Monday, August 17, 2015

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Day One : Here We Go Again
Day Four : Venturing Fourth
Days 5-6 : Pleading the Fifth
Days 7-8 : Lucky Seven
Days 9-10 : Niner Niner
Day 11 : These Go To Eleven
Days 12-13 : Twelve Monkeys
Day 14 : Two Weeks Notice

Western Nebraska isn't much different, visually, than Wyoming or South Dakota.

The previous night, mom had expressed interest in going to Agate Fossil Beds, saying it was "right next door" to the Robidoux RV Park. Well, the guide she was going by had mislocated Agate by saying it was in Gehring; it was over fifty miles to the north. Still, when I sat down and planned out our day, I figured if we left the RV Park by 7AM, we could do Agate, Scott's Bluff and the two Pony Express Stations easily.

So, we left just before 7, and headed up towards Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. Like Fossil Butte and John Day, it is a post-Jurassic, Miocene era fossil site; no dinosaurs here. The visitor center also includes a rare look at Lakota Sioux artifacts given by Red Cloud and his family to the original ranch owner, James H. Cook.
Cook's "bone barn"

Paleocaster, an ancient burrowing beaver found within the strange daemonelix structures that were originally thought to be fossilized tree roots. We know now that the daemonelix is a fossilized burrow.
Hiking out to the two hills (University and Carnegie) where the bone beds were discovered was out of the question, partly because of mom's knee, but also because we'd been told there were no fossils on display any more due to past vandalism. I did stop by the Daemonelix Trail on the way out of the park, which was about a mile.
Flower along the trail
This daemonelix was over six feet tall
More flowers along the trail
From Agate, we headed back towards Scottsbluff and the National Monument there. In the visitor center, we saw quite a few fossils (especially turtles), and learned that the bluff was named for a fur trader who died there on the Oregon Trail.

A model of a wagon odometer. I didn't get a picture of the full-size thing when we were at the California Trail Interpretive Center.
Along the Oregon Trail

After exploring the visitor center and the Oregon Trail area, we drove up to the summit.

Looking down towards Scottsbluff and Gehring
While there, we were approached by a group of motorcyclists who asked about the RV. It turned out they were also from Maryland, and had been at the Sturgis Rally the previous week. Not only were they from Maryland, but one of the guys was from Glen Burnie, and another was from Frederick. Small world.
We drove past Chimney Rock on our way out of the area, towards I-80, and should have stopped. Mom thought it was just a state historic site, but it turns out that it actually is a National Parks Passport stamping location. Oh well.

Ogallala was where we got back on I-80, and we'd be on the interstate (80 or the linked ones 76 and 70) for most of the rest of our trip. Our last two stops for day fifteen were original-but-relocated Pony Express Stations, one in Gothenburg and one in Cozad. The Gothenburg one is in better condition, and is used as a gift shop. The Cozad one is just an historical stop in the town's park.

Gothenburg Pony Express station
Cozad Pony Express station, the Willow Island stop
The drive to Agate and extended time at Scottsbluff saw my anticipated stop in Council Bluffs not happening. So, we opted to call it a night in Grand Island, which wasn't very far from where the Rallycross Nationals were held. As a result, we did see several westbound rallycrossers on I-80 on Sunday afternoon/evening.
The obligatory "I'm driving I-80 west through Kearney" photo
With two days left, and the itinerary pretty much done, we decided to stop in Lincoln on Monday morning to see what the State Natural History museum at the University's Morrill Hall held. Turns out, it has a ton of fossils, primarily because Nebraska is apparently one gigantic bone bed.
Oh, yeah, Morrill Hall is just outside Memorial Stadium
Four tusker elephants
Equus excelsior
Poor turtles
Smilodon and dire wolf
Bone bed from Agate
Giant tortoise with recreated skin based off the Galapagos tortoise
Pleiosaur head. The entire skeleton was monstrous, and actually in the floor
One part of the fossil exhibit was Highway Paleontology. Like the Vore Buffalo Jump we'd visited earlier in our trip, many fossils in Nebraska are discovered during road construction. Because of that, there is actually a highway paleontology division that is present during road construction in the state.
The road they were found on is indicated

The latest highway paleontology find. This one was over two and a half feet long.
There were also some dinosaur fossils present. Not as many dinosaurs are found in Nebraska as in Utah or Wyoming.
Stegosaurus has a really small head
The museum also had a rocks and minerals display on the third floor, as well as a natives exhibit and an "Exploring Evolution" room. We didn't spend as much time on the non-fossils displays.

Frankly, I'm shocked that I didn't know how awesome this museum is until we visited. All the times I've been in Lincoln for Nationals, plus passing through on trips to Wendover and on the way home from Packwood....
A giant HIV model in the "Exploring Evolution" exhibit
See you.... sometime, Lincoln
From Lincoln, we drove as far as we could so that Toledo and home were doable for Tuesday.
A bed of flowers at an Iowa rest stop. Seemed to be a rest stop for a variety of butterflies as well
This meant our latest stop ever -- 9PM -- in Indiana at the Lakeside RV Resort. The manager was really nice though, and met us at the office and she and her son were really helpful with getting us situated for the night. We even were given a little gift bag (an insulated lunch bag) with cups and hot/cold packs, which was neat.

Toledo was the last point of interest, and we have two places to go. The first was a stop at the Fish Market to see if they had walleye.

The answer was "yes!" and so I bought two large fillets for Pat and we stuck them in the freezer.

Then we headed over to the Toledo Museum of Art. Mom's first experience as we entered wasn't exactly pleasant. An overzealous docent with a lazy eye looked at me and said that there was a "new policy" and "over-the-shoulder bags had to be hand held." And then she kept looking at me, and I put my hands out to the side, saying "What are you talking about? I don't have a bag!" Then she looks at mom and says, "Well, she does." So, mom sighs and moves to secure the bag (actually a convertible fanny pack) around her waist, and the docent says that's not acceptable either. I'm rolling my eyes, mom's ready to just leave, and I grab her bag and say, "Let's just go" to get away from the woman. Meanwhile, others are coming in with shoulder straps and none of the other docents are saying anything. I kind of wanted to hit the restroom, and started that way, when mom is still perturbed by the docent's attitude. Another woman going into the restroom overheard her, stopped and said, "Are you serious?" We both nodded, and the other woman said something to the effect of, "That's bullshit."

We went upstairs and then outside to cross Monroe Street to the Glass Pavilion. Mom took her bag back, slung it over her shoulder, and guess what? The pleasant docent there opened the door for us, remarked on the beautiful weather they were having, and didn't say a word about shoulder straps.

[for the record, the "collection safety" section on the museum's website only mentions "umbrellas, backpacks and other bulky items"]

So, mom calmed down and we perused the glass collections.
Nematocyst, Robert Mickelsen, 1998.
Greek Gods vs. Norse Gods glass chess set, part of the Play Time exhibit
We made our way over to the main building, and again, the docent welcoming us in didn't say a word about mom's bag. We checked out the ancient civilizations gallery, then moved back through the main lobby towards the Claude Monet mom had seen when we came in. The lazy eyed docent was now in the lobby, but we ignored her and I couldn't help but notice she wasn't saying anything to anyone. I have to wonder if someone finally said something to her superior for badgering the guests.

Anyway, we looked through some of the other paintings and finally headed out, as we needed to be on the road really by 12:30 to be home at a reasonable time. I had kind of wanted to see some of the interactive Play Time installations, but I was started to become annoyed by children who were allowed to run (literally run) around in the regular galleries, so it wasn't worth the irritation. I can't imagine how the guards hadn't already had heart attacks over potential damage to some of the artwork. We saw a small child running through gallery 35, trailing his hand against the wall, moments from trailing his hand across Monet's Water Lilies. As it was, he barely lifted his hand as he ran past the painting, and his mother said nothing. SMH
Animation, Stina K√∂hnke, 2002-2007
Children everywhere in the museum should have been accompanied by an adult, or someone who acted like one
The rest of the trip was thankfully uneventful.
The Allegheny Tunnel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike
We pulled into the driveway at nearly 8PM exactly, and we'd only been there for maybe five minutes when Pat pulled in. As soon as I saw him, I yelled, "Bruce!" and the spaz dog started jumping around in the cab of the Lightning.

It took about an hour to unpack things from the RV and transfer them either into the house or into the Camaro. Of course, it also took me nearly ten minutes just to figure out what I'd done with the keys to the Camaro. I still managed to leave several things behind, but oh well.

Sorting through the post cards I got and starting to put them in an album on Wednesday, it turns out that I came home with 248 cards. I did get an excessive number of post cards of various military planes and jets when I was at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, as well as from the Wendover Historic Airfield. It was still more than I expected.

It was a long journey, but oh, so short. It was sad. It was joyous. It was frustrating. It was awesome.

There were many times that I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I shouldn't be there, that it was dad's place to be in that bed. I dreamed of him several times during the trip. But I was also happy for the time with my mom, to be able to share some of my favorite places with her, as well being able to see things together for the first time.

I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

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