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.

  • One of our favorite stops on our hosted food tour of @visitkansascityks was the @403club. Sure, they offer a great selection of locally crafted and larger production domestic beers. But they also have pinball machines. In fact, they even have a pinball league.⁣
We spent about an hour in this fun spot, sipping, playing, and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. It will definitely be on our list of places to go again, someday. Beer and pinball are a pretty good mix.
  • On our visit to Italy, we visited the Prosecco region. While we toured a number of wineries, we actually stayed at an inn run by the Roccat winery. ⁣
Prosecco is a sparkling wine, and people often see it as intergangeable with champagne. This isn't the case at all. Champagne is made from the Chardonnay grape, while Prosecco comes from Glara. Because of this, the two wines are completely different.⁣
We enjoyed a tasting at Roccat, where they served us glasses of crisp, clear, delicious wine alongside some crunchy breadsticks that were just the right thing to enjoy with the wine.⁣
If you ever have the opportunity to go to Italy, make sure you include time to head to Valdobbiandene and try some Prosecco.
  • Located in @clearlakeiowa, the historic Surf Ballroom has hosted some of the biggest names in music. It was on this stage that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP "The Big Bopper" Richardson performed their final show on February 3, 1959. After the concert, they boarded a plane for their next town on their tour. That plane crashed shortly after takeoff, and the date has been remembered ever since as "the day the music died."⁣
  • Set in Millennium Park in Chicago is one of the city's most iconic art installations. It's a giant, shiny bean which reflects everything in sight. It's fun to walk around (and under) the bean and see how the shape distorts what it reflects.⁣
Folks come from all over to see this art installation and take it in. Children love running around it and gazing into it, not realizing they are learning about convex and concave shapes. ⁣
Standing here you'll hear a multitude of languages and see people from all walks of life there to enjoy the art. And that's why we love public art so much--it brings people together.
  • On our cruise from Italy to Greece, we made a stop in Mykonos. There, we had the chance to take part in a Greek cooking class in a woman's home learning from her.⁣
We spent an afternoon with lessons about Greek cuisine, and how they waste nothing, not even excess juice from a cucumber. We also saw how to make incredible dishes like this spanakopita, or spinach pie. Sitting in her dining room, enjoying the light, flaky crust and delicious filling is an experience we won't soon forget. ⁣
While traveling, we try to find opportunities to experience local culture. It's amazing how similar people in the world really are if you just take some time to see what life is like.
  • Do you remember that song from "The Music Man" about trouble? You know the one about the kids in the knickerbockers, shirt-tail young ones, peekin' in the pool hall window after school. ⁣
Well, we got to peek in a replica of that pool hall on a recent visit to The Music Man Square on our hosted to Mason City, Iowa. It's the town where "The Music Man" creator Meredith Willson was born and raised and his legacy lives on. ⁣
Before you go see @thehughjackman and @suttonlenore in this Broadway favorite, consider a visit to the real River City.⁣
Click on the link in our bio to see our latest blog post about why fans of "The Music Man" need to visit Mason City, Iowa. ⁣
  • When we heard that there was a community garden in Clear Lake, Iowa, we figured we'd stop and check it out. We've seen small town community gardens before, and were expecting a few flower patches, some paving stones, and maybe a bench or two. After all, it was built and is maintained by volunteers in a small Iowa town. ⁣
What we found, though, was simply astounding! First, the entire garden had been designed beautifully; a small stream even meandered through the gardens, pausing in small lily-filled pools before continuing on its path. But the flowers took the cake. So many varieties, each more beautiful than the last. And the entire space had been planned out to take advantage of the spring, summer, and autumn species. ⁣
if you enjoy gardens, put the Central Gardens of North Iowa on your list of places to visit.
  • Calmar, Iowa, near Decorah, is home to Pivo Brewery and Blepta Studios. There you'll find high quality craft beers, in a relaxed, fun environment. Upstairs from the taproom are the studios, where you can try your hand at art while sipping your beer.

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