Hello again, lovers of the open road. You will be glad you joined us today. Nebraska is the first truly heartland state that we have seen on our road trip across America.
Nebraska is the 16th largest state in the Union. It ranks 37th in population, placing it solidly amongst its rural western neighbors. There are wide open spaces everywhere in America’s midsection, and Nebraskans are glad to share some of what makes their wide open spaces special.
Nebraska gained Statehood in 1867, partially as a result of something growing and something else abating. The grazing needs of cattle was a growing concern on the Plains. The incessant wars between white settlers and the Pawnee Tribe came to an end.
Nebraska is bordered by South Dakota to the north, Iowa to the east and Missouri to the southeast. Kansas is to the south, Colorado to the southwest, and Wyoming to the west.
Nebraska’s highest point is 5,424 feet above sea level and near the Colorado line at Panorama Point. Though it is 5,424 feet above sea level the climb is so gradual one doesn’t have a sense of height. The state’s lowest point is 840 feet above sea level at the Missouri River on the Kansas border. The geographic center of Nebraska is located 10 miles northwest of Broken Bow, in Custer County.
There are dual time zones in Nebraska, though both sides recognize Daylight Savings Time. Most of the state is Central time, but the western 1/3 is Mountain time. The break line is between North Platte and Ogallala.
Nebraskans are good talkers. Why would we say something so seemingly off the wall? For its size, there are an incredible number of actors who come from Nebraska. You’ll see.
Nebraska’s capital is found in Lincoln. It’s largest city is Omaha, less than an hour east of Lincoln. Since those are the only cities in the state with populations exceeding 100,000 it becomes obvious that most of Nebraska is pretty unpopulated…just the way these folks like it.
One of the things to like about Nebraska is the prices. According to the Tax Foundation, $100 in the average American state is worth $110.25 in Nebraska.
Top Airports in Nebraska:
Western Nebraska Regional in Scottsbluff greets about 5,000 passengers annually. They are virtually all going to Denver.
Central Nebraska Regional serves about 60,000 passengers a year in the Grand Island area. Dallas is the top destination.
Lincoln Airport sees over 160,000 passengers each year. Chicago and Denver share top destination honors.
Eppley Airfield in Omaha greets over two million passengers each year. Denver is the favorite destination.
Top Movies Filmed in Nebraska:
About Schmidt (2002)
Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Bad Grandpa (2013)
President Gerald R. Ford
Military/Politics: Dick Cheney
Actors: Fred Astaire, Marg Helgenberger, Julie Wilson, Marlon Brando, Robert Taylor, Gabrielle Union, Nick Nolte, Hilary Swank, Swoosie Kurtz, Emily Kinney, Lindsey Shaw, Montgomery Clift, Andrew Rannells, Jorge Garcia, Inga Swenson, James Coburn, Sandy Dennis, Ruth Etting, Henry Fonda, Hoot Gibson, David Janssen, Irish McCallla, and Dorothy McGuire. (Told you.)
Entertainers: Dick Cavett, Jack Gilinsky, Howard Hanson, Jack Johnson (The singer, not the fighter), Daryl Zanuck, Nate Maloley, Amy Heidemann, Elliott Smith, James Valentine, and Paul Williams.
Writer: Mignon Eberhart and Nicholas Sparks.
Athletes: Grover Cleveland Alexander, Alex Gordon, Ted DiBiase, and Max Baer Sr. (The fighter, not the actor.)
Weird and Wonderful Facts About Nebraska:
In 1927, Edwin E. Perkins of Hastings invented Kool-Aid.
The Lied Jungle located in Omaha is the world’s largest indoor rainforest.
The first ever Reuben sandwich was made in Nebraska.
Spam is made in Fremont, Nebraska (probably for those who have never had a good Reuben.)
Nebraska has more miles of river than any other state.
Nebraska is the only state in the Union with a unicameral (one house) legislature.
Nebraska’s Chimney Rock was the most often mentioned landmark in journal entries by travelers on the Oregon Trail.
In Blue Hill, Nebraska, there is a law stating that no female wearing “a hat that would scare a timid person” can be seen eating onions in public. (Now THAT is both weird and wonderful.)
Chevyland USA near Elm Creek, Nebraska is the only museum dedicated to a single line of cars.
Kearney, Nebraska is located exactly halfway between Boston and San Francisco.
Let’s take a Trip Across Nebraska:
Come on! You haven’t lived until you have smelled the scent of a verdant meadow. There are sunsets to be seen and interesting people to meet! It’s Nebraska, friend, and they call it God’s country! We are going to see some exciting places, as well as some important places and interesting historical places about which no one ever told us. Let’s go!
Traveling east to west we will cover 475 miles this trip. It will only take four days.
Starting at the eastern edge of the state in Omaha we begin with an activity in the spirit of the midwest. We’re going to relax, and look around.
Heartland of America Park is our first stop. We are getting an evening start on our trip because the light show on the fountains is a special sight. The park itself is 31 acres in size. We’re going to take a boat ride across its expanse, and spend the night at the Hilton Omaha for $99.
Our first stop the next morning is at one of the important places we mentioned. Boys Town was opened in 1917 by Roman Catholic priest Edward Flanagan as a home for abused and underprivileged boys. It is a town in its own right, open for tours. We will see the important work still being done and visit Fr. Flanagan’s house. There we feel moved and connected to a piece of Omaha history. Boys Town’s only funding is through donations, so we will share some of our bounty.
I’m glad we’re taking this trip in the fall because we’re ready for some football! On home game Saturday’s Memorial Stadium in Lincoln is the third largest city in the state. The fans of the Cornhuskers (known in these parts as “Big Red”) are as passionate about their team as any fan base in the country.
We only made it 67 miles today, but I’m bushed after the game! How about you? Good idea. We will stay at the Country Inn and Suites for $85 a night.
On our trip, we have seen some places for beauty, some for historical significance, and others for a certain quirkiness factor. Trust me, there is some of that still to be seen in Nebraska. Occasionally we stop to see something because the story needs to be told. Does anyone know about the Orphan Trains?
Between 1854 and 1929, more than 100,000 orphaned children were sent, via train, from the urban centers of the east (mostly New York City) all over the country. The idea was that rural Americans would take the children into their homes and treat them as their own.
The Orphan Trains are sometimes remembered charitably as the beginning of the foster care movement. Too often, though, farmers and ranchers wandered among the labeled orphans, selecting them for their strength and ability to perform backbreaking manual labor!
How did we never know about this? Kids abandoned on the streets of the cities and shipped thousands of miles away? It sounds a lot like slave auctions.
Now that we know, we want to see where it all went down. The Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center in North Platte is a sprawling complex that appeals to train lovers of all kinds. Also, since this is where thousands of Orphan Trains came, the sad story can be found here. Astonishing!
I don’t know about you, but that was exhausting. We will stay at the La Quinta Inn and Suites for $95 a night.
Today we want some fun and whimsy. What better place to find whimsy than Carhenge, in the panhandle just outside of Alliance?
Let’s take a minute to explain what is going on here. Carhenge is the ruins of England’s Stonehenge, recreated from old cars embedded into the ground and stacked atop each other.
The artist of this unique car sculpture is Jim Reinders. He experimented with unusual and interesting artistic creations throughout his life. While living in England, he studied the design and purpose of Stonehenge. His desire to copy Stonehenge in physical size and placement came to fruition in the summer of 1987.
Thirty-eight automobiles were placed to assume the same proportions as Stonehenge with the circle measuring approximately 96 feet in diameter. Some autos are upright in pits five feet deep, trunk ends down. Other cars are placed to form the arches and have been welded in place. All are covered with gray spray paint. The honor of depicting the Stonehenge heel stone goes to a 1962 Caddy.
Holy hot rod, Batman, this place is great! It is Stonehenge, but it’s also a tribute to the American car from days of yore. All that…and it is free!
Here in the middle of not much, and in the middle of the country, we find one of the great stops on the cross-country extravaganza! This is why we take these trips, and why we are so glad to have you along.
A neon hotel wouldn’t be the right place to stay at the end of our Nebraska sojourn. A Hilton wouldn’t be in the spirit of Carhenge. We will spend our last night on the road at the Sunset Motel in Alliance, for $60 a night.
We hope you enjoyed Nebraska. We trust you were both entertained and educated.
Next up: The eyes of Texas are upon you!