I woke up tired, but happy that I took the extra time last night to utilize some hotel drying tricks like putting the hotel hair dryer in my boots on low setting for a longer time, and pressing clothes between two towels to roll them and squeeze out a lot of water. I was rested and dry, these are two things that made me feel better than the gale-force storm we faced for many hours the day before. Some bad hotel coffee, a few jokes about the guy from Hollywood needing a fancy chai latte to get going, and we hit the road to Nebraska, which was much more accommodating with its weather.
We made the transfer between the departments with the appropriate photos at the border, and the folks from the Department of Nebraska who have been traveling with us since the beginning now took the lead after finally signing the banner. As we rolled into the first stop of the morning in O’Neill, Neb., I was greeted by a couple of familiar faces in Past National Commander David Rehbein and his wife Ann. I learned that this is not only a place of American Legion history, but the Rehbein’s have some history here as well. Ann pointed out the church across the street where they were married a few years back. At Spencer Post 78 I felt like I was in a John Cougar Mellencamp song, with the community lined with flag-waving patriots. This is a representation of the good things in small-town Middle America that could not have been duplicated by the best director in Hollywood.
There is a post in Bartlett that has an amazing monument park that I’d like to return to when I have time to study them all. We stopped at a great post in Greely that has a functioning Wurlitzer juke box and some salty old Legionnaires. On the way in I joked with the Riders that I needed some caffeine. They teased the Los Angeles guy about probably wanting a chai latte, so I asked the crusty bar tender if they have that. He furled his brow, narrowed his eyes, looked me over, then went to a fridge near the end of the bar and came back with a Mountain Dew that he practically dared me not to drink. We had the most amazing lunch in Saint Paul, made several more stops and finally ended up in Red Cloud for dinner at the fire department the way only they can do it. There was an amazing crowd to greet us at the fire station that included levels of Legion leadership that went well beyond Department Commander Gary Wooten, who personally greeted every rider in the group. I noticed National Commander Brett Reistad standing in the crowd, and by the time I had my motorcycle parked I was talking to Past National Commander Jimmy Foster who will be more involved when we get to his adopted state of Kansas tomorrow. The evening wrapped up with the final presentation and proclamation before we ate to our hearts content, then found a laundry facility to dry everything that was fully soaked yesterday. The motel we are staying in is called Green Acres and now I can’t stop singing that song.