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.

  • Sometimes you find things in your own backyard.⁣
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Just up the road from our home in Crete, Nebraska, we found the National Museum of Roller Skating. Our curiosity piqued, we stopped in and took a look around. There we found the world's largest collection of historical roller skates, costumes, and memorabilia. ⁣
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It took us back to our childhood and spending time at the roller skating rink (do kids even skate anymore?). We remembered crossing over on the turns for the first time and bending at the knees for "Downtown" by Petula Clark. So many great memories. ⁣
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Sometimes, we focus so much on getting away that we forget that we have some really interesting places close to home, as well. The next time you feel a hankering to go somewhere, maybe try going down the street. You never know what treasure you might find and what memories it evoke.
  • This was our Valentine’s Day dessert last year. Chef Kurtess Mortensen at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile created this memorable dish he called “Fat Elvis.” It was a chocolate bread pudding, served alongside banana brûlée and caramelized peanuts then topped with marshmallow cream, homemade peanut butter ice cream, and a candied bacon garnish. We are giddy with anticipation to see what he comes up with tonight! We are budgeting our calories accordingly. 😉
  • “Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.”
– Lewis Carroll
  • It's been a long winter. I need to see flowers again! Are you with me?Let's talk about these flowers. ⁣
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We are often asked about our favorite place we've ever visited. While that question is hard to answer, we almost always mention Tallinn, Estonia, as a contender.⁣
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Estonia has an interesting history. Conquered in 1227 by Denmark, it never again enjoyed independence until  1920. That freedom was short lived, however, as the Soviet Union occupied the country in 1940. Finally, in 1991, Estonia regained its independence and has remained free ever since. The country joined NATO in 2004. ⁣
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Visiting Estonia, we could see the remnants of Soviet control. Large block buildings dominate the landscape. They are of Soviet Communist design: utilitarian in nature with no thought given to design. They look just like the buildings you've seen in movies about the Soviet Union. ⁣
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Now free, Estonians have done what they can to erase the gray days of Soviet control. The Soviet-style buildings are painted bright colors, and flowers abound in the streets. The people are warm, cheerful, friendly, and welcoming. ⁣
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Yes, Estonia is a wonderful country, and we can't wait to return.
  • Each year from late February to early April, hundreds of thousands of Sandhills Cranes migrate through Nebraska on their way north to their breeding grounds. It's considered one of the greatest spectacles in nature, so thousands of people come to experience this incredible time.⁣
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We traveled to Kearney, Nebraska, one of the best cities for crane viewing, last year. Because the best times to view the cranes is sunrise and sunset, we found ourselves with some free time during the day. It turns out that Kearney has a lot to offer in terms of things to do.⁣
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Scroll across our highlights on Instagram, and you'll find the stories highlights we made during our time there. On our blog (link in bio) you'll also find a post we wrote with ideas for 20 things to do in Kearney while you wait on the cranes. ⁣
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Put crane viewing on your bucket list. It really is one of the most amazing experiences we've ever had in nature. And don't worry about being bored between sunrise and sunset--Kearney has too much to offer.
  • Sometimes, you find great cocktails where you least expect...⁣
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In the Mason City, Iowa, airport, (about halfway between Mason City and Clear Lake) we found a wonderful little restaurant called CAVU-American Kitchen and Coctail Lounge. It's different from any other airport restaurant and bar in the world because it is place so good, the airport becomes the destination.⁣
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While there last fall, we sampled a couple of their specialty cocktails. On the left a refreshing take on a margarita, on the right, a cocktail featuring St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur. Both were fantastic and worth a trip to the airport, even if you're not flying anywhere.
  • Learn how to avoid being labeled "that annoying guy" on a cruise ship in a new post on our blog that Steve wrote this weekend. ⁣
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You should know that 99% of the people we meet on cruises are nice people and fun to be around. However, it seems like there's always that one guy or gal who just gets under your skin. ⁣
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Click on the link to our blog in our bio and see what made of our list of things to do to avoid being "that guy" on a cruise ship. ⁣
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Are there some things we missed? Let us know - we'd love to hear from you.
  • The Sandhill Crane migration will be starting very soon, and @visitkearney, Nebraska, is the perfect place to go to witness this amazing sight. ⁣
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Because the cranes are best viewed at sunrise and sunset, a good cup of coffee is a necessity. ⁣
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During our hosted visit to town last year, we re-caffinated at a couple different coffee shops, including @baristasdailygrind. ⁣
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Ann loved the way her coffee was served, with a barista's kiss--a chocolate covered espresso bean sitting in a little cloud of whipped cream. Talk about a great good morning kiss!

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