Live Trip Map Day 5: August 19, 2009
Nebraska 2
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This is the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument near Kearney, Nebraska. That's a pretty impressive name and the structure itself, styled like a wooden covered bridge and colored to "resemble a Nebraska sunset" is very impressive. Possibly even more impressive is the fact that the arch was constructed beside Interstate 80 then rolled into place with only eight hours of expressway closure. I was a bit less impressed by what I found inside. The huge hollow tube is filled with life-size dioramas on two floors. You view those on the first floor as you walk south over I-80 then climb some steps or take an elevator to reach the second floor and head back. You do this while wearing earphones playing recordings keyed to each display. You hear excerpts from diaries, bits of speeches, quotes from newspapers, and similar things. The recordings impressed me the most.

While doing this looking and listening, you are directly above a busy expressway. You know this because you saw the building from outside and you rode the long elevator but there is little inside that distinguishes this museum from one built at ground level. The only evidence of the museum's unique location appears near the end of the experience where two small windows provide a view of the road. I don't know what I was expecting. I guess I just figured that someone who went to the expense and trouble of getting a 1500 ton arch over an interstate highway would somehow use that highway. I'll admit that I don't have any ideas myself. Maybe a pair of windows and radar guns are the best that can be done but it seems like there should be more.

I did like the recordings but Del the doorman was truly the highlight of my visit. He's normally a mild mannered sweetheart who greets each visitor and explains the museum layout to them. I only got this glimpse of his more fearsome side when I asked for a picture. He says he hardly ever shoots anybody.

There are reports of renovation efforts at the Cover Wagon souvenir stand and the building next to the wagon does have some new siding. The oxen and wagon have yet to be touched however.

This is possibly the best looking bridge to nowhere you'll see anywhere. It's just east of Overton.

Cozad is rightly proud of their location on the 100th meridian. Some say this is where the west begins. There's a 100th Meridian Museum on Route 66 in Erick, Oklahoma, but I've never seen it open.

After 1886, Scout's Rest is where Buffalo Bill relaxed when not touring. He had it built that year for $3900. I've read that Bill himself never called what he did a show and that the official name of his famous enterprise was "Buffalo Bill's Wild West". Displays in the house seem to support that with the word "show" appearing on many of the explanatory placards but not on any original items. The closest to an exception that I saw, but failed to photograph, was something from his 1908 merger with Pawnee Bill. A single word "show" was at the right side with both "Buffalo Bill's Wild West" and "Pawnee Bill's Far East" angling toward it. As a Darke Countian, I was pleased to see that the gift shop contained almost as many Annie Oakley books as Buffalo Bill books.

Ogallala seems like a place I'd like to come back to. There is clearly more to be seen there. Robert Summers's The Trail Boss seems the perfect accent to the otherwise lonely Boot Hill Cemetery.

I knew about the wagon ruts the sign mentions and even have some coordinates for them. They're probably in the area masked by the sign in the photograph. The road beside the sign might lead to them but the "MINIMUM MAINTENANCE" sign and the condition of the entrance discouraged a drive to take a look. So, since I had been thinking of seeing those ruts for awhile, I headed up the hill on foot. There were no apparent roads or trails leading toward the coordinates I had so, without enough confidence in those coordinates to warrant climbing through barbed wire and walking across an open field, I just took a picture and headed back.

Tonight's bedroom and dining room are about a hundred yards apart in Sidney, Nebraska. Both were more than adequate but neither will be the highlight of the trip. El Palomino looked good but the cars in the lot and the prominent "LOW WEEKLY RATES" prompted me to request a look before registering. I don't do that a lot but I probably do it more than most and I certainly recommend it if there's any question in your mind. The room was kind of tired but clean and so was I, except for that clean part, and actually looked pretty interesting. Check out the paneling and light switch.

I have absolutely no complaints about the meal at Dude's. I guess I was expecting something extraordinary from a Nebraska steak house that's been around for fifty-plus years. Good but not extraordinary. Or maybe I was still kind of bummed about those ruts. I'd definitely return.

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