Monday, September 30, 2013

Buffalo Bill Cody in North Platte, Ernie Palmquist's Carvings, The State Capitol Building in Lincoln, Nebraska

 I had spotted the Buffalo Bill Trading Post last night, in North Platte, Nebraska, when we were at the Whiskey Creek Grill, and insisted that we go back when it opened this morning.  A trip west is not complete without a stop or two at a trading post!

This one is dedicated to the memory of William Frederick Cody, known as "Buffalo Bill" to most of the world.

 Bill Cody was born in Iowa, but his wild west show was stationed in North Platte.  People came from all over to see it here.  He also took it abroad and traveled the west with it. Randy and I have been to Cody, Wyoming to see the dam named for him, and we've visited his grave on top of Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado.  Everywhere you go in the West, Buffalo Bill Cody is a figure larger than life.  He owned a 4,000 acre ranch in North Platte.

This trading post was more than a store. In the back of the large fort-styled store is an entire room with glass encased areas filled with tiny little figures portraying the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, which had its home in North Platte.

A man named Ernie Palmquist and his wife, of Pennsylvania, carved each and every one of those 20,000 figures from wood.  He created tents, railroads, picnic tents, horses, crowds of people, and Indians dancing war dances, all out of wood. It took over twelve years to complete all of this.

Every thirty minutes of the day, for five minutes each time, the Wild West Show in the back of the trading post comes to life, and the train starts moving, the Indians dance , the picnickers eat, the bronco riders get bucked off, and all the rest of the scenes have something moving.  It was amazing when it started, and I walked from case to case, totally in awe of what this man had created. For the five minutes that the figures came to life, I was a little kid again, excited over something simple but yet not simple.

In the second photo above, even though it's not a good one, I want to show you the overall picture of the enormity of this creation. Look through the first display.  It was dimly lit in there, but you can see many of the little figurines.  Check out the crowd under the big tent in the last one, below.  Each one is a hand-made and hand-painted person! What a great legacy!

The Wild Bill Trading Post was complete with Native American Jewelry and some Chinese-made souvenirs.  One major attraction is the two-headed calf.  Here it is in all its glory. Or should it be, "Here they are in all their glory?"

We drove 300-some miles today, and as we had finished our Iris Johanson audio book, we reached into the box behind the driver, and brought out the next one.  Now we're listening to O is for Outlaw, one of the "alphabet mysteries," by Sue Grafton.  I've never read one of her books, so this is a good way to find out if I like them.  So far so good.   I have to admit that we tried "Learn Spanish in 3 Months," before we got out the mystery.  Randy and I rode along trying to perfect how to speak Spanish for all of fifteen minutes, before we tossed that one back into the box and said, "Later!"
We've also stuffed an imaginary rag into Thelma's mouth, and technically gagged her.  She talked too much. We've replaced her with a man's voice, and named him Sam (for Sam Elliot) until he talks too much and we bring Thelma back. Ya know how you get sick of someone's voice? Four weeks of hearing Thelma say, "Make a U-turn!" and "Recalculating," was enough.
Near Kearney, we saw a sign that declared the city to be "The Sandhill Crane Capital of the World."  I know you won't be surprised that we didn't see a single one.  We also read that there are over 400 species of birds that can be seen there over time.
One thing we did see in Kearney was the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, which is a huge arch that looks like a covered bridge. It arches over the interstate.  We understand that there are  interactive displays telling the history of the Platte River area inside this arch.  We had to drive under it and keep on going today.
We had a picnic lunch at a rest area shortly past Kearney, then drove on to the capital of Nebraska, Lincoln.
We had the tripod out of the car in a flash and tried to take our regular Capitol Building picture, but this capitol building is an odd one!  It's tall like the one in North Dakota, but it has the dome, which I consider a requirement.  So tall and domed was hard to get into one shot, and we even asked a young man to shoot one, but he somehow missed.  Here is my rendition of a composite photo of Randy and me in front of the Capitol Building of Nebraska. The statue on the top of the building is a man sowing seed, named "The Sower."
This may take a bit of imagination on the part of the viewer.....but it's the best I can do without a hard copy and a pair of scissors. You get the idea, anyway.............right?
The inside of the capitol was totally different.  We've noticed that the insides have a flavor of the state they represent, and Nebraska's gets across the idea that there is a Native American heritage and that the state depends on agriculture.  This picture, of the top of the ceiling in the rotunda, was taken as I stood below it and off-center.  That is actually a chandelier hanging there, and it hides the beautiful ceiling if seen from directly below it.  Since the dome is all those floors above this room, there is no light coming through the rotunda ceiling.

My favorite part of the interior of the capitol is a closed door. It was explained that the Nebraska government used to consist of two bodies, but due to cost factors it was reduced to one.  That means they closed off the chambers where the second body used to meet.  Instead of just locking the door, they chose a magnificent piece of artwork depicting the Native American heritage of Nebraska.
Four large paintings surround the rotunda walls.  This one, bright and modern, honors Nebraska's agriculture and farmers.

One last picture, this from the street.  Directly in front of the capitol building is a statue of Abraham Lincoln.  His Gettysburg Address is etched into the wall behind him.

Tonight we are settled into a Comfort Inn on the west side of Omaha, Nebraska.  We stopped here because we didn't want to deal with the casinos and casino motels over the Iowa state line.  Our hotel clerk told us that Guy Fieri, of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, on the Food Network, had done a segment at the sports bar next to our motel.  We went.  We ate.  I don't think Guy had the salad that I tried to eat.   'Nuff said.
Tomorrow we will go on to Iowa, birthplace of my father.  We won't be visiting his hometown this trip, though.  We've done that before............twice.   Instead, we are working our way home!
Copyright: KP Gillenwater 2013


Rawlins and Cheyenne, Wyoming; The Lincoln Monument on the Lincoln Highway, Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming's State Capital and Depot Plaza

As I write the title for this post, I am totally amazed at all the things we saw today and we drove for 380 miles!  You know that's a lot for us. We are on the way home, and we're anxious to get there, I think, although ending this extended roaming adventure will be hard to do.

We woke in Rawlins, Wyoming, and drove back across the city to see the Federal Prison where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were held back in the day.

 The funny thing is that we realized, once we got there, that we'd already been there together.  We remember having a picnic lunch in front of the prison that time.  It was closed today, so we looked it over and shot a picture. I include the prison information sign, also.

(I am mildly concerned that we'd both forgotten the first visit until we got there today....)  But think of the potential for future travel, if you will...........we could see the entire country a second time, and it would all be "new" to us!

 We drove the rest of the route through southern Wyoming through the Medicine Bow National Forest.  We could see Medicine Bow Mountain in the distance for a very long while.  The town itself is some distance south of Interstate 80.
There is only one monument dedicated to Abraham Lincoln on the entire Lincoln Highway.  It was actually built in 1959. That is pretty sad, considering you could technically drive from Times Square to the Golden Gate Bridge, which is 3,389 miles, on this highway! 
 The monument is near Laramie, and can be seen from the highway itself, but we got off to visit it up closely.  The bust of Lincoln is 13.5 ft. tall and it sits atop a pedestal that is 35 ft. tall, for a total of 48.5 ft high.  Abe is looking at all the traffic going by!  The small museum and the rest area there are both lovely facilities.  Visitors can view movies about all the Wyoming State Parks right there.  We went through the free museum, then had lunch in their picnic area.


 I don't seem to be able to upload my statue photo, so look at the image of it on the sign, above. One below was taken from inside the museum.  You can tell we had a good time in the museum.....

We drove on to Cheyenne, the capital city of the state of Wyoming, and you know that means we had to visit the Wyoming Capitol Building!  It has a great golden dome.  The capitol was closed today since it's Sunday.

We are not standing together, because I couldn't run that far in ten seconds.........
Cheyenne has recently renovated the old depot in the downtown area.  It is just lovely, so clean and fresh.  A museum  and a gift shop are inside.  A large area which would have been the actual station and waiting room holds events.  There is now a very large plaza area that covers the block in front of the depot, and it has picnic tables.
Apparently there are festivals and concerts on the plaza.  Large, artistic boots decorate the front door of the depot and the plaza.
There is also a statue of a traveling woman at the front door of the depot. (If you remember the statue of the man with his baggage in front of the old depot in Tacoma, you may see a continuing theme............)  This woman has arrived, dressed in her traveling clothes, with her suitcase.  Why a woman before a Wyoming depot?  Wyoming was the first state to allow women to vote, so that's a natural!
We left Cheyenne, and finished the drive across southern Wyoming. I add this map from a sign at the Lincoln Museum, to help give you a mental picture of our whereabouts.
We crossed over the Nebraska State Line at about 3:30 this afternoon.  You know the routine!
Now, I'd really love to get excited about Nebraska, and I just might yet.  There has been some interesting scenery so's an idea of that:

The clouds have been beautiful in Nebraska.  There is much farmland here, as you can see.  It may take us a few days to get used to leaving the mountains behind.  Thinking positively, however...........
We arrived in North Platte, Nebraska as dusk was coming on.  We have also lost another hour due  the time zone line we crossed over near here.  We are in the Comfort Inn in North Platte, and had a fantastic steak dinner at a place called Whiskey Creek.  This is beef country.
Right next to our motel is a very lovely Veteran's Memorial, which we investigated before we checked in.  All of the United States Military Services are honored at this memorial.  It was lit up when we saw it, and it is truly a work of love in this community.
Tomorrow we need to make some miles and find some specialness in Nebraska!
Copyright:  KP Gillenwater 2013



Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fort Bridger, Little America, Rock Spring and The Community Fine Arts Center, Wyoming.........and Antelopes!

We got back on Interstate 80, also known as The Lincoln Highway, before eleven this morning. We just couldn't seem to get going today. The scenery had gotten started without us, though.

We hadn't gone thirty miles before we stopped at The Fort Bridger State Historic Site to see the fort. One of the things that drew us there was a line of tall, straight trees with leaves like aspens. They had beautiful white trunks, like birches.

We took three million pictures of the trees, paid the four dollar entrance fee, and met Lin, an 89 year old man who welcomed us to the fort.  We complimented his pony tail, and he told us it keeps his neck warm in the winter. What a great spirit this man has, and he's still working!

Fort Bridger was established by Jim Bridger and Louis Vasquez in 1843 to be a supply stop along the Oregon Trail.  Bridger is the man who discovered the Great Salt Lake.  The fort was taken over by the Mormons in the 1850's and became a military outpost in 1858. Until 1890 it was government property. In 1933 the property was dedicated as a  Wyoming Historical Landmark and Museum.  There is much information about the fort at

Officers' Headquarters
The first schoolhouse in Wyoming is on the grounds, along with Jim Bridger's fort, officers' quarters which also served as private homes over the years,  parade grounds, and a museum.  There are many other buildings, but some of them were closed, as the summer season is ending this week here.
Those trees, we were told, are an aspen, and the lady who told us that called them "Quikis."  Our tree book, in the glove compartment of our car, named them Quaking Aspen.  We can see where the "Quiki" may have come from.....
.........or not.

Thirty more miles along the road, we stopped at Little America. The town has 56 people. There is one humongous area which includes a hotel, restaurant, auto repair shop, showers, a truck stop, and anything else that a traveler or truck driver might need.  There are four Little America hotels in the west somewhere.

The interesting thing about Little America is that the Sinclair Oil Company opened this hotel in 1934 with only 12 rooms. Now there are 140 rooms. There is a certain "Wall Drug Store" atmosphere with the highway billboards leading up to the exit for Little America. A penguin sits on top of the hotel's corners, as that was their logo when it opened. We had to stop. We bought some postcards and ate lunch in their cafeteria: a bowl of really weak chili for me, and a hot dog for Randy.  Now we can say we've been there.

The Cedar Mountains were to our right as we continued on 80 E, and as with yesterday, the scenery changed as we drove along. An area which a sign identified as the Wyoming Badlands, looked very much  like the badlands of South Dakota.

After another 25 miles we got off at Rock Spring, a small city with a gem in the middle of it. An science teacher named Elmer Halseth began this art center by buying piece of artwork for his school.  Over the years, this Community Fine Arts Center became a collaboration of the city of Rock Springs, Sweetwater County and local School District #1.  It now has over 500 pieces of artwork in its permanent collection.  I was impressed with the fact that it is attached to the library, and children who were in the library wandered over to see the art, at will.

The Center has a Norman Rockwell titled "New Year's Eve," which was a Saturday Evening Post Cover, and also a painting by Grandma Moses. Local artists' works are on display, and there is a wing for pieces which were purchase pieces from students at the high school, many of which are amazing.  There is no charge to visit the museum, but you can make a donation if you visit.  You can also learn more about it at   We were impressed! Sorry, no photos were allowed,  but if you google "Norman Rockwell  New Year's Eve," you can see the painting that we saw there today, just not the real deal.

A truly astounding thing occurred today.  Antelope stood along the side of the highway and let us see them!  Hundreds of them !  Whole herds of antelope, everywhere we looked, were grazing, running, and sleeping in the sunshine right where we could see them!  Randy pulled the car to a stop so I could take this picture. We didn't get quite this close to them again, but it was wonderful to see them in the wild.  We've been to where the deer and the antelope play, and actually seen them playing! (Unless, of course, these are merely cardboard cut-outs that some pitying person stuck out there for us to get a thrill...)

Near Rock Springs is also the largest herd of wild horses in the country.  We saw a herd of horses, but weren't sure if they were wild or not.  Apparently they round up some of the horses, and find them homes each year to decrease the herd size. 

After the Cultural Fine Arts Center, we needed to get going. We'd only gone a hundred miles and it was already after 3 PM !  That's what happens when you're a roamer.

We continued for another hundred miles or so, and tonight we are in a lovely, new Comfort Inn on the outskirts of  Rawlins, Wyoming.  It's in the middle of the southwestern part of Wyoming, in Carbon County.  You've heard of Carbon County, when you heard of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  They were arrested here. 

We may find out more about that tomorrow. 

Copyright: KP Gillenwater 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Salt Flats and Park City, Utah

This may say I've published two posts today, but this is due to the time zone. This is about Friday, Sept. 27, and if we hadn't crossed a time zone line, it would be dated September 28. I honestly have not known what time it is for the last 28 days.

We've run the gamut with scenery today, not to mention weather!

But first, here is the picture of the Nevada / Utah state line that we missed last night.  No wonder we didn't see it.  Who would?  Needless to say, we did not want to lie down on the pavement for a photo with it, but we did want to acknowledge that we had at least seen it.
As soon as we left Wendover, Utah this morning, we were in the Salt Flats, and that was like being on another planet!  The ground was white with salt. There were still mountains on either side of us, quite far away, but we were on flat ground.  There were mirages ahead of us and to the side of us, so it looked as if water was nearby.  This went on for about 80 miles, and then the entire scenery changed. A few shots of the Salt Flats first.

The temperature was 52 degrees and it had begun to sprinkle, but not really rain. It was terribly windy out there, also, and a semi truck ahead of us was having difficulty staying on the road. We stayed far behind him.  The speed limit on this stretch of Utah is 80 MPH.  Now, I've told you that we always do the speed limit.............except for today.  No way!

We came to the Great Salt Lake, and drove on by. We had made a point, some years ago, of going to the Salt Lake so we could say we had waded into the water.  It was disgusting, smelly, and the shore was covered with dead birds and flies were everywhere on that visit.  Needless to say, we didn't stop for a second look today! There was some interesting scenery along the way, however. You can see a train winding around the mountain in the photo below. Yes, that is snow on top of the mountains in the second photo.

 We also drove  by Salt Lake City, as we have seen all of the major things that tourists visit in our previous trip there.  What we did want to see for a second time, however, was Park City, Utah.

Park City is about 17 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.  The city itself is on a mountainside.  You have heard of it because it was the home of the winter Olympics in 2002.  The Olympic Village is still there, and the ski jumps are the first things we saw as we arrived there today.  You also know of it because Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival is held there each year. Our neighbors, Jean and Steve, attended that festival last winter, and they had a fabulous time seeing films, enjoying the area, and sitting near movie stars during dinner.

We didn't see any movie stars, but we did see some other sightseers, fun shops, and interesting people.  We had lunch at the Main Street Deli and CafĂ©, I bought a wonderful silver bracelet as a souvenir of our trip, and we went back down the mountain and got back onto the interstate.
I have to mention a fun thing we saw in Park City.  It was a heated bench made of stone or concrete. It actually was warm! I sat on it.  It was about 38 degrees there today, there was snow all over the pine trees on the mountains, and that seat felt really good. Randy is figuring out how to make one for us, I hope.  As we drove down the mountain, the snow started to fall!  September 27th!
We drove only 50 more miles, crossing the Wyoming state line without fanfare. Their sign was placed in a location where only a truck driver could have stopped for a photo.  We waved as we went by. I think I may have one from another trip to Wyoming that I could recycle, actually, but we were wearing shorts and tee shirts in that one, so you'd know it was fake.
Tonight we are in the lovely little city of Evanston, Wyoming, at the Comfort Inn. On the way into Evanston, we saw a small herd of antelope coming into a field near the highway! (They must not have recognized our car.......)
There's a great boot shop across the street, and we've looked over the whole shop. We've driven downtown to see their renovated depot and park, and we've had sandwiches for dinner.  It's cold here.
For a short while today we joked about what the Gillenwater Party Monument would look like, if that snow had continued.
Copyright:  KP Gillenwater 2013