Along US 20
The further west you go on US 20, the more space – and sandhills – you'll see between towns, trees and pickup trucks. The western end of the road, known as the Bridges to Buttes Byway (www.bridgestobuttes.com), traverses a Nebraska barely touched by time. Look for wild geologic features that pop out of the rolling green hills.
Shortly after Lincoln, I-80 runs an almost razor-straight 83 miles before following the Platte River. Several towns along its route to Wyoming make up for its often monotonous stretches. Whenever possible, use parallel US 30, which bounces from one interesting burg to the next (Gothenburg, exit 211, is especially attractive) and gets you closer to the river.
The remote and little visited part of Nebraska panhandle is for many the most evocative part of the state. Stark vistas stretch to the horizon in lands little changed in millennia. Scottsbluff makes a good base. Heading north, Hwy 29 (aka the 'Fossil Freeway') is a great drive and it segues right onto equally scenic US 20.
Fortunately, 'America's Heart City' doesn't milk the schtick. It sits on the edge of the Sandhills and is a great base for canoeing, kayaking and inner-tubing the winding canyons of the federally protected Niobrara National Scenic River (www.nps.gov/niob). The river crosses the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge. Driving tours here take you past bison, elk and more.