2017 will forever be remembered as the year I went to Nebraska twice. On purpose. As in, I made two separate trips to visit Nebraska and Nebraska only, that were not just me driving through on my way to Iowa. Why, you might ask, would anyone do such a thing? Well, Nebraska happened to be hosting two unmissable events last year: 1. The Great American Eclipse and 2. The Lincoln Calling Music Festival. The path of totality of the August 21st eclipse spanned the length of the state, and I found a perfect little piece of off-the-beaten-path virgin wilderness in the sand hills of western Nebraska, Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge. That was a truly unforgettable experience. About a month-and-a-half later, we were heading back to the Cornhusker State for a killer little music festival and a visit to the crapitol.
Who's "we," you ask? Once again my dearest friend Riann was along for the journey, with her two doggos, Moose and Bruno tagging along.
I had seen an ad online for Lincoln Calling, a little music festival in Nebraska's capital. I had to do a triple take when I saw the lineup: Angel Olsen, Charli XCX, Julie Byrne, CupcakKe, Sandy (Alex G), to name a few. The lineup was stacked for such a tiny festival, and a three day pass was something like $70. This was too good to pass up. Fulfill my crapitol quest, see the greatest voice of our generation Angel Olsen, and finally see my pop idol super crush Charli XCX... yes please.
This trip also provided me with an opportunity to stop and see all the kitschy roadside attractions along I-80 in Nebraska, which I had always just flown past at 90 miles per hour. The first stop was the Fort Cody Trading Post in North Platte, Nebraska's largest souvenir and Western gift store. We got souvenir pennies and I touched the big chief's crotch (pictured). I was also able to give Riann her first taste of Taco John's and their unbeatable Potato Oles, and also probably her 100th taste of improperly mixed Dr. Pepper (you know, when they don't get the syrup and the carbonation mixed right in the fountain).
We got to our motel in Lincoln in the evening, and were pleased when the clerk informed us there was a huge dog park just down the road. The dogs would LOVE that, and we talked about taking them every day of the trip and didn't end up actually doing it because we're selfish and terrible. Night one of the festival was a little sleepy, so we decided to just wander and get our bearings. Riann got a henna tattoo as they were closing up the night market portion of the festival, and we got luck when a nearby vendor, a baker, came around with free leftover cookies and muffins that went unsold. Major score.
The following day, Friday September 29, 2017 it happened. The Nebraska State Capitol is the tallest building for miles. At 400 feet, it is the second-tallest of the 50 capitols, surpassed only by the Louisiana Capitol in Baton Rouge. With Greek-style floor mosaics and marble galore, it's a gorgeous building. Completed in 1932, it was designed by my vote for the man with the most architect-y architect name ever Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue.
We happened to roll up onto the capitol on the day the state of Nebraska was swearing in all its newly-minted attorneys, so there were lots of well-dressed folks and a graduation-like atmosphere. We weren't patient enough to wait for the next tour to begin (not to mention having to join a few dozen fourth graders) plus they told us the tour doesn't go up to the tower. It became immediately clear why: just two phone-booth-sized old-time-y elevators serve the ancient skyscraper's upper floors. Luckily, this meant we had the top floor to ourselves, and it was glorious.
It felt like a Masonic temple, as I guess most public buildings of the 20's and 30's kind of do. Photos do not do this chamber justice. Just beams of light and symbolic murals everywhere. The top floor opens up to observation decks at the four cardinal directions, but ***SPOILER ALERT*** there's nothing to see in Nebraska. More importantly, no bathroom. Understandably so. It would have been pure government waste (pun intended) to install toilets all the way up there and pump water 400 feet up just to flush people's shit 400 feet back down, during the Great Depression anyway.
We went back down to the main floor to check out Nebraska's one and only legislative chamber. That's right trivia nerds, Nebraska is home to the only unicameral legislature in the U.S. Learn all about it here.
The rest of that weekend was just icing on the cake. That very night we were in the front row at the Bourbon Theater for the lovely Julie Byrne, perhaps the most stunningly beautiful woman I've ever seen in person, followed by the inimitable Angel Olsen. The best in the game. That voice. Those melodies. The lyrics. None better. Swoooooon.
The following day we headed east to Omaha to visit the world-class Henry Doorly Zoo, easily Nebraska's best thing. Then back to the motel to rest. And that night, after a surprisingly thrilling set by our big discovery of the festival, Flint Eastwood, and after missing out on the Sucker tour in 2015, after long, long last...
Lincoln Calling was a truly great little festival, punching waaaaay above its weight class. I would definitely go back if they get a similarly bangin' lineup again in the future.
We made one final stop on the way home. In homage to About Schmidt, we stopped at the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument in Kearney. Another place I had always wanted to stop but never did in all my years driving back and forth between Colorado and Iowa. It didn't disappoint. We learned the entire history of the Platte River road, from the pioneers to the Lincoln Highway. And we got souvenir pennies. Nebraska accomplished.