Washington Road Trip Journal

"Take the Long Way Home"


Day 16 - Paxton, NE to Lexington, KY

by David "Sumoflam" Kravetz

September 12, 2007: Last day of our trip...and the longest leg.  We will drive nearly 1000 miles today as we go from Paxton, NE all the way back home back in Lexington, KY.  Along the way we will make a couple of stops, but I am having to eliminate some of our planned stops as they would deviate from the route considerably. Nonetheless, we still hit those places that are directly off of our course home.

After giving Ole's a good deal of our money (the steakhouse last night, the hotel and then their gas station/convenience store), Sol and I were back on the road.  We will follow I-80 throughout the day until we get to Davenport/Rock Island, IL and then take I-74 south to Indianapolis, then I-65 south to Louisville and then on into Lexington via I-64.  I determined that we would hit any planned spots along this route.

Our first stop was not too far.  We headed first to Gothenburg, Nebraska, one of only two known Gothenburgs in the world.  The other is in Sweden (also known as Goteborg - pronounced Yoteboree)


Gothenburg is probably most well known as the home of the Pony Express in Nebraska. The Pony Express got its start on April 3, 1860 in St. Joseph, Missouri.  The original Pony Express Station is still there (it was moved from its original site on the Oregon Trail, four miles east of Fort McPherson, NE in 1931 to its present site in Gothenberg and was restored from there.  Originally built as a Fur Trading Post in 1854, it was used as a Pony Express Station from 1860-1861 and then as an Overland Trail Stage Station from 1862-1931. 


Gothenburg has become somewhat of a tourist attraction with the Pony Express building and also the Sod House Museum, which is just off of Interstate 80 at exit 211 to the left as you go into Gothenburg.  We hit the museum on our way back to the interstate.

The Sod House Museum was dedicated to the settlers of this area who initially built their homes out of sod.  The sod house on the site is just a replica, but was built of similar dimensions and materials.  The museum has some interesting artifacts and history, especially if you are a genealogy buff like me.  Ironically, my great grandfather (through adoption) Pascal Hanks, one was one of the original participants in the Cherokee Run in Oklahoma and once they settled in Oklahoma also lived in a similar sod house.  So, seeing this helped Solomon and I appreciate the circumstances for which these people lived.  This museum was established by Gothenburg resident Merle Block and his wife, and they currently own the museum, which charges $1.00 for visitors.


The main entrance to the Sod House Museum, in Gothenburg, NE




Some views of the sod house replica.  Photo on the right shows a close up of the sod.


Just outside of the Sod House Museum is a giant replica statue of a hand plow.  This is touted as the largest hand plow in the world.



This replica of a hand plow is touted to be the largest hand plow in the world


Once in the museum and out in front of the sod house, you can see an unusual site.  Merle Block sculpted a buffalo and an Indian on a horse.  These are made almost entirely out of barbed wire.  The buffalo apparently required 4 1/2 miles of barbed wire and the Indian took 3 1/2 miles.  Merle built them in his shop and then they had to haul them over on a large truck.



Life-sized barbed wire buffalo and Indian sculptures by Merle Block of Gothenburg


Jackalope spotting on Gothenburg!!


We spent more time in Gothenburg than I had planned, so we hurried off and I had to cut out a couple of our other planned stops along the way.  Our next stop was just as we left Omaha and crossed into Council Bluffs, Iowa.  We hit the first Visitor's Center we saw, which happened to be the Western Historic Trails Center and Lied Historical Building, which is operated by the State Historical Society of Iowa.  I really wished we could have spent a lot more time here because this particular Info Center had a great deal of information and dioramas concerning all of the trails: The Lewis and Clark Trail, The Mormon Trail, The Oregon Trail and the California Trail.  There is also a bronze cast of "The Handcart Pioneer" by Torlief S. Knaphus.  This one is the same size as the original, which was made in 1926.  Later, the LDS Church had a larger, life size version made in 1945 which sits in Temple Square in Salt Lake City.  Mr. Knaphus was a convert to the Mormon Church and is renowned for his great sculptures. The one in this visitor's center is to honor the Mormon Pioneers who came through here (and also went to Martin's Cove, which we saw a couple of days ago).



Entrance to the Lied Historical Building.  One of many dioramas in the center.


Replica of "The Handcart Pioneer" by Torlief S. Knaphus


About 34 miles east on I-80 we hit our next stop in Shelby, Iowa.  Shelby is home to a huge Corn Stalk Sculpture, which is just off the interstate at Exit 34.  We also drive into Shelby where we found a "Birdhouse Tree" sculpture and wooden carving of a moose (seems like mooses have become one of the themes of this trip!!)



Scenes from Shelby, Iowa: Giant Corn Stalk, a Birdhouse Tree and another moose for the road


The drive through Iowa was nice...rolling hills covered with corn fields.  Another nice thing about Iowa is that ALL of the visitor's center/rest areas in the state offer free WiFi Service.  We were able to check email along the way and it was nice.  Finally, throughout both Nebraska and Iowa, one could buy 89 Octane unleaded fuel for about 40 cents/gallon cheaper than Regular Unleaded.  Yes, I did a double take too....  The reason for this is because the 89 octane is infused with corn-based Ethanol.  My van seemed to run fine on this fuel.




We just continued eastward until we got to Walcott, which is just a few miles west of Davenport.  This would be our last "planned" stop along the way.  We stopped for dinner, fuel and a few photos at the Iowa 80 Truck Stop...the World's Largest Truck Stop.





Looks more like a shopping mall than a truck stop



One of TWO semi trucks INSIDE the truck stop.  This one had a unique paint job



The other semi on the left.  Lots of chrome goods for sale in the truck stop.


By the time Sol and I were done with some food and a brief stop, it was back on the road for a straight run through to Lexington.  We finally arrived home at 7:30 AM and immediately went to bed...a 24 hour jaunt.


Overall, we drove almost 6000 miles on this trip.  We went through fourteen states and three Canadian provinces and visited a number of sites.  We used almost 500 gallons of gasoline (and I don't want to even think about the cost of the gas!!!).  I took over 1000 photos over the course of the trip as well.


I can't wait until the next trip!! 

ENJOY THE RIDE!!  We always do.


Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Days 5-8  Day 9  Days 10-12  Day 13  Days 14/15

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