Back to the trail
We left Lincoln this morning and soon found ourselves driving along a road peppered with large agricultural plants like this Monsanto operation. Most were based around silo-like structures, some seemed to be foodstuff-related (Cargill), one was a petfood factory (Eukanuba) another was a bioenergy plant (Abengoa).
It was a while before we found ourselves out into the truly rural landscape then.
Once we were our in the open, the landscape became flatter, though the cornfields went on forever.
Talking point of the morning was these huge irrigation rigs. Just how do they operate? What powers them and how do they get into the corners? Without immediate access to our normal Google resource, we had to work it out for ourselves and then check as soon as we had wifi again! (Are you curious? Here's the answer!)
First stop of the day was the Stuhr Museum.
Billed as the "museum of the Prairie Pioneer" it sounded right up our alley. Once inside however, we realised that it wasn't quite as we'd expected. There was an exhibition in this central building, then a few scattered village buildings from around the turn of the 20th century.
We began with a look around the museum exhibits, each of us finding plenty to interest us. My eyes fell immediately upon this little silk bag with a netted overlay. Upon closer inspection, I thought I had worked out what had been used in the process of making it.
Have you worked it out? Curious, isn't it?
I admired this small sample of free machine embroidery too, created by a sales rep for New Home sewing machines on the most basic, hand operated machine of the 1920s.
We took a look around the outdoor park buildings but were disappointed to find most of them closed up and there was little to see.
There were some beautiful flowers by the car park, which a passing visitor identfied as hollyhocks. Can that be correct? They don't look anything like the hollyhocks I am familiar with, but maybe, these are American Hollyhocks?!
Off we went again, in search of some trail ruts nearby, as noted in our NPS Auto Tour.
But though we spotted this large sign, it wasn't the National Trail marker we were expecting and the photograph in our booklet didn't resemble this at all.
We don't give up on such things easily, so got out the maps and the guidebook again and ran the gauntlet of a loose and rather skittery calf to retrace our steps and look more closely this time.
Surely, the ruts couldn't be in the middle of a cornfield? All the land we were passing was planted with corn and can you see that train on the horizon? I counted 107 wagons, most of them double decked, being pulled by five engines. No sooner had that one passed, than another came along....and another at roughly five minute intervals. A busy line indeed!
Aha! Through the window we spotted a sign we'd overlooked last time around. Time to keep our eyes peeled...
Another marker - but again, not a National Parks one. Hmm...
Whoa!!! My hero put his foot on the brake and we screeched to a halt....then reversed to see what I'd spotted.
No wonder we'd missed it first time around.
We jumped out of the car and waded through the knee high grass to the marker and interpretation boards. It was a beautiful spot and just as in every other of these places, it was peaceful and the air filled with birdsong.
There wasn't really much chance of seeing any ruts under all that long grass but we didn't care. We'd found the marker and come across a really beautiful spot out in the wilds of Nebraska. We stood a while and took it all in.
We were glad we'd persevered!
Back on the trail, with the trains and the silos!
Last stop of the day was Fort Kearny.
Here was another "service station" of the plains, with supplies available and a safe stopping point for the settlers.
A reproduction of the fort had been built and the sites of the former buildings marked out in the parkland.
Here too was a reproduction sod house, built as a smithy and housing a collection of interesting bits and pieces, including this Mormon hand cart, of the style the settlers pushed or pulled over the trail. I had wondered why they had chosen not to use animals to draw their wagons and discovered here that it was all down to the cost: the Mormon travellers simply didn't have the funds available to buy mules or oxen, so had no choice but to pull the carts themselves.
The trail now follows the broad Platte River and so will we for a while.
We are now in Kearney overnight. Not the most attractive place, but hey, the best burger restaurant is just across from our hotel!
More ruts and railroads out on the trail tomorrow. Can't wait!