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. 

Nebraska’s Nicest Nine

Nebraska’s Nicest Nine

A couple years ago, Steve and I took off on a 6-day journey to find out for ourselves if our home state lives up to its then new slogan, “Nebraska Nice.”

We wrote about some of the nicest things we saw — calling them  our 2014 “Nebraska’s Nicest Nine.”  The list was compiled from the places we traveled that summer on our 1,260-mile journey that took us west to North Platte, then off I-80 around Lake McConaughy to Alliance, then to Scottsbluff/Gering, up to Chadron, across Highway 20 to Valentine, and Norfolk, then down through Columbus to home.

These nine are the nicest sites, attractions, and people we found on that particular trip off the beaten path–a place definitely worth going.

Our Nebraska’s Nicest Nine:

#9 – Cody Park –  This unique park in North Platte was filled with a wide variety of animals (including white peacocks), a carousel, ice cream shop, and lots of smiling faces.

#8- Wildflowers and prairie grasses We were stunned (and so were our sinuses) by the incredible displays of purple and gold wildflowers and the prairie grasses throughout the state.

#7 – Chimney Rock and Scottsbluff Monument No list of Nebraska’s best would be complete without these two historic landmarks. They never disappoint.

postcardjar.com#6 – A kiss on the butte – Long and empty roads, rolling Sandhills, and an absence of cell phone coverage brought on the romance, and yes, a kiss on the butte.

#5 – Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park  Sadly, one of the least known attractions in Nebraska. This place is amazing and unlike any other fossil bed site in the world.

#4 – Circle C in Cody Students in this small town (that refuses to die) built a a straw-bale building and now run a supermarket – the first here in more than a decade.

#3 – Neon Bar and Grill – Perfectly seasoned and grilled steaks and excellent service earned this restaraunt a place in our Top 9. The fact that it was (by far) the cleanest restaurant in which we ate on our trip, moved it all the way up to #3.

#2 – Toadstool Geologic Park – There’s nothing like Toadstool anywhere else in Nebraska (or likely the world). It is located 19 miles from Crawford in the far northwest part of the state — but feels like you’re on the moon.

#1 – Innkeeper Jeanne Goetzinger –  We saw a lot of great attractions on our trip. But honestly, nothing compared to the people we met along the way. We found that it is people like Jeanne, that make Nebraska especially “nice.”

Nebraska’s Nicest Honorable Mention:

Concert at Wild West Rodeo Arena in North Platte; Photo by Ann Teget for postcardjar.comFront Street in Ogallala; Golden Spike Tower and visitor center in North Platte; Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron; Higgins Memorial in Columbus; Lake McConaughy; Motel Raine in Valentine; North Platte Hampton Inn; Ole’s Big Game Bar and Grill in Paxton; The Sand Bar and Grill in Norfolk; Smith Falls; Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge near Valentine.

Not so nice? You be the judge. Carhenge. We spent about 15 minutes at this Stonehenge replica made of old cars near Alliance. On our way back to the car, I asked Steve what he thought. He said, “It was everything I imagined and less. Much less.” Personally, I thought it was pretty cool.

What do you think? What are the nicest things you’ve seen in Nebraska or your home state? Let us know in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you.

Nebraska’s Nicest Nine Recap

Nebraska’s Nicest Nine Recap

Earlier this summer, Steve and I took off on a 6-day journey to find out for ourselves if our home state lives up to its new slogan, “Nebraska Nice.”

We wrote about some of the nicest things we saw — calling them  our 2014 “Nebraska’s Nicest Nine.”  The list was compiled from the places we traveled this summer on our 1,260-mile journey that took us west to North Platte, then off I-80 around Lake McConaughy to Alliance, then to Scottsbluff/Gering, up to Chadron, across Highway 20 to Valentine, and Norfolk, then down through Columbus to home.

These nine are the nicest sites, attractions, and people we found on this particular trip off the beaten path–a place definitely worth going.

Our 2014 Nebraska’s Nicest Nine:

#9 – Cody Park –  This unique park in North Platte was filled with a wide variety of animals (including white peacocks), a carousel, ice cream shop, and lots of smiling faces.

#8- Wildflowers and prairie grasses We were stunned (and so were our sinuses) by the incredible displays of purple and gold wildflowers and the prairie grasses throughout the state.

#7 – Chimney Rock and Scottsbluff Monument No list of Nebraska’s best would be complete without these two historic landmarks. They never disappoint.

postcardjar.com#6 – A kiss on the butte – Long and empty roads, rolling Sandhills, and an absence of cell phone coverage brought on the romance, and yes, a kiss on the butte.

#5 – Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park  Sadly, one of the least known attractions in Nebraska. This place is amazing and unlike any other fossil bed site in the world.

#4 – Circle C in Cody Students in this small town (that refuses to die) built a a straw-bale building and now run a supermarket – the first here in more than a decade.

#3 – Neon Bar and Grill – Perfectly seasoned and grilled steaks and excellent service earned this restaraunt a place in our Top 9. The fact that it was (by far) the cleanest restaurant in which we ate on our trip, moved it all the way up to #3.

#2 – Toadstool Geologic Park – There’s nothing like Toadstool anywhere else in Nebraska (or likely the world). It is located 19 miles from Crawford in the far northwest part of the state — but feels like you’re on the moon.

#1 – Innkeeper Jeanne Goetzinger –  We saw a lot of great attractions on our trip. But honestly, nothing compared to the people we met along the way. We found that it is people like Jeanne, that make Nebraska especially “nice.”

 

2014 Nebraska’s Nicest Honorable Mention:

Concert at Wild West Rodeo Arena in North Platte; Photo by Ann Teget for postcardjar.comFront Street in Ogallala; Golden Spike Tower and visitor center in North Platte; Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron; Higgins Memorial in Columbus; Lake McConaughy; Motel Raine in Valentine; North Platte Hampton Inn; Ole’s Big Game Bar and Grill in Paxton; The Sand Bar and Grill in Norfolk; Smith Falls; Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge near Valentine.

Not so nice? You be the judge. Carhenge. We spent about 15 minutes at this Stonehenge replica made of old cars near Alliance. On our way back to the car, I asked Steve what he thought. He said, “It was everything I imagined and less. Much less.” Personally, I thought it was pretty cool.

What do you think? What are the nicest things you’ve seen in Nebraska or your home state? Let us know in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you.

Nebraska’s Nicest #9 – Cody Park

Nebraska’s Nicest #9 – Cody Park

I have to admit, I was pleasantly shocked when I saw Cody Park–I did not expect to find such an amazing park in the middle of North Platte, Nebraska.  In my defense, our visit to Cody Park came early in our Nebraska trip, so I had not yet become accustomed to being impressed with all that Nebraska had to offer.

As we pulled into the park I saw a few amusement park style rides sized for kids.  The rides are permanent residents of the park, and they were running full tilt to the delight of the children there.  Nearby, was a concession stand that offers treats, too!  We then drove around the corner and I saw a large fenced in area with a group of deer relaxing in the shade under a tree.  We drove a bit further, and a couple elk surrounded by Canada geese popped into view.  As I was still taking all this in, I saw yet another area with llamas and peacocks (even one albino peacock!).

If you come to Cody Park, be sure to bring quarters so you can buy corn to feed the various animals.  All are quite tame and seemed unimpressed by the small crowd of people gathered around to feed them.  We had a great time tossing corn through the fence and snapping photos.

We left the animals, headed around the corner and saw a group of people having a picnic by the river.  Some members of the party had taken off their shoes and had waded far out into the impressively shallow Platte River to cool off a bit.  Sadly, we hadn’t packed a picnic lunch that day, but we will someday.

If you find yourself driving across the country and through Nebraska, or if you live in Nebraska and are looking for something to do, plan an overnight in North Platte, and a stop in Cody Park.  This is a great spot and is #9 on our list of Nebraska’s Nicest Nine.