Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Nebraska Prairie Museum

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   Many of the early settlers in south central Nebraska were Swedish either coming directly from Sweden or moving west from Illinois. From the exhibits in this museum it looks like they carefully preserved all of their family heirlooms  - so much stuff in such good condition!

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  Another group of immigrants were Germans from the Volga region of Russia. These farm families played an important role during WWII. A large percentage of the men joined the armed forces which left Nebraska with a shortage of farm labor at a time when the crops grown was desperately needed. At the same time England was running out of room to house German prisoners of war. Eventually more than 400,000 German prisoners were interned in the US. Over 12,000 were sent to Nebraska. All of them except Nazi sympathizers were permitted to work for local farmers. Since many of the farm families still spoke German friendships formed that continued even after the prisoners were sent home at the end of the war.

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  Don’t miss the Thomas F. Naegele Gallery in the POW exhibit. Naegele’s mother was Jewish. The family escaped from Germany and emigrated to the US the the late 1930s. Naegele was drafted into the army in 1943 and was assigned the job of  producing a German language newspaper and study materials for POWs at Camp Atlanta which was about 8 miles south of the museum.  He painted a series of very colorful pictures detailing his experiences in the camp.

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   This museum is large with a variety of exhibits so give yourself plenty of time to see it.

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   The ground floor is accessible but the ramp to the entrance door does not have a landing and the door opens outward making it awkward to enter. A balcony display area circles all of the rooms but only one has a working lift. Three buildings that have been relocated to the grounds have ramps. We did not visit them but they appear to be accessible.

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   The parking lot is large enough for any RV.  Museum   40.46193, -99.38013

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Museum of the High Plains

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  Exhibits on the early history of McCall, Nebraska and displays of donated collections makes this a typical small town museum but it has one unusual exhibit. A WWII prisoner of war camp for captured German soldiers was located about 10 miles out of town. The buildings were torn down or sold off at the end of the war but someone saved pictures of camp activities and dreams of home that a prisoner had painted on the walls. They are now nicely framed and hanging in the museum.

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   The museum is accessible with a lift to access the balcony exhibits.

    RVs can be parked on the street by the 1907 Carnegie Library which houses archival material.   Museum  40.20159, -100.62545

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Frenchman WMA

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  Nebraska’s Wildlife Management Areas are open to free, dispersed camping unless they are posted otherwise. As we travel across the state we’re trying to stay at them because they’re usually on the shore of small lakes out in the countryside and are very peaceful and quiet.

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  Frenchman WMA is located just a little more than a mile off of US 6. The dirt road leading in has potholes and gets muddy when wet and some of the roads in the WMA are pretty rough. We drove in as far as the first clearing and parked in a dead end spur. It’s a nice, quiet, treed area with three small lakes nearby. Parking on grass is not permitted so camp spots are limited. A 5 ton weight limit on a bridge makes it unsuitable for large RVs.

WMA  40.35687, -101.09812

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Champion Mill Historical Park

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  Nebraska is a farming state with most of the land sown with grains – corn, wheat, oats, and barley. All of these can be ground into flour so mills were an important addition to a town. 550 were built by the 1890s and almost every town had a mill but the numbers dropped as larger mills with modern equipment and  power sources were built. Today only 45 mill buildings are still standing. Most are ruins but a few are still used to grind flour. Champion Mill is a complete mill although it is no longer in use.

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  The mill park is owned by the county and may be opened for tours on weekends in the summer. We lucked out and a volunteer who was mowing the grass opened the mill and gave us a tour. The mill is used to store milling equipment and it’s kind of a jumble of machinery but it’s still possible to see how it all worked.

  The interior of the mill has steps and uneven flooring so it’s not accessible.

  The parking lot is small but RVs can be parked on the street.

  A campground is located just a short walk away along the mill pond however there isn’t a road so you have to work your way around on the town roads if you want to camp there. The campground has primitive sites and electric hookup sites. Tent camping is free, RV camping is $7.00 and $12.00. We didn’t stay there and didn’t check it out very well.   Mill  40.47037, -101.75123

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Fleming RV Parking

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  Many small towns in the Midwest have free or inexpensive campgrounds. While Colorado isn’t considered a Midwestern state this town is really close to Nebraska so it kind of fits. Some of the campgrounds are wonderful little parks with tables, trees, drinking water, dump stations, and at times electricity. This one is a mixture of good and bad. The parking area is just dirt - no pavement, gravel or treatment to keep the dust down – so if anyone drives through a cloud of dust is raised. It’s also close to the train tracks and we got a wakeup whistle at 6:30 in the morning. On the other hand the community park that is adjacent to it is great with grass, tables, shade trees, a playground, and even a small museum which was closed during our visit.

The parking area is large enough for any RV. Tenting may not be permitted.  Campsite  40.68059, -102.84545

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Overland Trail Museum

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  The museum was a WPA project built in 1936 of native rock and constructed to look like an early trading post. Its been added onto over the years but the first building is still used as the entry area and has displays of Native American artifacts and early pioneer history.  Other areas of the museum hold donated collections of all types of items neatly organized but with little historical information. From what I could glean this area was first settled by families from the deep south looking for a better life after the Civil War and Germans from Russia escaping from a famine and conscription into the army. 

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  Exhibits of recent history are more interesting. One explains the excitement felt when electricity came to the rural communities in the 1930s.

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   A courtyard outside includes a group of relocated and new constructed buildings holding more donated items. All of the machines from the Lawrie Tannery are set up with detailed descriptions of the the tanning process. The Daily Cash Store, owned and operated by Mable Markham for 47 years until her death in1962, was moved to the site in 1992. It had been closed for 30 years with all of the merchandise and furnishings left in place, capturing a moment in time.

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   We were very impressed with the level of accessibility especially since the museum building rambles a bit.  There are ramps, lifts, and doors that must be opened by the staff but almost everything is accessible. One exhibit in the main museum building has a step without a ramp. The courtyard has smooth, paved walkways and the buildings all have ramps. The caboose, depot, farm machinery exhibit, teepee, and gold panning creek are not accessible.

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  The parking lot is too small for RVs but parking is available on the street or in the lot across the street.  Museum  40.61797, -103.18085

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Crow Valley Recreation Area

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  A little oasis of cottonwood trees surrounding a meadow gives campers a choice of shady or sunny sites. The campground has tables, fire rings, and vault toilets. A network of trails wander through the trees and a collection of broken down farm equipment is generously called a museum by the forest service.

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  All of the campsites have tables with extended tops. The ground is hard packed so rolling is pretty easy. Some of the trails are supposed to be accessible but due to rough grass and loose crushed stone most wheelchair users will need assistance.

The sites are large enough for all RVs.  Campground   40.64469, -104.34288

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

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  The garden occupies a wedge of the Lion’s Park. Paved paths wind through theme gardens and historic exhibits. There’s also a small greenhouse and a really nice children’s play area.

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A small lake and large trees make Lion’s Park a popular place for picnics and family gatherings. It has a swimming pool, playgrounds, ball fields, a tennis court, and miniature golf.  A one mile paved path circles the lake.

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  The paths are all paved and accessible.

  The parking lots are large enough for small RVs. Larger RVs can be parked across the spaces or in the Frontier Days Old West Museum lot which is located across Carey Ave. The museum lot is gated and locked when the museum is closed.  Garden  41.15734, -104.83144

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Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum

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  In 1897 when Cheyenne businessmen were looking for a way to promote their little town of 14,000 people they decided that a rodeo would be just the thing to draw people from all around. The first Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo was a full day of horse racing, steer roping and bronc riding with barbeque dinners and dancing in the streets. The rodeo has grown to a 10 day celebration that is attended by nearly 200,000 people.

  The museum covers the history of Frontier Days with memorabilia and exhibits on some of the more well known contestants. A large and varied carriage collection includes many that are used in the Frontier Day parades.

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  The museum is accessible.

  The parking lot is large enough for any RV.  Museum  41.15758, -104.83363

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wyoming State Museum

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  Dinosaurs, Native Americans, pioneers, wildlife, National Parks, the Capitol, and mining are all covered in this small museum. Nothing is explored in depth and the layout which follows a timeline through each decade of the state’s history is confusing.

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  Everything is accessible.

The museum lot is large enough for vans and short RVs. Larger vehicles may be parked on the street in front of the museum.

The Capitol building is a block away. Tours are free but it is undergoing renovation and closed to the public so we did not visit it.

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 Museum  41.13999, -104.818  Capitol  41.13999, -104.82004

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