Greg and I share a minor obsession with Lonesome Dove and Larry McMurtry. For my 50th birthday in 2011, we did a road trip across the US and visited Archer City, Mr McMurtry’s home town and the location of his used bookstore Booked Up. At the time it was spread across 4 shops, but a year or so after we were there, most of the stock was sold and the store now only takes up one shop. We stayed at the Lonesome Dove Inn, which was originally the Archer City hospital and the night we stayed there, Mr McMurtry was also a guest; we got to meet him briefly the next morning.
This is all a long introduction to explain why we went to Ogallala. It featured prominently in Lonesome Dove, and in real life in the 19th century, as one of the major towns on the way to Montana, and in the book, Gus McCrae’s great love Clara lived with her family just outside Ogallala on the Platte River.
Before we reached Ogallala, we spent a night camping at Walgren Lake State Forest campground in Nebraska , not far from the Sth Dakota border. It was a bit strange – little ‘forest’ with a lake surrounded by farmland. Popular with the locals – lots came to swim in the lake in the afternoon. When we registered, there was a sign about budget cuts , and after we had set up camp, Greg went for a walk and discovered that most of the vault toilets in the park had been nailed closed. We were lucky that we had chosen to pitch camp near a toilet that was actually open.
Next day, we headed south to Alliance, Oshkosh and Ogallala. Just north of Alliance is America’s answer to Stonehenge. This one is made out of metal. Old cars to be precise. Interesting, clever and, well, we stopped, so I guess a lot of other people do too. We stopped for a walk around the main street of Oshkosh (not where the kids’ clothing company was founded, that’s the Oshkosh in Wisconsin). Lots of empty shops, it looks like a town that has seen better days.
Fuel in Ogallala is the cheapest we’ve seen in the US, and we haven’t seen fuel prices anywhere close in Australia for close to a decade – USD $ 3.29 per gallon. Less than a dollar a litre! We went for a short walk around the business district, but the temperature was somewhere near 100F, so we headed out to camp at the Lake Ogallala state campground near Lake McConaughy. The eastern-most point of our trip. It’s all west, and mostly south, from here. We woke up to a thunderstorm, strong winds and lots of rain this morning, and as we drove towards Colorado, we heard a weather warning for a Nebraska county south of where we had been. An interesting tip that made us both go … ‘hmmm’ – ‘if you can hear thunder, you may be in danger and should get indoors as quickly as possible’. Okay, we’ll remember that next time there’s a thunderstorm and we’re in our tent.