May 21, 2016


“It feels good to be lost in the right direction.”  Unknown

Carol writes:  It took us 6 days to complete our journey east across Nebraska.  Now, we were looking forward to relaxing for a couple of weeks in Omaha and checking out what the city had to offer.  We had read about its world-class zoo; other than that, we thought we would have a lot of down-time.  Then, we got to talking to a guy at the Omaha Visitor Center, and our whole perspective changed…

Just a short walk from the Visitor Center was a section of downtown called the “Old Market,” the epicenter of Omaha’s commercial activity at the end of the 19th century.  A several-block area of historic brick warehouses has been preserved

and repurposed for new use… like the former firehouse where we had lunch outdoors at the “Upstream Brewing Company.”  We chuckled at the irony that Omaha’s finest fire station was originally three stories high… until the third floor burned down in 1917.


In the history books, Omaha is famous as the site of the 1804 Missouri River landing of explorers Lewis and Clark, who were commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the Missouri River and to find a water route across North America to the Pacific Ocean.  An additional objective of their mission was trade expansion through diplomatic engagement with the numerous Native American tribes they encountered along the way.'
The present-day landing site is dominated by the serpentine, architecturally pleasing Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge, a 3000-foot span across the Missouri River.

Seemed like a good opportunity to take our bikes and ride on a bridge across a river, and into another state.


At the Lewis and Clark landing site was an impressive bronze statue display titled “Labor,” which was dedicated to the various building trades who built this proud city.  


Omaha residents must have been heartbroken when the Missouri River flood of 2011 rose to cover the blacksmith, leaving only a few inches of his hammer and hand above the water line.

From a philanthropic point of view, the pride of Omaha is Boys Town, the Nebraska home for needy and troubled boys founded nearly a century ago by Father Edward J. Flanagan.  The original Overlook Farm purchased by Father Flanagan now comprises over 900 acres and presently houses over 400 boys and girls (girls admitted since 1979) on a beautiful school campus which constitutes its own village, complete with police department and elected city officials.  We spent time in a first-rate museum that documented the history of Boys Town and its much loved founder.

One of the museum’s prize possessions was the Oscar statue won by Spencer Tracy for his portrayal of Father Flanagan in the 1941 movie titled “Men of Boys Town,” also starring Mickey Rooney.


On the Boys Town campus, we had incredibly free access to Father Flanagan’s house, beautifully furnished with period furniture from the time Father Flanagan lived there…

the living room, furnished with a much-prized piece of Father Flanagan’s personal art collection,

and the simple bed on the sleeping porch Father Flanagan preferred to his bedroom.

We paid our respects to the Boys Town founder in graceful Dowd Chapel where Father Flanagan’s tomb was lovingly enshrined.

Representative of all that Boys Town stands for was best illustrated by the famous “Two Brothers” statue and the motto, “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother.”  

In light of all that the Boys Town organization has accomplished over nearly a century, it seemed fitting that the Archbishop of Omaha has submitted documentation to the Vatican requesting that a tribunal be opened in the cause of beatification and eventual canonization of Father Flanagan.

One of our most enjoyable days in Omaha was spent at the premier Joselyn Art Museum.  The museum building itself was a dazzling Art Deco masterpiece constructed in 1931 out of Georgia Pink marble.  

Each end of the atrium was dominated by massive, world-renowned Chihuly glass sculptures.  The effect was outstanding!

At every turn, we found the museum to be filled with art treasures created by some of our favorite masters.


Mary Cassatt

Just as interesting was the American art collection, especially the works done by artists whose works on canvas captured unspoiled western scenery, along with events in Native American life that they encountered in their travels with early American explorers. 

George Catlin
Alfred Jacob Miller
 The city of Omaha has done a wonderful job of capturing its pioneer history by means a series of greater than life-size bronze statues in downtown First National Bank Pioneer Park, beginning with a scene of an ox-drawn wagon train laboring over a challenging course,

another of a family

and some lighthearted children.

The bronze statues continue to tell the story of a group of bison that have been disturbed by the wagon train and have stampeded two blocks down the street,

creating a ghostlike image through the corner of a building,

the bison in turn disturbing a flock of geese on a pond.

The transition of these sculptures through both time and space of modern-day Omaha was brilliantly executed!

Omaha’s top attraction, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, has been rated by Trip Advisor as the “world’s best zoo.”  There are many standards by which such an accolade is bestowed, and I would say the Omaha Zoo was deserving on several fronts.

Under Desert Dome, the world’s largest geodesic dome, was an amazing display of desert plant and animal life.  Normally, I’m not one to linger over snake exhibits, but the artistic rattlesnake habitat was the best I have ever seen.

Penguin feeding time at the Scott Aquarium was entertaining,

as were the monkeys and bats in Lied Jungle.

A visit to Crook House

on the grounds of historic Fort Omaha was fascinating to this lover of historic homes that tell the story of their day.

Crook House was the home of General George Crook, an early commanding officer at Fort Omaha.  In the later decades of the 19th century, Fort Omaha served  as housing for the military garrison required to protect supply lines and provide security for frontier settlements.

Besides being beautifully furnished with period antiques, the historically accurate reproductions of wallpaper found in every room (and even on the ceilings) was the home’s most outstanding feature.


Fort Omaha is now the home of Metropolitan Community College with the provision that they preserve the over two dozen historic buildings that were a key part of Fort Omaha’s heyday.

The historic Mormon Pioneer Trail west from Nauvoo, Illinois, to the Great Salt Lake in Utah passed through Omaha.  During the winter of 1846-1847 several thousand Mormon pioneers wintered in what is now North Omaha while they replenished provisions and waited out more favorable weather. 

The only remaining recognizable feature of this historic Winter Quarters era is the cemetery on the hill,

where the remains of some of those who perished are thoughtfully commemorated.  Along with a husband and wife who were just returning home from missionary work in Harlan, Kentucky, a Mormon elder at the Visitor Center gave us a tour of the museum along with a most thorough presentation of what motivated the Mormon pioneers at this pivotal time in Mormon church history.  I came away with a new respect for the tremendous pioneer spirit of the thousands of Mormons who were instrumental in our country’s westward expansion.

Whew!  Omaha sure had a lot to keep us busy!  To round out our stay, base sirens even went off one evening around suppertime and we had to evacuate to the campground’s designated tornado shelter.  Our newest favorite app for the phone is Weather Bug…

“If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.  Dolly Parton

May 14, 2016


You know a girl is from Nebraska when she knows the meaning of “knee-high by the 4th of July.”

Carol writes:  For the next three weeks our route would follow the Interstate 80 corridor, a route bordered by miles and miles of cornfields in addition to the great Platte River which bisects across the heart of the Cornhusker State.  Corn is indeed king in Nebraska, and many fields had evidence of recently being plowed and planted. 

This area of the country isn’t exactly a popular family vacation destination; however, the small-town character of its cities along I-80 were exactly why we chose this route.  We would spend two nights each in Ogallala, North Platte, and Kearney as we made our way to our ultimate destination in Omaha for two weeks.  As it turns out, there was more than enough in each small town to peak our interest…


Ogallala owns the reputation of being the “Cowboy Capital” of Nebraska.  They have a cowboy-themed Front Street,

in addition to a Boot Hill to prove it.
Three historic trails passed through Ogallala during the 1800s:  The Oregon Trail, the Pony Express Trail, and the Great Western Cattle Trail.  All were nicely commemorated in tiny Tri-Trails Park where each trail was honored with its own distinctive marker.

There are so few places left where the deep ruts of the wagon wheels of the early pioneers can still be seen.  One such place is at Ash Hollow State Historical Park. 

Wagon ruts traverse down middle of hillside

Just as it had been for early man for thousands of years, weary travelers on the Oregon Trail also valued Ash Hollow as a much appreciated oasis.  Plentiful excellent water, wood, shelter and food made it an ideal place to replenish energy and supplies for the long journey west.  Although the museum and the archaeological site at Ash Hollow weren’t open for the season the day we visited, we happened upon a staff meeting and they were gracious enough to allow us inside to spend all the time we wanted browsing through the museum. 

 We took the volunteer’s suggestion that we take a look at the tiny one-room schoolhouse on the grounds.  The customary little sign warning that rattlesnakes were common in the area didn’t mean much to us until we almost stepped on one curled up beneath one of the schoolhouse windows that we were told to be sure and look through!

Just outside of Ogallala is one of Nebraska’s premier recreation areas at Lake McConaughy.  Our first view of 22-mile long “Lake Mac” elicited a spontaneous “Wow!”

In addition to its dual use as a source of hydroelectric power and irrigation waters, Lake Mac was a dandy of a recreation area with an incredibly beautiful shoreline dotted with campgrounds and white sand beaches.


North Platte is the town where America’s trains get routed onto the right track—at Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard.  

The best vantage point for a bird’s-eye view of this operation was at The Golden Spike Tower, where we had a panoramic view from the 7th and 8th floor observation decks.  In the distance, we watched cattle cars being sorted onto the right track.

In the foreground, was an immense diesel engine repair facility that can handle any maintenance issue from the smallest need to the most complex diesel engine overhaul.

As troop trains cycled through Bailey Yard during WW II , the volunteers who staffed the North Platte Canteen greeted thousands of military travelers each day.

As for the historic wild west side of North Platte…

Buffalo Bill Cody, one of the most famous of all characters from the American West, called North Platte home at his ranch called “Scout’s Rest.” 

The setting of the iconic red horse barn was picture perfect, as was just about every other viewpoint on this immaculately kept property on the National Register of Historic Places.

Buffalo Bill’s turn-of-the-century home, built as a place of respite between his famous Wild West shows, was described as the Italianate style.  That’s me on the front steps, feeling fortunate just to see the home but frustrated not to be able to go inside since it was open only on weekends.


We definitely found those warm early days of springtime in Kearney.  It was time to uncover the bikes and take a short ride to check out that “other arch.”  That is… the Great Platte River Road Archway that spans Interstate 80 on the outskirts of Kearney.  This arch was an interesting concept on the outside, but the inside was a bit “touristy in the extreme”…

Afterwards, Al took advantage of an opportunity to inventory our tackle box and throw a line into the lake just outside our RV.  The fish were small but were biting.  If it hadn’t been “catch and release only,” we would have had some delicious pan-fried trout fillets for supper…

Kearney is a university town—home to 7000 students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.  We like to check out university campuses because they are always great places to take a beautiful walk, and you can be surprised at times by interesting campus buildings, preserved as a part of the town’s heritage.  Frank House was just such a place…

As fortune would have it, the house was open for tours.   A very young professor of history, who was the director at Frank House and in the middle of ongoing house renovations, offered to give us a tour.  For the next hour we were treated to a mini seminar on the history of 125-year-old Frank House and how that history interwove with Kearney’s early days.  The house was never part of the university.  Instead, it was the home of a wealthy industrialist named George Frank, who wanted to make his trophy home representative of “modern times” complete with indoor plumbing and electrical wiring.  In later years the house was used as a tuberculosis sanitarium.

Internet photo
I was so focused on the story of the home’s history and the early days of Kearney, I didn’t take a single photo of the gorgeous “arts and crafts” style inside, but the Internet had plenty of choices...

What an interesting slow drive it had been across Nebraska…  It seems like every town had its story; for us, part of the fun was not knowing what we would find.  

For the next few weeks, we are looking forward to settling down at a military campground just outside Offutt Air Force Base.  As thunderstorms fire up frequently with warmer spring temperatures, it hasn’t escaped our attention that tornado season in this part of the country is off to an ominous start.

“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.”  Moslih Eddin Saadi