I’m going to put in a serious plug here for Scottsbluff, NE. I know we make this a “must do” destination to see family, but there is actually some really interesting history here and a national monument to boot.
Before we get to that though, Carhenge. Yes, we made a slight detour in order to stop at this place. Google rates it a 4.7, as compared to 1880s town, which got a 4.6. I’m not sure I could say it’s “worth it,” but the theme of the place seems to be more about “why not?” In fact, the very first informational plaque you see begins by saying: “Your first question upon encountering Carhenge might be Why? But creator Jim Reinders’ answer would simply be Why not?” So there you go. Plus, it’s free. It might come down to how much gas you’d need to use to go out of your way to get there in order to determine whether it’s worth it for you.
Also along our way, and actually where we stopped for lunch before going to Carhenge, was Chadron State Park. That was a very nice place with lots of picnic spots and tons of outdoor activities, like archery ranges, swimming pools, trails, and playgrounds for kids. We took advantage of their nice dump facilities and they didn’t even charge us for it.
Arriving in Gering, we stayed again at the Robidoux RV Park and that really is a nice hookup spot. Clean bathrooms, space between sites, kinda WiFi, and views of the bluff. Bonus for us that it’s three blocks from my aunt and uncle. We even biked over there. My aunt served us a wonderful home cooked meal on Friday. We rate their place a 5.0, but you’d have to check to see if she’s willing to invite you over. 🙂
Saturday morning, Richard went to bike around the monument while I tried to catch up on blog posts. Dear WordPress, you really really need to figure out how to support offline blogging. This has been a source of frustration for me this whole trip. But I digress… There is a Visitor Center at the foot of the bluff that explains how this landmark was very important for early homesteaders, as it marked the end to the long journey across the plains, and the warning of impending mountains. Early settlers went right through Scottsbluff on the Oregon Trail and you can still see the ruts of the wagon train wheels in the ground. The monument itself is named after some guy, Hiram Scott, who died in the vicinity of the bluff, in 1828. So they named it after him. Kind of an inglorious way to get a name, but the distinctive and abrupt landmarks of this area were a welcome sight to weary travelers.
Following important chores like laundry and shopping, we both went back out and explored the new “Legacy of the Plains Museum.” This is well worth a visit! It is a nicely laid out exhibit, with lots of movies and touch screen or audio tour narrations. We spent over an hour there and didn’t see everything. We came away with a solid feel for heartland life, both past and present, native and pioneer. For me, it was nice to fill in some gaps in my historical understanding of the place. I came away feeling connected to and proud of my Nebraska heritage.
We then took a short drive up to the top and reminisced about my mom. There are lovely trails along the highest points of the bluffs with views of the sunset and towns of Gering and Scottsbluff below, separated by the winding path of the North Platte river. We then connected again with family and they took us to a great Mexican place called Rosita’s. We highly recommend the puffy fried masa chips called “Ponchos.”
We left in no great hurry on Sunday, openly reluctant to depart. We’re both feeling melancholy as we trudge steadily back home. We know our summer trip is not quite over yet, but we feel the tide a-turning and the close to summer approaching. It was also really nice to visit with my aunt and uncle, something that is not easily accomplished from California. Sigh.
So, if you are traveling along highway 80, Scottsbluff is a short detour to the north. It’s a welcome veer off the interstate and if you have the time to take in the museum and travel the backroads, I think you’ll leave with real appreciation for what it was like to settle in this part of the world.
Total miles: 187.7, 4 hours 45 min, 16.6 mpg. Robidoux RV Park site 41. Electric and water hookups with dump on site. Some sites have sewer hookups as well. Clean bathrooms and showers. Laundry. Sometimes good WiFi.