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.

  • Have you always wanted to visit @thepioneerwoman lodge in Oklahoma? We’ve got a new blog post today with 12 tips to make your visit spectacular. Our website link is in our bio. And if the lodge is not open for tours when you can come, no worries! There are plenty of great things to see and do when you @visit_the_osage and @pwmercantile I’m Pawhuska. #pawhuska #pioneerwoman #drummondlodge #ranch #postcardjar #reedrummond
  • This is our first spring in Osage County, Oklahoma, and we are in awe of these trees!! It is a red bud and is the state tree of Oklahoma. They are everywhere around here and we love spotting the bright pinkish purple blooms among the green trees. So much beauty in nature. #redbud @visit_the_osage  @travelok
  • Sitting in our hotel room in Venice, we could look out across the busy canal toward St. Mark's cathedral. The fact that it's an island city makes it different from any other city in the world. Water taxis zoomed around, larger vaporettos chugged past, as well. Occaisionally, a cruise ship would glide past our window. Tourists from all over the world came to take in this spectacle, yet to the locals, who drive boats down tight canals with ease, this is what normal life looks like. The world is indeed a large, interesting place. Have you been to Venice? ⁣
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#veniceitaly #postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #italian_places #ig_italy #visititaly #italytrip #venetodigitale #veneto #goplaces
  • Seeing this photo takes us back to the the cooking class we took last summer on the island of Mykonos in Greece. We went to a woman's home, learned about Greek culture and history, and then prepared a meal using fresh ingredients from the garden in her back yard. Suffice it to say, it was one of the most delicious meals we'd ever had. But perhaps even better are the memories of the warm welcome we received as we entered her home and the glimpse into the lives of real people in another part of the world. ⁣
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#postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #celebritycruises #cruising #seastheday #celebrityreflection #endlesssummer #cruise #sea #beyondborders #humansatsea #cruiseaddict #lifeisbetteratsea #lifeisbeautiful #cruiseship #mykonosisland #mykonostown #cookingclass #greekfood #cruiselife #goplaces
  • Trust us on this: there is nothing that relaxes more than kicking back in a hammock in the shade on a beach in the Caribbean. Except maybe leaving that relaxing spot and getting back on a cruise ship for cocktails and a gourmet dinner. What do you do to relax on vacation? ⁣
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 #postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #cruiselife #cruising #beaches #hammock #royalcaribbean #beachfun #relaxationtime #cruiseship #beachlife #instabeaches #goplaces @royalcaribbean
  • Near Valdobbiadene, in the heart of Italy's Prosecco region, is a bar with no bartender. You simply go inside, take the wine or beer you want from the fridge, and leave your money to pay for it in a box. We weren't sure who the owner of this bar is, or even who keeps it stocked. What we do know from the cards and notes they've left is that people from all over the world have come here and respected the honor system. It's amazing how honest folks will be if you just show a little trust. ⁣
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  • Ahhh...the Piazza del Campo in Siena! We absolutely loved our time here, sitting at a sidewalk cafe, sipping delicious Chianti Clasico wine and savoring the some of the best lasagna and pasta carbonara we'd ever had. While there, we noticed a number of people drinking some kind of orange colored drink. Our waiter explained it was a spritz of some sort. We asked if it were good. She shook her head and said that only the Americans seemed to like it. ⁣
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  • This barn at at @Calamus_Outfitters in @visitnebraska serves as a reminder that this really is a working ranch. The Switzer family has poured their hearts and souls into the land. We think it's pretty neat that they're willing to share this piece of the beautiful Nebraska Sandhills with visitors. Have you been to the Nebraska Sandhills? ⁣
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#visitnebraska #HonestlyNE #CalamusOutfitters #barn #Tanking #postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #cabins #agritourism #ranch #ranching #ranchlife #goplaces

Making the most of midlife.