Sunday, August 6, 2017

Off the Trail: Eastern Nebraska

Spirit of Nebraska Sculpture Park.

Greenwood is in Eastern Nebraska not far from the Iowa border. It is a rural area with corn fields as far as the eye can see. The tallest structures in the distance are a series of concrete grain silos near the railroad tracks.

The small town of Ashland is nearby.
Ashland has a downtown area that features brick paved streets, antique stores, boutique shops and restaurants.
We enjoyed drinks and an afternoon snack at the Glacial Till Winery Tasting Room while listening to local musicians perform at an open mic event. Their 2012 Chambourcin was pretty amazing. In addition to wine Glacial Till has a line of hard ciders that people were sampling.
Cheri O’s on the next block was great for breakfast and coffee.

Ashland is also home to the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. Fred really enjoyed looking at the planes that he remembered from his time in the Air Force. He worked as a radar operator/Air Traffic Controller while on active duty. We arrived at the museum just in time to participate in a tour lead by an 83 year old retired Air Force pilot. It was interesting to hear his personal stories of flying some of the planes we were looking at in Viet Nam.
Several featured exhibits have their roots in Eastern Nebraska.

Richard Joyce from Lincoln Nebraska was one of Doolittle’s Tokyo Raiders. He piloted one of the 16 Air Force B-25 bombers that made a retaliatory strike on Japan April 18, 1942.
That strike was the first time that the empire of Japan had been attacked on their own soil.
The SAC museum displays a B-25. It was the only bomber at the time that could carry the necessary payload and had a short enough wingspan to be launched from a carrier. The display tells the story of Doolittle’s Tokyo Raid and of the 80 pilots and crew members that flew the mission.
Clayton Anderson designated the “Heartland Astronaut” is a native of Ashland. He has served twice on the International Space Station. SAC Museum features an exhibit telling the story of his training and space missions with a display of his fight suit.
The Martin Bomber plant was located at what is now Offut Air Force Base near Omaha. The plant manufactured the atomic bombers Enola Gay and Bocksar that dropped the Atomic weapons on Japan to end WWII. The museum has models of the plant, tools and a piece of the Enola Gay on display.

Omaha is a short drive from Greenwood and we enjoyed exploring it. One of our favorite sights in the city is the Spirit of Nebraska Sculpture Park. Impressive life sized bronzes depicting a wagon train traveling a westward trail occupy 2 city blocks.

It is amazing to walk around these statures, stepping between the wagons and looking up into the faces of the pioneers. There are men on horseback, children laughing from a wagon seat and a boy walking his dog. They all look very happy for the struggles they are facing but maybe its the beginning of their journey.

Nebraska City was a very pleasant surprise.
We drove the 50 miles in order to spend some time at the Corps of Discovery Interpretive Center.
While there we discovered colorful tree art outside buildings throughout the city.

The trees are symbols of Nebraska City, like the Mermaids in Norfolk Virginia and horses in Saratoga Springs New York little trees decorated the corners of Nebraska City.
The tree art was in honor of Arbor Day Farm. Yes that Arbor Day, the one we celebrate by planting trees every April.
Arbor Day started right here in Nebraska City.
Early pioneers did not find many trees on the Nebraska prairie.

They wanted trees to remind them of home.
They needed trees to provide windbreaks, to give them shade and to supply fuel and building materials for future use.
The first Arbor Day was celebrated in the 5 year old state of Nebraska in 187. with the planting of 1 million trees. School children planted trees for each of their classes and grades. Communities joined in with parades and tree planting parties of their own.
Through the 1870’s other states adopted Arbor Day as a Holiday and by 1882 schools nationwide were observing April 10th by planting trees.

Arbor Day Farm was an amazing place. We wished our little boys had been with us. They would have loved the treehouse 50 feet in the air. Arbor Day Farm gives each child who visits a tree to take home and plant and to care for. What a great way to ensure that our newest generation is looking out for their future.

Western Historic Trails Center
3434 Richard Downing Ave
Council Bluffs, Iowa

SAC and Aerospace Museum
28210 West Park Hwy
Ashland, Nebraska

Spirit of Nebraska Sculpture Park
Capital and 14th-16th St.
Omaha, Nebraska

Glacial Till Tasting Room
1419 Silver St
Ashland, Nebraska

Arbor Lodge National Historic Landmark
2600 Arbor Ave
Nebraska City, Nebraska


  1. My dad was a B-25 tail gunner in WWII, Bonnie. Great airplane....very fast. Looks like a great museum!

  2. That;s cool Jim. I bet he knew the story of the crew member of the Tokyo Raiders that armed the planes with fake guns! We were told that all of the extra weight including the defensive weapons had to be taken out in order to make room for the extra fuel tanks needed and to make the planes light enough to fly off a carrier. The enterprising young man painted broomsticks and stuck them in the gun turrets to keep them from looking defenceless.