A BIG Day in Nebraska

24 August 2017

Lincoln to Wellfleet, Nebraska, 256 miles

0824 Lincoln to Wellfleet route 256

Map credit: Google Maps 2017, courtesy AAA

Since we had not done good reconnaissance the night before, we had no idea our hotel was adjacent to a lovely greenway/walking trail, so we had opted to try and get our steps in by sightseeing today.  We slept in a teeny bit since we had gotten in so late the night before, but we rolled out and took off for Tina’s Café for breakfast and to see what was so special about her cinnamon rolls.  We had no problem finding Tina’s, and what a treasure it was!  With a NASCAR theme and a couple of funny and friendly servers, we had a blast at breakfast.  Another pair of sisters heard all of our talk of maps and road trips and stopped by our table to investigate.  Our server insisted that we try a cinnamon roll, even though one was more than enough to serve about eight people!  Seriously – it looked like it was baked in an 8×8” pan and it was two stories high, covered in frosting AND our server heated it up and put butter on the top!  Kim ate about 1/16th of it and I ate most of the rest of that half…  And the rest was wrapped up for later…  At this point, I should probably not mention that we had regular breakfast, although I skipped potatoes and bread!  Kim felt the need to try the blueberry pancakes (also a specialty) and said they were delectable.

While munching away, we were looking at our Roadside America app to make sure we didn’t miss anything in Lincoln or along the way when we saw that the National Museum of Roller Skating was on the SAME STREET we were on, albeit about 30 blocks away.  Since Kim’s daughter Kerry did roller derby for a number of years, we were obliged to visit.  It was a real treat – housed in a building with a slate roof and copper gutters, it contains everything you could want to know about roller skating, from roller hockey to roller derby to skate dancing to speed skating and everything in between.  We were greeted at the door by Rhonda, an ex-skater, who told us all about the museum and got our visit started off right. An hour later, we were making our way to the Nebraska State Capitol, which is one of only four skyscraper capitol buildings in the US.  Can you name the other three?  Kim and I have been to two of them on Sassy Sister trips and to the other one separately.

We really enjoyed our quick tour of the Nebraska capitol, since we got to go inside this time.  Last time we were here, on our 2010 trip, we arrived too late to go in.  First, we rode the tiny ancient elevator up to the 14th floor observation deck and looked at Lincoln from above and saw the interior of the dome.  Later, we went down to the main floor and admired the gorgeous mosaics and paintings – there was lots of symbolism (as always, in capitol buildings) and since this is Nebraska’s 150th year of statehood, it was fun to learn more about the state and its capitol.

Of course, it was well after noon before we started west – so much for getting to Scottsbluff today, as we had other stops to make.  In York, we were treated to a water tower painted to look like a hot air balloon, and we stopped in to visit Lee’s Legendary Marble Museum.  Lee himself was kind of legendary – he was wearing one of those visors with the built in wild wigs – think Rod Stewart hair – and his shop was FULL of marbles, antiques, coins, possible collectables, and junk.  After today, Kim and I have determined that Nebraskans do not throw anything away.  Ever.  Somehow we made it out without even making a purchase.

Our next stop was Minden, also known as Nebraska’s Christmas City, and the home of Harold Warp’s Pioneer Village.  I was expecting something like the frontier village we had seen in Jamestown, North Dakota (site of our hilarious stagecoach ride!), or possibly something like Roadside America in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania (one of our very favorite attractions!), but this was neither of those.  This was one man’s ENORMOUS collection of artifacts from Nebraska’s pioneer days until the 1980’s, and it was housed in 26 separate buildings, each with its own theme.  The transportation collections were incredible – from wagon trains to buggies and carriages to horseless carriages to vintage autos to planes (like Orville and Wilbur’s), boats, trolley cars, trains, and more.  Many of the buildings were historic themselves – log cabins, a sod house, a prairie church, a carousel, a train depot, and a land office, for example – and then they were full of accompanying exhibits.  The interesting thing about this collection was that it was really mostly that – a huge collection of items that were categorized and on display, but you could tell that as time went on and more items were added to certain displays, they just kind of got added to the pile.  There was not as much explanation of what the more modern things were or their significance, but the pioneer relics were very well organized and arranged.  Many of the pioneer pieces belonged to Mr. Warp’s parents and grandparents, so there was a lot of family history along with those.  One huge building was devoted to homes and work and had rooms set up as they would have been in different decades – kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms, all full of period pieces.  But it was this buiding which seemed to have become a bit of a repository for things people wanted to be rid of but didn’t want to throw away.  We spent about two hours there and went to almost every building – pretty good, since the lady who greeted us told us most people stay between 4-6 hours!

By the time we left, it was time for us to consider two important questions – where would we find dinner and where would we spend the night.  One of the hazards of taking the road less traveled is that there are not as many choices for either of those things, but you often get really lucky anyway.  A quick look at our apps found us a few choices for dinner, with the best one being nearby but not opening for another 30 minutes (at 5:30) and then a good look at the map told us we weren’t going to get too far before dark, so we opted to call our old friends at the Dancing Leaf Lodge near Wellfleet to see if we could find a bed (or a pallet of deer skins) for the evening.  We were in luck!  We learned that the lodge itself is no longer available for overnight guests, but the cabin was open.  With that decided, we turned the car toward Holdrege and the Speakeasy.

What a find!  Out in the middle of NOWHERE (and I am not kidding!) was a little brick building next to a grain silo.  We entered through a dark, narrow hallway and halfway expected to have to know a password, but happily, we were seated and presented with an incredible looking menu!  Go figure!  Kim had a local beer and I had an Old Fashioned (there are perks to not being the driver) and we scarfed down the warm bread that was served.  We learned about a Nebraska favorite salad dressing called the ‘Dorothy’ (it’s good!) and when our meals arrived they were humongous!  Kim had beef tips over mashed potatoes and I had a pork Osso Bucco style over mashed potatoes and broccolini.  When the server told us dessert was pots de crème, we couldn’t resist, thinking it was chocolate, but we were in for a surprise!  It was a vanilla custard topped with maple syrup and it was heavenly!  Not too sweet or too rich – we scraped the sides of the little Mason jar it was in!

We didn’t linger, except we did get our Nebraska passports stamped and learned about Faceless Fred, the Speakeasy’s ghost, and then we were off to Wellfleet, hoping to arrive before dark.  And we made it!  It was good to see Les and Jan again, and the place looked great.  We settled in for the night and kind of enjoyed not having wifi for a change!  We didn’t make if far today, but we saw plenty of good stuff!  Not only that, we have decided that the Nebraskans we have met along the way could be Southerners – they are so friendly!  Not a glum face all day!

Good to be back at the Dancing Leaf Lodge!

Good to be back at the Dancing Leaf Lodge!

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