On a very rainy Thursday we visited the Strategic Air Command and Space Museum in Ashland, between Lincoln and Omaha. This museum has one of the largest collections of Air Force planes and missiles located in two huge hangars. We have been to two other aircraft/space museums in Seattle and Washington D.C. On both visits I found it challenging to retain all the information about so many planes. This time I decided to just enjoy walking among and below the large aircraft in the hangars. Mark says in this case, “ignorance is bliss.” As a bonus the museum was hosting a car show and it was fun to see the classic cars underneath the aircraft.
One of the museum’s more famous aircraft is the SR-71A, a reconnaissance plane first used in 1966 and one of the world’s fastest at 2,193 MPH. It can fly from London to Los Angeles in 3 hours, 47 minutes. That is my kind of plane as I don’t like flying and like to spend as little time aboard as possible! As a reconnaissance plane, this aircraft carried photographic equipment that could survey 100,000 square miles of the earth’s surface in one hour from a height of 80,000 feet! The first aircraft put on display here, the plane was moved in and then the atrium was built around it.
We checked out a number of historic planes – one used in the bombing of Tokyo, another in the famous Berlin Airlift and one was the type that parashooters jumped out of on Dday. We saw an airplane that was the same type that dropped the atom bombs on Japan. Below is a picture of Mark in front of this plane.
One of my favorite exhibits featured a man from Omaha who served in Band of Brothers, Easy Company during World War II. This miniseries was one of the few war movies I could actually sit through and enjoy since I am not a fan. Another interesting exhibit showed information about a bomber plant built in Omaha for the WWII war effort. Posters encouraged women to come work at the plant and build planes. Perhaps the most unusual display was a sculpture called “The Towers” which consists of 1, 452 neckties hung from a steel wire frame 28 feet tall. The sculpture represents the lives lost in the collapse of the North Tower during the September 11 twin towers attack.
The next day we left Lincoln and drove south toward Kansas for a stop at Arbor Lodge State Historic Park in Nebraska City. In 1872, J. Sterling Morton initiated Arbor Day, the tree planter’s holiday and over 1,000,000 trees were planted in Nebraska. In the Great Plains there were few trees so he encouraged tree planting to beautify the landscape and help the environment. In 1885, Arbor Day became a legal holiday in Nebraska with April 22 chosen to honor Mr. Morton’s birthday. Morton became Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland and served from 1893 – 1897. Today, all 50 states and even some countries celebrate Arbor Day with the date depending on the best time to plant trees.
Arbor Lodge completed in 1902 was the home of the Morton family. I enjoyed walked through this beautiful 52 room mansion furnished with a collection of the family’s belongings. There was even a set of 1890 dinnerware in the dining room featuring a “Plant Trees” design.
As can be expected, the home is surrounded by a forest of trees. There are signs near some of the trees denoting the dates when members of the Morton family planted them. The grounds around the house were so beautiful and peaceful it was a great place to walk and enjoy nature.
Among the crops and orchards Morton planted were apple trees. It was great to visit during the apple harvest time. A tractor pulled wagon ride with a tour guide took us on back roads around the farm so we could see the orchards as well as the forest.
We stopped for some apple picking at the preservation forest which has obscure apple trees, some varieties several hundred years old that are no longer marketed. In the picture below, the apple being picked is called “Winter Banana” and this type of tree originated in 1876 in Indiana.
Arbor Farm has a variety of activities for families including Tree Adventure with a 50 foot treehouse, trails through the forest and even “Trees in the Movies” highlighting trees in Hollywood films. Visitors can even take home a free sapling encased in a protective tube. Encouragement for the public to plant trees continues here.
There is a cafe and market that features apple pie, apple cider and apples. Of course I had to leave with a bag of apples. Apples are one of my favorite fruits and I eat one almost every day!
From Nebraska City we drove on to Topeka Kansas, our first time traveling in this state. It was nice to add a new state to our list! We found our RV park to be spotlessly clean and the sites spacious. The park had one amenity new to us – a storm shelter in the restroom facility. A reminder that in Kansas, shelter from tornadoes is a necessity!
The best BBQ place in the area is located right outside the park’s gates. We timed our arrival perfectly as it was Friday night, the only night of the week that Lonnie’s BBQ is open for dinner. Lonnie’s has limited hours only being open two hours a day for lunch and one night a week for dinner. The location of the restaurant is rather different too because it is more on the outskirts of town and not near other businesses. That was fine with us because we have never had such a great restaurant so close to where we were RVing. We were told that people start lining up awhile before the restaurant opens because he only makes a certain amount and the food goes fast. Mark had the “Q-cup,” one of the specialties that includes a choice of three BBQ meats, beans, cheesy potatoe casserole and cole slaw all piled on top of each other in a big bowl. I ordered ribs and Lonnie himself brought the foil package of smoked ribs out for me to see and asked if they looked all right. They looked great and tasted even better!
Lonnie came out to chat with us and told us that the band Kansas was playing that night and he had tickets he would give us. He went around checking to see if everyone was enjoying the food. As we were finishing eating he came and asked us if we liked spumoni. He said that “it was really good ice cream but really hard to get around here but that he got three gallons from a friend.” He and his serving staff were soon passing out bowls of ice cream to anyone that was left in the restaurant. By that time much of the food had run out so the crowd had thinned considerably. He even offered seconds on ice cream. Lonnie’s friendliness continued as he walked out with us to the gate of the RV park talking on even though he had a restaurant to close for the night.
That night I was happy that our RV park had no trees near the sites. We sat outside and watched clouds float across the full moon. Then later as a storm rolled in we were treated to a terrific thunder and lightning show.
Thanks for spending time with us. Next time I will talk about sightseeing in Topeka.