Trains humping and other fun things we saw on our trip through central Nebraska

Trains humping and other fun things we saw on our trip through central Nebraska

Day 1 of our Nebraska trip with Steve’s parents began with a stop at The Village Pie Maker in Eustis, Nebraska. After learning the secret to making the best pie ever, we headed north to Cozad where we crossed the 100th Meridian.

The 100th Meridian in Cozad, Nebraska.

The 100th Meridian in Cozad, Nebraska.

Having been on Interstate 80 a thousand times, we opted for the more scenic Highway 30, also known as the Lincoln Highway, as we headed west. Just a few miles down the road, we stopped at Gothenburg, which is home to two Pony Express Stations. We stopped at the Sam Macchette station which is located in Ehmen Park. The station was originally used as a fur trading post/ranch housing along the Oregon Trail before it was used as a Pony Express station in 1860-61.

Pony Express station in Gothenburg, Nebraska.

Pony Express station in Gothenburg, Nebraska.

It was moved to Ehmen Park in 1931 and has been open to the public since 1954. Admission is free. We loved looking around and reading all about the Pony Express and seeing items like the ones that were used by riders who delivered mail.

Inside the Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska.

Inside the Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska.

There were also books and other items for sale, along with some great postcards (we love those) and special Pony Express stamps.

Lots of great postcards at the Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska

Lots of great postcards at the Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska

Of course, we purchased a few postcards, wrote them out, and mailed them from a saddlebag on the door.

Mail bag at the Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska.

Mail bag at the Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska.

After a short visit there, we got back in the van and drove further west to North Platte, where I’d lived right after college when I got my first job as a newspaper reporter at The North Platte Telegraph.

My first job after college was as a reporter for The North Platte Telegraph newspaper.

My first job after college was as a reporter for The North Platte Telegraph newspaper.

I hadn’t been there in years, so we made a quick stop for me to go inside and reminisce with some of the staff there about what newspaper life was like before digital cameras and pagination. (I can still remember the smell of the hot wax we used to paste up the pages.)

Our next stop was one of our favorite Nebraska attractions — the Golden Spike Tower and Visitors Center overlooking Union Pacific Railroad’s Bailey Yard. Steve and I had been there before and we were excited to take Steve’s mom and dad there, as well.

Union Pacific Railroad's Bailey Yard.

Union Pacific Railroad’s Bailey Yard.

We took the elevator to the open-air observation deck at the Golden Spike Tower and walked out into the fresh air to see and hear the hundreds of trains below in the world’s largest railroad classification yard. The massive yard covers more than 2,850 acres and is eight miles long. It handles 12,000 railroad cars every day and services 9,000 locomotives every month.

The beautiful view of the prairie from the top of the Golden Spike Tower at Bailey Yard in North Platte, Nebraska.

The beautiful view of the prairie from the top of the Golden Spike Tower at Bailey Yard in North Platte, Nebraska.

One of the things we love most about visiting Bailey Yard is that there is typically a retired railroad employee who is on site to answer questions and tell you about his experiences on the rail road. Check out this video below of the trains “humping” at Bailey Yard.

We spent more than an hour watching the trains and learning about the railroad before perusing the gift shop and purchasing (of course) a couple postcards.

The gift shop at the Golden Spike Tower in North Platte, Nebraska.

The gift shop at the Golden Spike Tower in North Platte, Nebraska.

The gift shop at the Golden Spike Tower in North Platte, Nebraska.

The gift shop at the Golden Spike Tower in North Platte, Nebraska.

The gift shop at the Golden Spike Tower in North Platte, Nebraska.

The gift shop at the Golden Spike Tower in North Platte, Nebraska.

We checked into our hotel before dinner. Most of the time when we’re in North Platte, we stay at the Hampton Inn near the interstate. It is seriously one of the very best Hilton properties we’ve ever seen. The staff is super friendly and helpful, the rooms are extra clean, and you will not meet nicer ladies than the ones who work in the breakfast area there.

At the recommendation of the hotel desk clerk, we decided to try a new restaurant for dinner and were not disappointed! Mallory’s offered several options for seating, inside the Irish pub bar, outside on a patio, or inside in a coffee shop space. We all enjoyed our dinners and adult beverages there.

Mallory's in North Platte, Nebraska.

Mallory’s in North Platte, Nebraska.

After supper, we relaxed with a nice drive through a local favorite, Cody Park, where we took time to watch the geese, peacocks and other wildlife. The park also has an iconic carousel, lion’s mouth water fountain (do you remember one from your childhood?), and an ice cream stand that serves up special treats.

The carousel at Cody Park in North Platte, Nebraska.

The carousel at Cody Park in North Platte, Nebraska.

Ice cream stand in Cody Park in North Platte, Nebraska.

Ice cream stand in Cody Park in North Platte, Nebraska.

Knowing that there was lots more to see and do in North Platte, we called it day, and planning to continue our exploration of this western railroad town in the morning.


Next up: What we found at Fort Cody Trading Post, our look inside Scout’s Rest Ranch, and what we learned about the North Platte Canteen. 

On the road again

On the road again

When I decided to leave my full-time job as a middle school principal this spring, one of the things Ann and I wanted to do in this interim stage was spend more time with our families. For years, our jobs have dictated when we could travel and how much time we could spend each year with the people we love most.

So, as my colleagues are returning to their offices at school and attending a three-day conference for administrators, we thought it would be nice to take a short road trip vacation with my parents, John and Gayle Teget.

My folks live in Iowa part of the year, but spend the cold winter months in warm and sunny Florida. We don’t get to see them as often as I’d like, so we’re really looking forward to this week’s travels.

As Ann and I have traveled our home state of Nebraska, several towns and attractions have sounded appealing to my mom and dad and we’re excited to have the opportunity to take them to some of those places this summer.

We’re planning stops at Bailey Yard in North Platte, the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey, and Smith Falls near Valentine. We’ll be giving my parents their first view of the incredible Nebraska Sandhills and seeing a few things that are new to us, as well.

We’ll plan to post some updates on our social media pages and will write more complete blog posts about our adventures when we return. We hope you’ll come along for the ride and when you have the opportunities, you’ll go places, too.

A peek at this year’s new ornaments

A peek at this year’s new ornaments

For the past several years, we’ve decorated what we like to call our Christmas travel tree. [We wrote a blog post all about it that you can read HERE.] We had lots of help decorating for Christmas this year. Our daughter, Meghan, was home and we invited a couple local college students over. We also had the privilege of hosting Elodie, a young woman from France who we met on our cruise last summer.

Each year, typically Thanksgiving weekend, we empty our postcard jar and select a few postcards that best represent our year in travel and they go right onto the tree. We also hang new ornaments purchased from places we visited that year. It’s always fun to find and unpack the ornaments and reminisce about all of the wonderful things we were able to see and do each year. Here’s what’s new to the tree in 2016.

Ornament from Russia

We purchased this ornament in St. Petersburg, Russia, this summer. It was our first, and quite possibly our last visit to this former Soviet city. While we enjoyed seeing iconic places like Peterhof and the Hermitage Museum, there was much about St. Petersburg that still represented very dark times for the people there. As a side note, when we get new ornaments for the tree, if they don’t already have a year on them, I usually try to add it with a Sharpie permanent marker to help us remember what year we traveled where.

We put lots of new postcards on the tree this year, including two from Stockholm, Sweden. We were in Stockholm this summer while cruising on the Celebrity Eclipse and enjoyed a walking tour of the city, eating Swedish meatballs with pickles and lingonberries, and visiting the Vasa Museum.

 

The Vasa Museum gave us a fascinating look at a salvaged ship that sank in 1628 and spent 333 years on the sea bed. Of course, we had to get a postcard there.

Stonehenge

Seeing Stonehenge in person for the first time was just amazing. It was our first stop after landing in London, England, this summer before embarking on our 14-night cruise through the Baltic Sea. We had both wanted to visit this iconic structure and we joined hundreds of other tourists that day who walked around the enormous stone structures shaking our heads. CLICK HERE for five interesting things we learned about Stonehenge.

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Just three weeks later, we were back in our home state of Nebraska and couldn’t resist a stop at our own iconic replica — Carhenge, near Alliance, Nebraska. This crazy creation in the middle of a field is a Midwest favorite and a must-see when traveling the western end of the state. We wrote a blog post about it that you can read HERE.

Talinn

This beautiful, hand painted ornament was one we found at a small, local shop in one of our favorite places, Tallinn, Estonia. We just loved Tallinn and it’s pastel buildings, colorful markets, and welcoming people.

Bath postcard

When we returned to England at the end of our cruise, we took a few days to explore some more of Great Britain. We took a train to Bath, England, and quickly wished we would have allowed more time in this incredible city. We toured the ancient Roman baths and even had a chance to soak in the thermal waters at the The Gainsborough Bath Spa. It was truly one of the most relaxing, luxurious days we’ve ever had.

Bath Abbey

In Bath, we also visited the Bath Abbey — twice. We stumbled upon it while walking the city streets and were absolutely amazed when we went inside. We’ve been to dozens of churches, cathedrals and abbeys on our travels, but there was something very different about this one. It was SO ACTIVE. There was organ music playing, children singing, and displays throughout that demonstrated the various ongoing ministries of the church. We spent a lot of time here and couldn’t resist purchasing a few books and this ornament from the gift shop before we left.

Bailey Yard

Just two days after returning from our summer vacation in Europe, our daughter, Meghan joined us for a week-long trip across Nebraska. We had a wonderful time exploring towns like Hastings, Grand Island, Scottsbluff, Crawford, Chadron, Valentine, and Norfolk. One of our favorite stops was Bailey Yard in North Platte. It is the largest railroad classification yard in the world and hosts a great display on the North Platte Canteen.

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We picked up this ornament by local artist Beverly Clappsaddle at the Clear Lake Arts Center in Clear Lake, Iowa, this fall. We were on our way back from a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, when our travel blogging friend Sara, from Travel With Sara, mentioned a holiday open house in Clear Lake just as we were about to pass through there. We decided to make an unanticipated stop and were not disappointed.

Nebraska Life

The last postcard we decided to add to the tree this year was one we picked up in Norfolk, Nebraska, this summer. It is from our visit to the Nebraska Life Magazine office and is a great reminder that while we love traveling the world, it is always good to come home to The Good Life.