Sunday, July 5, 2015

June 11 - 20, 2015 - Our trip home from Kansas

The circus came to town before we headed home from Kansas.  Scott had never been to one so we thought it would be fun to take him.  Except for when the people rode the motorcycles inside the steel ball he wasn't real impressed with the main show.  He did like the cotton candy and managed to talk us into buying him a plastic sword from a vendor.  He had the most fun on the rides outside the big tent.  So, lesson learned for next time is use the money for admission on rides instead!

Scott loves trains and rode this one several times.

The elephant ride was his favorite though but at $5.00 per passenger for each ride we decided once was enough.

We get tired of driving like mad to get to our destination and then driving like mad again to get home so this time we decided to take our time and see some sites on the way home. We've also thought about riding bicycles across the country and took one of the routes we were looking at to see if it was feasible for bicycling.

We kind of followed the Oregon Trail through Nebraska and most of the parks had sod houses on display.  While sod would make a good insulator from the heat and cold and good protection from the wind none of them appealed to us as a permanent shelter.  All were dark and smelly and since there'd been a lot of rain they all had water inside as well.  Perhaps if someone was actually living in them things might have been different but we'll wait for someone else to check that out for us.

This monument points out Windlass Hill.  This was a steep portion of the Oregon Trail where people had to take some special precautions to descend it.  Historians question whether wagons were let down by windlasses yet there was no doubt that the path down was steep and treacherous.  The brakes on those old wagons left a lot to be desired and the steel rimmed wheels were prone to sliding.  In many cases the pioneers would tie the wheels with ropes so that they couldn't turn or wedge poles inside the spokes to accomplish the same thing.  Also wagons could be emptied of part of their load to lighten them and make them easier to control.  In any case, there are no windlass "remains" in the area to corroborate the hills title.  (But that doesn't prove it didn't happen either!)

This marker was near the top of the  hill.

This is Chimney Rock in Nebraska.  It was one of the markers people looked for on the Oregon Trail.  Once they saw it they'd still need a day or two to get there by wagon.

This had my heart beating fast!  It's part of the largest tractor/farm implement salvage yard I've ever seen.  Acres and acres and acres of old tractors and machinery!

We spent one night in a Forest Service Campground in Nebraska.  To the left of the photo there was a swing and a teeter-totter for Scott to play on.  There were only a couple of people at the campground so we had lots of privacy.

This was one of my favorite stops in Nebraska.  We were disappointed at many stops because after paying admission prices, the quality or quantity of whatever they were showing was very low.  This outfit was a very nice exception.  There's a lot to see inside and outside and it's worth the time it takes to stop and every cent of the admission charged.  They have a website at; where you can get more information but if you're interested in the fur trade era and are in that part of the state (Chadron, Nebraska) stop in to look around.

One of our stops was at the Fort Robinson State Park in Nebraska.  You have to buy a $5.00 pass to get into the park but to our disappointment you still had to pay for most everything else you did there (except walk).  We didn't mind paying for the stagecoach ride or the trail rides but even the "museum" charged a fee to go inside.  Probably or dismay was more cumulative than just being at this park.  Everywhere we stopped they charged extra fees for nearly everything they offered.  At one national monument they wanted $3.00 each to view their "museum" which was about three exhibits.  We declined.  At another place we had driven by several times in our travels and always desired to stop it would have cost us over $30.00 to see the museum.  We passed on that one too.

This was our first stagecoach ride.  Roomy and smooth it is not!  It was fun though.  Scott took this photo of Susan and I.

Scott had a blast and alternated with his head out one window then the next.  We crossed a couple of small streams which he really liked.  After all the problems we'd had with the car in Kansas we asked the driver if we could hire him to take us on to Montana in his stagecoach.  He said he was available if the money was right.  We almost made him an offer!

These are some of the old barracks and buildings at the fort.

Now we're at Toadstool Geologic Area.  We inadvertently set our tent up in a small depression in the grass.  That night we had one of the most impressive thunderstorms I've ever seen (and I'm from Kansas and I've seen a lot of thunderstorms!).  It rained hard for hours.  At one point in the night when the rain slacked off for a couple of minutes Susan looked out and our tent was standing in a puddle of water about two inches deep.  We were still dry inside which is a real testimonial to the quality of the tent.  We just purchased this tent on the way out of Nevada at the Sportsman's Warehouse in Las Vegas.  It was over $200.00 with the sales tax but so far it's been a great tent.  

In the evening before the thunderstorm we barbecued some corn and pork chops.  We had a couple of the pork chops and the corn for dinner then wrapped up and stored the other pork chops in the cooler.  We eat them while on the road to avoid going to restaurants.  It saves a bunch of money while travelling and they are good even cold.

The morning after the storm. We didn't think too much about it on the way in but the "graveled" road we drove in on was now mostly clayish mud.  We were glad to have four-wheel-drive on the Expedition.  In some places you could see where the water had been over the top wire of the rancher's fences.  One place was so deep in mud that we almost dragged the bottom of the Expedition while going through it.  (In 4WD Low the air suspension raises the vehicle an extra four inches for better ground clearance.) We met some road workers coming in as we were going out.  One had a grader and the other was driving a backhoe.  We had just come through the place we believe they were heading!

We spent a couple of days at Rapid City.  This is a dinosaur park Scott liked.  We went there the evening we arrived in town and again the next day before we hit the road again.

At Storybook Island in Rapid City, SD.  Another favorite stop of Scott's!  They have a bunch of things for kids to play on.  All of them have Disney character themes.  You'd have to go to Susan's Facebook page at: for more photos.  (June 18, 2015)

Then we went to Ellsworth AFB in Rapid City, SD.  Another place Scott loved.  They have a bunch of planes on display outside and more stuff inside.  Here Scott is trying out a trainer used by the AF before they'll give the fledgling pilots a real plane to fly.

We couldn't resist getting him this model of the space shuttle and the bomber's jacket.  Naturally we got it in a slightly larger size so he would still fit in it when winter arrives.

We started getting homesick and cut our trip short.  We stopped at Devil's Tower and spent the morning there.  Our advice is to get there early in the day.  There was no line and parking was easy to find when we arrived but a couple of hours later when we left there was almost no parking left and when we went past the gate there were cars lined up for a half-mile.

Home again and the grass did a fine job growing while we were gone.  The work begins!

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