This blog started as a way to chronicle the five-week trip Jeff and I took to Lake Tahoe to visit our children. We drove from West Virginia in a small van-style camper, stopping along the way to take in the sights and meet the people.
I have decided to keep this space to write about other places we have visited. Warm summer months will see more posting than in winter because that is when we travel the most. Posting will be sporadic and only when I have visited somewhere to write about.
Slowly the landscape outside our windows changed. We began to climb out of Nebraska
Corn fields were interspersed with hay fields. We continued to climb until we reached Sidney Nebraska.
Sidney is in Cheyenne County, Nebraska, just a few miles north of Colorado and one county away from Wyoming. Sidney is also the Corporate headquarters of Cabela's. The headquarters was accompanied by a store which, like other Cabela's stores was huge. In case you aren't familiar with Cabela's, it is a store to buy anything you might use outdoors, particularly hunting and camping supplies. Most Cabela's have displays of large game animals. I went to one in Wheeling, West Virginia that had a large White-tailed deer exhibit (stuffed - I bet Ole from Ole's Big Game Steakhouse would enjoy the stuffed exhibits at Cabela's) This particular store with the Corporate headquarters were out in the middle of empty cattle country. Probably due to Cabela's there were a couple large chain motels and restaurants in Sidney's which otherwise seemed to be a cattle/farm community.
We passed Sidney by while outside the landscape was turning into cowboy scenery. These were the rock formations form television Westerns. While we were still in Nebraska, It looked more like Wyoming to me.
Only 94 miles to Cheyenne, Wyoming. the wind picked up as we slowly climbed
Irrigation turned barren brown low hills into squares of green.
Hills of rough boulders rose out of golden flat fields. A coyote loped across a drainage ditch. We drove onward.
The wind picked up. Coyote country drew us westward.
Kimball Nebraska is close to forty miles from the Wyoming state line. Here we stopped to change drivers.
As we approached the Wyoming line, we saw more and more oil and gas wells.
I remembered Wyoming is claimed as home for Dick Cheney, the ex Vice President of the United states who, recently, received a new heart
Paxton is an empty town in the middle of oil and cattle country, Nebraska. It is in the Platte River basin. When I looked up where to eat on my Android phone, I saw Ole's Big Game Steakhouse and went to look at its web page. The restaurant looked pretty nice. It wasn't bad, but looks are deceiving.
Yes, it was right about Big Game. Ole's is in the middle of a small empty town but from the looks of the place I expect that it fills up at night when the ranchers and oil riggers. Either Ole or someone in Ole's family did a lot of "hunting" in africa. There are a lot of dead animals on the walls. This one above is a vicious herbivore, I think. Seems a bit like hunting cows. But, I guess I don't know. I've never met one face to face - well, not counting this face.
Alright, I admit this guy is scary. At least before he was killed and put on a restaurant wall. There was also a giraffe (who kills a giraffe?) a polar bear and every other type of animal that could possible be shot dead. It was a bit freaky to me sitting there with these animals looking at me. The food was alright, not bad but not good. There was a beautiful bar at one end of the building. It had a full-length table shuffleboard game. I bet it would be interesting on Friday night to visit the bar and restaurant. Probably, if you have been to Ole's often you don't even notice all those eyes.
This elephant came way out over and beyond a table.
Nebraska really does look like it does in the movies.. We saw groves of Cottonwoods along the Platte River - the kind to which cowboys tide their horses.
But what are those spots in the field?
Omigosh! I think those are cranes!
They are! Those are Sandhill cranes!
They are very well camouflaged Lesser sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis canadensis)
When I left home for our speedy drive across America from West Virginia to Reno Nevada, I hoped to see a Sandhill crane. On our last trip, (in the fall, one and a half years ago) I saw two Sandhill cranes beside a ranch pond near Genoa, Nevada. I didn't realize what I had seen until we were well past the cranes.
I hadn't known it, but Jeff knew that the Platte River in Nebraska was a major stop in the Sandhill crane's spring migration flight.
Once he told me that, I was really hoping to see one. My eyes were peeled.
This trip was one with almost no stops. We stopped to gas-up the truck about every two hundred miles and for meals but not for anything else. Once we came close to the Platte, I said, "I really would like to stop if we happen to see a Sandhill crane."
Ten minutes later I saw what you see in these photographs.
All photographs were taken from our car going about 70 miles per hour.
It is estimated that about 500,000 Sandhill cranes stop along the Platte River in Nebraska.
We saw several thousand.
They tended to be in fields which had been full of corn last summer. They spend their days in these fields getting the calories needed to complete their trip and to find mates. Their nights are spent roosting on the sand hills above the Platte. (ed. As you can see from the comment below from Julie Zickefoose, they actually roost "in" the river. Julie actually knows these things.)
In the fields the cranes search out kernels of corn left behind by the pickers.
Sandhill cranes have flown from Southern United States and must be hungry.
This area is a major stop on their way to the northern United States and southern Canada.
They mate for life and stay with their mate year 'round.
When migrating they migrate along with their offspring.
Their wingspan is about 5.3 feet for females to about 7 feet for males. They weigh 7.4 to 11 pounds respectably. They are beautiful. (I learned that on my own.)
One of the internet bird identifications said that seeing the Sandhill cranes along the Platte River is a once-in-a-lifetime event. I agree. My jaws hurt from Smiling. Thank-you to circumstantial fate.
At Gretna, Nebraska, between Omaha and Lincoln is the Holy Family Shrine. Located beside Interstate 80, the shrine was built by the Catholic Church as a place for pilgrims to have a spiritual experience. Regular masses are held at the shrine and people may schedule special masses. The glass encased shrine sits on a small knoll overlooking the stark Nebraska Prairie.
In front of the shrine is a large crucifix. According to the shrine's web page information HOLY FAMILY SHRINE including the pedestal the shrine stands forty-feet over the prairie. It weighs 2,820 pounds and is welded from stainless steel tubing. Michael Montag made the over eight-foot figure of Christ with a lost wax process. The crucifix, alone, is forty feet, representing the forty days of Lent. I thought it particularly appropriate to have this post during Christian Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter.
My next post will take us along the Platte River to see Sandhill cranes.