I need to be better about posting our route information for those RVers following us.
From Ogallala, NE we took the following route through Nebraska to Austin, TX
- NE State Hwy 61 South out of Ogallala, NE to the Kansas border
- NE State Hwy 61 becomes KS State Hwy 161 and terminates on US 36. We took US-36 East to KS State Hwy 25 South.
- KS State Hwy 25 hits US-40 which we took East to Oakley which of course is where we had our RV break and then camped for the night and the tornado, etc., etc., etc.
- After our brief stint down I-70 East to get the RV repaired at Grainfield, KS we started heading South again on US-83.
- US-83 joins with US-160 and both continue South until US-160 deviates East. We continued on US-83 through Liberal to the OK boarder.
- In OK, US-83 joins with US-270 for a short time until US-270 heads due East. We continued on US-83 all the way through OK to TX.
- Texas is a bit more tricky. There are many FM roads that I don’t think I recorded. I can tell you we followed US-83/US-62 until we hit US-277. There were some FM roads here that got us over to US-183 which took us all the way to Georgetown and Leander which is the area where we camped.
There ya go! I will post details about our Texas trip tomorrow. For now, night and safe travel!
We spent a wonderful week in Ogallala, NE. After we left my dad’s house, we decided that we needed to take some time to vet our new/old home. Thus far we had been primarily living in peoples houses, or at least having the homes close-by as fail safe. We hadn’t actually ‘lived’ in the RV since we left Colorado Springs. It was time we bit-the-bullet and really moved in. We decided we would go check out Lake McConaughy in central NE for a while.
The RV Camp we found to stay at was Country View RV Park. It wasn’t right on the lake (Ogallala is where the amazing Lake McConaughy is) but, it does have Internet which since Daniel works from home is very necessary. It’s a fairly small park with amazing reviews on the web. At first, I wasn’t terribly excited about the place. The views aren’t great. A power substation on one side, and then fields everywhere else with a highway about a block away. However, this park was awesome. Right away it felt like home. The owner is out and about and truly loves and cares for his park. Everyone is looked out for. There is a playground for the kids, a nice restroom/shower facility that is clean and stocked and checked frequently! There is a pool on-site and some barbecue grills you can use if you don’t have your own. The employees are friendly and the feeling of safety just permeates the property. Xanman felt comfortable running to the playground on his own and I felt comfortable letting him do it. Other kids were there, as well as some solo old-timers hanging out. There is a simple store selling camping supplies as well as interesting knickknacks. We were able to refresh our water bottles from a reverse osmosis filtered water spigot in the laundry room. Like I said, this park was amazing and a perfect safe place for us to test out our full-timer status. Plus it is perfectly situated to get into town, head to the lake or get back on the Interstate.
When you haven’t really lived someplace, you don’t know how things are going to work. How would we cook? Is it going to be a major pain because we don’t have a kitchen or a bathroom or will we be able to work around these things fairly simply? How will we live? The basics. In this week we organized and then organized some more. We added a table, sorted through boxes we still had about, I reorganized the bookshelves so that we could better access the books we needed for homeschooling and got more room by organizing the other bookcases left over from the original RV remodel. Finally it felt like everything had a place and the amount of things we needed to reorganize for moving the rig was minimized. We had living space. A sort-of routine started and Daniel was able to get some actual work done for his real paying job. Feeling more confident with our living situation, we decided to venture out to see this Lake we had heard so much about but hadn’t yet seen.
Lake McConaughy is really cool. For the first four days we were at Ogallala, it was pretty much non-stop rain. It was cold and pretty damp. That didn’t daunt us though. Xander is well prepared with two sets of galoshes and a nice rain coat. Daniel and I, while not as well equipt, are prepared to handle a bit of rain easily. Off we went! We decided to navigate the old fashioned way and just explore. Follow our noses so to speak. We headed generally west following the signs directing us to the lake. We hit a highway and decided to go straight across instead of turning towards one campground or another. We ended up in a small community, very hoity-toity sounding. We ventured in thinking we might find a neat private lake access point. The gravel roads were so bad in this community, we turned around. LOL – guess all the community money went to their private driveways and houses and not the main access road. Just before the community, we found a dirt road directing us to public access to the lake. Ironically this one was well packed and fairly easy to get down. I mentioned earlier that it had been raining a lot so everything was pretty wet. I had a bit of anxiety in getting stuck in some thick mud in our van but Daniel assured me we have good tires and it wouldn’t be a problem….’Okaaaayyyy…’ – LOL! Sure enough, the road was packed enough that wet or not, we got down and up fine and were able to park. No-one else was crazy enough to venture out in the cold, cold weather so we had the beach to ourselves. The doggies were let out to run and they were in heaven. AnnaBelle has a nice thick coat. She is a total water dog and immediately jumped into the lake to frolic. Gelert is 14 and has no such protection. He steered clear of the water after an initial test. Xander had fun rock-hopping, and chasing the dogs. We all got to enjoy this seemingly endless lake. We couldn’t see the other side, the clouds were so low so we had no idea how big or small this lake was. For all we knew, this was the amazing beach written about online. I got some amazing photos that day though – rain or not!
We made regular visits to the Lake going to the main state park entrance as well as our new ‘private’ beach. We checked out different routes until we found our favorite spot – No Name Bay; and one morning we were there, it was actually sleeting! We were freezing and yes, we were the only ones out there. Later that afternoon, the sun finally came out so we rushed back to the lake! These pictures were taken the same day – morning and late afternoon. Quite the change and we could finally see the other side of the lake. Unfortunately as you can see, there is a bit of plastic floating about. Each time we went, whether it was to our small private beach or to No Name Bay, we hauled out plastic garbage bags, cans, glass bottles, and whatever else we found. Please, if you go to a lake, or river or ANYWHERE – don’t just throw your garbage out. The people behind you don’t want to see it, and the items you toss casually are seriously impacting wildlife. DON’T DO IT!
We checked out the visitor center which has some cool displays on how the dam was built. Some random facts about Lake McConaughy: Did you know that it is the largest reservoir in Nebraska? At full storage, McConaughy is 20 miles long, four miles wide and 142 feet deep at the dam. The dam is among the largest of its type in the world, and the fish grow to trophy proportions, accounting for several state records. They list the records in the visitors center. The construction of the dam was unique in how they chose to build it. Instead of using trucks to move the earth, they created a slurry. Using the earth they were removing, they mixed it with water and pumped it along the length of the dam literally ‘creating’ the dam. Pretty cool stuff! The soil enough was not enough to hold the dam so they had to import rocks from Wyoming and stabilize the earth. Voila! Now you have an incredible earth dam! At the time of construction (between 1936 and 1941) it was the second largest earthen dam in the world. If you go there, definitely check out the visitors center.
There is more to do around Ogallala than just the lake if fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, camping and such don’t appeal to you. Did you know that Ogallala was the meeting point of three amazing trails?
- The Great Western Cattle Trail
- The Oregon Trail
- and for a brief time, the Pony Express Route
How cool is that!? There are brochures talking about Tri-Trails Park. Interestingly enough, there isn’t very much on the flyer. I was hoping for an elaborate display. A large trail system allowing you to walk a quarter mile or so of each trail with interesting displays, anecdotes from the cowboys driving the cattle by day and chatting over the campfire by night, and stories about the terrific exploits of those brave young pony express riders. We went to the park hoping for a nice afternoon activity and all I can say is, at least the trails are marked. Instead of a large trail system, what you have is a small rectangular park with a post for each trail. That’s it. Xander was able to run it’s length in 13 seconds and it’s width in 8 seconds just to give you an idea. They could do so much more with this!
Ogallala was known as a bit of a rough and tumble place with shoot-outs and bad guys. Apparently they had some trouble getting any reputable law enforcement to work out there for some time. Ogallala has made ‘Boot Hill’ a nice area to visit. This is where they buried people with no local family who wanted them in the cemetery, or people who were unclaimed or unknown. They have a really nice write-up at the bottom of Boot Hill by the stairs so make sure to stop and grab a brochure. I was up on the hill taking pictures and when I looked at the brochure I discovered all the info I needed from the plaques up top were there. Please stay on the trail and keep your pets managed if you visit. Remember, you are stepping on someone’s remains. Many of them have no marking so you never know who you might disturb!
They also have a re-enactment of one of their more famous shootouts. They say this is a family event so you should be pretty safe to take your kids. They have a saloon, a jail, a blacksmith shop and some other stuff. We were driving around and saw the building mock-ups. We pulled over just in time to see the cast come out and rehearse being shot. It was interesting and macabre at the same time AND we didn’t have to pay to see it. LOL – check it out. Looks like a bunch of fun!
I think “Don’t Sqaut with Spurs On!” might become my new catch phrase!
If you don’t mind a drive, check out Ash Hollow. This was one of the last stops for a while for those headed West on the Oregon Trail. If you want to see actual wagon ruts, and get a glimpse of history – go see it. One of the locals at the RV camp told me about this place when I voiced my frustration over the Tri-Trails Park. It was well worth the 30 minute drive AND we discovered a wonderful farm/shop we never would have found if we hadn’t gone.
There are two sections of Ash Hollow. The main state park where there is a nature center, a schoolhouse, a cave tour and a lovely area for a picnic. There are hiking trails throughout as well, so a nice place to easily spend the day. Then there is an off the road area where the majority of the Oregon Trail info is. BE PREPARED TO HIKE! No worries, its not like you will be going miles, but it IS a fairly steep trail. I was trying to get Xander to imaging trying to push a full wagon with straining oxen up the hill. He is 7, so old enough that he would have been working with his dad and the other menfolk. I tried to describe the cracking of the whip as the oxen were urged up the hill. The fear that would have been palpable if that wagon got loose. The heat and the sweat and the driving determination that pushed these people west in search of a better life. The idea that ALL your worldly belongings plus food and water for at least a month if not more would be in that wagon. No luxury items would have been brought. There was no room. He could sort-of get that, I mean we do live in an RV, but I don’t think he understood the overall picture. After all, in a time of space ships and tablets, it it a bit hard to imagine oxen and wagons. At the top of Windlass Hill, you can see the ruts the wagon wheels left in the earth both approaching the hills and as they left, slowly climbing them. At one point, the wagon wheels eroded the hillside to such a degree that they literally changed the landscape creating a ravine where rolling hillside used to exist. Looking at the landscape, knowing what was ahead of them as they journeyed ever Westward, I was in awe at the level of determination these people had. To leave everything they knew with nothing but hope to drive them on. What grit. What strength! What incredible conviction! Was it their only hope, life being too hard in the civilized East to make a living? Did their spirit simply strive for something more? Something wild? Adventure? Was it the need to create something; a legacy perhaps for their family that drove them forward? What about the people already there, did they think about that or were they just assured the redskins were savages? Animals that should be shot on sight? Whatever their thoughts, we can be assured of one thing. Our ancestors were seriously tough! Ash Hollow was one of the last places the emigrants could fill up on fresh spring water for a while. By the time they reached here, they had been travelling for about two months. They had to cross some major rivers to get here and more were still ahead. The river crossings were so dangerous, most of the deaths occurring on the trail were from the river crossings themselves. Not from the Indians, starvation, dehydration or other maladies that occurred on the trip.
The main section of Ash Hollow State Park goes into more of the geological particulars of the area, as well as some important archaeological discoveries made here. The visitors center was closed when we got there – it was scheduled to open three days later, so we just walked around outside. There are period re-enactments at the Visitor Center and out at the Windlass Hill site so if you are planning to be at the lake this summer, make sure to check out their calendar!
Ash Hollow State Park Calendar
On our way back from Ash Hollow, we discovered an alpaca farm. Yup. In the middle of no-where Nebraska. We drove into the wide drive and were welcomed by one of the farmers. His wife is the one who owns the alpaca’s and she was supervising the sheering. Did we want to see? YAH! We tumbled out the car and he walked us over to where they had the alpaca’s of all colors being carefully tied down so they could be shorn. Many videos of sheep sheering shows bleeding sheep. These guys were amazing, careful and smooth! Not one nick, or crying alpaca. We learned that the alpaca’s are shorn bottom of the belly up as that is the best fiber (we also learned it’s not hair or fur but fiber. Good to know!). Once they have shorn the highest quality fiber off the alpaca, the remaining fiber is shorn. The face is never touched. Alpaca’s are normally shorn mid-Spring but this year the cold has been persistent so the sheering was taking place a bit later than normal. Farmers from several hours away had brought their alpacas to be shorn are well. This is fairly normal. One farmer generally doesn’t have enough animals to bring in the sheering people themselves. So they will put out the info they are bringing a team in. Generally several farmers will chip in and bring their animals. There is only so long you can watch alpaca sheering if you are not personally involved. Laurie (the alpaca owner) suggested we go and look at the baby alpacas that had been born two days previous. Of course we said yes, and Darryl took us down to the pasture.
BABIES! Oh my gosh, pretty much anything as a baby is cute and alpacas are no exception. Xander loved looking at them but they weren’t really open to being petted that day. Fortunately there was a giant mound of dirt which of course he had to play on. While Xander happily ran up and down the dirt pile, Darryl and I got to chat about all kinds of things. He is super proud of his wife and shared that all the animals are hers. He takes care of the fields and the farm in general. Like most farmers these days, he rents his land. He doesn’t own it. We talked about so many things and I found him to be a wonderful conversationalist. Interesting, intelligent, honest, engaging and deeply in love with his land, his family and his farm. I felt so blessed to have found this farm and be given this time to just make a connection. Who knows if he will remember Xander and I years to come, but I think I will certainly remember him. We got to see goats (who did let Xander pet them), the alpacas, chickens and the sheep. Laurie has a nice alpaca shop on-site. I loved it! You walk in from this dusty well loved working farm to a lovely boutique. It smells wonderful (she makes her own goats milk soaps and creams) and there is pretty stuff everywhere. It was such a nice surprise to walk into. I couldn’t contain my squeal of delight and just walked around for a few seconds taking everything in. Everything there is alpaca. Not all of it from their farm. Laurie explained that she sends the fiber into the Alpca Exchange (Laurie please post of I have the name wrong). The Alpaca Exchange gathers the fiber from alpaca farmers all over the country. They fiber is cleaned and processed and things made. Yarns, sweaters, scarves, socks, hats, etc. They also import fair trade garments made of alpaca fiber from Peru. She has some scarves there that I am lusting over. At the time we had like two dollars to our name so I couldn’t really get anything but some lip balm but oh what lip balm! If you have a chance, stop by the Alpaca Shack. 2450 RD 207, Big Springs, NE 69122. (308) 778-6300 Tell her Paula and Xander say, “Hi!” She doesn’t have a website, you’ll just have to go on an adventure to find the farm! It is clearly posted as the Alpaca Shack. If you are lucky, she or Darryl will take you back to see the animals!
A nice little nature park in Ogallala looks like the nature park time forgot. The grass was overgrown and the trail was a bit wild looking. It made it a lot of fun to explore! Right off the highway, maybe a mile from the Country View RV Park lies the Ogallala Nature Park. This little gem of a park features a nice arboretum, an outdoor classroom, river access (walking only), bat houses, wild flowers and, well, nature! The grass was almost as tall as Xander! There were benches placed periodically throughout the trails so you could sit and ponder for a bit. We followed a trail that took us through the woods to the river and found two downed trees with beaver teeth markings in them. We saw the beaver burrow behind us. We saw deer tracks and coyote tracks (they could have been dog but we are going with coyote). Xander even saw a red worm snake! A small park that definitely needs some love but it sure is cool. I hope the plans to get it back in shape take shape. Check it out!
After Xander and I left the Nature Park, we still had the exploring hiking itch so we took off down a dirt road. We found this really cool old barn in tall grass. It had a windmill, was in fairly decent shape and just begged to be explored! Not to mention it was a photographers dream! The clouds, the wind, the grass and a cute boy. PERFECT! We didn’t go into the building, that would not have been safe but we did walk around a bit. Gorgeous space! Nebraska is quite lovely actually.
Needless to say, there is a lot to do in Ogallala and the surrounding countryside. Adventure is definitely out there if you look for it. If you have made it this long in this post – YAY! I meant to break this up into multiple posts but I am already a week or so behind so have bundled everything here. I will be better about posting more often.
We decided while in Ogallala that we would head South instead of heading North. I am an Usborne Books & More representative and will be attending the convention in June. Daniel and I started talking and decided that it wouldn’t make sense for us to drive to WA and then have me immediately fly south to OK. Instead, we would drive south, visit the adult kids and granddaughter in Austin, TX and then head to Tulsa, OK. Lots happened on that trip but that’s another post. For now, I will leave you with another couple gorgeous lake shots.
This has been a couple of incredibly hard weeks for us. With engine troubles, extreme weather, and exhaustion it brings to light the question, “Who ARE We?” They say that the truest sense of the person comes out at times of extreme stress and challenge.
I hope not.
I would love to say that we rose to each challenge with a hardy spirit, and loving support of each other – but that really wouldn’t be the case. In many things Daniel and I are united at a molecular lever. Pretty much any that affects Xanman and his immediate safety, we are bonded. But lately pretty much everything else has shown we are two very different people who think in very different ways and who respond to stress completely differently. I tend to get more precise, thinking that if I simply make sure there can be no misunderstanding, it will somehow make everything OK. Daniel starts becoming over-literal and starts reading between the lines to answer what he thinks I am really asking instead of what I asked. As you can see, this could cause some problems.
We are living in our home in very trying circumstances. It’s not done. Imagine if you will that you started a kitchen and a bathroom remodel at the same time. It’s all broken apart but you have to live in it…no running water. No sink. No stove. No bathroom. No privacy. Not only do you have to live in it but you have to figure out how to thrive in it and be ready to break down whatever you have setup so that you can move again without your shit breaking.
That’s what we are living in.
I keep organizing hoping that it will somehow help and make things more manageable. Thinking that it will lessen the amount we have to shift every time we need to move the rig. Well that’s great until Daniel decides he need to move whatever item someplace else for some reason only he knows. Does it make sense in the moment – probably. Like when we were being brushed by a tornado in Kansas and the hail whipping into the rig punched holes in our ceiling. Rain pouring through meant anything directly underneath and beside was getting wet. EVERYTHING moved then, but when that crisis is over; what then? Can’t things go back to where they were? Does everything need to be a debate or conversation?
Someone asked me near the beginning of this journey how I was feeling. I answered at that time, “Excited! Hopeful!” and “Needy.” She flagged me on the ‘needy’ response and I struggled with how to answer. There is much on this rig that I do not currently have the skills to fix. I am not savvy in electronics, nor in plumbing. I can wack a hammer with the best of them but what about when hammers are too much and more finesse is required? Like an intimate understanding of exactly where the frame members are and how they are connected. Daniel knows that – I don’t. This isn’t a regular house where you can find the studs every 16″ or something. I am utterly dependent on him for the literal day-to-day integrity of our home. I need to see Daniel close-by. I need to see him addressing things I cannot. I need to see things being fixed – not patched – fixed so I can trust that they will work and that our home won’t fall apart. In this way, I am very needy right now. I am sure Daniel is stressed beyond imagining; this is a lot to place on one persons shoulders. I am doing what I can – organizing. Making some type of a home for us instead of living in a pile of stuff. Bringing order. Managing finances and route. I lead when we drive so he doesn’t have to worry about navigation. I try to make sure the rig is clean (a nearly impossible task with 2 dogs and a 7 year old and a husband who doesn’t seem to care what critters are attracted by the cooking mess he has left outside. ***NOTE TO SELF: NEVER go camping with husband to grizzly country or we are most assuredly dinner!).
If that same friend were to ask me how I am doing right now, my answers would be very different. This could be that we haven’t really gotten any sleep since our lovely brush with the tornado so are sleep deprived. This could be that we are both just at our breaking point in trying to make an almost impossible situation work. It could be a combination of both plus whatever other baggage we have decided to bring to the front now, who knows.
We know we can live in the RV fulltime. We have done it before. We know we can work it out – our stubborn determination will not allow anything else. We know it won’t be easy but then that seems to be our way. “Take something impossible and make it work.” should be our motto…perhaps we should add, “And don’t kill each other in the process!”
We are very fortunate in that neither one of us is a mean person. When we fight, there are no rants about past faults or name-calling…usually. I think I did call him a name this last time when I was so mad pretty much every word out of my mouth was the f-bomb. I guess I should qualify that we are not trying to hurt each other. We are just super frustrated and angry.
A recent post on FB seems to be helping. I know, right?! Something on FB helping! It is a list of suggestions to help you organize and focus your thoughts/life/work – whatever. Here ya go!
DO ONE THING AT A TIME!
So much to share on another night. I need to finish writing about our time in NE and then our time in Kansas (which has forever earned its place in tornado alley as far as I am concerned)! We are currently in Texas hanging out with our grown-up kids. Did I mention that we have a 29 and a 26 year old and that we are grandparents in addition to having out 7 year old? LOL! Surprise!
In Peace and Hope and Love…
Usually, there isn’t much to say about Nebraska. At least that is always what I have thought. There is corn, it’s hot and humid and lots of smelly feed lots. It’s also home to much of my family. Reason alone to go and visit whenever we can! Last time I was there, it was 2015 and I had my grandbaby Abby and son with me. At that time, we traveled through the width of Nebraska in the Eurovan headed to California. I was surprised by the green rolling hills, picturesque windmills and general beauty of the State. This trip has been no different. This Spring has been filled with tons of rain, so the hillsides are covered in long fresh new grass. The lilacs were still blooming when we arrived as were many of the trees. I know I will shock people when I say, it has really been quite beautiful. The heat and humidity haven’t hit yet – they will sooner than later I know – but early May this year, it has been idyllic.
Our route to Norfolk from Colorado Springs took us through many of the county roads and small state highways. As a result, I saw parts of Nebraska I hadn’t seen before. Pretty cool. Norfolk itself was in fine form. We spent quite a bit of time at Ta-Ha-Zouka Park. I have fond memories of that park as a kid and bringing Xander to it now seems fitting; as if we have come full-circle. What I didn’t know is that Ta-Ha-Zouka Park boasts a lovely dog park. There are two fully enclosed play enclosures so you can separate the dogs a bit. Both sides have some funny features. Like a bus stop in one and a fire hydrant in the other. Both sides are grassed and have tall mature trees offering some nice shade. They also each have a nice picnic table where you can sit while your dog(s) run around excitedly smelling all the other dogs that have come before. Ta-Ha-Zouka is also the start of the ‘Cowboy Trail.’ Beginning in Norfolk and spanning 321 miles west to Chadron, this is the largest Rails-to-Trails project in the United States. The beginning of the trail runs right next to the Elkhorn River. Xander and I walked about the first 2 1/2 miles of the trail and loved it! The trees were green and lush, the river was full, the dandelions were going to seed so it was like walking on a trail of wishes just waiting to be made.
Of course we had to take advantage, and make a few wishes ourselves!
You walk under a railroad trestle and then emerge into a new wetland project while the river runs the other direction. We found turtles and frogs and millipedes on the trail. It was awesome!
There is also a camping site at Ta-Ha-Zouka where RV’s are supported. Power only in-season rate of $18 with concrete pad and off-concrete/off-season rate of $12.00. 7-day maximum, restrooms with showers, large rigs OK, picnic tables, barbecue grills and free wifi! Perfect location to visit family or friends in Norfolk or any of the surrounding towns and wonderful place to hang your hat for a day or two. Lots to do and won’t break the budget.
We headed out to Stanton to see my grandparents old place and go visit them at the cemetery. I spent many happy hours at their house on the top of the hill. It was my sanctuary. My grandparents were the most amazing people! It’s nice when visiting dad in Norfolk to head out and check out our old stomping grounds in Stanton. See what flowers are blooming at the house, how the trees are doing, etc.. I am happy to report that the house is being well cared for and is obviously loved. We went to Lake Maskenthine Recreation Park, which is located behind my grandparents old house to spend an afternoon. I remember going out there with Grammi and Po. Po would talk about the history of every tree. He knew when it was planted, how old it was, etc. My mom reports that she and Grammi would go out and swim at the lake for their daily exercise. Reflecting and sharing these memories, Daniel, Xan and I had our picnic in the arboretum. Established in 1976, the trees are now tall and blooming. There is a lovely covered picnic area with power right next to the flowering lilacs where we enjoyed our lunch. After spending some time walking around and looking at the trees, we went over to the beach area. To our great surprise we found camping and RV spots. Power only – water and restrooms with showers are available after May 1st. Daniel walked over and asked how much and was told $20 a night. It’s a beautiful recreation center with a playground for kids, mountain biking, a swimming beach, fishing and more!
It was a great way to spend a day. It’s still a bit too cold in May to swim but we had fun getting our feet wet.
My final Eastern Nebraska review will be about the amazing Henry Doorly Zoo. Dad tells me that I have been there before when I was younger but I don’t remember. I have been reading about the ground-breaking African Grasslands project since it started back in 2014. 28 acres of land dedicated to giving the animals a safe place to move and live. The zoo is already famous because of it’s Desert Dome – the worlds largest glazed geodesic dome and the Leid Jungle exhibit; a living jungle you walk through! All set for a day of excitement, dad, Xander and I headed south to Omaha and the zoo. First let me share, there is no way you can see everything in this zoo in one visit. Maybe if you just run through and don’t look at anything you might be able to do it, but then what would be the fun in that?! Happily it turned out that wasn’t the case. We got to do most of everything we wanted to do. 🙂
If you haven’t been and are in the region – go. No, seriously. Go. Looking for a nice place to walk? The zoo. Want to check out animals OUT of cages? Go. Want to see happy penguins? Go. I think you are getting the point. If driving your RV, get there early and fight for parking. Maybe leave your RV at the RV park and drive your car in or take the metro. Honestly I wouldn’t recommend driving your rig here. Although there is bus/RV parking 15 miles away from the entrance (joking – but that’s what it feels like after a long day at the zoo) , we found it full of buses. I would hate to drive my rig there through Omaha traffic only to find there was no-place to park and little space to turn around.
In short, I found Eastern Nebraska to be beautiful and green with tons of things to do outdoors. There are trails, and lakes, and fishing and golf. Lots and lots of golf.
This will be the perfect example of what happens when you are stressed and just trying to get out of town. Plus, I installed a new map application and was using that. Definitely a recipe for disaster!
Daniel and I were caravanning from Colorado Springs to Norfolk, NE. He would drive Winnie with Xander as his copilot and I would lead in Princess, our VW Eurovan. Mind you, I have done this drive from Colorado Springs to my dads house at least half a dozen times so theoretically I should have known better. We knew it would be slow going as lots in Winnie was still not really bolted down and we hadn’t gotten the alignment and wheel balancing done yet. We wouldn’t drive fast if we could help it.
Everything started out well. The familiar drive from the Springs to Denver was comfortable and easy. Once past Centennial (quick wave to my sister and her family) we got into Denver proper. We kept getting routed onto the toll road. We didn’t want to have to pay tolls so were ignoring every instruction to turn onto it. You know how these ‘intelligent’ mapping services are – it kept rerouting us back to the toll road where it wanted us originally. Finally, I pulled over and searched until I found the option that allowed us to avoid the toll roads. What I didn’t realize at that moment, is that it also turned on the ‘Avoid All Interstates’ option. Oops!
When we started being directed towards the back highways, I didn’t question it. I just grumbled to myself about the stupid tollroads. Well, hours later as even ‘I’ realized it was taking a bit too long to get to Norfolk, we stopped for directions. I had my Rand McNally atlas open but the small highways and county roads we were on could not be found anywhere on my map. As I asked the nice lady behind the counter for directions to Norfolk, she said the words you never want to hear, “Oh honey, you are Lost!”
Meanwhile my poor dad was trying to figure out where we were based on my texts and was having trouble finding us because we were 50+ miles away from where he was looking on his much more detailed map. ‘Surely they have to be somewhere close to I-80!’ I am sure he was thinking. NOPE!
Finally he suspended his disbelief long enough to find us. Now providing us with relevant directions – my iPhone freaked out. Dad would call, only to discover that I was unable to receive. My iPhone was spontaneously shutting off. I had to pull over, run back to Daniel driving the rig and have him call dad for the instructions! Throwing caution to the wind, Daniel and Xander took the lead and pushed the pedal to the medal!
“Whatever you do, do NOT under any circumstance get off of East 22 until you hit Columbus and hwy-81!” was the last direction from dad. Daniel dug out his old trusty hiking GPS – (you know, the ones that have just the roads and stuff without fhe direction?) which actually handled the county roads and NE state highways much better than our phones did. At least now, Daniel could see the whole picture so to speak.
At somewhere around 2:30am we finally rolled into Norfolk. We left Colorado Springs at 11:00am. Our 8 1/2 drive took 15hours. It was a beautiful day though and Nebraska in the Spring is beautiful. The sunset was gorgeous. Perhaps if I hadn’t been so distracted taking pictures, I would have noticed sooner that we were lost. I am thrilled to report that Winnie did great!
Enjoy the pics!