Tuesday, September 2, 2008

4 Nights in Stromsburg

About this time a week ago, I was seriously needing a mini-vacation to recharge the batteries. I don't take enough time off, and when I do, it's for brief spurts. This weekend was obviously Labor Day, and I just had to take that Friday before off. So that's what I did.

With the Democratic National Convention in town, I was a little overwhelmed with people. Protesters, delegates, police, and starstruck tourists filled the streets of Downtown Denver. It was like walking the strip in Las Vegas. After 3 days of it, I was grateful to be leaving our fair city for the Midwest. Heather's sister Allie and her husband Jonathan have been living in Stromsburg, NE since early May as Jonathan has been working doing a paid internship for a company out there. Being in the middle of nowhere, nobody had visited them until we did, so it was to our pleasure to leave as Barack Obama tried to be either the (a) second coming of Jesus, or (b) the second coming of Martin Luther King, Jr., two positions he will never fulfill.

View Larger Map A View of Main St, in Stromsburg.

The drive through Colorado was pretty. There were tons of wildflowers blossoming across the plains giving the ground a look of gold for as far the eye could see. We got into Nebraska about the time the sun went down. That was long! I was driving into a see of darkness with only the mile markers to inform me where we were going and how far we had to travel. I drove on I-80 for 250 miles before we arrived at the exit, where we continued for another 20+ miles until we arrived at their house at around 1:30 am Central time.

We arrived at their house in Stromsburg, a quaint little place in a small town of about 1200 people. No traffic lights, one gas station. We had to go to the library to access the internet, and had absolutely NO cell coverage of any kind there. It was weird to be so disconnected, but it was nice at the same time.

Friday was a lazy day as we all recovered from a long drive into town. Heather caught up with Allie and we all hung out at the house enjoying each other's company and being admittedly lazy.

My idea of a vacation is to relax and vegetate a little, and we succeeded at that. We didn't leave the house until nearly 2 pm that afternoon to go to the library and check our email at one of the computers there. I had to get caught up on a couple of business related issues and feel connected to the outside world, even if it was for only a couple of minutes. Allie and Jonathan searched for places in Omaha to visit when we went there the next day. We settled on a couple of ideas that Caleb would absolutely love.

Allie works at the only Salon in town which is a couple of blocks away. The woman who owns the salon, Melissa, invited us over to dinner on Friday night. She's about Heather's and my age. Her husband Zane works as a farmer somewhere nearby. They were really nice. Melissa was really cute with Caleb and they had a beautiful house. We stayed pretty late quoting Brian Regan jokes and eating cookies. Coincidentally, Brian Regan was appearing on David Letterman that night, so we watched his performance when we got home. It was all new material I haven't heard, and it was funny as usual!

Saturday morning, I did a rare thing and slept past 10 am. Granted, I was in a different timezone, but it was still amazing to sleep in so late. We all piled into our little cars and drove to the Corner Cafe, a small diner in town. We ordered tons of food for a meager price. Each plate came covered in our choice of fries, curly fries or tater tots. It was funny walking in and having all the locals stare at us while we ordered. We definitely stood out, but it was great. Caleb even ate his grilled cheese sandwich.

After lunch and a stop at the gas station, we were off to Omaha to Tiny Town Village. It was a cute little place for kids. Caleb had the time of his life. There was a train ride every thirty minutes and an area for playing in the water with hoses. They had a customized School bus that kids could climb into and play in, as well as a couple of fire trucks. We took plenty of video and pictures of the excursion. The man who owned the place was so kind and cute with the kids, and he would drive the train, complete with stories and tricks up his sleeve to entertain the kids. It was pretty fun for him. I am glad we were able to go.

After 3 hours in Tiny Town, Caleb tagged along as we all went to the outlet stores across the street. I bought shirts for church and Allie and Jonathan bought a bunch of clothes for him as well at Van Heusen. Heather had to feed Bryce shortly thereafter and Caleb and I used the time to use the restroom. On our way back he discovered a toy store that was closed, but in the display window was a train set that he couldn't keep his eyes off of. I let him look at it for several minutes, but we eventually had to go. Despite my efforts to coax him into walking back to the car, he wouldn't leave. Finally, I picked him up and walked away. He threw a huge tantrum and frantically tried to get out of my hands to the train set in the window. I felt bad for him. Until that point, he had been really sweet and was a lot of fun. I think he was tired and was missing interacting with other small children.

That night we went to Rosey's, a small gift shop/ice cream parlor. We had shakes and Banana splits. Caleb had an ice cream cone that kept melting and required me helping him. It was really good though. Allie, Jonathan and I all got a chocolate flavor milkshake. As I ate it, I could swear there was coffee in it. Allie and Jonathan agreed later on because they had the same taste. I am certain there was considering none of us went to bed until after 1 am. Jonathan, Allie and I tore it up on Guitar Hero III and then talked for two more hours.

Sunday morning we went to church in Columbus, about 40 minutes away. The ward building was small, with the chapel also doubling as a Relief Society room. The ward was really friendly. I was exhausted during the last block and looked like a bobble head as I tried to stay awake. It was really hard. The A/C in the room was blowing right on my eyes, drying them out, so I had to keep them closed.

Caleb absolutely loved nursery. It was the first time I can say he didn't want to leave when I came to get him. He was playing with 4 other boys his age in the nursery and they were running laps around a table in the room. It was his first time really playing with peers in a few days, and he liked it.

Sunday afternoon was a lazy one. I was able to take nap for a while on the couch, and that was really refreshing. Allie, Heather and Jonathan made a yummy Sunday meal of chicken and pasta. We played some more Guitar Hero III after dinner and waited for our stomachs to settle enough to eat crepes, courtesy of Jonathan.

Monday morning we left Stromsburg. It was a wonderful visit. Allie and Jonathan are likely not live there more than a few more weeks, making the possibility of a return minimal. It was a great weekend, a great moment for our family. It was such a wonderful contrast to the busy-ness of our hustle and bustle city.

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