Under rainy skies we left Iowa and entered Nebraska. We prefer to not travel in the rain but the area really needed it. We reached our campsite at Walnut Creek Lake Recreation Area in the city of Papillion outside of Omaha and set up before the really heavy rain began to fall. It would be the last rain we would see for awhile. It was very hot in Iowa and the heat continued in Nebraska. Papillion was named by French settlers after its beautiful butterflies. Walnut Creek Lake Recreation Area is located on a 150 acre reservoir. They do not accept reservations so we were very glad to find an available spot with a view of the water.
On Thursday we made the short drive into Omaha, population 450,000. Our first stop was the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail – Headquarters located inside the National Park Service’s Midwest Regional Office.
Nearby was the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, completed in 2008 and spanning the Missouri River which Lewis, Clark and the Corps of Discovery navigated over 200 years ago. The neat thing about this bridge is that it is the longest pedestrian bridge to link two states.
When walking across the bridge we started in Nebraska and crossed into Iowa about midway. The 3,000 foot cable stay bridge connects Omaha, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa. Cables suspend the bridge sixty feet above the river and the curved shape symbolizes the meandering Missouri River.
Next we drove downtown to the Pioneer Courage Park with amazing bronze and stainless steel sculptures depicting pioneer families and westward expansion.
Omaha is the home of the College World Series so we drove by TD Ameritrade Park. My hometown University of Virginia baseball team won the World Series here in 2015.
Nearby we visited the President Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens. The house burned to the ground so there is now a nice portico that resembles the West Wing and a rose garden dedicated to Betty Ford. The 38th President was born as Leslie King, Jr. He moved with his mother to Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was adopted by his stepfather and took the name Gerald R. Ford.
Omaha is also the home of Warren Buffet. We rode by his home and office building. His home is surprisingly small for such a wealthy man.
Of course we had to shop at the Nebraska Furniture Mart, the largest home furnishing store in North America. It has 420,000 square feet of retail space spread over 77 acres and several buildings. It was founded in 1937 by Mrs. B who sold a majority interest in the company to Warren Buffet in a handshake deal in 1983. Now you are probably wondering why people who live in an RV would take the time to visit a furniture mart. Besides furniture they also have flooring, appliances and electronics. They also have locations in Iowa, Kansas and Texas. One noticeable thing to us was how quick and helpful the employees were. If you stopped to look at the store map or looked the least bit confused, someone was right there to help you with a friendly smile and cheerful demeanor.
Next we toured the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters which is the location of the Mormons’ main settlement on the Missouri River. Historical exhibits memoralized the hardships the pioneers faced, especially during the winter of 1846-47.
We finished the day at Kenefick Park where we saw “two of the greatest locomotives ever to power Union Pacific Railroad”: the Union Pacific Big Boy #4023 and the Union Pacific Centennial #6900. We climbed sixty steps from the parking lot to where the locomotives sit high on a hilltop visible from the interstate.
On Friday we visited the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and Aerospace Museum in nearby Ashland. It has the largest collection of Cold War aircraft including exhibits of spy planes, fighter jets including a F-101B Voodoo jet fighter, the FB111A Aardvark medium range bomber, the rare XF-85 Goblin fighter escort (one of only two ever built), helicopters, rockets, missiles, spacecraft, a Space Shuttle Atlantis training simulator and other airplanes. SAC was disestablished in 1992. SAC was responsible for control of two of the three components of the U.S. military’s nuclear strike forces.
This Link Aircraft Simulator was the very first simulator used to train pilots.
Bill worked early in his career on a Weapons System Simulator (fighter jet) for this Phantom II jet by McDonnell Douglas.
There is an exhibit on what was discovered about the horrors of World War II.
Two of the most famous planes used for reconnaissance is the U-2 and SR-71.
On Saturday we had a nice dinner with Bill’s cousin Jimmie who lives in Papillion.
Next stop: Lincoln, Nebraska
- Nebraska has nearly 100,000 miles of roads.
- Its nickname is the Cornhusker State and it is celebrating 150 years of statehood in 2017.
- Omaha and Lincoln are the two largest cities.
- Lewis, Clark and the Corps of Discovery navigated the Missouri River on their quest to find the Northwest Passage. They averaged 10-12 miles a day as they moved upriver in a 55 foot long keelboat and two pirogues. They were in the Omaha area in July and August of 1804.
Neat information! I assume you’ll be doing parts of the trails (Oregon, etc) along the Platte (Western Trail Scenic and Historic Byway).. There’s a small museum at Chimney Rock with a huge floor to ceiling window looking out at the rock—-we saw about a 4 ft. long rattlesnake right below the window. Close but he couldn’t get to us. We also stopped at Scotts Bluff. Hope you have time to do that.