Finally, I got to show my parents that 14-year-old me was right. On the second day of our trip across Nebraska this summer, we woke up at our hotel, mere steps from the place I’d wanted to go when I crossed the state with mom and dad 30 years earlier: Fort Cody Trading Post.

Bison statue in front of the Fort Cody Trading Post, North Platte, Nebraska

This life-sized statue of a bison greets visitors to the Fort Cody Trading Post in North Platte, Nebraska.

Fort Cody has all the things that grab kids’ attention: big, colorful signs, soldiers lined across the stockade wall, a statue of a bear ready to take a bite out of someone at the entrance and a two-headed calf displayed inside.

When I suggested we go there this time (now at age 44, mind you), they reacted with what I’ll call reserved enthusiasm which basically translates to: “We’ll humor you” this time.

Fort Cody Trading Post bear, North Platte, Nebraska

My dad falls “victim” to the bear in front of the Fort Cody Trading Post.

Ann, Meghan and I had gone to the Fort Cody Trading Post the summer before, and had been impressed enough that we wrote this blog post about our experience. Now I got to share a stuffed two-headed calf with my parents — who could ask for anything more?

Two-headed calf, Fort Cody Trading Post, North Platte, Nebraska

See? There really IS a two-headed calf inside the store.

We wandered into the store, my parents surprised (I think) that it was actually a pretty neat place. My mom and Ann found the section of gifts from Nebraska and began Christmas shopping while my dad wandered the store with me, checking out all the little doohickies and odds and ends that pack the display floor. We tinkered with slingshots and the Wyatt Earp rubber band gun.

Fort Cody Trading Post rubber band pistols, North Platte, Nebraska

Never say we didn’t help you find that Wyatt Earp rubber band pistol you didn’t know you needed.

I even got to hold a bullwhip, and while I was tempted, I respected the store’s request that it not be cracked inside.

Fort Cody Trading Post bullwhip, North Platte, Nebraska

My mom pretty much ignored me as I acted like a 14 year-old.

They had all the great things you remember from your childhood–boomerangs, wax bottle candy, Pop Rocks, bicycle license plates and even a Hillbilly 401K Starter. I mean, just look at this stuff!

Fort Cody Trading Post wax bottle candy, North Platte, Nebraska

Remember wax bottle candy? Why did we like these things?

Fort Cody Trading Post items for sale, North Platte, Nebraska

Slingshots, wooden hatchets and wooden knives. What a time to be alive!

Fort Cody Trading Post pop rocks, North Platte, Nebraska

A large selection of pop rocks on the shelves of the extensive vintage candy section of the Fort Cody Trading Post.

Fort Cody Trading Post bicycle license plates, North Platte, Nebraska

They have a huge selection of vanity bicycle license plates to help you pimp your two-wheeled ride at the Fort Cody Trading Post.

Fort Cody Trading Post hillbilly 401K starter kit, North Platte, Nebraska

For only $5.99, you can start a Hillbilly 401K–far less than the management fees for other investments these days.

I asked at the person at the counter what time the miniature Wild West Show ran, and was told every half hour, if they remember to start it.

At the appointed hour, we made our way over to the show, eagerly anticipating seeing the 20,000 hand-carved miniatures come to life. The appointed hour passed and the show sat silent. So I went and asked about it and the nice lady at the counter (now embarrassed from having forgotten it after just having told me they sometimes forget) went to start it up.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in miniature, Fort Cody Trading Post, North Platte, Nebraska

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show is worth watching at the Fort Cody Trading Post.

If you go and watch the miniature Wild West Show, at first you’ll likely think, “Wow, this is it? This is all it does?” while feeling slightly under impressed. But then you’ll begin to reflect that each and every one of the 20,000 (twenty thousand!) figurines was hand carved and the mechanism was built by some guy basically as his hobby.

Fort Cody Trading Post miniature Buffalo Bill, North Platte, Nebraska

Buffalo Bill himself, in miniature. Note the detail in the hand carved figurines, and then remember there are 20,000 of them.

And then you’ll turn around, realizing the sheer size of the thing, and you’ll find yourself quietly impressed, secure in the knowledge there is probably no way you could ever build something like that. And yet here it is, and you get to see it for free. Roadside America at it’s best.

After our 45-minute visit and after the clerks had carefully wrapped all of our purchases, we headed into the big town of North Platte, our sites set on Scout’s Rest Ranch and the Lincoln County Historical Museum.

Scout's Rest Ranch barn, North Platte, Nebraska

The barn at Scout’s Rest Ranch.

We started with a tour of Scout’s Rest Ranch. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (which had up to 1,200 performers at a time and which we had just seen in miniature) was wildly popular and toured all over the United States as well as Europe between 1883 and 1913. The show was also pretty profitable. So, Buffalo Bill built Scout’s Rest Ranch near his home in North Platte — sort of the ultimate “man cave” of his day — a place for when he wanted to get out of town and relax. We followed the self-guided tour through the inside of the home first downstairs, then up, checking out the furniture and his buffalo coat and being a little overwhelmed by the wallpaper that was popular back in the day.

Scout's Rest Ranch bedroom, North Platte, Nebraska

A bedroom in Scout’s Rest Ranch in North Platte.

Scout's Rest Ranch, buffalo coat, North Platte, Nebraska

A buffalo skin coat worn by Buffalo Bill on display at Scout’s Rest Ranch.

We came back down the stairs, through the gift shop and then went outside and over to the barn. Inside, we looked at rows of stalls for horses imagining back to a day when they would have been full, and commenting to each other what the smell must have been like on a hot July day. I even got to try my hand at riding wooden “horse.”

Scout's Rest Ranch barn interior, North Platte, Nebraska

The inside of the barn at Scout’s Rest Ranch. Imagine what it would be like if it were still full of horses.

Scout's Rest Ranch saddle, North Platte, Nebraska

Yee-haw! Steve is an expert rider from way back.

From Scout’s Rest, we drove around the corner to the historical museum. While we enjoyed looking at other displays, we were especially interested in the exhibit on the North Platte Canteen.

Memorabilia from the North Platte Canteen, including this silver coffee pot.

Memorabilia from the North Platte Canteen, including this silver coffee pot.

Early in WWII, the town of North Platte caught wind that a group of Nebraska National Guard soldiers would be stopping at the local train station on December 17, 1941, on their way to be deployed. The town got together, made sandwiches, chicken, pies, cookies and other refreshments as well as gifts to give to their home state heroes when they came through. While they waited for the train to get to the station, they learned that they weren’t Nebraska soldiers, after all, but actually soldiers from Kansas who would be on the train. The folks from North Platte didn’t let that deter them, and when the train stopped, they welcomed the Kansans as their own giving them everything they’d prepared.

This replica of a 1940s kitchen showed the types of dishes and equipment used to make food for the North Platte Canteen.

Realizing how much they’d lifted the morale of the soldiers, they quickly decided they should meet every train that came through town. An organization formed soon thereafter, and the people of North Platte and surrounding communities met every troop train that came through the city for more than five years, from Christmas day, 1941 until April 1, 1946. Over that time they received no government funding for this project — everything was a donated. By the end of the canteen, it had served over 6,000,000 servicemen and women on their way to war. Some of those people have come back to North Platte over the years, and have written their memories of the Canteen in a notebook at the museum.

This notebook was filled with memories and thank-you notes from veterans who had visited the North Platte Canteen.

This notebook was filled with memories and thank-you notes from veterans who had visited the North Platte Canteen.

The museum also has a display of photos of servicemen in uniform. They are from a collection from a lady named Doris Dotson, who owned a local bar (Doris’ Tavern) in North Platte for years.

Doris Dotson played a key role in canteen and this display was in her memory.

Doris Dotson played a key role in canteen and this display was in her memory.

She worked at the canteen, and she never lost the soft spot in her heart for those who serve in the military. At her bar, she offered a free drink to any soldier who would give her a copy of his service picture to hang on the wall. Doris’ Tavern is long gone, but her pictures remain at the historical museum where they are displayed on a rotating basis. Also displayed is a jacket that Doris wore while she worked at the canteen.

Outside the museum, there was an entire village with small houses and buildings from the area, as well as displays from the Union Pacific Railroad.

A Union Pacific caboose is situated in the museum village.

A Union Pacific caboose is situated in the museum village.

A look inside the Union Pacific Brady Island Depot (c.a. 1885).

A look inside the Union Pacific Brady Island Depot (c.a. 1885).

I'd never seen one of these antique water fountains before our visit to the Lincoln County Historical Museum.

I’d never seen one of these antique water fountains before our visit to the Lincoln County Historical Museum.

The shield is from the North Platte Union Pacific Depot and home of the North Platte Canteen.

The shield is from the North Platte Union Pacific Depot and home of the North Platte Canteen.

We’d had a great morning in North Platte, and were now ready to head north, across the Sandhills. Our sights were set on the Nebraska National Forest at Halsey. Fourteen year-old me couldn’t wait to climb the observation tower there.


Up next, we get off the interstate and head north through the Sandhills to Valentine.

  • 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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#postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #ig_italy #visititaly #italian_places #italytrip #italytravel #italy_vacations #foodandwine #italyunfiltered  #Valdobbiandene #bartending #italia365 #goplaces @italyunfiltered @massithedriver @proseccowatch
  • 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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#postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #tuscany #tuscanygram #siena #piazzadelcampo #italyunfiltered #instatuscany #vacation2018 #ig_toscana #ig_siena #igerssiena #goplaces @aroundsiena @italyunfiltered @massithedriver @chianticlassico #chianticlassico
  • 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.