Day 1: The Drive

I feel the need to give some context to the next couple of posts I make; because up until about a year ago, I just didn’t understand what being an actual member of a party means. It’s not just, “I’m a Democrat because that’s what it says on my voter registration card.” There are gears and wheels that must be turned in order for that political party to, not only exist, but to thrive.

I know, the Democrats aren’t exactly thriving…then again, that’s entirely a subjective opinion and not one I’m going to go into in this post. Or maybe any other post. Just accept the premise as is for the purpose of this blog and we’ll be OK.

So what does a political party, let alone a single member of that party do? Well, it’s pretty wide open in that it’s basically a giant volunteer organization with a lot of volunteer positions open ranging from super-entry-level-I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing positions to managers of those newbs and the I-know-exactly-what-I’m-doing-so-I’m-going-to-be-in-charge-of-this-aspect-of-the-party positions. It’s also really very easy to just fall into any of those positions or in-between them. It’s also not so much of a top-down approach you’d see in the military or a business where there’s a chain of command and everyone obeys. It’s like Congress or your state legislature with training-wheels. I say training wheels because you don’t really have a significant impact on the average Joe (or Jane) walking down the street like you would if you were writing laws or dictating policy. You, generally, represent your community through the party positions you choose.

As for my role in the Party, I’m a member of the Veterans & Military Families Caucus (as I’m an Air Force veteran) and I’m (now) an alternate-delegate to the State Central Committee. I’ve also got some smaller committee positions here and there. Outside of any official titles I’m part of a left-leaning progressive organization comprised of (mostly) other members of the Nebraska Democratic Party.

So, are we clear? I’m a part of the Nebraska Democratic Party and not just because that’s what my voter registration says. I’m also part of the Douglas County (Nebraska) Democratic Party, that’s for another time/story though. As a member of the Party I get/have to travel around the state of Nebraska for (generally) quarterly meetings. This past weekend we all got to go to Chadron, Nebraska, population 5,700+ out in the panhandle of Nebraska, yeah, there’s a panhandle. I live in Omaha, hence the title of this blog, ‘The Drive.’

We started the day waking up around 6:30 AM, finished our packing and pre-trip prep and left the house at about 8:30 AM. We just bought a new (to us) Prius and were eager to see what it could do on road trips. TL;DR: We got ~40 MPG on the trip out there. We spent almost the entire trip listening to the S-Town podcast which, turns out, is a 7-hour version of a This American Life episode. Our first stop was a fill-up/stretch/food stop along I-80 in North Platte, Nebraska, 4 hours from Omaha.

We then made our way up towards Chimney Rock, which is one of the few things Nebraska seems super proud of. I’m not of pioneer stock so I guess I just don’t get it. We did see it though, so we’re like…official Nebraskans now or something. What we learned from our visit was that the pioneers would travel west and see Chimney Rock and think, ‘WTF…’ They would then be filled with dread at the realization that they were soon going to travel through the Rockies and that was going to suck for them. The town just outside of Chimney Rock (Bayard, Nebraska) had me thinking that it was probably founded by people who saw Chimney Rock and thought, ‘Fuck that, I’m just going to stay here. Forever.’

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Panoramic shot of Chimney Rock, Nebraska.

There’s also rattlesnakes out there. I didn’t see any though.

Onward to what was a lot more popular (and cheaper) than Chimney Rock and, yet, not as known for Nebraska: Carhenge! It’s like Stonehenge, but without the heavy rocks and druids! It’s a decades-long art project and made me really enjoy Alliance, Nebraska.

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A panoramic view from within the henge.

After that it was the home-stretch to Chadron State Park just south of Chadron, Nebraska. The park ties into, and is part of, the Nebraska National Forest. Nebraska has a forest, huh…

Something that caught my eye on the way up from Alliance was that we were travelling along highway 385. Seeing as highway 395 is Main Street in Bishop, I got a kick out of it.

After we got all moved in and stretched a bit in our ‘cabin’ (it was more like an apartment) we headed to the Chadron Native Center and greeted a bunch of our friends. We didn’t stick around though because it was stifling hot inside and we were pretty exhausted as it was. Tying back into the community aspect of the Party, I’ve since heard that the Nebraska Democratic Party and it’s members have agreed to put together a fund to donate a new and better air conditioner for the Native center.

We relaxed and enjoyed the nature around us for the rest of the evening.

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Relaxing outside our duplex cabin in Chadron State Park.
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