Rested and ready, we got on the road at a relatively reasonable hour. There were a few stops we wanted to make, and neither of us is a fan of feeling rushed. For what I believe was the first time since leaving Oregon, we felt... relaxed.
Our first stop was one I've been looking forward to for a while now. It wasn't some big attraction, nor did it have the majesty of a bunch of old cars buried in the dirt. It was nothing more than one little roadside town, somewhere down the road between here and there.
Even before we got to Monowi, we had to make a stop. My daughter has this uncanny ability to look down some lonesome, barren street and tell if it's worth checking out. We did this, just a few miles away from Monowi, in the town of Lynch. Thinking back, I don't think Lynch, Nebraska even has a traffic light. It's probably he tiniest town I've ever been in:
|I soooooo wanted to see what was behind that door...|
|At first we weren't sure what this was, then we figured it out. It's a movie theater...|
|When was the last time you saw a gas station with one gas pump?|
Now, don't get me wrong, I did "small town" America, but this was ridiculous. We drove through Lynch for a good ten minutes and didn't see a soul. To me, it seemed like something lifted from the pages of a Stephen King novel as opposed to just being a small, northeastern Nebraska town. The census says the population is 206. Well, if they're there, they didn't show themselves.
From Lynch it was only a short drive to what truly is the smallest town in America, Monowi, Nebraska. There was little to see along the way (I mean, c'mon, it's Nebraska), but we did find this 1940's era pickup which had certainly seen better days. There's nothing special about this, it just looks cool. And, if I had to guess, I'd imagine it's been sittin' there since the 40's too:
From the dilapidated truck, it was just a quick drive down the road is the smallest town in America, Monowi, Nebraska.
By the way, the correct pronunciation is "MAHN-OH-WHY".
Monowi was founded as a railroad town in 1902, and saw its most robust years in the 1930's, when the population swelled to around 150. Over the years since, though, as cities afar were experiencing growth and offering better job opportunities, the younger folks started to pack up and move on. By the year 2000, there were only two residents left: Elsie and Rudy Eiler.
|Monowi, Nebraska - Population: 1...|
Rudy and Elsie met in the fourth grade, and were married for just shy of 74 years when Rudy passed in 2004. Since then, Elsie has served as Mayor, clerk, treasurer, librarian and bartender. She pays herself taxes and even grants herself her liquor license:
|Elsie Eiler, the sole resident of Monowi, Nebraska...|
Elsie's a woman of slight stature and quiet confidence. As we walked in she welcomed us quietly with a "Sit where you want" as she moved to serve other customers. We took a seat at the table closest to what serves as a kitchen and looked around.
It's more tavern than restaurant, but there was no shortage of customers seated at tables as opposed to the bar. Many, it seemed, were regulars, those who stop in not only for a bite to eat but also to check on Elsie. She is, after all, 87 years old.
Monowi, at one time, was also home to a chapter of the Night Owls Motorcycle Club. No one seems to really recall when a chapter last called Monowi home, but it's clear it's been some time:
|The Night Owls (former) clubhouse in Monowi...|
One thing in town which Elsie takes a great deal of pride in is Rudy's Library. When he passed away, Rudy wanted his 5,000 volume book collection to be made available to anyone wishing to have access to it. It was with this in mind that Elsie opened "Rudy's Library" in 2004, in a small building along the main drag:
When we finished lunch, Jess and I went over to the counter to thank Elsie. Up to now she'd been very quite and quite reserved but, when I asked if she would oblige us for some photos, her face lit up and she couldn't say "YES!" fast enough:
|Elsie Eiler and me at the Monowi Tavern...|
|Elsie and Jess...|
We chatted for what had to be another 20 minutes when we finally decided to let Elsie get back to the growing number of diners in the tavern.
Hindsight being what it is, we probably should've explored more in the town. Allegedly there are four traffic lights, but I saw none of them and, honestly, I can't see a reason for them being there. But there were things for us to do and places for us to be, so we turned the car east to see whatever lay down the road...