Thursday, April 2, 2009

Kearney Road Trip

We're on our way to Kearney, Nebraska to spend time with my folks and, for the first time, experience the Sandhill Crane migration. Fossil records show that those hooting suckers have been visiting this small section of the Platte River Valley for some 9 million years. Approximately half a million Sandhill Cranes (90% of the worlds population) eat out of the local farm fields along the Platte River before heading home to Canada. It's supposedly their one stop on the way from Mexico, and I bet the locals farmers are happy it's their fields those cranes decided to fertilize. If you can believe it, the cranes fly high enough that commercial airline pilots report seeing them at over 30 thousand feet.

We always pass by Kearney on our way to Colorado, but you might find it hard to believe, we have only stopped there for gas and Abbazabbas. It has some interesting history though. Fort Kearny was a historic outpost of the United States Army founded in 1848. The outpost was located along the Oregon Trail. The fort was a primary source of provisions for emigrants on the early section of the trail until it's abandonment in 1871. As it had been founded along the Platte River to protect emigrants on the trail westward, the fort became an important stop along the eastern part of the trail offering the sale of food, reliable mail service and other amenities. At the height of the pioneer trail use in the 1850s, as many as 2,000 emigrants and 10,000 oxen might pass through in a single day. It was also a sweet place to shoot either indians or buffalos from through the window of a railroad car. Who knew?

Ethan's stoked, he just chowed some animal crackers (note the incriminating evidence on his face). It's a good thing his car-seat strap-protectors are protecting his sweater from chaff. Rope burn on the neck is all the rage these days. Anyway, with that teeth spacing, we also leave the protectors low in case he wants to floss his teeth with the straps.

That's my rad husband, up for any adventure Nebraska has to offer...

The natives are getting restless...luckily, we are only 10 minutes away from our hotel. Ethan is just starting to loose it, which is not bad for being trapped for nearly two hours. Evie is having fun not looking at the camera. Every time I took a picture she turned away and laughed. I have at least five pictures like this...

We waited in the car when Joel went to check in. He surprised us by coming out our room window. The kids thought it was pretty exciting to go in through the window too (and load the bags through the window).

Hey-yo, we're at the Ramada in Kearney. When Ethan was born, Evie graduated from her pack and play to a big hotel bed. Our friends Pete and Sally gave us the pack and play you see in the corner behind Evie (when Evie was born) and I think of them every time we use it. It's one of the few things that is a total necessity when we travel. When we were in Vietnam two years ago we talked about starting a picture book of every place that pack and play has been. I wish I would have done it.
We met my folks after Ethan's nap (Evie felt like a big girl - she got to go swimming while Ethan took his nap). The weather was cold, but not as cold as it's going to get...we're expecting low 20's and snow which equates to good times when you're outside bird watching.

This picture was taken just before Ethan took a big crasher. We were walking along and all of a sudden Ethan was on the ground still holding onto the handlebar (which had separated from the steer tube and the wheel also fell of). W felt so bad for him. He never knew what hit him. There is only a single blot holding the handlebar to the steer tube (under the yellow cap you see) it came loose and the handlebar just fell off. If you have one of these you should make sure your bolt is tight. I wish we would have looked at it closer before putting Ethan on it.

Now that Ethan's ride is broken, he gets to ride on Grandma's shoulders.

Remember my comment about Evie being a big girl who got to go swimming instead of taking a nap??? Well, this is about 5 minutes into our walk and guess who's already roosting for the night?

An old train bridge has become a popular observation deck for watching the Cranes land on the Platte River, just below.

It is as cold and dreary outside as it looks...

Ethan is having fun with Grandma Potter picking up little rocks and putting them through a little hole in the wood. He liked putting his little finger in there too. It was his first time wearing gloves (not mittens) and he wasn't quite sure what to think of them. It was scary letting Ethan walk on the bridge, but of course he was super excited about it. As soon as we picked him up he would struggle to get down. It was so windy that a gust could knock him over and he wanted to walk near the railing which was open enough I could fit through. He's strong minded like his sister...
We had a little time before sunset, so we got off the bridge and let Ethan walk around on the ground. We have to be back on the bridge before sunset as to not disturb the cranes coming in for the night.

Unfortunately the wind was howling under the bridge so Ethan lasted about 3 minutes before heading to the stairs and back on the bridge

We met a local out for an evening jog that informed us that the cranes wouldn't be roosting for another hour. We quickly hightailed it back to the camper to warm up.

Compliments to our chefs - we weren't expecting a steak dinner, but happily enjoyed every last bite.

After filling our bellies and warming up, we drove to the observation bridge to see the cranes roost for the night. It was burly cold out so we didn't stay long. We saw maybe 5,000 birds which was quite impressive, but according to my dad it was not nearly the show they had the night before. We were certainly impressed.

The sunset was quite beautiful. We actually watched the storm roll in. It certainly felt like we were going to get snow as predicted

It is hard to explain the sites and sounds of the cranes and pictures just don't do it justice. I guess that's why people that have seen it say it's a must see. We had the chance to see a deer cross the water and scare about 1,000 cranes -watching them take off overhead all at once was pretty exciting. Check out the video at the end of this post.

Back at the camper...happy and warm.

Grandma had a whole box of little windup toys. Both Ethan and Evie were so entertained by them. She also brought Polly Pockets, Evie's favorite. Grandma's are in a little better condition than Evie's. Evie's look like she drags them around all day, everyday...oh wait, she does.

Well good morning Kearney. We were trying to meet my folks at the crack of dawn to see the cranes take off, but after waking up to a blistering 20 degrees, snow and high winds we decided to let the kids sleep in and meet up with my folks a few hours later.

Driving from the hotel to the park to meet my folks. It was hard to see the road because of the blowing and drifting snow - the sun reflecting on the snow didn't help either.
We dropped the kids off at the camper and made a quick run to the observation bridge to see if by chance the cranes were off to a slow morning like us - but unfortunately they weren't.

The wind is howling so bad you can almost see whitecaps on the water lets get the h*%@# out of here...

Our lonely footprints in the snow. By the looks of it we were the only ones brave enough to venture out in the gusty 20 degree weather, or maybe we were the only ones not smart enough to stay in and stay warm.

Warmth...only minutes away. This is my folks rad camper! They are one of the only people I know that truly use their camper. Nic, yours are the others. I believe my dad said it is 28 years old now. They have certainly put the miles on it....they could probably even give Joel a run for his airline miles.

Ethan was sure happy to see us. We were gone maybe 20 minutes, but by his happy welcome you would have thought we were gone all day. We came back to breakfast burritos too. My folks really made the trip so nice for us.

That dark line is the cranes in the fields fattening up for the day.

I thought the snow dusted fields looked pretty.
We visited the Great Platte River Road Archway Museum, a perfect cold day thing to do. We have wanted to stop on our trips to and from Colorado and the timing has never worked out, so we were excited to finally be able to go.

As we walked in the main entrance, we were greeted by a two story lobby escalator -- the longest in Nebraska. Whoopie! Statues of Lewis and Clark era guides stand along both sides, pointing the way up. The escalator leads through a moving video display of the prairie.

And as you would expect the staff was appropriatly dressed in era clothing, and smelled like rhy mash to boot.

Melodica wind pianos are blown into like a horn while played like a piano and it sounds like a harmonica or an accordion. Evie and Ethan were certainly engaged. I'm not sure if it was the melodica or the way the guy looked. They were both curious about his beard. He was super nice and knowledgable about the musuem.

At this point, we are directly over the highway, facing east. Ethan enjoyed looking out the window watching the vehicles pass by and pushing the button to operate the radar guns.

Not exactly the bustling 405 freeway in California - it's what we like about Nebraska.

Ethan is trying hard to figure out how to open the car door. Not to worry, here comes grandma to the rescue.
Ethan loved going for a ride...thanks grandma.

Evie enjoyed hanging out with Flo at the cafe.

Back outside the museum and into the harsh cold weather. I am just soooo soft. The museum showed people migrating in covered wagons; pregnant women carrying babies and children walking in snow up mountain passes pushing and pulling carts with all their possessions. I have a hard time pushing my luggage through an airport while carrying Ethan and I'm complaing about walking from the museum to my car...I'm soft!

Can you even imagine walking to Oregon, Colorado, California...carrying your baby...and to think they didn't have Nike or Adidas then!

This is what you get for 60 million bucks and a lot of private investors! The Archway’s exterior is designed to resemble a Nebraska sunset. The stainless steel exterior was specifically treated using electricity charged acid to create the yellow, oranges and reds to tie the exterior color to the region. It's worth the stop if you get the chance.

Hi-ho, hi-ho it off to home we go...thanks for a great time mom and dad.

Evie is still waving...

Video of the cranes scattering after being scared by the deer


  1. That looked like a fun (very cold) adventure! Don't you miss the 74 degrees we've been having here ;) Kidding. Your kids are just adorable! Love all the pics and keeping up to date with you guys. Blogs are so much fun. Happy Easter!

  2. How fun...especially with your parents Carrie! I'll have to check that out next time I'm there.