This column by Mona Weatherly was originally published in the Sept. 23 issue of the Custer County Chief.
One of my brothers cautions his wife and I against getting “drunk” during the last weekend in September. We start Friday with plenty of excitement and lots of dollars in our pockets. By the end of the day, we’re “junk drunk,” that is, happily tired with a few less dollars but a backseat full of finds and a day of memories!
Thanks to the pandemic, family health concerns and hectic scheduling, I haven’t been out and about junking and antiquing. Antique and junk shops are in my top places I like to browse. And with Junk Jaunt, there are miles and miles to browse!
Best of all, I usually get to spend time with family. My sis-in-law and I head out almost giddy with excitement. Sometimes her daughters and or friends join us. Sometimes it’s only the two of us. Our treasure map is the Junk Jaunt guide. We read it, mark pages, sip our Diet Pepsi and Dr. Pepper and head out.
Our husbands wave good-bye and probably try not to think about us visiting the ATM “just one more time.” Most likely they hope, in the event we find an extra-large treasure that can’t quite fit in the car, it’s not too far away for them to retrieve with the pickup later on.
To the visitors who come from near and far, Welcome! We are glad you are here! We hope you enjoy your time in Central Nebraska and the Sandhills and that you take home a lot of treasures and good memories of the people and places you visited.
The traffic on our roads and highways this weekend is not normal. For example, during my 25-minute commute to work via a county road and state highway, if I see more than a dozen vehicles, I wonder where everybody is going. This weekend we may have to sit through a red light twice before getting through the intersection! So, for visitors and locals alike, here are my reminders on driving during Junk Jaunt.
1. Do not suddenly hit the brakes to read a sign or look over a sale from the street, gravel road or highway. Traffic behind you may not be as quick on the brake pedal.
2. Slow down. We’re taught as drivers to be ready for children to dart out into the street. Remember, during Junk Jaunt, a lot of us adults act like children!
3. Use turn signals, preferably in plenty of time for other drivers to see them and react. Remember, other drivers can’t read your mind.
4. Obey the speed limit. If traffic is heavy, it doesn’t hurt to drive a few miles below the limit. I’ve tried it and I still got to where I was going!
5. Park appropriately. That means no parking in the middle of streets, roads and highways. If you do pull over, use the turn signals (in plenty of time) and pull off far enough that other traffic can get by. If you think, “I’ll only be here a minute,” think again. Who knows who will be needing to get by in that minute? And for me, that minute can easily stretch into several.
6. Be careful opening vehicles doors. Take a moment and check traffic so you can be sure to go home with your vehicle door …and yourself, too… intact!
7. Pass carefully and please, only in passing zones! Any treasure out there is not worth the risk. You don’t know who or what is on-coming from the other side of the hill or curve.
8. Remember you are not alone. There will be a lot of traffic. Some of it may be some pretty big and pretty heavy farm equipment. You might have to follow a tractor or truck for a little while. Be patient. My experience is that many a farmer will pull off to the side as soon as they safely can to let Junk Jaunt traffic get by.
9. Please, please PLEASE, don’t text and drive! Don’t read the guide while driving. Don’t browse the Internet while driving. “But it’s only for a second,” you may protest. What’s that they teach us in Driver’s Ed? At 65 mph per hour, a vehicle travels 95 feet in one second. At 65 mph, it takes a vehicle 150 feet to stop.
10. In driving and interactions, please be respectful. Some folks will wear masks, others won’t. Some will social distance, others won’t. A mask is not a political statement. We don’t know the other person’s situation, whether they will be going home to an immune-compromised family member or to a full vaccinated household. We don’t know. So, as they say, live and let live.
Yes, I like Junk Jaunt. Besides being fun, it’s a great economic boost to the area. We have a lot of visitors and for a few days, we have crowds and traffic and we get to show a lot of people how good life is in Central Nebraska.
As for that traffic, locals and visitors alike, let’s stay “Junk Jaunt Sober” and drive with care.
Now, let the great treasure hunt (safely) begin!
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