Ashfall Fossil Beds is located somewhere along Robert Frost’s “Road Not Taken” outside of Royal, Nebraska (population 63).  The truth is the road to this place should be taken.  By everybody.  Ashfall, discovered under a cattle pasture, is unlike anything you’ve ever seen or likely will ever see.

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About 12 million years ago, some prehistoric animals (like barrel-chested rhinoceroses, and three-toed horses) were hanging out, minding their own business when a giant volcano erupted in Idaho and spewed forth about 25 bazillion tons (give or take) of volcanic ash.  The animals (clear over in Nebraska, mind you) had no place to hide, no shelter, and no way to filter this cloud of volcanic ash (which was basically finely powdered glass dust).  They slowly suffocated near a pond–likely the only source of water around.  As they succumbed to the choking thick clouds of ash and died, they fell into the water and were buried in still more ash.  A few corpses were scavenged by some saber-toothed something-or-other, but not many, so the bodies really didn’t move much at all.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you have a budding paleontologist in your family.  Now let’s pretend you don’t.  Now let’s forget all that because you simply MUST go to this place whether you have an interest in paleontology or not.  I truly think I can safely say that there is no where else on Earth where you will find so many complete skeletons of prehistoric animals piled on top of each other that are still on the ground in the EXACT SAME SPOT where they fell and died 12 million years ago.  These are so well preserved that the scientists can even tell what these animals ate the day they died!  The paleontologists here haven’t tried to move much of anything.   Instead, they just built a building right over the top of the fossil beds, protecting the fossils from the elements, and providing a great place for visitors to stand to marvel at the phenomena that is right in front of them.

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Paleontologists are still at work excavating at this site.  If you visit in the summer, you can talk to them and their student interns as they work.  Slowly, delicately (with paint brushes if need be) they remove small layers of ash as they hunt for more fossils. They expect it will be about 25 more years before they are done excavating inside the building.

The Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is well designed, informative, easily accessed by everyone and is just plain cool.  A Nebraska State Parks Daily Use Permit is required for your car, and there is a small admission charge.  Because it is so unique and so fun to visit, it comes in at #5 on this year’s list of Nebraska’s Nicest Nine.

 

  • Sometimes you find things in your own backyard.⁣
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Just up the road from our home in Crete, Nebraska, we found the National Museum of Roller Skating. Our curiosity piqued, we stopped in and took a look around. There we found the world's largest collection of historical roller skates, costumes, and memorabilia. ⁣
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It took us back to our childhood and spending time at the roller skating rink (do kids even skate anymore?). We remembered crossing over on the turns for the first time and bending at the knees for "Downtown" by Petula Clark. So many great memories. ⁣
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Sometimes, we focus so much on getting away that we forget that we have some really interesting places close to home, as well. The next time you feel a hankering to go somewhere, maybe try going down the street. You never know what treasure you might find and what memories it evoke.
  • This was our Valentine’s Day dessert last year. Chef Kurtess Mortensen at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile created this memorable dish he called “Fat Elvis.” It was a chocolate bread pudding, served alongside banana brûlée and caramelized peanuts then topped with marshmallow cream, homemade peanut butter ice cream, and a candied bacon garnish. We are giddy with anticipation to see what he comes up with tonight! We are budgeting our calories accordingly. 😉
  • “Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.”
– Lewis Carroll
  • It's been a long winter. I need to see flowers again! Are you with me?Let's talk about these flowers. ⁣
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We are often asked about our favorite place we've ever visited. While that question is hard to answer, we almost always mention Tallinn, Estonia, as a contender.⁣
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Estonia has an interesting history. Conquered in 1227 by Denmark, it never again enjoyed independence until  1920. That freedom was short lived, however, as the Soviet Union occupied the country in 1940. Finally, in 1991, Estonia regained its independence and has remained free ever since. The country joined NATO in 2004. ⁣
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Visiting Estonia, we could see the remnants of Soviet control. Large block buildings dominate the landscape. They are of Soviet Communist design: utilitarian in nature with no thought given to design. They look just like the buildings you've seen in movies about the Soviet Union. ⁣
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Now free, Estonians have done what they can to erase the gray days of Soviet control. The Soviet-style buildings are painted bright colors, and flowers abound in the streets. The people are warm, cheerful, friendly, and welcoming. ⁣
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Yes, Estonia is a wonderful country, and we can't wait to return.
  • Each year from late February to early April, hundreds of thousands of Sandhills Cranes migrate through Nebraska on their way north to their breeding grounds. It's considered one of the greatest spectacles in nature, so thousands of people come to experience this incredible time.⁣
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We traveled to Kearney, Nebraska, one of the best cities for crane viewing, last year. Because the best times to view the cranes is sunrise and sunset, we found ourselves with some free time during the day. It turns out that Kearney has a lot to offer in terms of things to do.⁣
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Scroll across our highlights on Instagram, and you'll find the stories highlights we made during our time there. On our blog (link in bio) you'll also find a post we wrote with ideas for 20 things to do in Kearney while you wait on the cranes. ⁣
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Put crane viewing on your bucket list. It really is one of the most amazing experiences we've ever had in nature. And don't worry about being bored between sunrise and sunset--Kearney has too much to offer.
  • Sometimes, you find great cocktails where you least expect...⁣
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In the Mason City, Iowa, airport, (about halfway between Mason City and Clear Lake) we found a wonderful little restaurant called CAVU-American Kitchen and Coctail Lounge. It's different from any other airport restaurant and bar in the world because it is place so good, the airport becomes the destination.⁣
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While there last fall, we sampled a couple of their specialty cocktails. On the left a refreshing take on a margarita, on the right, a cocktail featuring St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur. Both were fantastic and worth a trip to the airport, even if you're not flying anywhere.
  • Learn how to avoid being labeled "that annoying guy" on a cruise ship in a new post on our blog that Steve wrote this weekend. ⁣
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You should know that 99% of the people we meet on cruises are nice people and fun to be around. However, it seems like there's always that one guy or gal who just gets under your skin. ⁣
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Click on the link to our blog in our bio and see what made of our list of things to do to avoid being "that guy" on a cruise ship. ⁣
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Are there some things we missed? Let us know - we'd love to hear from you.
  • The Sandhill Crane migration will be starting very soon, and @visitkearney, Nebraska, is the perfect place to go to witness this amazing sight. ⁣
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Because the cranes are best viewed at sunrise and sunset, a good cup of coffee is a necessity. ⁣
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During our hosted visit to town last year, we re-caffinated at a couple different coffee shops, including @baristasdailygrind. ⁣
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Ann loved the way her coffee was served, with a barista's kiss--a chocolate covered espresso bean sitting in a little cloud of whipped cream. Talk about a great good morning kiss!

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