After driving past more than a dozen dying small towns in rural Nebraska, we knew there was something out of the ordinary when we approached Cody, population 155. It’s sign read, “Cody welcomes you. A town too tough to die.” Many of the towns we had passed on our week-long journey through the Sandhills and prairie seemed practically abadoned and struggling to survive. Not Cody. As we approached this north central Nebraska town on the scenic Bridges to Buttes Byway otherwise known as Hwy. 20, we knew something was different here.

Cody, NE

And they weren’t kidding. As we drove past the town, we saw a newer building near the highway with a big “C” on the front. I had remembered seeing an advertisement in a tourism magazine about the Circle C Market and our curiosity got the best of us so we decided to stop. As we went inside, we were greeted by a young man and were pleasantly surprised to see neatly shelved groceries, fresh produce, and even locally produced vinegars — all things we hadn’t seen in the other small towns in which we’d stopped. This was refreshing, to say the least, and honestly, quite inspiring.

The young man and two other teenage girls who were there were kind enough to tell us little bit about the Circle C and explained how students from Cody-Kilgore school saw a need in their community and constructed a building to house the grocery store. The worker we spoke to said residents from Cody had been traveling  nearly 80 miles round trip to Valentine or Gordon for more than a decade to get groceries. The students wanted to change that. And they did.

These kids were no strangers to manual labor. Many came from farms and ranches and they were used to getting up early and working hard. With the help of their parents, teachers, administrators and some grant funding, they built the area’s first straw bale grocery store.

They call this glassed in view of the actual straw bales the "truth window."

They call this glassed in view of the actual straw bales the “truth window.”

McKean Jenkins, 17, was one of the students who helped construct the straw-bale building and this summer, he is one of six or seven local teenagers who works at the market. “Since it opened in May of 2013, I’ve learned how to do the ordering, run the register, and close out the books at night,” he said. “I’ve learned how to do a lot of things I didn’t know how to do before, like keeping books and running my own business.” The Circle C Market has inspired McKean (and presumably others) to become an entrepreneur himself. He said he’d like to manage his own construction company some day.

When we stopped in Cody, we already had a cooler full of drinks and food supplies. But we did purchase some snacks for the road and a bottle of locally-produced balsamic vinegar sold there. McKean said the store’s top sellers are understandably bananas, bread, and milk.

We left with a lot more than a sack of groceries that day. We left with an abundance of hope. Hope in a small Nebraska town. Hope in hard working kids and tough people who are determined to not let their town die. And for McKean and the others who have been a part of this entrepreneurial venture, the Circle C has given them hope, too. McKean told us that it has been a real honor for him to help with this project and meet all of the people in town and those traveling through.

Respectfully, McKean, the honor was all ours.

  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.
  • We'd never heard of cannonball rocks before we drove past them at North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and asked each other, "did you see that?" We'd never seen anything quite like these natural "concretions" created when water leaked into pockets of minerals in the ground. Now, as a hill erodes, these formations are exposed.⁣
Seeing these rocks was such a cool experience because it reminded us of why we travel. We never know when we'll find something new, something that we never knew existed. We got along fine not knowing about cannonball rocks, yet now that we've seen them, our lives are a little richer. ⁣
The world is a pretty cool place. Check it out.⁣

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