Homestead National Monument of America – Nebraska

Visitor Center at Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Nebraska

One of the off-the-beaten-path places we visited on our journey westward was in Nebraska.  The Homestead National Monument of America is located near Beatrice (pronounced be-AT-riss) Nebraska.

Palmer-Epard Cabin at Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Nebraska
Palmer-Epard Cabin at Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Nebraska

From the NPS website:

The Homestead Act of 1862 was one of the most significant and enduring events in the westward expansion of the United States. By granting 160 acres of free land to claimants, it allowed nearly any man or woman a “fair chance.”

Millions of Americans including immigrants, women, and formerly enslaved men and women would make the dream of westward expansion a reality for this country. For over a century these settlers would test their grit and endurance in the untamed wilderness and remote frontiers. Homestead National Monument of America, located in Southeast Nebraska, commemorates this Act and the far-reaching effects it had upon the landscape and people.

It is the purpose of our government “to elevate the condition of men, to lift artificial burdens from all shoulders and to give everyone an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life.”

– President Abraham Lincoln, July 4, 1861

Visitor Center at Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Nebraska
Visitor Center at Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Nebraska
Example of tallgrass prairie at Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Nebraska
Example of tallgrass prairie at Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Nebraska
Prairie dog spotted at the Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Nebraska

Like most of the other places we visited, this park was mostly deserted at the time we were there.  A few rangers working in the building and a few fellow tourists walking the grounds outside were about it.  But the park contains some excellent information about the Homestead Act and its impact on the settlement of the west.

Palmer-Epard Cabin at Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Nebraska
Door and lock hardware at the Palmer-Epard Cabin at Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Nebraska

Bugs, Dirt, Soot and…Salt?

Near Deer Lodge, Montana

One of the challenges of a long road trip is all of the varying road conditions and how it trashes the car.  I’m not one of those guys who obsesses over every water spot, but I do get to a point where I need to find a car wash!

Southern Montana near Fort Smith
National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana
Transcontinental Railroad National Back Country Byway at Golden Spike National Historical Park near Corinne, Utah

For some reason, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri seem to have way more bugs than anywhere else we’ve been.  After 2 or 3 days of highway speeds, the front of the car looks like the site of an insect massacre.

Along Alt US-14 through the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in North central Wyoming
Soot on our car from the smoke around Cannon Beach, Oregon

We spent a lot more time on gravel and dirt roads on this trip, especially in eastern Washington but also in Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Utah.  In the Palouse region of Washington, a few of the roads had dirt so fine that was like powder, and it got everywhere.  Not to mention the smoke and soot in Oregon!  It took its toll on the car, for sure.

I should have waited until after we visited Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

Fortunately or unfortunately the drive home from Tennessee was almost all in the rain, so it did help a bit with the dust.  But a couple of hours in the driveway to clean out the inside plus a trip to the car wash was an absolute necessity.  It’s all good now, at least until the next trip down a dirt road!

The Subie gets a well-deserved bath after hundreds of smoky, dusty and sooty miles

A Visit To The National Corvette Museum

National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky

The first night’s stop on our northwest road trip was Bowling Green, KY.  And thanks to making good time on I-40 and to gaining an hour with the move into the Central time zone, we arrived in time to visit the National Corvette Museum.  It’s hard not to love the Corvette, even if you are a long-time Ford fan.  The museum is nicely done, with an excellent collection of Corvettes from all years, along with concept cars and a scattering of other makes from the early years.

National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky

One thing I had forgotten about was that in 2014 a portion of the museum floor collapsed into a huge sinkhole, sending 8 priceless cars plunging into the abyss.  The sinkhole has been filled in and the floor has been rebuilt.  Several of the cars were damaged beyond repair, but they were returned to their original place in the museum as they were recovered.  A frightening sight and reminder not to mess with nature!  The museum’s website has some information about the sinkhole and the exhibit they created to tell the story.  It’s pretty interesting, especially the timelapse of the effort to fill in the hole!

1984 PPG Pace Car. Cars damaged in the sinkhole collapse on February 12, 2014 at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. These cars were deemed to be unrepairable but were returned to their original position on the floor once the building was repaired.
Cars damaged in the sinkhole collapse on February 12, 2014 at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. These cars were deemed to be unrepairable but were returned to their original position on the floor once the building was repaired.

An unexpected bonus of our visit was a display of cars and car art by legendary artist Ed “Big Daddy” Roth of Rat Fink fame.  I remember idolizing his work as a kid along with cars by designer George Barris, and I’m pretty sure that at one time I had built plastic models of a few of these cars.  That was a long time ago!

“Rat Fink” exhibit – custom cars and art by legendary car designer and artist Ed “Big Daddy” Roth at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
“Rat Fink” exhibit – custom cars and art by legendary car designer and artist Ed “Big Daddy” Roth at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
“Rat Fink” exhibit – custom cars and art by legendary car designer and artist Ed “Big Daddy” Roth at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
“Rat Fink” exhibit – custom cars and art by legendary car designer and artist Ed “Big Daddy” Roth at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky

I’ve posted a sampling of photos from our visit here on this page, but for those who want to dig deeper I’ve created an album from our trip on my Adobe Portfolio page and have added a gallery of more photos from the museum.  Enjoy!

I would have brought this one home with me but I wanted a red one. 🙂

 

Random Thoughts After Our Recent Travels

Former camera store – long closed – in downtown Billings, Montana

We traveled a total of 8030 miles in 24 days, and I took 4,459 photos for 168GB!

We saw rain on the first day and the last day, and very little in between.  We had one very windy day in Washington, and we saw lots of smoke – way too much – in Oregon.  Otherwise the weather was very pleasant, not too hot, not too cold.

We live in a beautiful country.  There is something for everyone, and the scenery changes by the hour.  Except perhaps in Kansas, where it changes a bit more slowly.

Cape Girardeau River Tales Mural along the Mississippi River in Cape Girardeau, Missouri

It’s interesting how you can tell when you have entered a new state.  It’s not an immediate change, but if you took a picture before and another after about an hour, you can tell.

People ain’t staying home!  The roadways and motels are all pretty full, especially the interstate highways.

Evening in downtown Ogden, utah

In most places, people were well behaved, doing all the disease prevention stuff and generally staying away from each other.  Hotels have used Covid as an excuse to not clean your room or provide breakfast, but as long as we can get coffee that is perfectly OK with us.  Chain hotel breakfasts are usually not that good anyway (except sometimes the waffles!).

We have generally been avoiding “chain” restaurants for several years.  But a few times, due mostly to convenience and location, we found ourselves at a few chain restaurants – Red Lobster, Outback and Rafferty’s to name a few.  They were OK and we didn’t get sick or die!  We still avoid “fast food” except to pee.

Mostly with eating out is that you just need to think about where you are.  For example, don’t try to order fish in Nebraska or Montana – they know beef and pork.  In Washington or Oregon?  Chinook salmon in Washington is amazing, plus they have freshwater walleye and trout – no problemo.  In Montana?  No fish.

Carrying our own food and having most breakfasts and many lunches on the road saved us time and money, and by avoiding all those restaurant meals we each gained less than 3 pounds, a miracle for us.

Near the Perrine Memorial Bridge over the Snake River in Twin Falls, Idaho

We saw lots and lots of RVs and travel trailers of all sizes, shapes, speeds and apparent driver ability.  It’s a little scary that people who can’t pull their Buick into a parking place straight are now driving tour bus-sized behemoths.

It’s interesting that in many cases the larger the motor home or trailer, the more crap that was hanging off the back or on top or in a vehicle being towed behind.  Boats, 4-wheelers, golf carts, motorcycles, bicycles, etc.  I guess people are trying to prove that you can take it with you after all.  How about just taking less stuff?  Hauling all that crap around is not my idea of getting away from it all.  But I guess that’s not the point.

Despite all the RVs on the road, all across the country we saw dozens of sales lots with hundreds of units sitting unsold. Plus many more storage centers with units sitting in storage.  Who has that kind of money to just let stuff sit around?

We saw nothing to convince us to buy an RV.  Or to get a dog.

Public Library in Cannon Beach, Oregon

As is often the case, the famous places (which we avoided) are packed with people while the less famous places are empty. We were literally the only visitors we saw at Fort Larned National Monument and George Washington Carver National Monument – both in Kansas, which might explain something.

Sign at a restaurant in Valentine, Nebraska

Thank goodness for US Highways.  No trucks, virtually no cities, lots of passing lanes and 65-75 mph speed limits.  We use them whenever we can.

Happy Day Rock found near Short Bridge covered bridge on High Deck Road over the Foster River near Foster, Oregon

I don’t know what they’re hauling, but there are many more trucks on the road than I ever remember in previous travels, especially on the main interstates between major cities.  Between the trucks and the RVs that can’t or won’t maintain the speed limit, driving the highways can be nerve-wracking.  But we managed!

Evening in downtown Ogden, utah

An informal poll of people willing to put up political signs gives a decided edge to the incumbent.  No conclusions can be made of this data, as the margin of error of this poll is +/- 50%

It’s amazing how much better things seem when you stay away from the news!

National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
Along US-20 near Foster, Oregon

The Barn That Talked To Me

Old barn along US-183 near La Crosse, Kansas

Kathy & I had just left our motel in Hayes, Kansas and were speeding down the highway when I spotted this barn alongside the road.  It had a very interesting character to it, the light was beautiful and I knew immediately it would make a nice photograph.  But I didn’t stop.

Old barn along US-183 near La Crosse, Kansas

I don’t know how it did it, but soon after I passed the barn I started hearing this voice.  It said, “hey dumba$$, come back here and take my picture.”  It took nearly 2 miles, but eventually I started slowing down and told Kathy, “I’m going back.”

Old barn along US-183 near La Crosse, Kansas

As I was walking back to the car the farmer drove by in his pickup.  I waved at him and he waved back.  Maybe he had heard the voice, too. 😉

Old barn along US-183 near La Crosse, Kansas

A few days earlier I had passed another barn in Colorado where there was no safe place to pull off the road, and I stewed about it for a long time.  So I didn’t really want to pass this one by.  But I was already in “Get There Mode” and almost let it go.  I’m glad I didn’t!

Hangin’ With Monte

Breakfast with Monte at The Chicken Coop Restaurant in Fort Collins, Colorado

One of the highlights of our recent road trip (yes, we’re home now!) was a nice albeit too-short visit with our friend Monte Stevens in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Monte strikes a contemplative pose in his “office” on the Foothills Trail at the Reservoir Ridge Natural Area in Fort Collins, Colorado
Monte taking Kathy’s picture sitting on “his” rock along the Foothills Trail at the Reservoir Ridge Natural Area in Fort Collins, Colorado

We ordinarily would have planned on spending more time in Fort Collins, as we really like the town and Monte is a swell guy to hang out with, but between the fires and our growing get-home-itis we decided to make a quick overnight stop.  But that didn’t prevent us from getting out and burning a few pixels.

Firefighting helicopters carrying water to fight the Cameron Peak and Williams Fork fires in
Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, Colorado near Fort Collins. Seen from the Foothills Trail at the Reservoir Ridge Natural Area in Fort Collins, Colorado
Foothills Trail at the Reservoir Ridge Natural Area in Fort Collins, Colorado

Kathy & I joined Monte on a walk through the Reservoir Ridge Natural Area, where we saw his “office” and were able to see a few of the firefighting helicopters coming and going from a nearby airfield.  We had a nice pizza dinner at a local pizza joint followed by a yummy breakfast at a local “American-Mexican Breakfast and Lunch” spot.

Any time with Monte is time well spent, and we look forward to getting back to Fort Collins at at time where the weather and conditions are better!

Breakfast with Monte at The Chicken Coop Restaurant in Fort Collins, Colorado

Postcard From Fort Larned National Historic Site, Kansas

Fort Larned National Historic Site near Larned, Kansas

Interesting history to this fort, which was established in 1859 and whose role consisted of guarding the transport of the US Mail as well as general traffic along the Santa Fe Trail.

The best part for us was that we spent over an hour at the fort and the only other person we saw was the caretaker, who we saw only from a distance.  A very quiet and peaceful experience!

Roadside Finds: Sorghum!

Sorghum fields along US-183 near La Crosse, Kansas

Driving through Nebraska and Kansas we kept seeing these interesting plants but didn’t know what they were.  The bottoms look like corn stalks but the tops were definitely not corn – more like big bushy cattails.  Finally Kathy consulted the interwebs and discovered that the plant in question was sorghum.  I’ve eaten sorghum but didn’t know what the plant looked like.  News you can use!

Postcard From Norton, Kansas

Former gas station in Norton, Kansas that is now a portion of the Norton Senior Citizen Center

An extremely rare 3-photo postcard! 🙂

Norton, Kansas boasts three vintage gas stations that have been repurposed for other uses.  It was on my list of stops last year but we didn’t get there.  This year we made a point of stopping by.  Very cool!

Former gas station and Chevrolet dealership in Norton, Kansas that now houses a title company
Former gas station in Norton, Kansas that now houses the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau

Photographs and stuff!