Road trip: Sandhills Journey
It may not be a great time to travel right now. But, it's a good time to make plans for a future road trip on a memorable Nebraska byway.
As you leave Grand Island on Highway 2, you'll be on the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway. Your first stop could be Broken Bow. "We do have a chamber website and that's brokenbow-ne.com," Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Deb Kennedy said. Although travel now is not advised, that website would be a good place to start when planning your future visit to the great local shops that await in the Custer County seat.
Next, as you drive through Anselmo, look for Cathedral of the Sandhills on your left. And a few miles later, take a moment to visit the Sandhills Heritage Center in Dunning. "We decided that a lot of our heritage was passing away with our older people, and we wanted to capture that, because we are proud of our roots," Museum volunteer Kathie Martindale said. "So a group of us got together and started brainstorming about a museum. The McMullen family heard it, and they decided they would donate this bank building to us to house the museum, and we started from there."
Not far down the road is the Nebraska National Forest. The 90,000 acres of wilderness is worth a visit. On a trip there, Brad Anderson asked a forestry official if the national forest is the largest man-made forest. Turns out it's the largest in the western Hemisphere. It was planted in the 1930's by hand. After a visit to the forest, head on to Thedford. It's a small town with much to offer. Check out the art gallery there. "Our members are from the area, we have some from Broken Bow and Callaway, Oconto, Mullen, Seneca and in between, basically from the Sandhills region we have a lot of artists from the area," gallery volunteer Dawn Bryant said.
Your road trip continues with a stop in Mullen at the Mullen Arts Center. If you have time, you might talk to Mitch Glidden about tanking on the Middle Loup River. He usually holds the Polar Bear Tank Race the first weekend of March each year. "We usually start the men's teams and start them two minutes apart, and give them a head start," Glidden said. "Then, we go to the ladies racing teams, and put them on a couple of minutes apart so they get a chance to spread out, and then we line up all of the floaters after that, and we'll put them on about a minute apart, and head 'em all down the river."
Keep driving west, and the town of Ashby comes up on your right. CaLinda's Pot Shop is a great place pick up locally made pottery, and get coffee or a smoothie. "It started out to be a hobby shop, because I taught in the schools. Then as the schools consolidated or ended up closing, I decided it was time to open up my shop full time."
Cowpoke Haven is a must-see for western wear along the byway in Ellsworth. And, make sure you end your Sandhills Journey with a visit to the Carhenge in Alliance. "You may not understand it, you may not even like it. You might think it's a vertical junkyard," Carhenge volunteer Marcia Buck told us in a few years back in a summer interview. "But people come here because of Carhenge, so I think you have to embrace those kinds of things."
Although we can't enjoy tourism attractions now due to the corona virus pandemic, it might be a good time to start planning now for your next trip on the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.