Leg 4 actually finished in Nebraska. We ate dinner at a Mexican place outside Des Moines, Iowa, and then continued on. Originally we’d planned to stop in Omaha, just over the border, but decided to push on to Lincoln, 45 minutes further west. (We did this the next three legs, to make the next day’s drive a little less. I suppose that continuing on longer might have counteracted that a bit.)
So for Leg 5, Nebraska started off with some corn, but on flatter land, and then the land turned to scrubby ranchland, and then to scrubby wasteland of nothing at all.
It was nearly 100 degrees that day in Nebraska. Zero clouds to mitigate the relentless sun, and no trees or anything to provide shade.
My little car finally had to protest. We had already noticed the coolant temp gauge had gone up from a quarter to a half, but it hadn’t gone anywhere near the red zone. However, eventually the overheat light came on. Still no red zone, no steam or smell coming from the hood. I tried not to panic. Mister M read the manual and it said to stop driving immediately. Of course I couldn’t do that, as I was on a freeway in literally the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, the exit for Potter was only a couple miles down the road. We turned off the AC and pulled into a service station. The light went off and we ended up staying there for about half an hour to give the car some rest. We consulted quickly with the technician and he said it was probably ok to keep going.
It was eighty miles from Potter to Cheyenne, where I’d already called a Midas. Nebraska’s speed limit is 75mph, which is awesome, but for that eighty miles, I stayed between 60-65, and we kept the air-conditioning off, the heat up, the windows down. The harsh plains wind blasted my left ear as I made myself stay calm. No warning light came back on, the coolant gauge stayed about the same.
We made it safely to Midas. I had them do an oil change and a coolant flush. I hadn’t added any coolant in who knows how long, or a coolant flush. This is a bad job by me, and it made me a little scared and very grateful that my little car had made it so far without any problems.
The Midas guys in Cheyenne were fantastic. We actually went to a second location after the first was done, so they could fix the gasket that was still leaking. (This was the THIRD TIME I had paid to fix the same leaking gasket! Gah!!) So it was another chunk of money, but well worth it. Now I knew the car was good, functioning the way it needed to, and I felt safe continuing on the journey.
But even better than that was a new friend I made there. The resident kitty walked in to the waiting room and after less than a minute of walking around and meowing at us, climbed up on my lap, padded up my belly, and started kneading and purring. She was so soft and cuddly and friendly! I loved her!
That night we drove on to Laramie, with a full moon and downright chilly air. What a relief to be out of the hot midwestern sun!
The best thing about Wyoming was that it was blessedly cool. Look at those beautiful clouds! We hadn’t seen clouds for almost a week at this point. Wyoming definitely has some big-sky country to it. Also, most of it is completely and utterly empty.
We did drive past this huge row of wind turbines set along a ridge. Gorgeous!
Finally we entered the Bridger-Teton National Forest and feasted our eyes on GREEN!
We arrived in Jackson nice and early. Because it was Labor Day weekend and also it’s just a busy place, we decided to book a hotel a couple days in advance, and pay full price. We used Priceline for almost every other night (or a cheap motel a couple nights), but there was no way that we wanted to risk that in a place as popular and limited as Jackson. We stayed at the Hampton Inn, which became my favorite hotel this past year with all of my work trips. It was charmingly western–check out this fabulous antler chandelier!
We had plenty of time to walk around the town square (which is pretty much all there is to see of Jackson) while it was still light out. We grabbed a drink at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and took pictures of each other sitting in the saddle barstools. There’s also a display case of a stuffed bear that some badass killed with his hands and TEETH. Good lord!
We had dinner on a tavern patio overlooking the square:
We were quite tired and went to bed early in preparation for a big day of national parks the next day!