Thursday, July 24, 2014

Saylorville Lake

Our next stop was at Saylorville Lake, a Corps of Engineers campground.  The COE campgrounds are always fantastic, but we did wonder what happened to the trail that was supposed to be here.

Now we've already seen hail, wind, and fire damage, and by the time we got halfway across Iowa, we were seeing some flooding.  Sad as that is, I would think that, give a choice, the farmers would rather lose a small part of their field, as opposed to experiencing the dust bowl we've heard about in Oklahoma and Texas.

Saylorville Lake was 41 1/2 feet above normal and the amount of water being released through the dam was pretty impressive.

One day we loaded the bikes in the back of the car and took off to Madrid to bike the High Trestle Trail, a paved rails-to-trails with a special bridge.

Under this overpass, someone had painted a really cool mural.  Unfortunately, there was no way to take the whole thing.

After a couple of miles, Ron wondered, is this it?  Nope, not spectacular enough.

THIS is it.  Dedicated in April 2011, the bridge is part of a 25 mile rails-to-trails bike path.

The steel cribbings are to commemorate coal mining, historically a major industry in the area.

Technically, the bridge is not a trestle, despite the name.  The concrete piers are from the railroad bridge that was built in 1971 to replace the 1912 trestle.  The bridge is 1/2 mile long and 130 feet above the river.

We continued another few miles to Woodward before returning for a total of 11.6 miles.  Wimps that we are, we were ready to stop.

Monday, July 21, 2014

On to Iowa

Traveling through Nebraska, the song that kept running through my head was 'Oh, What a Beautiful Morning' with the corn as high as an elephant's eye.  But as soon as we crossed into Iowa, I switched to The Music Man and 'Iowa Stubborn'.  And it doesn't matter that all the people I know from Iowa are neither stubborn nor contrary (at least no more than the rest of us.)   ;-D

But in addition to how nice the people are, what you might not expect is how beautiful Iowa is.  We stayed on US 30 for just a short way, then switched to state road 44 through lush rolling green hills.

Our first stop in Iowa was in Audubon at Albert the Bull park.  Another one of those gorgeous mid-western city parks.  He's a big one.

The city was named to honor John James Audubon the ornithologist, artist, and painter.

There were numerous mosaics in the park and along the sidewalk in town.

Just spectacular.

And they didn't limit themselves to local birds.  For instance, these terns.

And my favorite, puffins.

Two days before we were there, at noon on July 4th, this shop caught fire.  It was still smoldering and flaring up intermittently.

We also took a run over to the nearby Danish town of Elk Horn.

Built in Denmark in 1848, this 60-foot windmill was shipped to Elk Horn and reassembled in 1976.  Over 300 volunteers helped restore it to its original working condition.

This house is supposedly an authentic reproduction of a 900 AD viking home.  Ron and I were skeptical that they had the technology to saw boards that long ago.

Here he is in Viking garb.  That helmet alone weighed a ton.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Leaving Nebraska

While in Columbus, we also visited the Andrew Jackson Higgins Memorial.  Mr. Higgins was a native of Columbus and designed and manufactured the flat-bottom boats that were used in WW II, most famously during the beach landings on D-Day.

What I didn't realize is that these boats were also used during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.  The three statues depict a soldier from each of these.

The figures here honor all members of the National Guard and the Reserves, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Freedom Memorial in the rear reminds us of the commitment and sacrifices that our military has made to preserve our freedom.  The sculpture contains a beam from the World Trade Center and the eagle represents our promise to the future.

To complete our stay in Nebraska, we spent one night in Blair at the city park ($15 - way too much, but they did have electric and a dump.)  As we drove into town, we noticed something didn't look right.

All the north and west facing windows were gone.

Not to mention the damage to the siding.  (I thought this window had been spared, but it's just covered in plastic instead of wood.)

We got the scoop.  About a month previous to our visit, hail devastated the area.  Our waitress said she lives north of town and lost multiple trees to wind.  Although most of the car windows had been fixed since then, she said it was the weirdest thing to see everyone driving around with broken windshields.  Wow!  I guess we're okay giving the town $15 to stay.

Just east of Blair is the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge which is a migration flyway.  Since it was not spring or fall, that was not the draw for our visit.
At this location, the Missouri River used to flow in a oxbow.  In 1865, the steamboat Bertrand was traveling to the goldfields of Montana carrying an estimated 250 tons of cargo.  She struck a snag and quickly sank in 12 feet of water, losing all its cargo, but thankfully no lives.
The Missouri River soon covered the boat and its cargo in mud, creating a time capsule.  In 1969, the cargo was recovered and is now on display in climate controlled glass cases.  It's an interesting collection of food, clothing, whiskey, and building supplies, especially shovels.  There are also household items including dishes, silverware, clocks, and mirrors.  It's amazing to see.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Across Nebraska

Leaving North Platte, we continued east on our own 'road less traveled' US 30.  I checked for things to do along the way, using the AAA book which has served me well in the past.  In Gothenburg we stopped at the Sod House Museum, just because.

Why did the pioneers build sod houses, you ask?  Well it's hard to imagine, but the midwest had no trees back then.  They used what was available.

Obviously, this is a reproduction, built in 1969 by a man who wanted his children to appreciate what their ancestors lived through.

The thick walls were mudded with sand and clay, then white-washed with 4-5 coats of lime and water to keep the bugs out.

 Imagine - the ceiling was covered with cotton muslin to keep the dirt from falling in the house.

The museum had some interesting old pictures and memorabilia, as well as a very informative volunteer.  This buffalo coat impressed me.

Someone had way too much time on their hands to create this sculpture out of barbed wire.

After spending one night in the parking lot of the Kearney Cabelas (quiet, except for the trains that passed by every 15 minutes), we continued to follow US 30 to Columbus.  The power company created several parks around town and we headed for Loup Park - free camping and 30 amp electric.  You can tell by the size of the trees that it's been around awhile.

There were a lot of these little guys around.  We identified them as Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels.

Driving across Nebraska, the corn seemed to grow by leaps and bounds as we went.  In Columbus it was six feet tall on July 2!

We took advantage of the bike path around Lake Babcock.  It was a bit warm, but at only about six miles, we thought we could make it.

The lake was pretty unusual in that it had a road separating it into two halves.

Susan commented on a previous post to recommend the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument which spans I 80 near Kearney.  That started me thinking (always dangerous) that I should probably at least mention a couple of interesting things we had seen on a  previous trip across Nebraska.  One is the monument which is very well done and filled with life-sized dioramas.  The other is the most amazing 'museum' I've ever seen.  Harold Warp Pioneer Village is 13 miles south of the interstate in Minden.  Displays in 28 buildings depict America's progress since 1830.  I always tell the story that Ron mentioned to the lady at the ticket counter that his father had showed him a semi-automated sock knitter and she said, "Oh, yes, we have one of those in building (something), in a glass case in the back."  We looked and there it was!  They have everything.
Sock Knitter

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cody Park

Although the city parks in the Midwest all seem to have beautiful grounds with lots of amenities like tennis and basketball courts, giant swimming pools, and plenty of picnic areas, Cody Park in North Platte, NE, beats all the rest we saw.  The 100-acre park contains carnival rides including this carousel which was lovingly restored by volunteers.

And a small zoo.  (You can see our rig and car behind Mr. Elk.)

Fallow deer

American Bison

Some animals were pretty friendly, like this Sicilian Donkey.

I don't know where these animals came from, but, except for the bison, they were all free to intermingle and seemed to coexist happily.  Even these nesting peahens didn't seem to mind the looming llama.

The peacock was putting on quite a show.

But here's something I never thought I'd see.  Have you ever seen a white peacock?

I went back the next day and caught him resting.  Just look at those feathers - more beautiful than any wedding gown train.

Being North Platte, it wouldn't be right if they didn't have a couple of locomotives on display.  This 4-6-6-4 Challenger Mallet was built in 1943 and was converted from coal to oil a couple of years later.  There's nothing prettier than a sparkling steam engine.

And this monster is a 'Centennial' type and uses two 3,300 hp diesel engines.  It is the most powerful single-unit diesel locomotive ever built.

I forgot to mention the most important thing in the park.  They have an ice cream stand!  All these attractions really bring in the people from miles around.  It's nice to see families out on a summer evening.