Chimney, Jailhouse, and Courthouse Rocks

If you have lived in Nebraska all of your life you really should be able to say you have visited Chimney Rock.  My parents claim I have been there, yet I have no memory of it and have never seen any pictures of such an event.  Not only is Chimney Rock a really wonderful sight to see, it forces you to think about the Oregon Trail and how damn tough those people must have been.  I honestly do not think I could have managed crossing that desert plain in the heat or snow…especially with a baby in tow.  Let me also mention that everywhere we went there were signs warning us about rattlesnakes.  I was on the lookout the entire time and luckily never spotted one.  We did however spot this cute prairie girl hat in the gift shop!

You cannot get super close to Chimney Rock, unless you are on a horse or willing to hike through rattlesnake alley. Of course, Chuck managed to get closer by going down into a ravine…he managed to avoid any snake attacks.  Our original plan included going on a covered wagon and eating a cookout dinner with the Oregon Trail Wagon Train, but it was going to go until about 8:30 pm and due to the time change Edith had been getting pretty crazy at about 7 pm.  Maybe next time.  Nearby, there was a cemetery with about 20 graves of those who  had lost their lives near Chimney Rock.  Many of the gravestones looked updated.  It was still a bit creepy, especially creepy was a straw doll that had weathered quite a bit in the elements.

About 20 miles from Chimney Rock, are Jailhouse and Courthouse Rocks.  There is a  gravel road that leads up to the rocks, but the closer you get the less you can see due to the climb of the hill.   It was cool to see these rocks, but we also found a very impressive wall of hay in the field.

We stayed that night in Bayard which is about 3 miles from Chimney Rock. You can tell that it used to be a bustling town. There downtown was expansive but very few of the storefronts were filled.  They did have a clean hotel and we managed to find a restaurant to eat at where the staff was very friendly.  Overall I give this portion of the trip a 7 on at 10 point scale!

 

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Carhenge

Welcome to Western Nebraska post number two.  In a little town called Alliance,  you will find a beautiful mystery called Carhenge similar to Stonehenge.  So maybe not really a mystery as Carhenge was built in 1987 as a memorial to the builder’s father.  I don’t think I need to write much. I will let the pictures do the “talking”. Check out those beautiful blue skies!

Lake McConaughy

I feel like there is so much to say about the last couple of days.  We effectively made it across the great state of Nebraska. Driving on the highways we went through so many small towns we missed several photo opportunities.  Motels, grocery stores, auto repair shops all stuck in a time long passed. We even saw a couple of ghost towns. It is hard to imagine how people make a living in these towns without any major corporations, or hospitals around.I assume they are all much more enterprising than i am. I’ll admit that I slept through most of the drive due to the motion sickness pill I took but what I did see was pretty incredible.

Edith taking it all in

On the way we did stop in North Platte for lunch at the Pink Poodle (a Nebraska Passport stop).  It was a darling 50’s themed diner with several burger options.  Edith kept yelling at the ceramic pink poodle that was protecting the entrance.  We also stopped at the Golden Spike tower and checked out the view of some railroads…Brent wanted to go.

Pink Poodle!

North Platte Trains

Lake McConaughy is a bigger than I imagined. It’s bizarre to see such a large body of water in Nebraska and in the middle of what seems to be a desert.  We ventured to the lake and almost got stuck in the sand. Thank god Chuck was there to help push the car. The beaches were beyond scarcely populated, which we assumed was due to it being late August and a weekday. The water was frigid, but the waves were fun.  Edith enjoyed playing in the sand and eating a great deal of it.  We left the lake and decided to go the long way back. We ended up driving all the way around the lake that day and in total it took about an hour- not counting a pit stop at the winery in Lewellen and grocery store in Oshkosh.  According to Brent and Chuck, everyone in Oshkosh says hello to everyone.  Gotta love that small town Nebraska charm.

Beach!

Those are not our sand castles

Sun-bather

Before heading to the beach that day, we spent a couple of hours in Ogallala  and got our Nebraska Passport stamped twice.  We went to the Front Street museum and tried to throw coins into a metal urn. We all missed.  After that we crossed the street to the Petrified Wood Gallery.  There we met a very nice man who told us a lot about the different exhibits on display. I will admit that the prospect of this place didn’t excite me, but it was all really beautiful and amazing to think that it came from a piece of wood. Both places were free so that was a bonus too!

Wild West

Saloon Gals

Behind the stage in the saloon

I don’t remember what this, but it was at the petrified wood gallery

We’ve got some big boots to fill

We stayed at Eagle Canyon in a little cabin. There we swam in a very shallow pool, grilled out, played horseshoes, and sat around a campfire.  Chuck even climbed one of the Sandhills.  Based on our drive around the lake, Eagle Canyon looked like one of the nicest places to stay and the staff was very nice.

Brothers

Charades by the campfire

Cactus…or is it cacti?

Before heading to Carhenge, we went to Paxton, NE and at lunch at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse.  I think the photos will tell the story of one of the most famous restaurants in Nebraska. The founder started Ole’s the day after prohibition ended in 1933. An avid hunter, he decided to mount one of his bucks in the bar.  He then traveled every continent in the world hunting and mounting his “trophies” in the bar.  It was a bit disturbing to know this man hunted giraffes, elephants, and even a baboon. I tried to put it in perspective by remembering that it was a different time back then.

Family photo at Ole’s

African Elephant

RAAAARRRR!

Big Mac, we hope to see you again next summer! Readers, stay tuned for Carhenge, Chimney Rock, Fort Robinson, Toadstool National Park, and more!

The sunsets and stars were beyond amazing

Let’s go to the Races! SORC

The Sandhills Open Road Challenge is coming up this next week, August 9th-11th in Arnold, Nebraska.  I generally do not care about cars or races, but this racing weekend looks pretty amazing and the scenery is dreamy.   This description says it all:

“The Sandhills Open Road Challenge is a 55-mile rally style open road race through the scenic Nebraska Sandhills. Arguably the most demanding event of its kind in America, the SORC offers a daunting series of “S” curves, straights, and 90-degree turns to challenge the most talented of drivers.”

If the Sandhills aren’t enough to drag you there, maybe the burnout contest, barbecue, car show, or street dance will lure you there.   Car lovers should definitely check it out…and then report back to me (I unfortunately will not be able to attend this year). 

As most things on my journey to discover Nebraska I had no idea about this.  I got an email from Nebraska Beer describing a special edition beer can being created for this event. I highly recommend following Nebraska Beer if you live in Nebraska, drink beer, and like to support your local brewers as they post frequently about events and new beers around the state.