Looking for fun in Omaha, Nebraska

Rain began to fall midway into our short drive from Lincoln to Omaha.  We were reminded of our friends John and Pam who don’t drive their RV in the rain, and for good reasons – one being that it just isn’t fun!  We also try to avoid it, but sometimes it’s darn near impossible. Fortunately we made it to our scheduled stopover at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Nebraska just as the wet stuff started coming down.

Any kind of air or space museum is still a draw for Steve, even though we’ve been to several during our travels.  Since he had planned this stop he knew Betsy would be able to fit into and exit the huge parking lot there.  She got a good shower while we ran inside to check out the museum.

SAC

It started raining hard just as we reached the parking lot

Steve enjoyed the SR-71 Blackbird prominently displayed in the lobby.  It’s still considered to be the world’s fastest aircraft, holding several speed and altitude records.

SR-71A “Blackbird”

SR-71A “Blackbird”

Within the museum were two large hangars housing dozens of vintage military airplanes. Included was the B-36 Peacemaker, the largest production bomber ever built.  Pilots referred to it as the “Magnesium Monster”.

Convair B-36J Peacemaker

Just a part of the massive B-36

As Steve checked out each flying machine, I was drawn to a display hanging from the ceiling.  It was two “towers” of neckties hung from a steel wire frame, with the ties representing the lives lost in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.  It’s quite an ingenious tribute to the victims.

The Towers by Greg Laakso

The Towers – by Greg Laakso

We took our time going through the museum and watching several of the movies they offered, as the hard rain continued outside.

The rain finally let up, so we made our way back onto the freeway to complete the short drive to Omaha.  Once we were settled at Haworth City Park just outside of the city (Steve’s review here), we started looking for things to do in Nebraska’s largest city.  In the process we learned that the Omaha area — or more accurately, what became the Omaha area — was a rest stop for early explorers and others on their way west, including Lewis and Clark.

At our campground on the banks of the Missouri River was a Children’s Lewis & Clark Interpretive Art Wall.  It commemorated the 200th year of the Corps of Discovery’s historic journey, as seen through children’s eyes.

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This art wall contained individual tiles created by children and arranged into the seven geographical regions crossed by Lewis and Clark between Illinois and Oregon

With the campground located next to an old bridge that crossed over the “Mighty Missouri” from Nebraska to Iowa, it was a no-brainer to drive across one day to visit the Lewis and Clark Monument at Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Lewis and Clark monument

Lewis and Clark monument at Council Bluffs, Iowa

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We arrived on this high bluff the evening of July 4th, and stayed to watch hundreds of fireworks shows below.  You see, fireworks are legal in Nebraska, and these folks take it seriously!

Omaha across the river

The Missouri River, downtown Omaha and the edge of the Omaha airport to the right

On another hot and humid day we drove to into Omaha, the home of legendary billionaire Warren Buffet.  We were hoping to meet up with him for lunch and some financial advice, but somehow it just didn’t work out 🙂

After recovering from that letdown, we headed out to the riverfront at Lewis & Clark Landing. This is an open space park along the Missouri River named after the famous 1804 expedition.  It provides easy access to walking trails connecting the Landing to the Heartland of America Park and the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.  We racked up over four miles while walking in heat and humidity that reminded me a lot of my recent stay in the Philippines.

Lewis and Clark Landing

An overview of features at Lewis and Clark Landing

A monument by the river called “Labor” is quite imposing, and purported to be the second-largest labor monument in the U.S.  The bronze figures are 8 feet tall and weigh 800 pounds each, the three bottom ladles weight 6,000 pounds apiece, and the top one 4,000 pounds.  The monument salutes the dedication and hard work of those who built this city.

The peach arrow in the picture indicates the high-water mark of the 1952 flood, which crested at 40.20 ft.  The yellow arrow points to the level of the more recent 2011 flood, and it crested at 36.39 ft.

Labor Monument in Omaha

Labor Monument

Next we crossed the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, which connects Nebraska and Iowa here. It’s 2,300 feet long in a unique S-shape which reflects the grace and power of the Missouri River flowing beneath it.

Bob Kerrey Bridge

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge in two states

I’m in two states at the same time!

Finally, at the Heartland of America Park we walked around the lake and watched the fountain shoot water up to 300 feet in the air.  At night a light show is added while the water spouts “dance”.

Heartland of America park

Waiting for the fountain to blast water skyward at Heartland of America park

During our walk I spotted this mama duck guarding her eggs in a little corner among the reeds. She looks a little camera shy, doesn’t she?

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A visit to the zoo is rarely on our list of things to do. But thanks to Beverly and Denise, who had highly recommended the Henry Doorly Zoo (Trip Advisor’s best zoo of 2014), we got up early one morning and gave it a try.  The imposing Desert Dome near the entrance displays the worlds largest indoor desert.  Here we saw geologic features from deserts around the world, along with many animals from each environment.

Henry Doorly Zoo

Good thing there’s a dome over that desert on this morning, or it would have gotten soaked!

The rest of the zoo contained thousands of animals from around the world, and the stellar natural habitat re-creations were spread over 130 acres.  The highlight for Steve was at the Kingdom of the Night where all of the nocturnal animals were, while of course I enjoyed the aviary with the many vibrant exotic birds.  We spent several hours gawking at the impressive displays, as we dashed between the buildings in yet another torrential and long-lasting downpour.

Henry Doorly Zoo

I wished this rain over to California!

Who would guess one of the best zoos in the world is in Omaha?

Orange Bishop Weaver

Orange Bishop Weaver seen in the Saharan Desert natural display – isn’t he a beauty?

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Now, that’s a handsome Ibis!

Rain, humidity and hot sunny days were all in the mix as we enjoyed our time in Omaha. We even had fog one morning, and it gave the sun and our campground a surreal look as the day began.

Bellevue City Park

A morning fog and smoke from fires in Canada gave the rising sun a peachy glow

 

Next up:  Steve visits his mom’s hometown.