Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

Nebraska, The Cornhusker State

on November 27, 2012

Are you sick of me talking about the heat? The day we arrived in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the thermometer in our car registered 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius)! – of course, that was in a parking lot, after the car had sat for a bit (the store, Camping World, let us bring the puppies into the store with us), but that’s HOT!!!  We were tired. We were sick of the heat. We were on our way home and wishing we were already there.  (Now, as I wriNE Postcardte this, it’s winter, and it’s cold & snowing, and I can’t remember what I was complaining about in the summer…no…I remember … I love summer, but I’m like Goldilocks – “too hot, too cold, just right”.)

Last time we were in Nebraska, we were on a one way road trip from Calgary to Halifax (mentioned in my Jolly Green Giant blog, Oct. 17, 2012). We went into Nebraska just to say we were there, and I bought a postcard IN Nebraska that says on the back: “There’s a reason it’s called a plain state. Road-weary pioneers just gave up and stayed.”

But, despite the intriguing sales pitch, I read somewhere that there was, in fact, a “Big Ball of String” reason to go to Nebraska – Chimney Rock.

We stayed at the West Omaha KOA (http://koa.com/campgrounds/west-omaha/), and I got caught up on laundry.  (I have had interesting visits with other travellers in the laundry rooms at the KOA’s. The people in this one were reading a murder mystery romance book out loud, to pass the time. I was torn between leaving the laundry room (which was like a sauna) and staying and listening to the story!! I did leave, though, because, for one thing, I realized that I wouldn’t get to hear the end anyway…and the other compelling reason is that we were having pizza delivered.)

Yes! Made-to-order pizza and delivery is actually something that THAT particular KOA offered/offers! It was great! (Technically, I was right beside the kitchen when I was doing laundry, and could’ve picked it up, but didn’t want to miss out on the experience of having the pizza delivered to the Airstream!

That night, a miracle happened. The temperature dropped to a tolerable mid-90’s range.  It was aMAZing!!! Who could’ve guessed that one of the biggest highlights of a 8000+ km road trip was going to be the temperature cooling down!!

That morning, we headed west – tLincolnowards Chimney Rock.  First things first, though – with “cooler” temperatures, we celebrated by finding the closest Starbucks, which happened to be in Lincoln, Nebraska. The one we chose had no parking, but we didn’t care – Peter circled the block while I picked up our coffee. Mmmmmmmmm.  (I had a venti white mocha with a shot of raspberry.)

I had no expectations of the drive across Nebraska, and to tell the truth, we had planned to go through South Dakota and decided to go across Nebraska as sort of a whim, when we saw “Chimney Rock” in a brochure I picked up at a gas station, so I hadn’t researched it properly.

Pony Express enrouteI was very excited to discover that somewhere around Kearney, NE, we were on the Pony Express Route! (Which is also the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, and the California Trail!!)  http://www.ponyexpressdoc.com/pages/the-pony-expressMemorial Archway

The first interesting place that we passed was the Great Platte River Road Archway, somewhere near Kearney. The Archway pays tribute to the pioneers who travelled along that route from 1843 to 1869, highlighting their perseverance and determination.  (We didn’t stop, and I had to Google it, to find out what it is…but a piece of history I hadn’t expected to see out there! http://www.archway.org/)

The next place we came across was an original Pony Express Station, in Gothenburg.  In its hay-day, it was actually at another area in Gothenburg, but was moved to a new location (Ehman Park) in 1931. It is now a museum and a post office, so OF COURSE, I had to mail myself a Pony Express postcard from the Station! (They have a leather mail bag hanging on the wall beside the door, into which you just drop your mail.)

For those of you who don’t know all about the Pony Express, the link above is pretty informative, but if you don’t have time to look it up, here’s a few details in summary:

The Pony Express was a relay system of horses and their riders, who carried mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California (and back again), from April 1860 through October 1861.  It was the fastest way to deliver mail at that time, taking an average of 10 days from one end to the other (almost 2000 miles), but the fastest time recorded was 7 days, 13 hours, and carried Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address. Riders typically rode 75-100 miles before another rider took over, and horses usually were changed out every 10-15 miles.
Pony Express StationPony express postcard

There were between 100-200 Pony Express Stations enroute (I’ve read “over 100”, “approximately 165” and “184 stations” – so, I don’t really know) ~ this is one of them!Buffalo Bill Ranch

After that, and back out on the highway, we passed a sign for Buffalo Bill Ranch…

Technically, I “know” about Buffalo Bill (who’s real name is William F. Cody), but not really.   Apparently, he’s mostly famous because of his acting troupe “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” (which is portrayed in the movie Hidalgo http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0317648/), which performed all over the US and Europe.

A few other things for which he is known:

  • He got his nickname because he killed over 4,000 buffalo within 18 months (so says reports), apparently for food for the Kansas Pacific Railroad workers (1867-1868)
  • He was a Pony Express rider when he was around 14 years old, in 1860
  • He was an advocate for Women’s Rights, including the right to vote.  In 1898, he’s quoted as saying: “Set [it] down in big black type that Buffalo Bill favors woman’s suffrage.…Mind you, I believe in marriage and children and home, but I’m not one of the kind that think that God made women to do nothing but sit at home in the ashes and tend to babies…If a woman can do the same work that a man can do and do it just as well she should have the same pay.”
  • Although he was involved in the Indian Wars, he had a high regard for the Indian tribes around him and credited them with fighting to protect their families and ways of life.  He was close friends with many –  in fact, when Sitting Bull was introduced to the US people, Buffalo Bill was always beside him.  Chief Red Fox is quoted as saying after Buffalo Bill had died: “In my imagination, I can see his noble spirit winging over the lofty peak, and I bow my head in memory of one who always impressed me with kindness and compassion, and enriched me with the deeply entrenched integrity of his character.”
  • Guest starring on his show “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” (and/or personal friends of his) include the likes of: Sitting Bull, Annie Oakley, Wild Bill Hickok (who was shot & killed in Deadwood – the subject of a future blog, since we did visit his grave site on the previously mentioned 1-way roadtrip of 2005), and Gustave Eiffel (who designed the Eiffel Tower!!!)

There are thousands of articles about him, and I just read probably…30, but here’s a couple… http://www.biography.com/people/buffalo-bill-cody-9252268 and http://www.buffalobill.org/

After all of that…I know you’ll be shocked to know that we didn’t even stop at the Buffalo Bill Ranch. Another regret, but I didn’t know what we were missing. We’ll have to go back.  Hopefully, we’ll just be passing that way – I don’t think I want to make a special trip to Nebraska.  (That being said, this was my 3rd time in the State, and thought I’d only be there once, for 2 minutes, just to say “I’ve been there”.)

I feel that I’ve talked enough today.  I really thought we’d make it all the way to Chimney Rock, but I didn’t realize I’d have so much to talk about!chimney rock

So, Sunday! We’ll start with Chimney Rock!

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