There are a number of states in the middle of the USA that people call “fly-over” states. In other words, you fly over them on your way to a more interesting state. For me, Nebraska has always been a “drive-through” state. I have driven through it countless times on my way from Colorado to Des Moines, Iowa, where my mom grew up or Wisconsin, where my uncle lives.
Usually, we just get on Interstate 80 and drive straight through the flat, boring state, counting the l_o_n_g hours until we get to our destination (10-12 hours from Denver to Des Moines depending on traffic and stops). So when my 90-year old mom asked if I would take her on what I came to call a nostalgia road trip to Des Moines, I assumed we would do the same thing.
Then I realized there was no need to do that. We could actually spend a little more time and see what there is to see in Nebraska. Knowing Jan McCallum and her sisters take road trips across the US traveling highways and bi-ways, not the interstate, I asked her for suggestions for Nebraska. She sent me some of their Sassy Sister posts. Based on those and some other resources, I planned some stops.
About 3 hours outside of Denver, we stopped in Ogallala, Nebraska, for a piece of pie. Mom got warm cherry pie with ice cream and was very happy. I got pecan, which wasn’t great. Then we drove up to Boot Hill Cemetery, a fascinating place where about 40 cowboys and others are buried. Most were buried with their boots on; their bodies were placed in canvas sacks and lowered into shallow graves that were marked with simple wooden hand-carved headstones. We learned lots of interesting things about Ogallala and its early settlers.
Then we went on to Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse about 20 minutes away. I guess I should have known how it would be decorated, but I was taken aback to walk into a restaurant filled with between 200 and 300 stuffed animal heads (or whole bodies) mounted everywhere. We were seated under a giant elephant head and tusks, which made me sad.
Instead of spending the whole day driving the interstate, we spent part of our time driving on Highway 30, which parallels the interstate and was the east-west road across Nebraska until the interstate was completed in 1974. Highway 30 is also known as the Lincoln Highway and has some fun landmarks along it, like Route 66.
In Gothenburg, one of the towns we passed through, I saw a sign for a Pony Express Station, so we checked it out. It was a cute log cabin that was used as a station for the Pony Express that delivered mail by horse between Missouri and California. The Pony Express was only in existence for 18 months until the telegraph took over.
We ended our day in the lovely Oft’s B&B in Bennington, Nebraska, a suburb of Omaha. The house has been in the owner’s family for 4 generations. Our room was the carriage house, which is filled with family antiques and heirlooms. Breakfast was a delicious omelette with potatoes, toast on homemade bread with 3 kinds of homemade preserves to choose from (I tried them all), and rhubarb crumble with rhubarb from the garden. All the food was made by the husband. He said he learned long ago, “If you can’t be handsome, you’d better be handy.” We were so full from breakfast that we didn’t even stop at the Lithuanian Bakery in Omaha that is famous for its Chocolate Raspberry Napoleon Torte.
I gained a new appreciation for Nebraska and am looking forward to our return journey to Denver when I have even more fun explorations planned. Maybe we’ll even stop for a piece of that torte.