I stayed off of US 20 for the first 30-40 miles out of 'Dodge' this morning, opting for the farm roads that ran parallel to the highway. But those roads eventually ended, turned in the wrong direction, or got too far from the highway... so I got back on 20. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the highway did eventually become what I hoped it would... a 2-lane road going through the small towns. That was the character I was looking for, and I'm glad that it moved away from the 4-lane feel.
I didn't stop many more times through the remainder of Iowa... and even the first segment of Nebraska was very non-eventful. I did run through some crazy stormy weather - interesting enough that I felt the need to listen to all the weather resources I had just in case something particularly bad was in my path. Fortunately, it was only heavy rain and wind that I encountered. When I rolled into O'Neill, I saw proof that they had also endured the rain... all of their downtown streets were nearly entirely flooded. Most vehicles were staying towards the center, but I was a little better equipped than they... so I ran the left lane without any problems. :)
I stopped just outside of Valentine, NE - once to visit an old steel bridge on my way into town, and again to visit the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.
I got out and hiked a trail leading to Fort Falls... which was FAR cooler than I anticipated. I'm not sure what the overall height of the fall was, but I was pretty impressed once I got to the bottom.
Once back in the vehicle, the refuge also played host to a number of Prairie Dog towns, and it's own herd of Bison. I took my time puttering around the park, and getting some photos before I decided to move along.
Being that it was still pretty early, I chose not to stop again in Valentine (for food, fuel, or otherwise), with the intentions of stopping in one of the towns further down the road. Not too far outside of Valentine, I crossed into the Mountain time zone... and got an hour back. So I had even more time to drive.
So I thought.
Before coming into Cody, NE (dubbed "A town too tough to die"), I realized that I needed to refuel soon. Cody's one gas station was closed, so I chose to continue to the next town. Said 'next town' of Merriman (pop. 118) was quite a distance, and by the time I arrived, I had a problem. Merriman's only gas station had also closed for the day, and was not re-opening until 6am Monday morning. I did not have enough fuel to drive to the next town... and I wasn't entirely sure I could make it anywhere else for certain.
So there, I sat.
Nothing was open - not their cafe or their tavern. It was raining, so I didn't get out and wander about. Instead, I sat in the Jeep and read. And I went to bed early to try to make up for the previous night's lack of sleep.