Anna G. in Nebraska | Part 1

I'm a big fan of travel, roadtrips, journeys, exploration. I also love making new friends and collaborating with other artists - of all different types. So when Anna posted on her facebook asking if anyone was available to join her on a little overnight trip to her hometown in Nebraska, I told her I'd love to go. She was looking for someone to help her film and document her in special places for a music video she was working on - her regular video guy wasn't available. I didn't think it would actually happen though. I have no experience with video, and I was only available that very day and had to be back by the next. She had mentioned wanting to take the trip on the upcoming weekend, but to my surprise (and delight) she was down for a little spontaneity, and we left within a few hours - never having spent time together before that.

Needless to say (just look at the photos), the trip ended up being amazing. The drive through the heart of Nebraska was long, but Anna had on a playlist that she'd been amassing for a while - she's a musician, I trusted it would be good, and it was. We talked in the car and got to know each other while stopping for sundaes and fries at a couple Dairy Queens along the way. (Yes, a couple). It was night by the time we arrived to Anna's mom's house, where we'd be staying for the night. Her mom had stayed up to meet us with gluten-free cookies and gluten-free beer for Anna. It was the sweetest thing, and she was so welcoming to me, having never met nor heard of me before. True Midwestern hospitality. 

In the morning we had more cookies with coffee for breakfast while listening to Miley Cyrus and prepping for the day. We headed out for Happy Jack Hill in Scotia first thing. I'd never heard of it, and Anna explained that it was a chalk mine out in the middle of nowhere. I had also never thought about the fact that chalk might come from mines. Mines in Nebraska, no less. Happy Jack Hill wasn't a mountain, but it was a big enough hill that I was honestly surprised that it had somehow escaped the glaciers that had flattened the hell out of Nebraska.

We parked the car and Anna got her clothes ready while I got my camera gear ready. We walked up the drive to the mine museum where they have tours of inside the mine and a guest book. Before we got that far back, we spotted a wooden plank staircase winding up the side of the hill through the trees, and we started our way up. About halfway, we stopped so Anna could pull on her big white dress and so I could check my light settings. Somewhere in the two second pause, I seriously pissed off a whole hive of yellow jackets by stepping on their nest they were building into the staircase. It was that day I got my first wasp sting, and then I got 8 or 9 more for free, just because. They threw in 7 or 8 for Anna too. We both ran down the side of Happy Jack Hill, arms flying, me screaming expletives, trying to rid ourselves of the wasps that were following us in hot, angry pursuit. How I managed to hang on to all my gear, I'll never know.

Looking back, it was an absolutely hilarious start to our day. In the moment, however... The hot stinging pain that sprung up out of nowhere all over my body, paired with adrenaline, pure terror, and phobia of all things insects made those few minutes one of the most horrifying experiences I've ever had. It ended up being a great bonding experience for Anna and I, because we were talking about lingering wasp sting pain on our ankles and texting each other recovery pictures for weeks (yellow jackets don't die when they sting, so they can keep going at you as long as they feel like it it, and the stings take forever to heal). 

After waiting a few moments in the cool cabin with the old couple who run the mine tours, dousing ourselves with bug spray, and making sure neither of us would need their EPI pen, we headed up the other side of the hill, fingers crossed that there would be no more aerial assaults for the day. The path we ended up taking up was more difficult, and longer, and hotter, but when we got to the top, the view was magnificent. You could see farms and fields, neighboring towns, a river, trees, sky for miles. There was a giant white cross perched on the very top of the hill. Below it sat a silver park bench with the initials of some people in love painted on it in white. Anna and I used the surroundings, the plants, the breeze to make videos and photos together.

Check out my photos from this part of my adventure with Anna, and check back for part two of this story in the weeks to come.