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.

  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
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Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
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This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
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For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
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Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
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Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
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We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
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Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
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The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.
  • We'd never heard of cannonball rocks before we drove past them at North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and asked each other, "did you see that?" We'd never seen anything quite like these natural "concretions" created when water leaked into pockets of minerals in the ground. Now, as a hill erodes, these formations are exposed.⁣
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Seeing these rocks was such a cool experience because it reminded us of why we travel. We never know when we'll find something new, something that we never knew existed. We got along fine not knowing about cannonball rocks, yet now that we've seen them, our lives are a little richer. ⁣
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The world is a pretty cool place. Check it out.⁣
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@ndlegendary

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