Friends complete mission to visit every Nebraska city

UNO students spend over two months, cover the whole state
Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 8:51 AM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Austin Schneider and Seth Varner, two guys from Wahoo and soon-to-be starting their sophomore year at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, wrapped up a two-and-a-half month journey on Friday, July 17. That journey was a visit to every single city in Nebraska - that’s 531 cities and over 9,000 miles.

The trip started on April 22 from the friends’ hometown of Wahoo. From there they would take around 17 “small” trips, always circling back to Wahoo, to cover the Eastern and Central portions of the state. Once those areas were covered Austin and Seth then set out on an eight-day trip out West.

Seth spent over 30 hours planning the West trip alone, ensuring there would be no backtracking.

“Our biggest worry was if we missed a town out West, going all the way back just for that one town of 30 people or something and coming all the way back that’d be brutal,” Varner said. “We didn’t want that to happen so we went over it several times.”

After the first couple trips people began telling Austin and Seth they should document their trip. So they did. They created “Visit531Nebraska” on Facebook and began updating people where they stopped, where they were headed next and what each stop consisted of. Every stop had a photo of the friends on the “welcome” sign and maybe a few extra photos of courthouses, museums, landmarks, etc.

They also began giving a few facts they learned about each city, like the history, population, what it’s known for. After a while the Facebook page picked up traction and people began commenting on their photos, offering to donate money, offering to show them around when they visit, essentially traveling through the two friends.

“As people intertwined themselves the journey just kind of changed, as I said, and it was more special to us,” Varner said. “It was more than just traveling around the state as we were traveling for more people.”

Varner had countless stories of people they met along the way and people reaching out to offer them a hotel room or meet them at various landmarks. Trying to follow social distancing and cleanliness, though, sometimes the guys would speak to people through vehicles or meet outside of restaurants or buildings. The friendliness of people following their trip was not lost on them.

“We had no idea people across the state were just that generous,” Varner said. “Like, Nebraska hospitality is probably the biggest thing we learned on the trip. Everybody wants to help you in some way.”

The guys had a mascot on their trip, an Energizer bunny, which embodied their spirit of “never stop moving” and appeared in nearly all their photos.

The trip concluded on Friday, July 17 in Wahoo when the friends “officially” visited the city. They were greeted by a parade downtown with hundreds of people lining the streets with signs and applause. The parade ended at the local Dairy Queen in which Mayor Gerald Johnson gifted Austin and Seth keys to Wahoo.

“When we first decided to visit every town the last thing on our mind was getting keys to the city of Wahoo,” Varner said.

When asked what’s next for the friends, aside from resuming college, they say they’re going to start working on a book that better documents their trip in its entirety.

Copyright 2020 KSNB. All rights reserved.

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