Friday, April 22, 2011

Almost to Draper, UT

It was a cloudy 37° when we picked up a 32’ gas-powered dark carmel colored Suncruiser on a Ford chassis to deliver to Draper, Utah. The unusual interior contained a U-shaped dinette with cushioned seating. The color scheme Nightingale, Black, Forest with cherry wood cabinets was rich looking, but a little dark. The dash has an actual glove compartment for the passenger. This unit was sold with a buyer waiting for its delivery!

Through to windshield:

  • Thankfully no rain or snow as predicted and no wind!
  • The fields have a “prepared” look. Black & smooth & ready for planting.
  • Two hours south we see green grass and green leaves popping on the branches of the trees.
  • West on I-80 rolling hills with windmills mounted on the peaks, graceful curving green terraces create a pattern on the landscape as we near the Missouri River.
  • Irrigation systems stand in the fields in Nebraska like runners lined up waiting for the “gun” to signal the start of a race.
  • Driving beside the Platte River, which is running bank full, we see flocks of pelicans on the ponds, wild turkeys are feeding with the males strutting their beautiful fan of tail feathers, and baby calves romping in the pastures with the cows.
  • Signs pointing to many museums for us to explore sometime.
  • Nearing the panhandle we see residual snow banks in ditches and edges of fields and on the slopes of the mountains on the horizon left from the blizzard in this area a few days ago.
  • The map of north and western Nebraska in the atlas shows large areas of white with only a few lines (highways). Driving through you see acres and acres of open spaces. I believe it is called the high plains because of the low mountains covered with grass pasture.
  • Into Wyoming the trees outline the river, herds of cattle graze, green fields of winter wheat make a vivid contrast, farm & ranch buildings and occasional large grain elevators beside the river.
  • Some pastures have ribbons of gold/brown hay residue left from big bales of hay being unrolled or chopped for feed during the winter.
  • Oil wells dot the hills. Refineries, electrical plants and wires, storage tanks dot the landscape. A herd of antelope graze.
  • Rocky bluffs and deep grassy canyons.
  • Rows of pine trees planted as windbreaks between the fields.
  • Higher mountains in the distance with snow-covered peaks.
  • Dry land strip farming gives a pattern of alternating green winter wheat fields and brown stalks from last years harvest.
  • Large circles of new green and large circles of old crop brown are formed by the irrigation rigs.
  • We found out from conversation with locals that this area did not get much snow this winter. They are very dry. The green winter wheat fields showed bare spots.

Cheyenne, Wyoming is as far as we go west this trip. Our unit’s alternator quit working so we leave it in “intensive care” at the Ford dealership and head back east on I-80.

Good eats this trip: (thank-you, kids, for the restaurant gift card Christmas gifts!)

  • Egg tarts at the Hong Kong Buffet.
  • Perkins grilled tilapia with a mango shrimp sauce. Was surprised at the “hot” peppers in the sauce.
  • Perkins Benedict specials—The portabella, spinach, tomato, & Swiss cheese was super!
  • Applebee’s sweet desert treat for our anniversary supper—super rich chocolate brownie cake with ice cream.

After driving under it hundreds of times, we stopped at the Great Platte River Road Archway that spans I-80 at Kearney, Nebraska.

It is an “experience” using film, computer graphics, light and sound, life size dioramas, re-enactors and classic cars to depict history spanning 150 years of transportation and communications in the United States. The Mormon Trail, the Oregon Trail, the California Gold Rush Trail, the Pony Express, the Transcontinental Railroad, the Lincoln Highway, Highway 30, Interstate 80 and coast to coast fiber optics all go through Kearney, Nebraska following the Platte River.

Did you know:

  • There is a Conestoga wagon odometer? It is made of wood and measures the distance the wagon has traveled.
  • It cost $500 to travel from Ft. Kearney to California via stagecoach.
  • The Union Pacific was given land to build the transcontinental railroad. After it was built the company sold the land for $2.75 an acre. Emigrants from the east rushed by the hundreds of thousands to purchase land along the railroad. Small towns sprang up. For these ranchers, miners, farmers and merchants the rail road was a lifeline.
  • A letter sent by Pony Express cost from $2.50 to $5.00 depending on weight. From St. Joseph, MO to San Francisco, CA took 10 days. The first stop was at Ft. Kearney, NE.
  • Capt. John Sutter had 48,000 acres of ranch in California that he grazed and farmed. When gold was discovered the miners literally took over his land, killing his herds and digging up his ranch.
  • With the Model T Ford came the dream of a transcontinental highway. In 1913 America dedicated its newest main street—3,389 mile-long Lincoln Highway. One man was quoted, “any old kind of automobile can get from NY to Chicago… But west of Chicago the real trip commences….then we become pioneers.”
I checked their website and found some interesting information on how this museum was constructed. The challenge was how to erect a 1500 ft structure that would cross 308 ft of interstate without stopping traffic. It was built beside the site and lifted over the interstate! It is designed to look like a covered bridge. The exterior is to resemble a Nebraska sunset.

Our last stop on way back to the Prairie was in Des Moines. Needed to hold our newest blessing, our Great-Granddaughter one more time!

Thanks for traveling with us,

Prairie Schooners

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