Call them cornhuskers after their state nickname, but you can't deny that Nebraskans have a way with soil (well, except maybe for local-boy-turned-city-slicker Johnny Carson -- but locals seem to have forgiven this minor offense). This Great Plains state is one of the most productive farming spots in the country, a place where fields of corn, wheat, and soy bean wave in the breeze and cattle roam acres upon acres of rolling ranch hillsides. Nebraska native and U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser's poem, "So This Is Nebraska," deftly demonstrates the power of the state's simple pleasures and beauty: "You feel like that, like letting your tires go flat . . . You feel like stopping the car and dancing around on the road." You can, of course, dance around in the road if you like, but it might be more advisable (and safer) to save all jigging activity for a trip to one of Nebraska's eight lovely state parks, where you can spy bison, eagles, and pronghorn antelope, or the shores of one of its 450 lakes and streams where cranes wade in shallow pools and geese squawk overhead. Driving one of the nine scenic byways affords the opportunity to check out everything from jutting Chimney Rock along the old Oregon pioneer trail to the 82-mile path cut by Lewis and Clark on their westbound adventure to less-natural wonders like Carhenge (www.carhenge.com), a 38-car sculpture built to resemble England's Stonehenge on Highway 87. Regardless of whether your pursuits lie within the boundaries of the natural or manmade worlds, Nebraska is an easygoing spot to explore your heart's desires.
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