Farther Foundation took time off for the holidays but learned travel lessons none-the-less.
We left Chicago in our minivan loaded like Santa’s sleigh heading west to spend the holidays on the plains and rolling hills of Nebraska. Our ultimate destination was the town of Spencer, population of about 500, and the home of my in-law’s in-laws. The weather was excessively wintery and white but we learned to rely on and appreciate the knowledge and resourcefulness of our local hosts to make Christmas merry.
The trip started auspiciously with clear skies and clear roads, traveling music on the ipod and a sighting of a bald eagle perched regally in a tree beside interstate 80. Before joining family, we spent a couple nights with friends in Lincoln, Nebraska. Though most of our time was spent pursuing domestic holiday activities such as eating, making gingerbread houses, eating, reminiscing and eating again, we did make time for a tour of the State Capital building with its striking art, architecture and view of the city; It is a well spent hour should you ever find yourself in Lincoln with time on your hands.
The snow was already falling as we arrived in Spencer and the forecast called for more of the same punctuated with high winds. We dropped off the kids at their cousin’s house to settle in while my wife and I went to check in at the motel. As you often see in small rural communities, either to make ends meet or to meet the needs of the community, people will engage in more than one line of work. Such was the case at our motel where the office also served as a Christian book and gift shop. The motel was clean, comfortable and conveniently located just two and a half blocks from the in-law’s house.
Soon, the falling and drifting snow began to make even the shortest trips difficult. We might have been able to drive the minivan the two blocks over to the house on Christmas morning had we not gotten stuck in a drift on the way out of the motel parking lot. The kids were held at bay, away from the presents, while our brother-in-law, Paul, came with his pick-up to pull us out of the drift. By the time we negotiated the two blocks down to the house, Paul, a volunteer firefighter, had been called away on another emergency forcing the kids to wait even longer before opening Christmas presents.
When Paul returned, apparently having made a stop at the family ranch outside of town, he was driving a snowplow equipped tractor rather than the pick-up truck. This turned out to be the decision that saved Christmas. The interstates had been closed down, and only 18 of the anticipated 30 or so family members were able to make it to town for Christmas dinner, but with Paul leading the way and clearing the roads we were all able to reach the community hall of the fire house where we were gathering for the feast. The prime rib made it as did the ham, potatoes, beans, corn, carrots and a green salad that drew very little interest. Dessert was stranded elsewhere in the state, but my wife, who is herself resourceful with a rolling pin, baked a couple apple pies to provide a delicious finish to the meal.
After the meal, Paul in his tractor pulled two more vehicles out of drifts and led our well fed family back to our homes and motels. We spent two more nights in Spencer than expected waiting for the weather to calm and the roads to be passable. On our way out of town we spotted four or five tractors out on Main Street clearing the roads and parking lots as life got back to normal. Our lesson learned this Christmas is that whether you have traveled half way around the world or not even left your own time zone, what might look like a disaster or an impossible circumstance to you is just a minor inconvenience to local residents who have the knowledge and experience to cope in their environments.
Farther Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization providing scholarships to low-income students to inspire them to reach their highest aspirations through educational travel experiences.