Everybody says St. Louis is the Gateway to the West. Not for me, at least not on my trip. I knew things were changing when I rolled into Valentine. I noticed right away it had a National Parks office, my first so far. (Niobrara National Scenic River is nearby. The park ranger, Ms. Maxwell, told me it had a bison overlook, among other things.) I camped that night in an area known for its ancient sand dunes, now curtailed by a layer of prairie. It was windswept. It was brown. It was western.
I did find a library, by the way. A lovely, new one, complete with a fireplace and an interesting floor layout. The librarians were professional, if not exactly friendly. The weird thing about it is I actually went into the building next door, which also has a sign that says "library" on the outside. When I asked the librarian, he told me that the other building is actually a book depository now. I guess you have to live there to know that. (The first image below is Not the Library. Really.)