Tuesday, May 05, 2009

5/5/09 Happy Cinco de Mayo! Are you cooking a Mexican dinner tonight? Going to a fiesta perhaps? We are shooting across Illinois in order to have a visit with Daryl & Patrick McGrath in Joliet before they leave on Sunday for North Carolina. They became great friends of ours on the Around the Horn cruise and we are excited about seeing them again.
Since we have been trekking East on I-80 for a number of days, there have not been scads of exciting events to write about. But we have stopped a few places that were fairly interesting, and which also gave us the chance to stretch our legs. In North Platte, NE we stopped at Fort Cody, which is basically a souvenir and gift store which is exploiting the fact that Buffalo Bill Cody was from around there.

Here is a picture of some of the kitsch on the fort wall:

They have a huge display of miniature figures depicting his Wild West Show, and a life-sized figure of him, and also one of the Indians from his show.
Here is a very small part of the diorama:

They also have some oddities, such as this:

Their ploy about having all this stuff to suck in customers didn't work on us, because we spent no money there.
The next stop was Gothenburg, NE which is a community of mostly Swedes and Germans. Right off the freeway there is a replica of a prairie sod house, something we had never seen before.

They claimed that the pioneers preferred these houses, even when they had the lumber to build a frame house, because the sod houses were fireproof, well insulated, inexpensive to build, and they did a much better job of keeping out the incessant wind. In front of this sod house, was a sculpture of a buffalo made entirely out of barbed wire. It took 144 miles of wire to make this!

Also in Gothenburg is one of the two surviving buildings from a pony express station. It wasn't here originally; they moved it and restored it. This picture shows it, but it used to have a stable for the horses underneath it.

We found out a few facts about the pony express that I never knew before. The route was close to 2000 miles and they covered it in time periods of 7 to 11 days. There were stations every 10 miles or so where the riders changed horses and a rest station every 70-100 miles. It cost $5 per 1/2 ounce when it first started. The telegraph and railroad which followed caused the pony express to last only about a year and a half and the company that started it never made any money but instead lost $100,000.
Across the street was the heritage museum, which wasn't much after the great one we had seen in Sterling, CO. But the lady that was running it, and who started the entire Heritage Society 29 years ago, told us that she had just bought the local Lutheran church at a tax sale for $2000. It was 2 blocks away so we walked down there and here is a picture of it:

It needs a lot of work, but she thinks just the stained glass windows in it are worth what she paid for it. She is going to build and apartment for herself in the basement and maybe an art studio in the main church part.
Near Kearney, NE there is a truly unique attraction - a huge arch built OVER interstae 80!!!

It is called the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument. I'm pretty sure it is a private business, but it is a multi-media experience and it was well worth the $7.50 we paid to go through it. We could also have stayed in their very quiet parking lot overnight, if we had been there closer to the time we wanted to stop for the night. We were met outside by one of their greeters:

The exhibits give the history and experiences of the pioneers on the various trails that ran along the Platte River (Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, etc.), as well as the Lincoln Highway, which was the precursor to highway 80. They do this through movies, animated figures, stories which you hear in your headset, special effects, etc. Here is Elaine helping one of the pioneer women in an exhibit push her wagon:

In the part of the experience where they talk about traveling on the Lincoln Highway, we thought this information applied to modern day RVers:

So we are now almost in Joliet and I have to start helping Elaine find her exit. More in a few days from the rainy, cool mid-west.


CaliforniaGrammy said...

I love the idea of the sod house, and I'm glad Elaine helped that covered wagon . . . the woman really could use her help, I'm sure! TeeHee! You two have put some miles on that rig the past few days. Keep on having fun with lots of days filled with smiles.

Melissa said...

Hello Mary and Elaine!
I enjoyed reading your May 5th post about your travels along I-80. I was wondering if you would allow me to republish the entry in my new online magazine: RoadTripJournal.com? I would gladly pay you for the republishing rights.

Also, I would like to enter it in our Readers Choice Contest where you and one voter will have the opportunity to win a $100 gas card!

Please contact me at Articles@RoadTripJournal.com as soon as possible so we can get it republished and ready for the June contest!

Safe travels!
Melissa Deats
Owner / Manager