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5/5 thru 5/12/14 - Back in the Midwest

I-80 in Nebraska, will it ever end?

Well the funeral home photography job in Boulder didn't pan out so we left Longmont, Colorado around 10:30 Monday morning (5/5) and drove east thru Nebraska on I-80.   Nebraska is one long (about 450 miles) and boring state!  We spent our first night on the road at Walmart in North Platte and then continued East on I-80 until we finally left Nebraska and arrived at our home for the next 8 nights - Neola, Iowa (just east of Council Bluffs).   We are staying at a small but very nice county park - Arrowhead Park.  The campsites including electricity are $15.00 per night, you can't beat that!  There are a few hiking trails here and a small fishing lake.  They even rent canoes and paddleboats.   This is one of the prettiest parks we've stayed at.  There are only 4 or 5 other campers here and we are off by ourselves on the banks of a small creek.  This may change on the weekend but for now it's just about perfect.   I am sitting outside right now writing on my iPad, looking over the creek and listening to the birds.  Life is good!
The view out our front window
We did a little exploring on Tuesday and drove into Council Bluffs, Iowa to check out the "squirrel jail".   It is not a jail for bad squirrels (although some of them need one) but rather a circular jail with pie-shaped cells.   There are three floors and there was one entrance to each level.   The cell blocks rotated, if the warden needed to get to a prisoner he would rotate the opening to that cell to get access.

The jail remained open until 1969.  Today it's run by the Historical Society of Pottawatamie County.  According to some history buffs it's one of Council Bluffs most haunted buildings.  Paranormal groups often visit on weekend nights and the public is occasionally invited to special ghost-hunting events.

 There are only three of these jails left (none being used for prisoners) and one of the others is in Crawfordsville, IN which is the town my grandmotherr grew up in.  We will definitely be checking that one out. 


Our next stop on this very hot day (temps hit 95 degrees - yuk!!) was to the Lewis and Clark Monument which overlooks the Missouri River.  Council Bluffs was named for the1804 meeting of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with the Otoe Indian Tribe on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River as they began their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase Territory.
Lewis and Clark Monument looking west over the Missouri River

We'll have a barrel of fun . . .

We got back in the car and headed back to check out Neola.  This town is tiny, only about 850 people.  There is one small grocery store, and a couple of small restaurants which I'm sure we will be checking out before we leave.   We drove a little further east to another small town, Minden.  We were just going to pass thru but saw a junky looking 2nd hand shop and decided to stop.  I am now the very proud owner of a windup Santa Claus holding an accordian that plays the Beer Barrel Polka!  My siblings will understand how cool that is (at least my sisters will).

Danish Windmill in Elkhorn, IA
On Friday (5/9), we checked out the town of Elkhorn, Iowa which is famous for its windmill.  Elkhorn has one of the largest concentrations of Danes in the U.S. (who knew?) and one of the townspeople, Harvey Sorenson was traveling through Denmark and noticed all the windmills there.  He thought it would be a nice way to celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial and also bring in some tourist dollars to his town.  He convinced the people of Elkhorn that this would be a worthwhile project.  They found an old mill in Norre Sneade, Jutland Denmark, and within ten weeks the mill was found, puchased, packaged, and delivered to American  - arriving in Elkhorn in February of 1976.  When it was dismantled in Denmark each piece was numbered so that it could more easily be reassembled.  A scale model was also built in Denmark and sent to Iowa for reference.  Over three hundred volunteers put in their time to complete the project.  The total cost of the project including transporting it from Denmark was $100,000.00.

Inside the windmill
I still don't like heights!
On the same property as the windmill is the Morning Star Chapel.  This chapel was built by Charles Wolensky in 1951 when he was 83!  He built it in his backyard and opened it to the public as a place for prayer, worship, and meditation.  It is six feet wide, eight feet long and sixteen feet tall.  There are four small pews and a pulpit.  The chapel was donated to The Danish Immigrant Museum in 1995.  
The tiny Morning Star Chapel
When we came back from our Friday adventures our campground was beginning to fill up and by Saturday morning it looked about 90% filled.  We were very happy that this is a first-come, first-served campground and that we had a site for the weekend.

On Saturday we drove back across the Missouri River to Nebraska to check out a few estate sales.  We went to four but didn't find anything to re-sell on ebay.  I did pick up another scrabble game and one of these days I really will do a craft project with all these scrabble tiles that I keep buying - anyone have any good ideas (or old scrabble games)?

Sunday was very low-key, we visited the laundromat in Council Bluffs and then hung out around the campground.  As we were watching television we heard a strange tapping noise so we had to check it out - it was a Baltimore Oriole tapping on our bedroom window at his reflection, so funny!
Hey, you're hot
How much is that birdie in the window?

Bird Brain
Storms came in Sunday night but despite all the warnings on television we just had a lot of rain.  The Omaha area (just 30 miles west of us) was hit hard with high winds and hail and even reports of tornado touch-downs so we were very lucky that we just had rain.  If there had been any sirens going off we would have headed to the cinder-block bathrooms and prayed a lot.

When we woke up Monday morning most of the other campers were gone and we were back to only about four rigs in the whole park, just the way we like it.

Geese are our only neighbors but they are sure a lot louder than the human ones!
We are planning to stay here until Wednesday and then head to the Mississippi River for our Camp Hosting assignment near Dubuque.  Not sure yet if the campground is ready for us, they closed it recently due to the overflowing banks of the river - stay tuned!