October 18, Tim and I decided to make a stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa. There were several reasons. Council Bluffs was a good stopping point, it
had a direct connection to Lewis and Clark and it was across the Missouri River
from Omaha, Nebraska, which we also wanted to visit.
journal entry dated August 3 1804, Lewis and Clark recorded their now-historic
meeting with Otoe-Missouria Indians at the “council bluff” above the Missouri
River. Several decades later a city developed
there, and thousands of pioneers made it a crossroads to the west. In 1853, the city was renamed Council Bluffs after
the title given to the region by Lewis and Clark. Council Bluffs quickly grew into a prosperous
rail and river town.
typically don’t spend much time in cities, but when we do we look for an RV
park as close to the city as possible. Although
these parks typically lack the scenic qualities we prefer, proximity usually trumps
scenery since we don’t want to spend our time commuting back and forth to a
campground. In Council Bluffs, our only
option seemed to be Casino RV Park, which was no more than an asphalt parking
lot with electric and water hookups. This
RV park, however, worked out just fine, and it was close to every place we
wanted to visit.
it seemed that we (or I) visited museums – ones about historic trails,
railroads, art and history – quite a large number of quality facilities to
educate and entertain us. While Tim
watched football, I headed to the Western Historic Trails Center, which
interprets the Lewis and Clark, Mormon, California and Oregon trails. Outside the center is a very cool sculpture, which
represents a cross-section of the topography from the Mississippi to the Pacific.
Inside, I enjoyed the 200+ sculptures
that create a series of vignettes about various aspects of life on the trails. The displays also carry the idea of trails
into the twentieth century with a section about the lure of the road and trips to
the west by car. It was a small
interpretive center, but it provided a somewhat different perspective about
|A Vignette at the Western Historic Trails Center|
a railroad buff, I also visited the Union Pacific Railroad Museum, located in
the historic Carnegie Library in Council Bluffs. The museum’s exhibit “Building America” quickly
refreshed my memory about the significance of Council Bluffs in railroad
history - Council Bluffs was the eastern terminus of the transcontinental
railroad and was where the Union Pacific Railroad began laying the tracks that
would finally meet those of the Central Pacific at Promontory Summit, Utah.
that exhibit was cleverly presented with interactive displays and video-game
technology, I preferred “America Travels by Rail.” I loved gazing at the various railroad china
patterns, as well as the posters and other ephemera produced by the railroads to
entice passengers to travel to the western national parks. It was especially fun to see some of the same items
that I have in my own collection. (That
collection did make it into our storage unit, in case you’re wondering.)
|Lots of Railroad China|
|Winged Streamliner - My Favorite China Pattern|
|A Union Pacific Dining Car|
|Railroads Promoting the National Parks|
I also spent parts of two days in Omaha, which turned out to be a very
interesting historic city. Our first
stop was the National Park Service Midwest Regional Office, which also houses
the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail visitor center. Here we met Tim’s former colleague Heather
Young, the curator for the Midwest region.
Tim and Heather have been in touch since his retirement, and it was
Heather who advised Tim of the opportunity for the cataloging project at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site in North Dakota. We had a wonderful lunch in one of the
historic buildings in the Old Market area. I loved getting to know Heather and learning a
bit about her life in Omaha.
|The Old Market District|
I also checked out the beautiful Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, which crosses
the Missouri River and is the longest pedestrian bridge to link two states. It was a beautiful day to walk across the
|Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge|
|Approaching the "Bob"|
|It's Like Walking on Art Suspended Over the Missouri River|
returned to Omaha to visit the Joslyn Art Museum, which is housed in an amazing
Art Deco structure. The Joslyn is world-renowned
for its extensive body of works by Swiss artist Karl Bodmer. We had first learned of Bodmer at Fort Union,
and it was a treat to see some of the original watercolors he painted during
his 1832-34 journey to the Missouri River frontier with Prince Maximilian of Germany. Perhaps even more fascinating, however, were
several of Prince Maximilian’s original journals that were also on display.
|Prince Maxmilian's Journals and Karl Bodmer's Prints|
|Karl Bodmer's Watercolor of the Bijoux Hills on the Missouri River|
museum’s outstanding “Art of the American West” collection, we discovered other
artists who were painting in the Upper Missouri during the era of exploration. These pieces helped us gain a broader
understanding of the places and events that we had been learning about during
our travels down the Missouri. The
Joslyn was definitely the highlight of our visit to Omaha.
|The Joslyn Art Museum (Yes, We Also Toured the Andy Warhol Exhibit)|
final stop was on my list, and that was a visit to Omaha’s historic Union
Station, one of the nation’s first Art Deco train stations. The station has been beautifully preserved and
now houses The Durham Museum. I was more
interested in the incredible architecture of the station, but I did take a
quick tour of the exhibits that chronicle Omaha’s history.
|Omaha's Union Station|
Bluffs was a good place to check off a few errands that are much easier to take
care of in a larger city. The
Subaru got a quick oil change, and Tim purchased a new smartphone. Verizon had just announced a promotion that
would double the data on our plan, and we jumped on the offer. Even though we rarely download movies or books,
we do need a substantial amount of data for our internet needs. With the double-data plan, we will no longer have
to worry about exceeding our monthly limits.
stay in Council Bluffs, Tim’s thoughts turned to baseball. The Kansas City Royals had just clinched a
trip to the World Series, and we were only 200 miles north of Kansas City. When Tim finally said something to me about
the World Series, I immediately encouraged him to look into tickets. It didn’t matter how expensive they were – we were
just too close to Kansas City not to take advantage of what might be a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend a game. Tim couldn’t make the first game, but we
could leave on Wednesday and arrive in time for him to make Game 2. We quickly tossed any other plans out the
window and made a beeline to Kansas City.
I’ll tell you all about it in the next post.