After I saw bears in the mountains, Barry could not wait to go out into the mountains with me! We spent a day driving northwest from Fort Collins along the Cache la Poudre River valley on Highway 14, aka, Poudre Canyon Road. This is just a lovely drive that follows the river through the canyon alongside lots of rushing water and pull-out spots. At one such spot, we noticed a car stopped and a man standing outside with his camera pointed upward into some rocks. We slowed, then pulled to a stop on a bridge and we jumped out of the car to see a bear in the bushes along the river there! Barry grabbed my camera and watched and photographed that black bear!
That bear got tired of photos and climbed further up and over the hill and out of sight…..we returned to our much more lovely drive!
We found a little spot right on the river to stop for dinner, The Mishawaka. It is a concert venue / bar / restaurant, and truly just eating here alongside that wonderful water made the food delicious! On the opposite bank, the hill rose up high to a solitary cross but I kept watching for wildlife as we enjoyed dinner.
We left Poudre Canyon Road and climbed up and up on Stove Prairie Road that would take us back to Horsetooth Campground. As fun as the river road is to drive, this road is equally delightful with so very much to see!
We left Broken Bow and headed to Sydney, Nebraska to stay the night at the only Cabela’s campground anywhere! Sydney was the site of the beginning of Cabela’s business, and they have a monster property there with a campground, horse corrals, and a store with everything!
The next day we began the real drive across the prairie and headed toward Colorado! If you have ever driven in snow country, then highway closures are nothing new to you; but to us, they serve as a reminder of the power of Mother Nature! At most of the exit ramps, were signs warning of the closure of the interstate ahead — Get Off The Highway Now kind of signs!
After miles and miles of prairie, we crossed into:
We continued on I-80 westward until we came to Cheyenne and headed south towards Fort Collins, Colorado to spend a few days near the Rocky Mountains! Horsetooth Reservoir Campground is west of Fort Collins, nestled in the foothills of the Rockies and is a county park property. We had 50 amp electrical service only at our dusty campsite, but had a lovely view of the reservoir and surrounding mountains outside the coach. South Bay site #17 had big shady trees that helped keep the coach cooler in the hot summer heat, but none of the amenities — WiFi, cell service, water or sewer. It did have frequent mule deer visitors though and delightful views of water, mountains and sky!
On the first day, while Barry worked, I took advantage of the proximity to the mountains and headed west toward Estes Park. I had been this way once before, on a trip here with Barry & Tyler about 15 years ago and remembered the upward drive through Big Thompson Canyon and into Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). It is still a fantastic drive between narrow canyons and alongside the Big Thompson River, winding higher and higher into the mountains. I was going to try out my back-packing skills for the first time, hiking at elevation with a loaded backpack; I left the highway and followed McGraw Ranch Road up and then down to Cow Creek Trailhead, just inside the boundary of RMNP. I hoisted my pack on my back and headed off to test my skills on the North Boundary Trail. After only hiking about 1/3 mile, I turned and retraced my steps back to my car, thoroughly disappointed with myself. But I did learn! I could do this, if I worked at acclimating to elevation without my backpack, I might be able to try again.
I left this area and headed over to Estes Park to explore the little touristy town a bit. It is the “end” of summer and lat-minute tourists and traffic crowded the town……..time to leave!
After leaving Estes Park to return down Big Thompson Canyon and back to Barry, I chanced to find a little pull-out park alongside the river, Sleepy Hollow Park, and stopped to see the water! I love the sound and feel and smell of running mountain water and will take every possible chance to get close. No other cars were parked in the small lot, the map marked trails nearby, a few picnic tables dotted the grassy area: Perfect!!
After I finished filming a video of the running water, I noticed some movement in the bushes at the turn of the river. As I watched, a black bear and her two cubs popped out of the bushes and began working their way along the river toward me!!! For the next 15 minutes, I watched the three of them move along the rocky areas above the river, looking for berries to eat along the way. She kept an eye on me as I backed up to lean against a tree and stayed still as they scrambled along the rocks; I made sure the car was unlocked and I could make a speedy retreat, if necessary!
Too soon, they turned and made their way up the rocky incline and further away, I returned to my car and left, with a smile on my face from ear-to-ear! I had seen bears in the wild!!!
We left Pine Grove RV Park and headed west on I-80 to Grand Island, Nebraska. There we followed NE highways 2 and 92 into Broken Bow. This is a lovely county seat trying to update from a tired old town to a vibrant city. We camped right downtown at Tomahawk Park for RVs and were pleasantly surprised. Though they had less than 20 spaces, each was neat and clean with long pull-through sites for big rigs like ours. The grass was manicured so very well and our site (#13) had a big shade tree nearby. Although we only had 50 amp service, without water or sewer, for a few days it was just fine. The WiFi, Verizon, and AT&T service was weak. My map program (Waze) brought us in over a low-water bridge; we made sure not to leave that way! Barry had a business call here that turned into a second call at the same company the next day in Holdrege (about an hour south of Broken Bow) and I drove while he emailed!
First, we discovered a wonderful breakfast spot just a few blocks from the park, Prairie Grounds. Delicious cups of milky coffee and freshly baked blueberry muffins started my day off just fine!
After Barry’s morning appointment, we drove west of town to see one of the largest feedlots in the world. It is the Adams Feedlot with a total capacity of between 85,000-100,000 head of cattle (depending on your source). Barry & I are carnivores and love steak and hamburgers, but it is a little unnerving to see so many animals in such a place. The smell wafts into town almost daily depending on the wind; but the wind blows steadily enough to keep it from being overpowering.
The next day we drove south to Holdrege, Nebraska, south of I-80 for another appointment. Job completed, we took our time returning to Red Bow and found these historical markers.
Back in Broken Bow, we detoured to the Straight Arrow Bison Ranch. A family-owned business, they keep a herd of buffalo on their range year-round as a source of meat and other byproducts for retail sale. Although they weren’t open that day, we did get a chance to see the herd from the road. You can learn more here: www.straightarrowbison.com
All-in-all, Broken Bow was a pleasant stop and nice town. We would definitely stay here again when passing through on business.
After we left Lee’s Summit, Missouri, we headed north, past St. Joseph and the Iowa border, then turned west and wound our way to Greenwood, Nebraska. Pine Grove RV Campground is a decent park, with gravelly old paved roads, lots of steep speed bumps, and gravel parking sites but no patio space, just grass and an old picnic table. The grass was a bit hairy and tracked inside every time we took the dogs out. The WiFi was weak, but they had an AT&T tower nearby to boost that signal. We had full hook ups, but low water pressure, and a great view across a huge soybean field facing west. This park has a small pool, shuffleboard and tennis courts, playground for kids, and, more importantly, fenced dog parks! The corgis had a great time running free, barking just to bark, and getting much need exercise. After the eclipse, we were happy to enjoy the evening sunsets out the front of the coach.
Barry had appointments east in Omaha on Tuesday and west in York on Wednesday…..so we really were working here!
I did enjoy the old cemetery at Trinity Lutheran Church during the eclipse on Monday. My grandma used to like to walk around the cemetery in our town, checking all the graves to see if anyone had died that she had missed, looking to make sure Grandpa’s grave had fresh flowers, etc. and I, also, like to walk around cemeteries. This one is an old German cemetery with graves dating in the mid-to-late-1800’s.
I am related to the Schmidt family on my father’s side; my great-grandparents immigrated to the USA before my grandparents were born. I like to check old cemeteries for any of the names in any of my family trees, and I found these graves, just not people in my tree!
We ran into Omaha and across the Missouri River to Council Bluffs, Iowa on Tuesday evening to the Bass Pro Shop there. It is in a big casino complex at the intersection of I-80 and I-29 and had some public outcry and controversy when they built the overpass into the complex.
These pieces of “art” grace both sides of the overpass (2 on the North and 2 on the South), weigh 70,000 pounds, shoot 60′ into the sky, and cost an estimated $3,000,000 dollars. They are titled “Odyssey” and were designed by renowned metal sculpture artist, Albert Paley. We are familiar with his work from a piece at the entrance to the St. Louis Zoo; titled “Animals Always”, it is perfect for that site! https://www.stlzoo.org/about/blog/2015/09/02/public-art-contributes-our-zoos-charm These pieces, however, tower over the overpass and the highway in a crazy, Edward Scissorhands-like presence that is almost overwhelming.
The next day, Barry & I drove west to York, Nebraska to make a business call and I had such a wonderful day! We stopped after the call in Lincoln to see the University of Nebraska stadium.
After that stop, I dropped Barry off at the coach for a little exploring time on my own. Now I had time to visit the Holy Family Shrine overlooking the Platte River valley. It was modeled after Fay Jones’ Cooper Chapel in Arkansas as a place of meditation, reflection and prayer just off I-80, and stands as a welcoming refuge from the hustle and bustle of travel.
Leaving the Shrine I took a different road back to the coach and found this funny lighthouse on the bank of the Platte River.
All in all, this is an interesting place to visit; big cities nearby, yet a rural setting for the campground. We would probably stay here again when working in eastern Nebraska!
By now, you have probably heard every possible story about the “Great American Eclipse of 2017”; but not mine! We were parked about 20 miles outside the line of totality and felt that we just HAD to drive down to experience the eclipse in totality. We were parked in Greenwood, Nebraska at Pine Grove RV Park, just off I-80, and in-between Lincoln & Omaha.
So, about 9:00 AM on Monday, August 21, we drove into the little town of Waverly to have breakfast at Honey Creek restaurant. After a filling breakfast, we set our sights south and started driving. I followed a line of cars down a country highway until we came to a gravel road with a Lutheran church sign pointing east. I turned onto that little road, bumped about a mile and then came to South 162nd Street (out in the middle of nowhere and that’s the best name they could come up with?), turned and drove south another bumpy mile before pulling into the parking lot at Trinity Lutheran Church at 10:45. No one else was there, except the lovely old cemetery souls behind the church.
I parked the car for the best angle at the sun, opened the sunroof, laid our seats back, and tried out the eclipse glasses……
It was fun to just sit there, windows down, wind blowing steadily, talking and waiting. About noon, we started to notice a change along the edge of the sun…..just like a little notch on the western edge…….another car pulled into the parking lot, a mom and three teenaged daughters. They got out folding chairs, a small cooler, put on their eclipse glasses, and waited. The girls decided they would throw frisbee around while they waited; the only sound now was a few birds and shrieking girls. A look up showed that more of the sun was notched out now, but you really could not tell that something big was about to happen. A third car pulled up and parked behind us, a man got out, leaned on the hood and donned his eclipse glasses and looked up. By 12:56, the sun was now a definite crescent shape and we all kept our eyes toward the sky.
At precisely 13:03, the moon completely passed in front of the sun. And the clouds tried to cover it, drat!!!! But, noticeably, the birds had stopped singing (as well as the teenagers!)…….and the earth, though not dark as night, was definitely darker.
All too soon, it was over……..the sun returned to it’s shiny self, the new moon was invisible in the sky. But, we had witnessed a Total Solar Eclipse! It was not a life-changing moment; I think those are reserved for the birth of a child or something that certainly marks a moment in time that was not the same the moment before. But this moment was such an unbelievable experience, it made me reflect on the glory of God. And now the birds began to fly and sing again, the teenagers started the frisbee again, and Barry started looking at emails. But for about 5 minutes in time, everyone joined together and just looked up……no fighting or arguing or working or playing…….just looking up at the sun…….magical.
Although we live in an RV, we are not on a never-ending vacation…….sorry…… But I still try to find new things to see everywhere we go, this blog is my way of sharing those things with you! So, let’s look around southwestern Iowa and northwestern Missouri. The first stop on this tour will be the lovely drive from Iowa south…….yes, there are lots of corn and soybean fields, but there are also farms with big barns, huge grain silos at co-ops, and wind farms.
Weston, Missouri is a little river town with a wonderful history, quaint shops, distillery, winery, brewhaus, and historic old homes and cemetery. At one time, it was the largest city west of St. Louis with a thriving river business; however as the Missouri River flooded over time, the channel moved 2 miles west and Weston was left “high and dry”. The residents have embraced their history though and the town remains charming and a flurry of tourists visit on the weekends. Warning: most of the shops are closed on Monday-Wednesday!
Across the river from the Lewis & Clark State Park is Atchison, Kansas. The Missouri River left Weston and Atchison was founded on the western banks. It is a sleepy town with high river bluffs whose claim to fame is the birthplace of Amelia Earhart. We just missed a big birthday festival in her honor. There is a beautiful Benedictine College campus up on the river bluffs and, of course (!), a Lewis and Clark marker on the river. We found a wonderful small grocery/meat market with wonderful food as well as a great breakfast spot, Paolucci’s, with some of the best freshly baked Italian bread French Toast I have ever eaten!
The McCormick Distillery property is just outside Weston. Holladay bought them and produces all the spirits here under the Holladay/McCormick label. We enjoyed a private tour (Monday!!) and were able to see the process. We have visited many distilleries and this one is nice and historic, but small; the whiskey is not our favorite…..sorry.
Although we had originally only intended to stay at Lewis & Clark State Park for 5 days, things changed and we opted to stay for 2 whole weeks. Here is why: Barry had to drive up to Wisconsin during our stay and it made more sense for me to stay at this park then to move further south…..
This stay was a test of my ability to be home alone without a car for multiple days. I loaded up on groceries and settled in for the stay without a car. Without sewer and water hookups, I couldn’t do laundry or clean too much, so I relaxed!! I am a person who likes to “get things done” and this was a learning time for me. I did some work on scanning photos and updating some genealogy, but walking the dogs was my main occupation. I rode my bike and took lots of new photos. I really relaxed. For the first time in a long, long time, I don’t have that feeling of tension in my shoulders!
Now about the park: Pros: Level sites with many trees and ample shade. 50 amp electric service only. Quiet and dark at night, wide sites with lots of quiet during the day. Lots of wildlife, bird-watching and great flora everywhere. Historic and fun Weston just to the south. The home of the Pony Express, St. Joseph, just to the north with more history, a great Cajun restaurant, and Jesse James history also. Atchison, Kansas just to the west with beautiful architecture and the birthplace of Amelia Earhart. Some of the best campground hosts we have met during our travels!
Cons: No water or sewer hookups. Our original site flooded during a heavy, all day rain the first week. Verizon – 2 bars, AT&T – 2 bars, weBoosted both to 4 bars. Nothing more negative than that!!!
A big plus for me is the many Lewis & Clark Expedition historical markers. We are both history fans and following the Lewis & Clark Trail was one of my reasons for getting an RV to travel. The Mississippi River has changed course over the last couple of hundred years and, as a result, left several oxbow lakes in this areas. These are shaped like an oxbow, curved like a big arch, but without the river supporting them until it floods. The park is on one of those lakes and they have built a wonderful marker on the banks. Supposedly, it is a spiritual vortex and if you stand in the middle of it and relax for several minutes, you can feel as if you are out of your body…….didn’t work for me!
If I sat quietly at the lake, the muskrats would continue their eating……they seem to eat constantly……and they make a loud sucking noise as they eat cattails, water lilies and sedges underwater. Only a few of them were visible on the surface, the majority were underwater; I could tell by the movements of the plants.
The weather was beautiful during our stay, cooler than normal with lower humidity. Beautiful sunsets every evening with so very many stars in the night sky. We will gladly return to stay here again!