Taking the Long Way Home from Nebraska – 800 miles in a day

Clouds over Concordia
Giant Clouds over Concordia, Missouri

The best and worst part of a long road trip is the coming home part.  Its always nice to be at home in my own bed after a grueling trip across the country.  But, it is bittersweet.  All of the adventures, sights, sounds and exhilaration are behind me.  The last leg of the trip is usually on the Interstates to get home as quickly as possible (with a few brief stops along the way).  This trip was no different.  My trip home was the “long way home” as it covered over 870 miles on the last day as I traveled straight from Grand Island, Nebraska to Lexington (via Kansas City and St. Louis in order to visit a friend in KC).

The Last Leg of a nine day trip - 870 miles from Grand Island, NE to Lexington, KY
The Last Leg of a nine day trip – 870 miles from Grand Island, NE to Lexington, KY
Starting off at sunrise in Grand Island, NE
Starting off at sunrise in Grand Island, NE

I started off early on this May 29 (Thursday) morning cruising east on Interstate 80.  It was a beautiful morning drive with a bit of mist in the air providing for some nice scenes from the highway.

Heading east on I-80 from Grand Island
Heading east on I-80 from Grand Island
Early morning in the heartland of America...east central Nebraska on I-80
Early morning in the heartland of America…east central Nebraska on I-80

My first stop was in York, Nebraska.  I had to stop for a rest stop and to get a photo of the uniquely colored water tower.

Water tower in York, Nebraska
Water tower in York, Nebraska

From York the interstate continued east to Lincoln, the capitol city of Nebraska.  It is home to the historic Capitol Building, a towering 400 foot tall building that can be seen for miles. Construction began in 1922 and was completed in 1932.  The building is not the tallest state capitol in the country.  That goes to the Louisiana State Capitol, which is 450 feet tall.  Nonetheless, the “Skyscraper of the Plains” is quite impressive.

The "Skyscraper of the Plains", Nebraska's State Capitol in Lincoln, can be seen for miles
The “Skyscraper of the Plains”, Nebraska’s State Capitol in Lincoln, can be seen for miles
And this is a closer look at the impressive "Skyscraper of the Plains"
And this is a closer look at the impressive “Skyscraper of the Plains”

Of course, Nebraska is the “Cornhusker State” and there are plenty of corn fields to be seen from the highway.

Rolling corn fields in Eastern Nebraska
Rolling corn fields in Eastern Nebraska

From Lincoln, I continued into Nebraska City, a place I have visited and stayed in (see my blog post about this lovely town). When there, I always have to stop at Sapp Brothers on the southside of town (actually in Percival, IA) off of Interstate 29….they have the cleanest restrooms on I-29!

Sapp Brothers in Nebraska City, the "Cleanest Restrooms on I-29"
Sapp Brothers in Nebraska City, the “Cleanest Restrooms on I-29”
The famous Sapp Brothers Coffee Pot Water tower in Nebraska City
The famous Sapp Brothers Coffee Pot Water tower in Nebraska City

Not too far south of Nebraska City, I-29 crosses into the far southwest corner of Iowa and through the small town of Hamburg, which basically hugs the borders of Missouri to the south and Nebraska to the west.

This is a shot of downtown Hamburg, IA
This is a shot of downtown Hamburg, IA
There is a nice wall mural on the side of the Blue Moon Bar and Grille in Hamburg
There is a nice wall mural on the side of the Blue Moon Bar and Grille in Hamburg

Perhaps the real treat in Hamburg is Stoner Drug…yes, a strange name for a drug store.  But this particular shop also houses an old fashioned Soda Fountain, which is rare to find nowadays.  Even has the little spinning chairs and they make MALTS too.

Stoner Drug in Hamburg, IA
Stoner Drug in Hamburg, IA
The old fashioned soda fountain inside of Stoner Drug
The old fashioned soda fountain inside of Stoner Drug
Stoner Drug even sells T-shirts and hats.  I almost got one, but I had used my "hat money" on a Carhenge hat the previous day
Stoner Drug even sells T-shirts and hats. I almost got one, but I had used my “hat money” on a Carhenge hat the previous day

Heading south from Hamburg you are almost in Missouri immediately.

Welcome to Missouri
Welcome to Missouri

My main purpose for heading south to Kansas City was to visit with my good friend Brad Sweeten, the Athletic Director at Center High School in Kansas City, MO.  I stopped in for a visit and lunch at one of his favorite places (and mine too), Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Que.  My last trip we visited their store in a gas station.  This time it was at their new place…still plenty of lines.

Stopping in KC to enjoy lunch with my good friend Brad Sweeten at Oklahoma Joe's
Stopping in KC to enjoy lunch with my good friend Brad Sweeten at Oklahoma Joe’s
Inside of Oklahoma Joe's - nice atmosphere, great food and big portions
Inside of Oklahoma Joe’s – nice atmosphere, great food and big portions

After my brief stopover in Kansas City is was time to fly on home down the Interstate.  As I drove through Missouri, the clouds were amazing…giant cumulonimbus clouds were framed by the blue background of the sky.

Large clouds over central Missouri
Large clouds over central Missouri
Looks like a cloud monster ready to fly down and eat someone...
Looks like a cloud monster ready to fly down and eat someone…

After a hearty meal, a short night of sleep and a lot of driving already, it was time for a nap….even Road Warriors need to sleep!!

Nap time in Missouri - even Road Warriors gotta sleep
Nap time in Missouri – even Road Warriors gotta sleep

After my brief 30 minute power snooze, I was back on the road with only one other planned stop to see a Paul Bunyan looking Muffler Man in Wentzville, MO.

I went to Wentsville!
I went to Wentzville, the Crossroads of the Nation
Paul Bunyan Muffler Man just off of the interstate in Wentzville, IL
Paul Bunyan Muffler Man just off of the interstate in Wentzville, MO

If you are really interested in Muffler Men and Uniroyal Gals and their variations, you MUST see Roadside America’s Muffler Man Page.  It is chock full of info, history and even a location map of these big guys and gals.

Sumoflam and Muffler Man in Wentzville, MO
Sumoflam and Muffler Man in Wentzville, MO

I have seen many of these guys in my travels and you’ll run across them in my blogs.  (HERE are some in Texas; a Uniroyal gal in Idaho; a Native American Muffler Man in Bemidji, MN; a Big John in Metropolis, IL; another Big John in Great Falls, MT and there are more.)

Approach to St. Louis, MO - heavy traffic!
Approach to St. Louis, MO – heavy traffic!

On the way into St. Louis I got slowed down considerably by heavy late afternoon traffic.  I was really glad when I finally go to Cardinals Stadium, which meant I was soon across the river…

Cardinals Stadium and Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Cardinals Stadium and Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

I still had quite a trip as a drove home with the sunset to my back…

Sunset as seen from southern Illinois
Sunset as seen from southern Illinois
And this was the final sunset as seen in my rear view mirror as I finished off my trip
And this was the final sunset as seen in my rear view mirror as I finished off my trip

Finally, the last leg of a trip covering 9 days, 12 states, 4500+ miles and numerous amazing adventures was over with at about 1 AM EST.  Time for a rest….

(877)

A 5 Day Midwest Adventure – Day 3: Hanging around Nebraska City, NE

Old Car - Nebraska City, Nebraska
Old Car – Nebraska City, Nebraska

After two days of hard driving with three children, we were ready for a brief break.  Marissa’s friends live near Nebraska City, so we stayed here for a couple of nights.  After a good night’s rest, I took them over to the Arbor Day Farm so that they could enjoy each others company.  Nebraska City is also the home of Arbor Day, which is a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees. It originated in Nebraska City United States by J. Sterling Morton. The first Arbor Day was held in Nebraska on April 10, 1872.

Arbor Farm Tree House - 50 feet tall
Arbor Day Farm Tree House – 50 feet tall (from arbordayfarm.org)

I didn’t attend the Arbor Day Farm with Marissa and her friends, but would have liked to.  Here are a couple of photos from Marissa’s visit…very kid friendly indeed!! The 260 acre of Arbor Day Farm is full of natural beauty and is also a National Historic Landmark.

Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure - Nebraska City, Nebraska
Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure – Nebraska City, Nebraska
View of the Tree House
View of the Tree House (by Marissa Noe)
Kids at the summit of the Canopy Tree House
Kids at the summit of the Canopy Tree House (by Marissa Noe)
Grandson Landen hangs in a canopy in the tree house
Grandson Landen hangs in a canopy in the tree house (by Marissa Noe)
The kids can climb on old tractors...at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City
The kids can climb on old tractors…at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City (by Marissa Noe)
The kids got all tangled up in this giant spider web at Arbor Day Farm (by Marissa Noe)
The kids got all tangled up in this giant spider web at Arbor Day Farm (by Marissa Noe)

While they spent a couple of hours at the farm, I spent my time driving around and enjoying the nice atmosphere of Nebraska City.  The farm not only has trees, but also fruit bearing trees and lots of flowers.  I snapped a couple of shots before I headed into town.

Apple Trees at Arbor Day Farm
Apple Trees at Arbor Day Farm
A tree full of fresh Jonathan Apples...I was SO tempted to hop out of the car and pull one off.
A tree full of fresh Jonathan Apples…I was SO tempted to hop out of the car and pull one off.
More Apples in Nebraska City
More Apples in Nebraska City
Beautiful Roses
Beautiful Roses

For me, there were actually two interesting highlights of the visit to Nebraska City.  The first was the “Enchanted Arboretum,” which began in the fall of 2012. Professional artists from around the country submitted 12-inch maquettes of suggested designs that were then juried by area arts experts for project inclusion. Of the 55 submissions, only 21 could be chosen. The artists of the winning designs received their blank sculpture along with a materials stipend in January 2013 and set to work on their creations.  This kind of fund raising and art event seems to have become a popular trend in recent years.  I have noted the “Horsemania” event held in my hometown of Lexington, KY in a previous post.  And just a couple of weeks ago Lexington rolled out another one called “Town Branch Bourbon Barrel Project” which features painted bourbon barrels (I will have a post about that in a week or so).  I have seen others, such as painted buffaloes, painted cows (see Cow Parade), Moose in the City (in Toronto), and many more.  I have, on occasion, run into some and have photographed them.

Enchanted Arboretum in Nebraska City, Nebraska
Enchanted Arboretum in Nebraska City, Nebraska

We were very fortunate (the kids saw a few as well) to have seen these as they all went on the auction block on September 28, just about two weeks after our visit on September 11.

Old Style Wall Advertisement in Nebraska City
Old Style Wall Advertisement in Nebraska City

The other delightful surprise for me were the newly painted Old Fashioned product Wall Advertisements that covered the walls of many of the downtown buildings.   Following are a few photos of the Enchanted Arboretum and the Wall Art of Nebraska City….

Painted Tree from Enchanted Arboretum
Painted Tree from Enchanted Arboretum
Enchanted Arboretum - Nebraska City, NE
Spring Awakening in Blue by Eliska Greenspoon
Enchanted Arboretum - Nebraska City, NE
Elementals by Sharon Ohmberger
Missing Trees by Greg Holdren
Missing Trees by Greg Holdren
Why the Crow's Feathers are Black by Sharon Cech
Why the Crow’s Feathers are Black by Sharon Cech
Growth Rings by Sue Kalicki
Growth Rings by Sue Kalicki
Spirits of the Wind by Janelle McKain
Spirits of the Wind by Janelle McKain

By far my favorite is the “Spirits of the Wind”, as seen above.  Very detailed and intricate.  Following is a detail of this nice piece of art….

Detail of Spirits of the Wind
Detail of Spirits of the Wind

I plan on doing another blog post about this kind of art work as seen from my travels.  Hopefully I can include much more.

Green Machine by Corby Renard
Green Machine by Corby Renard

As I mentioned above, I also got a kick out of the numerous wall advertisements painted on buildings in the downtown area.  These works have all been painstakingly recreated and painted by local artist Kent Schwartz thanks to a charitable donation from the Paul John Anton and Doris Wirth Foundation of Nebraska City (which was also one of the organizations providing grant assistance for the Enchanted Arboretum). Most of these are from products in the 1950s-1970s (and maybe earlier).  I remember some of them from when I was younger. Here are some samples

SELX Wall Advertisement - Nebraska City, Nebraska
SELZ Wall Advertisement – Nebraska City, Nebraska
Dr. Prices Baking Powder Wall Advertisement - Nebraska City, NE
Dr. Prices Baking Powder Wall Advertisement – Nebraska City, NE
Morton's Salt Wall Advertisement - Nebraska City, Nebraska
Morton’s Salt Wall Advertisement – Nebraska City, Nebraska
Old-style Coca Cola Wall Advertisement  - Nebraska City, NE
Old-style Coca Cola Wall Advertisement – Nebraska City, NE
Argo Baking Soda wall advertisement being added in Nebraska City, NE
Argo Baking Soda wall advertisement being added in Nebraska City, NE

We visited Nebraska City on September 11 and the town was decked out in flags in remembrance of all those who lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks.  Many small towns across America do the same thing.

Flags hang all along main street in Nebraska City on 9/11
Flags hang all along main street in Nebraska City on 9/11
A Flag frames the top of the courthouse in Nebraska City
A Flag frames the top of the courthouse in Nebraska City
A nice handcrafted flag decorates a house in Nebraska City
A nice handcrafted flag decorates a house in Nebraska City

Nebraska City is also home to the Kregel Windmill Company, which manufactures the famous ELI windmills used on farms across the midwest.

Kregel Windmill Factory Museum
Kregel Windmill Factory Museum

The Kregel Windmill Company operated as a commercial enterprise in the same building in Nebraska City, Nebraska from 1903 to 1991. Even though they have not been mass produced since the early 1940s, Kregel Windmill Company “Eli” brand windmills are still found in service pumping life-giving water for both humans and livestock. They demonstrate clearly how wind power without polluting the environment can serve the needs of humans now and in the future to improve their lives.

Kregel ELI Windmill framed by a flag on 9/11 in Nebraska City, Nebraska
Kregel ELI Windmill framed by a flag on 9/11 in Nebraska City, Nebraska
Small Kregel Windmill
Small Kregel Windmill

Little Nebraska City offered a few other things to see as I drove around the quiet, seemingly All-American town…here are a few more shots:

Downtown Nebraska City
Downtown Nebraska City
Historic Otoe County Courthouse in Nebraska City
Historic Otoe County Courthouse in Nebraska City

The Otoe County Courthouse is currently on the National Registry of Historic Places and is the oldest public building in the state of Nebraska.

Old Neon Sign for Fraternity of Eagles in Nebraska City
Old Neon Sign for Fraternity of Eagles in Nebraska City
Nebraska has its own Duck Dynasty at a local antique shop
Nebraska has its own Duck Dynasty at a local antique shop
Yes, these appear to be antiques as well...
Yes, these appear to be antiques as well…
Many of the Nebraska City streets are paved with brick
Many of the Nebraska City streets are paved with brick
Old Wooden Bridge in Nebraska City
Old Wooden Bridge in Nebraska City
An Old Rock House adorns a corner in Nebraska City
An Old Rock House adorns a corner in Nebraska City

Every town seems to have that one odd house with a collection of junk or perhaps their version of folk art.  I found Nebraska City’s house on one of the neighborhood roads…..

The Junk Collector house - every town has one
The Junk Collector house – every town has one
Reflector Mailbox - bet he doesn't have trouble finding his place at night
Reflector Mailbox – bet he doesn’t have trouble finding his place at night
Rocking Horse Gate - this is really folk art at its best!
Rocking Horse Gate – this is really folk art at its best!

Whenever I travel I am always watching for animals…I found the following “animal” – but I am not sure what to call it….

Man in Wheelbarrow
Man in Wheelbarrow – a real Truper….

Naturally, when I am on the road I am always looking for interesting animal shots as well.  Here I found a red-tail squirrel scampering for nuts….

Scampering Squirrel
Scampering Squirrel
Squirrel with a mouthful
Squirrel with a mouthful
Ready for Storage
Ready for Storage

And how about a couple more shots of Nebraska City

An old bell in someone's yard
An old bell in someone’s yard
Fresh Crabapples
Fresh Crabapples
Gotta add some wood carvings - these from Nebraska City
Gotta add some wood carvings – Welcome to Nebraska City
Honoring Squirrels
Honoring Squirrels
Great Name for a Lawn Care Business - Lawn Order
Great Name for a Lawn Care Business – Lawn Order

I really got a kick out of this sign and their website. Their Motto: Lawn Order – Do Your Lawn Justice!

Curious Car in a motel parking lot.  Saw it driving around town later in the day.
Curious Car in a motel parking lot. Saw it driving around town later in the day.
Old Pioneer Theatre in Nebraska City
Old Pioneer Theatre in Nebraska City
Tacos anyone? - A Pink building in the middle of small town America.  Priceless!
Tacos anyone? – A Pink building in the middle of small town America. Priceless!

And perhaps the best thing in town??  How about a park with an old Merry Go Round.  I don’t see these much anymore.  Too many parks are concerned about safety I suppose.  My grandkids and my daughter loved it!!

Merry Go Round in park in Nebraska City, NE
Merry Go Round in park in Nebraska City, NE

(2009)