A Willie Nelson song was running through my head as I piled everything into the SUV and got on the road, heading north to Omaha NE. It was 6:15 AM and traffic was its usual horribleness, creeping and crawling north up Hwy 288 toward downtown Houston. But, as expected, it opened up once past the US 59 split and I made good time up the Hardy Toll Road and then I-45 north toward Dallas. Traffic getting through Dallas on 35E on the other hand...ugh!
It's cotton harvest time in north Texas and into Oklahoma and the roads were lined with the escaped bits of fluff. Harvesters were working the fields, sending huge clouds of dust into the wind. Some of the fields were already harvested and then scorched to lie fallow for the winter.
When I got into Kansas and onto the turnpike I noticed trees which appeared to be laden with green apples - or something - along the fence line, rimming large open fields of cotton and sorghum ...remnants of old orchards maybe?
I spent the night in Wichita, using some Choice Hotels points to book a room at a Comfort Inn on the east side, just off the turnpike. A Marriott was nearby and I thought I'd walk over and get dinner, but just as I stepped outside the skies opened up. Driving the few hundred yards to get there seemed silly but arriving dry trumped walking and getting soaked.
It had been a long day behind the wheel - almost 650 miles - and I was anxious to get my food, eat it, pay the bill, and return to my Comfort Inn room where I could crash. So of course the service was especially slow and I eventually had to chase down the waiter to get him to bring me my bill. There was some kind of conference going on at the hotel and the attendees all converged on the bar and restaurant at the same time. The skeletal staff were overwhelmed to say the least.
The next morning I had only 300 miles to go. It was a relaxed driving day for me. I even stopped at a Walmart in Nebraska City to buy some bananas to have in my hotel room in Omaha.
The Omaha Hilton is gorgeous and nearly brand new. Attached self-parking garage made it easy. My room was very nice, very comfortable. I dumped my stuff off in the room and headed back downstairs in search of late lunch. The restaurant was closed, but they had a limited food menu at the lobby bar. A really excellent turkey Panini sandwich and a fruit cup side made a perfect lunch!
The Fitness Expo was originally supposed to be held at the Hilton, but I could find no evidence of it, so logged onto the race website and saw that they'd changed the location. It was now being held at the TD Ameritrade stadium. That seemed like a rather odd venue for a fitness expo. Well, I'll just walk over there and see. As it turned out, it was held outdoors next to the stadium...tables set up under a canopy.
The race packet was spartan - just the race bib and a generic long-sleeve t-shirt with no race logo, just the name of the race organizing company that recently bought out the Omaha Marathon event. Not much in the way of a "fitness expo" as there were very few vendors there. I learned about the buy-out from eavesdropping on others' conversations. Apparently it was rather sudden and somewhat last-minute. I was not alone in my disappointment in the event shirt, usually a coveted and collectible piece of clothing.
I ordered room service that night - a personal-size pepperoni pizza and a fruit plate with slices of banana bread. The pizza was excellent! The fruit plate was huge, enough to save half in the mini-fridge for the next day.
The next day I headed out on foot to check out a bit of the downtown area. I realized that I didn't bring the right shoes for extensive walking and I don't like wearing my running shoes for casual walking, so I didn't wander too far. But I did have a specific destination in mind.
As I came into town, getting off the exit ramp and heading toward the hotel, I noticed some really awesome bronze statues in a park downtown. So that's where I headed.
Spirit of Nebraska's Wilderness & Pioneer Courage Park:
These 1.25X life-size bronze works were spectacular! The detail was incredible! They were so life-like, so realistic. All of the equipment on the wagons, the detail in the animals, the people was astonishing. The wagon train "spooks" a herd of buffalo that, in turn, flushes a flock of geese. This expansive piece of artwork covers several blocks and several buildings. Ambitious, creative, and gorgeous!
Lunch again at the hotel, this time a Swiss mushroom burger and sweet potato fries and then I moved from the restaurant to the Starbucks lobby café and had a cappuccino and some cookies while enjoyed the outdoor patio area. The weather is just perfect and promises to be so again tomorrow, race day.
Back to my room, relaxing in front of a movie, I laid my running things out for the next morning. Some tomato soup and good, crusty rolls from room service and my left-over fruit plate made a nice, light dinner.
Tomorrow: Omaha Half Marathon!