We’d been on the road for several days, now, and while Valentine marked the turn toward home on our Nebraska adventure with my folks, we were far from done with our trip.

We set out from Valentine, our sights set on the Ashfall Fossil Beds, and made it east of town a whole three blocks before I noticed the low tire pressure light was on. So, I pulled a quick U turn while thanking the Lord we were still within three blocks of a town, and drove back into Valentine. We went straight to the Pit Stall tire shop where they could help us right away.

The van was in the shop within seconds of our arrival

The van was in the shop within seconds of our arrival

About 30 minutes later, and after discovering a teeny-tiny little piece of metal in the tire, we drove back out of Valentine headed east, hoping and praying the repair would hold. (Spoiler alert: it did.)

This tiny piece of metal almost ruined our day.

This tiny piece of metal almost ruined our day.

The drive east from Valentine on Highway 20 is just as beautiful as the drive into Valentine we’d enjoyed a couple of days before. Just know that if you drive through this part of the country you won’t be disappointed in the views and vistas you have. I’m honestly surprised more people don’t come this way.

Prairie grass in the Nebraska Sandhills

Prairie grass in the Nebraska Sandhills east of Valentine

The beautiful Nebraska Sandhills near Valentine, Nebraska.

The beautiful Nebraska Sandhills near Valentine, Nebraska.

Cattle grazing in the Sandhills near Valentine, Nebraska.

Cattle grazing in the Sandhills near Valentine, Nebraska.

Ashfall Fossil Beds is one of our favorite Nebraska parks, and a place we try to go every year. We wrote a more detailed post about the park a couple of years ago, and you can read that HERE. We decided to have our picnic lunch at under a shelter overlooking the beautiful Sandhills at Ashfall before taking the short path down to the excavation site.

What a great place for a picnic lunch at Ashfall Fossil Beds near Royal, Nebraska.

One of the things we love most about Ashfall is that we get to talk to the interns who are actively excavating the site and ask them questions.

An archeology student intern brushes away sediment on the floor of the fossil bed at Ashfall near Royal, Nebraska.

An archeology student intern brushes away sediment on the floor of the fossil bed at Ashfall near Royal, Nebraska.

Each of them can explain what is going on across the whole site. More fun, though, is hearing their enthusiasm as they share their current project and talk about the discoveries they’ve made. We also like that we can see the progress on the excavation from year to year. Last year, for instance, we talked at length to a woman who was very excited about the skull she’d discovered. When we returned this year, that skull was now a part of a very complete 3-toed horse that had been completely covered the year before.

For years, Ann and I have talked about stopping to visit the historic mill in Neligh, though we have never been able to fit it into our schedule. This year we really wanted to make it happen, so we made the 30 minute drive over from Ashfall on our way to Norfolk.

The Neligh Flour Mill Museum

The Neligh Flour Mill Museum

The mill in Neligh is definitely worth a stop. For $3 you get a guided tour and see the machinery from the 1880’s that once made this place run. It is so well preserved that you feel like the guide has only to throw a switch and the whole place will rumble to life. We were invited to see the entire mill from the top floor to the basement, learning all about the milling process along the way.

Inside the Neligh Flour Mill

Inside the Neligh Flour Mill

The mill was directly driven by the Elkhorn River for a time, then converted over to run on hydroelectric power. At that point, they sold excess electricity to the residents of Neligh to power their homes. The flour produced in the mill was sold to nearby residents as well as to people far and wide.

A look inside the Neligh Flour Mill

A look inside the Neligh Flour Mill

From Neligh, we drove on into Norfolk, where we enjoyed a wonderful meal at Black Cow, Fat Pig. Our steaks, salads, and ribs were well prepared, the onion rings we had for an appetizer were delicious, and the service was prompt. This seems to be a popular restaurant with locals, so call ahead.

The onion rings at Black Cow Fat Pig in Norfolk, Nebraska.

The onion rings at Black Cow Fat Pig in Norfolk, Nebraska, are as good as they look.

We awoke the next morning and made our way over to the Elkhorn Valley Museum. We love this museum because it is unlike so many of the other small town museums we’ve visited. Sure, it has lots of historical artifacts like a Square Turn tractor and butter churns.

Square turn tractor at Elkhorn Valley Museum

Square turn tractor at Elkhorn Valley Museum

But it also has more modern “artifacts” like typewriters, VHS players, and floppy disks. Finally, there is a desire to include the people of today through projects like having the children of Norfolk write letters to the museum on how their families came to the community. The museum’s curators understand something that so many don’t: that today’s present is tomorrow’s history and it is their job to document it. The Elkhorn Valley Museum isn’t some dusty museum stuck in the past, it is a thriving museum that embraces the future.

A typewriter on display at the Elkhorn Valley Museum in Norfolk, Nebraska

A typewriter on display at the Elkhorn Valley Museum in Norfolk, Nebraska

The museum also offers a wonderful display on local favorite son, Johnny Carson. There is a mock-up of Johnny’s desk, and you can even pretend you’re on his show.

Cue cards from The Tonight Show

At the museum you’ll also find a very comfortable couch where you can sit, don a pair of headphones, and watch clips from across the history of the “Tonight Show.” The video lasts 2 and a half hours (we’re told). No matter how much of it you watch, you’ll find yourself in stitches as you watch some of the greatest televised comedy in history.

Johnny Carson's costumes from The Tonight Show

Johnny Carson’s costumes from The Tonight Show

We pulled out of Norfolk, and headed toward Crete, the terrain again full of the corn and beans of eastern Nebraska. We enjoyed the final few hours in the car, reminiscing over the things we’d seen and the fun we’d had. I always feel a little sad at the end of a trip, and this was no different. We’d had a great time, and it was coming to an end, but I also knew that I’d carry this trip with me forever.

  • A chic, swanky boutique hotel, located in a renovated Middle School, @hotelgrinnell offers guests comfortable accommodations as well as great food and drink options. With a full auditorium, and a ballroom in the former gym, this hotel is perfect for anything from a weekend getaway to a major event. We had the opportunity to stay in the hotel on a hosted visit, and wrote a blog post about our stay. See the link in our bio.
  • On the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, there is a point where you round a bend and see this view, with the Atlantic Ocean on the left, and the Caribbean Sea on the right. ⁣
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Ann took this photo several years ago when we visited St. Kitts for a day while on a cruise in the Caribbean. ⁣
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We met our friend, Mikey Tross, on the island and with the help of a local driver and guide, we toured the entire island in a day. ⁣
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We climbed to the top of Brimstone Hills, saw the beaches, at at Fredo's (a local restaurant) and toured Caribelle  Batik at Romney Manor. ⁣
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St. Kitts is a beautiful island and the people there are incredibly generous. If you haven't already been there, add St. Kitts to your bucket list.
  • The Grinnell, Iowa, Chamber of Commerce offices are located in a former bank designed by famed architect, Louis Sullivan. The architect built a series of "Jewel Box" banks, called that because they resemble jewel boxes.⁣
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These buildings are intricate in detail and rich in their finishes. The next time you pass near Grinnell, it is definitely worth the stop to step into American architectural history.
  • In downtown Kearney, Nebraska, you'll find @mccuesnebraskataproom, home to all sorts of Nebraska libations. When you visit, you can choose from a large selection of beers, wines, and even liquors all made in Nebraska. It's a fun environment where regulars welcome visitors, and fun is had by all. We look forward to going back one day and know that a visit to McCue's will be a part of our visits to Kearney in the future. ⁣
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@visitnebraska @visitkearney
  • A rite of passage...⁣
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The Swinging Bridge in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, has thrilled residents and visitors alike for decades. When it was originally built in 1929, it was the only way to cross from one side of Bird Creek to the other. Today, there are other bridges, but the beloved swinging bridge still spans the creek and dares folks to cross.⁣
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Long-time residents will tell stories of rieding their bikes across it when they were kids--and it should be noted that back then it didn't have the chain link side guards.⁣
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No visit to Pawhuska is complete until you've tried The Pioneer Woman's chicken fried steak AND crossed the swinging bridge. Go ahead and try...we dare you!⁣
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@TravelOK @VisitTheOsage
  • While looking for a coffee shop in @visitkearney, we stumbled into a really cool store. @elevate.people is a locally owned business specializing in both leather goods and in helping people around the world build better lives for themselves. ⁣
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All of the leather goods for sale here are handmade by people in third world countries. Elevate, it turns out, is a non-profit that gives local artisans small, low interest loans to get started in the leather making business. When loans are repaid, the money is loaned out to another craftsperson so they can get started. Meanwhile, Elevate provides access to a market to sell the goods produced so the worker continues to be supported. They also have an online store.⁣
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We have purchased several items from Elevate, and have loved all of them.⁣
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@visitnebraska
  • After a day of tests and appointments at the Mayo Clinic, this was a perfect place to relax and unwind.⁣
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We were treated to a complimentary stay at the brand new Hilton in downtown @minnesotas_rochester. Located near the Mayo Clinic, it's an incredibly beautiful hotel with nothing but the best amenities and top-notch service. One of our favorite places in the hotel is the hot tub in the pool area. How can it not be? Look at this place. And yes, it's as relaxing as it looks, especially at sunset. ⁣
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The room in this new luxury hotel are just as nice. We enjoyed it so much that we changed our travel plans and booked a second night on our own dime. It's our new go-to hotel in Rochester, Minnesota.⁣
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@minnesotas_rochester @exploreminnesota @hiltonhotels
  • Our hosted food tour in @visitkansascityks began with a bar-b-que spread from several local restaurants. Needless to say, we had to sample a little bit of everything because it was for science. We enjoyed ribs, smoked sausage, brisket, pulled pork, smoked turkey, burnt ends, rice, beans, and even warm potato casserole. ⁣
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If you love bar-b-que, head to KCK. Trust us, you'll love it. Just wear your stretchy pants.

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