park from another site.

Driving up Highway 81 towards Fairmont, there was an old schoolhouse off to the side of the road.  I made pretty quick detour to go see it. This was the Strang schoolhouse. On the way in, I didn’t even notice the “Historic Town” sign, but drove on up the road into the town I could see ahead. The road was paved up to the school but quickly turned to dirt. It was a very small town but oddly the roads were paved again when I got to the other side, where I would have headed out between fields of corn. It just made me wonder if there’s  city and county road politics even out in the middle of nowhere.  Anyway, there wasn’t really too much to the town other than a couple of small buildings from the early 1900’s, including the town hall.  The small size of this building gave me a good idea that this wasn’t ever too large of a community.

I finally got to Fairmont at about 10 am, after a few more stops. One of the things I have noticed in most of the towns along here, except for Strang, is the brick pavers used on the main streets.  Sometimes these extend to other streets, but are always on the main business street.  The other cool thng I have noticed is that each town lays the intersections slightly differently.  Some are diagonal, some are diagonally laid in quadrants, some herring bone style etc. Here in Fairmont, the streets are paved with bricks, except the main business street, which is asphalt.  I wondered if maybe the street had been paved over, due to wear and later did notice the bricks underneath where the pavement was broken or hadn’t been laid to the edge of the street.

Fairmont is the town that marks the beginning and ending of my loop around the western United States.  Although there were several cars along the street, there weren’t any people out. I really had been looking for a place to stop and eat, but I didn’t notice any cafés and decided to just get out and take some photos before moving on.  It always takes a few days to get into a rhythm when I am photographing for myself and it is best to get out and just walk.  After walking around for about 10 minutes, I heard a voice behind me calling out. It was Wanda, the local librarian, and apparently, she also gave tours of the two local museums. She had noticed me and figured I might be interested in some things she knew of in the area.  Wanda was very helpful in directing me to the local café, up the street, and also told me about the old air base a few miles out of town. Apparently, some of the training for the Enola Gay crew was done here.

A great meal was had at the Main Street Cafe and I met a few of the local folks, including Marty, the owner.  Now, feeling energized,  I decided to head out to the airbase.  Apparently, the old hangers are now used for storing various farm products.  As I drove out, I bisected two of the old runways.  Although some neglected pavement was still there, corn fields and buildings interrupted their former path in various places.  One runway, the one running north to south, was still there and appeared to be in use for local traffic.  I wandered around for awhile, taking a few photos of the hangers and the old runways.

As I moved on, the weather was still pretty overcast, with occasional sun breaks, and the wind was now picking up pretty good.  While driving through Exeter, the Tornado Warning siren went off just as I was approaching it.  I couldn’t believe it, as things didn’t look that bad!  Because the siren rotates and I didn’t realize what it really was at the time, I started frantically looking around to see where the “emergency” vehicles were coming from, I felt surrounded and yet nothing was in view. As I passed the fire station–no activity–I noticed the tower with the siren rotating as it finished its wail and realized what it was.  Apparently, the weekly test of the emergency broadcast system!

One place I just had to look for on this trip, something I discovered in my searches on the internet, was the Crete Inn!  Now, you have to expect that anyone naming their motel like this would have to have a great sense of humor.  The website gives a sense that there would be a nice, bucolic setting in the country-side with little cottage like rooms.  Of course, after just glancing quickly at the first photos, you notice that there are different architectural styles and the photos are marked with something like  “not actual photos of rooms, to be replaced” and the “Corbis” watermarks still on some of the images.  OK, it is a rural area and maybe these people don’t know about copyright and they are just getting a business going etc etc etc.  Well, as I entered the town of Crete, there it was.  One of the ugliest motels I have ever seen in a very industrial setting.  One of those two story jobs, painted dark brown, that was probably part of a chain operation that went bad or upgraded to the current box style establishment.  Anyway, the sign was hoisted 40 feet in the air and there was nothing quaint about it.  Suddenly, the name just seemed to fit the place.  It isn’t even one that would get a second glance from me and my search for economy housing!  Ok, I am being hard, they are probably really great people like you expect here in the midwest, I was just pretty disappointed.

Well, all was going so well today, except for the Crete Inn.  I had just pulled off the road in a desolate area for a moment and as I walked around the car, there it was!  A radial splatter of gear oil all over my left rear wheel, an axle seal or something had blown!  Hey, a road trip isn’t a road trip without a breakdown, but on the second day!!  Fortunately, everything “sounded” ok as I drove and I was only a few miles outside of Omaha.  I called the local dealer and took the truck in.  Of course, one of the downsides of driving a 1993 vehicle that is only one of 500 brought into the states, is that parts are scarce.  The dealer had one possible seal in stock and two not–a couple of sub $10 parts that would have to be ordered.  But it was the end of the day, so unless I get real lucky, I will be sitting in my Super 8 here in Omaha for the next couple of days!

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