Share story

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) — When Jim Mace of Hastings retired from his position in electrical sales purchasing at Dutton-Lainson Co. in January after more than 34 years there, his wife, Peggy, feared it was only a matter of time before he succumbed to boredom.

That’s what inspired her to send him packing — in a matter of speaking — with a Nebraska tourism passport.

The Hastings Tribune reports that now in its eighth year, the passport program features 80 destinations across the state, connecting travelers to encounters with some of the state’s “hidden gems.”

“Some cousins of mine in Omaha had done it last year, so that’s how I knew about the passport project,” Peggy said. “I thought, ‘This sounds like a good project for Jim,’ and he loved it!”

Passport holders collect stamps as they visit 80 pre-designated locations across the state between May 1 and Sept. 30. Those visiting outside business hours may snap a selfie on their cellphone as proof of their visit.

Rewards for completing portions or all of the tour include T-shirts, coffee mugs, chocolates, calendars, car decals and jackets. There is no charge for taking the tour.

To date, 363 people have visited all 80 designated passport locations. Those submitting stories of their passport adventures online at are entered in a drawing for additional prizes.

For Jim, whose job often required road trips to destinations beyond state lines, the passport afforded him the opportunity to smell some of the local roses he’d never encountered before. The adventure proved far more interesting and educational than he’d imagined at the outset, he said.

“It was the perfect gift,” he said. “I’m comfortable driving, and I enjoy talking to people. Most of the people at the sites were friendly and wanted to tell you about their store, business, park or historical site.

“The tour stretches from one end of the state to the other, so it was a lot of driving. I planned out my routes so I could visit sites in groups, spending the night in different towns so I could get up the next morning and knock off some more. This was a good way to get off the beaten path and really see Nebraska and things you never knew were there.” “

Favorite stops included Chili Dawgs Foods of Fire in Blair, Halsey National Forest in the Nebraska Sandhills, Junto Winery at Seward; the Willa Cather Museum in Red Cloud, the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln; The Speakeasy restaurant at Sacramento near Holdrege, and Speedway Motors in Lincoln.

Hastings stops included Odyssey Restaurant and the grave of Andy the Goose. Passport stops are selected through an application process.

Tours are grouped into 10 different themes, with prizes given for visiting all eight destinations in each grouping. While Peg earned a View T-shirt for checking 10 stops off the list, Jim conquered the majority of his sightseeing trip alone. All with Peg’s blessing.

“We had intended to do it together, but she works, so I kind of ventured off on my own and started knocking them off three, four, and five at a time,” he said. “They’re all kind of grouped together in geographical locations. When I finished the last one, the gal at the Nebraska History Museum was so excited for me that I took a photo with her, then walked my passport over to the tourism department and handed it in.”

He is already looking forward to tackling next year’s passport lineup.

“I’m kind of a road warrior,” he said. “I have daughters in California and Arizona and used to travel as a salesman once a week, so I’d traveled to a lot of these places before, but didn’t take the time to stop and see them.”

In the meantime, he’ll sit tight as he awaits the arrival of his prize package to be awarded for completing the 80-stop tour.

“I’m curious to see what’s in it,” he said. “It’s probably a lot of refrigerator magnets, but who knows?”


Information from: Hastings Tribune,