May 31, 2010; 10:00pm Central Time; North Platte, Nebraska; Buffalo Bill Ranch Campground; 58 degrees F; 2,802 ft alt.

Memorial Day! Thank you, Veterans. Also, my brother's 30th birthday. My best friend from college, Danene, has joined me on the trek! A great day all around! Danene and I called brother and sang him an extremely out of tune "Happy Birthday" just after we crossed the border into Nebraska. Well, let's see. Much has happened since I last blogged. It's hard to get access to the internet on the road. I type these in my campsites and wait until I've got connection - somewhere to upload them. Today, I'm in Old Town Omaha, Nebraska, at a coffee shop. This is the hometown of Warren Buffet, so naturally his photo is everywhere. Sorry to be behind! But, hey, that's life outside the box, right?

I made it to Colorado on Saturday afternoon around 2:30,

(yes, that's a BIKER trekking solo)

just after catching sight of a bald eagle soaring over the gushing Yampa River. Breathtaking! I took that as a good omen. I decided that, officially, one of my favorite roads to drive is Route 40. If you want an amazing view and some killer national and state parks to camp in follow the following itinerary:

Fly into Salt Lake City (and get the heck out as fast as you can), rent a car or bring your bike and camping gear, spend a day or two in one of the many campgrounds outside of SLC, drive through Utah, stopping in for a bite to eat in Heber City, then trek on to Dinosaur National Monument (the rocks jutting up from the ground will blow your mind - like what did the earth go through to make THAT happen??),

spend a few days camping there (either in the UT or CO part), then drive on to Steamboat Springs, take a dip in the hot springs (clothing optional) and spend a few days in the Routt County National Forest, then camp at Chatman Lake in the Flat Tops in White River National Forest. Hop back on 40, and spend a night near Heeney, CO at the Green Mountain Reservoir (catch your own dinner there and think of me!) and eat by a fire with Mount Powell looming at 13,534 feet, snow-capped above you.

Then get back onto 40 and take a detour up to Rocky Mountain National Park. Hike a 14'er - a mountain peak of higher than 14,000 feet - if you dare. There are 88 in the contiguous United States - approx. 53 of which are in Colorado. End up in Boulder, CO to share stories with the locals at a microbrewery in the area, and when you're ready to face civilization again, head down to Denver and fly home. Best time to go? Late May into early June - you can miss the tourist crowds, but get the nice weather. Danene and I have already decided we're going to try and do it next summer.

SO! Spent Saturday and Sunday with my fabo sister, Shannon,

her husband, Greg, and my 15-month-old-cutest-nephew-in-the-universe, Ashlee.

I helped them pack as they, too, are moving east. They are sad to leave such a beautiful, unpopulated place after 6 years. Oak Creek (near Steamboat Springs) and the Rockies are a special place for them. This is where they were married, bought their first house, and birthed their first baby (IN that same house - no hospital thank you very much!). But, now, as happens when you have babies, they want to be closer to the Grandpas (Grandmoms are around in spirit)! We had a nice dinner with some of their friends, Jen and John, with their baby, Roxy. Then I helped them pack, and Shannon and I took one last hike around my favorite loop near their house, which is at the bottom of what used to be a ski resort.

It was a beautiful way to end my visit and to say goodbye to Colorado - where I also had many an adventure, and where I lived for 6 months in 2007, before I moved to California. Good times. No doubt, there will be return trips!

Today, I packed up the car at 6:00am, and hopped on route 40 again. Bid a fond farewell to the Flat Tops, Steamboat Lake, and the beautiful valley that surrounds it, at about 10,000 feet.

The air was thin and crisp. The snow had not quite melted as I drove over Rabbit Ears Pass (named for the unique upward jutting rock formations at the top of one of the peaks on the pass)

and there weren't too many folks on the road, which allowed me to stop a few times and soak in the solace.

Then, down to Denver, back to traffic (ugh!) and Interstate driving (double-ugh!!). I said goodbye to the Rockies in my side mirror.

But all for a good cause! Picked up BFF, Danene,

at a hotel near the Denver Airport. She flew out on Sunday night - JUST to drive the rest of the way back east with me. How's THAT for a BFF??? She rocks. I was sorry she missed Utah and Colorado, but she could only do a week with me, and these middle states can be a bit of a drag to drive through (though we're going to look for some scenic routes as we go!), so I got her for the second leg of the trip. I promised her that things would get better when we got up to the Finger Lakes- which we're going to do our best to get close to by Wednesday.

Before we headed Northeast on I-76 out of Denver, we had time to meet with my two gorgeous cousins, Amy and Mandie, who live in the Denver area.

Amy is actually moving east, too, with her new husband, Chris. In fact, it just worked out that we (my sister, me, and cousin Amy) are all moving the exact same week! Weird. I call it the Great Olmsted Migration (we're related through my Mom's side of the family - the Olmsteds - and, yes, we are related to Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park - another story for another time.). ANYWAY, more info than you wanted. We had a nice brunch in Denver, before heading out on the road. Mandie and her husband, Aaron, have a lovely new daughter, Lauren, who gave us several sweet smiles before we left.

Eastern Colorado? Not much there. Feed lots that stink and are very sad - poor cows. And all that methane - gross!

Turf farms (so THAT'S where it comes from!). We passed a VVVEEERRRRYYY LOOOOONNNGGG coal train heading west.

Danene said, "That's probably coming from Pennsylvania or Virginia." Crazy how the transport of goods works in this country. It's a big one with a very complex system of pick up and delivery. Passed another train loaded with very large pipes. Hmmm. A few oil drills, wind mills, and horses. That's about it. Oh, and an interesting sign on the side of a 16-wheeler that said, "It's a life, not a choice." The trucking company was "Covenant Transportation." Everyone's got a message to market, I guess. We also passed a few signs that warned motorists not to pick up hitchhikers because there was a "Correctional Facility in the Area." Okay! Point taken.

We made it to Nebraska in the late afternoon

and saw a few funny sights...a gas station boasting the "Classiest Restrooms" in Nebraska (a selling point for us, for sure!).

And looked long and hard for Cranes, as they were supposed to be easy to see at one rest stop, but all we saw were massive wild turkeys! (Is that the Nebraska Crane?)

I giggled at the Cornhuskers Highway sign, imagining millions of cornhuskers waving at us from the side of the road as we passed!

We found this great quiet campground tucked along the North Platte River

in North Platte, Nebraska (which, thankfully, got a little more interesting - and greener - as we passed into it). We had some spinach ravioli and broccoli on the camp stove for dinner. The sunset was red and beautiful and the panoply of birds sang us a nice little ditty before we headed to bed. Nothing much to hear tonight but crickets, a distant train horn, and the river water. Not a bad lullaby. Goodnight, stars - so nice to see so many of you! Tomorrow, we're going for Iowa.