The Great Plains

You Go, We Go, Wamego

So, I went to Wamego in June.  Wamego is a small town in Kansas which has a pretty cool park.  It also has a Wizard of Oz Museum that I didn't go to but there is always next year.    Wamego Kansas (1 of 1)

These photos were taken in June.  I have had an incredibly stressful two weeks.  School has started and I am glad.  Waiting on a job to start over a period of three months is a stressful feeling, yet it is the same job I have always had so it really was not worth the anxiety.   

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I am sitting here listening to the new Rob Thomas album.  Which came out on the first day of my new classes which seems to hold some significant meaning to me, but I don't write about everything on here.  I don't even publish my posts to social media anymore.  But let's talk about Wamego.  

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Wamego's success as a community can be attributed to many factors: strategic location, proximity to larger urban areas, and the quality of its citizens who have been dedicated to pursuits of a cultural and qualitative nature.

Our beautiful scenery and rich agricultural land are a legacy of the area's geologic history - the glaciated region of Kansas. Native Americans used the Kansas River as an area of settlement and avenue of transportation long before whites entered the area. The entire Kansas River Valley was home to the Konza tribe until the 1840's. Beginning in the 1840's major portions of the Pottawatomie Tribe occupied the area just to the east of Wamego. The names of our city and county are derived from the Pottawatomie Tribe. History of Wamego

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Here is a little more history of Wamego from Wamego

 In 1863 the Kansas Pacific Railroad began building the main line for passengers and freight bound westward across the plains. Seizing this opportunity, The Wamego Town Company founded and laid out a new town site - Wamego - along the proposed rail in 1866. Wamego was later incorporated in 1868.

The founders offered the railroad land and cash to locate the Kansas Pacific division headquarters in the town for a minimum of 20 years. A station, roundhouse, and shops evolved, which employed a considerable number of people. For a time, Wamego served as the rail yard for the larger town of Louisville four miles north, which was situated on the Oregon Trail. This situation soon changed, as did transportation techniques. By 1874 Wamego had 28 businesses as opposed to the 6 in Louisville. In 1890 the Kansas Pacific moved the division headquarters to Junction City.


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I am a history teacher.  I'm finally teaching History (without all the extra government paperwork a caseload brings).  After two weeks of training I still feel that what makes a good teacher is not two weeks of pedagogy and going over test results before the beginning of the school year.   I think education is about knowledge.  It's so deceptively simple that it has been made complicated by those who profit from the industry.  

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What did I learn when I went to Wamego. I learned that it was a railroad town built near a river.  This tells me a lot about the success of a town.   Humanity doesn't change, it is and always has been dependent upon resources.  

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The ancients shaped late 19th century Wamego.  These statues went to the World's Fair in Chicago, which I've read was grand.   

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I wish a town near where I lived had a park like this.  This was a beautiful park. I love NE Kansas.  

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I want to start running again.  It is the best way to deal with stress.  

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I left the big park which was filled with people enjoying it. The swimming park was blasting music and filled with teenagers, a small prairie town like the one I grew up in.  

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The railroad was big in these little Kansas towns but we are relatively close to Abilene and the end of the line for the cattle trails. 

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My next stop was to check out the river.  

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Kansas River 

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My trip to Kansas was odd, I (of course - got sick) then it was so hot for a few days but by the time we went to Nebraska we hit the cool and rainy weather.   This day was hot.  I also was off on the length of our stay so I didn't get to return to Wamego. 

Tuttle Creek Lake 2015

What can I say about my June trip to Kansas and Nebraska?  I enjoyed it.   But, it wasn't that great for photography this year (not like last year).  It was extremely hot in Kansas and then in Nebraska it was rainy, oh and I was sick and my schedule was a day off.  

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And after a month of tornado warnings and watches, we ended up in a thunderstorm watch.  So we went out to the lake and watched it for a few minutes. 

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I'm not a storm chaser.  Oh did I mention all the rain we got  yesterday?  It's nice we didn't have any flooding in our spare room and our new patio drained all the water the way it should go. 

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I keep looking through my Nebraska pictures and they are beautiful in a different way but they are still moody and gray and not beautiful summer days on the Great Plains.  

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But I went to places I've never visited and explored a portion of Nebraska and Colorado that I've never been to.   It was a worthwhile trip.  I did think we were leaving on Wednesday and we left for Nebraska on Tuesday.  I also didn't get any spectacular Great Plains astrophotography, but maybe next time.   We will just file these images under "Kansas" and go from there. 

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Random Western Nebraska

Everyone should take a minute to watch this video about the online harassment that women receive about their looks and appearances.  Blogger Takes Off Her Makeup

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A bunny at Toadstool Geologic Park 

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It was a cool, rainy day the day we went to Western Nebraska. 

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We stayed the night at Chadron the night before we went further west.  

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Another shot outside of Chadron 

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Train near Toadstool Park - lots of trains in Western Nebraska.  That's about all there is out there. 


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On the way to Highway 29 to go north to the Agate Fossil Beds.  

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Toadstool Geologic Park is an awesome place.  My favorite stop on the trip.  

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A fence (of course). 

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The Niobrara River Valley...  


Now that's enough for now.  Goodnight.   

The Only Underground Salt Museum in North America -Strataca in Hutchinson Kansas

So, Hutchinson Kansas doesn't look like much.  It's actually a pretty cool town.   Last Saturday we went to the Strataca which is a museum, but not an ordinary museum it's 650 feet underground in a salt mine.   

Strataca Salt Mine Museum in Hutchinson Kansas by Joy Franklin-8600

This is the ONLY place in this country where you can tour a real salt mine.   It is the only time I've been 650 underground and my first experience in a mine.   Now, I don't like elevators (which you go down on) and I do not like enclosed places, but when you enter and watch the initial safety video they put you at ease. 

Strataca Salt Mine Museum in Hutchinson Kansas by Joy Franklin-8604

So we enter the museum and wait for our turn to ride the elevator down.   We were in Manhattan Kansas last weekend but this is the only place I took photos.  We (my oldest son and I managed to get a stomach bug while we were there).   But this place is highly recommended for your vacation trips.  Spring Break I had a bit of the Facebook envy with so many people traveling to interesting and fun places and I was stuck at home.   My fate seems to be trips to the Great Plains, but I actually enjoy it. It's rarely as hot and never as crowded as some overly promoted tourist trap.  

Strataca Salt Mine Museum in Hutchinson Kansas by Joy Franklin-8611


So this is during the minute and a half 650 elevator ride.   It really wasn't bad.  The guides talked the whole way down.  

Strataca Salt Mine Museum in Hutchinson Kansas by Joy Franklin-8614

So here we are 650 underground in a mine.  The temperature is a steady 68 degrees is what they told us.  It is incredibly dry and you can taste the salt in the air, after a couple of hours down there I felt dehydrated.  So there will be a lot of pics on this post.  

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Museums are filled with information and I can photograph the information and read more as I edit. It is interesting how the Permian world shapes Oklahoma's landscape, yet in Kansas you still find the remnants of the Permian Sea.  Now, we have our own salt deposits from this sea in Oklahoma - a couple of hours north near Jet Oklahoma you can dig for crystals on the "Great Salt Plains."  

Strataca Salt Mine Museum in Hutchinson Kansas by Joy Franklin-8619

Salt, the only rock that we eat.  It is so important, yet we don't put a lot of thought into it. 

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So what kind of activity on the ancient earth caused a 400 feet deep salt deposit.  It kind of blows your mind to think that the earth has changed so much. 

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This huge salt block is one of the things on display.  But of course the walls, ceiling and floor are also made of salt. 

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So after the Permian period and the mass extinction, dinosaurs and the earth making it to the present eon....  salt was eventually discovered and mined in this town on the plains.    The Carey Salt Mine was formed. 

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Now we move to the twentieth century...

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You can see how salt causes the artifacts to rust.  

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How would you like to ride to your job on this? 

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See the reflectors on the ceiling? 

Strataca Salt Mine Museum in Hutchinson Kansas by Joy Franklin-8653

I think museums like this are just as important as art museums.  This museum pairs natural history with an education about how things work, our infrastructure.   It is also featured on an episode of Modern Marvels and Dirty Jobs.   But you can't get a good grasp on how the world works until you experience things like this.  

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More mining artifacts.  

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So, one of my favorite parts of the mine was the tractor (which I wasn't expecting to see 650 feet underground). 

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So here it is... Voyager * Yes! Like Star Trek.  I mean who hasn't watched all the Star Trek Voyager episodes at least twice?   I like Star Trek, I've watched Star Trek of some sort my entire life.   

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I've also been around a lot of antique tractors!  So here you go.  This is awesome. 

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This is just too interesting... so here is more. 

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I'm going to have to break this post up into two separate posts.

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Have you read enough about the tractor in the salt mine? 

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Anyways so back to some more interesting stuff 650 feet below Kansas.  

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The earth movers, the salt shakers...

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You also go on guided tours once you're in the mine. This is what a collapsed ceiling looks like.    

Strataca Salt Mine Museum in Hutchinson Kansas by Joy Franklin-8743


So I'm about to end this post and will continue it tomorrow.  This is one of the neatest places in Kansas! To be continued! 


Ashfall Fossil Beds in Nebraska

Royal Nebraska is probably not the first place you think of when you want to go view the bones of ancient camels, rhinoceros, and horses but, Royal Nebraska is where you come to find America's Pompeii.  So, mass extinction is probably not at the top of your list to think about today.  But, it was a reality in our very long geologic history on this third rock from the sun.  So before I go into more detail here is a visual for you to contemplate before I show images on the drive to Ashfall.   Ashfall is a site that caused a mass extinction in what will become Nebraska. Please take a few minutes to find some more educational materials on the official site: About Ashfall through the University of Nebraska.  

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So if you are a fossil obsessed person or you love to learn about volcanoes and mass extinctions this is the place for you.  But, a warning you better be ready to drive through a beautiful swath of NE Nebraska farmland.  

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Close to "home" we were pulling in the local radio station.  But we were almost to Ashfall.  

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This will probably be a very long post with lots of images (which is why I didn't get these up earlier).  Ashfall was our main destination on our trip to Nebraska.  We did stop at Neligh Mills right before we made it to Ashfall.  

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So up the hill to the Ashfall beds.  I find it interesting that places look different than you think they will.  I like to do a lot of research before I visit a new place, I don't think I spent a lot of time looking up Ashfall.  I was sick the week I went to Kansas and Nebraska.  This was the first day I was feeling better, which was good because we did a lot of driving.  The night before we ended up in Lincoln and it was the night the big storm of 2014 went through Nebraska, the clouds were pretty wicked in Lincoln.  

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I love this landscape, it is beautiful.  This is what I see when I think of Nebraska.   

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So here is the barn that houses the mass grave.  The horses that went extinct, the rhinos, the mammoths.  All of these animals that died out.  Mass extinctions are no joke.  

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Yes, what were all these creatures doing in Nebraska? 

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So, what about this Yellowstone Caldera?  

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About 12 million years ago, a volcano in southwest Idaho spread a blanket of ash over a very large area. One or two feet of this powdered glass covered the flat savannah-like grasslands of northeastern Nebraska.

Most of the animals which lived here survived the actual ashfall, but as they continued to graze on the ash covered grasses, their lungs began to fill up with the abrasive powder. Soon their lungs became severely damaged and they began to die. 

So, this was not a pleasant way to slowly suffocate..  

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Here this humbling, ancient tragedy is at our feet.  Pompeii of the rhino.   

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Undisturbed except by an occasional scavenging meat-eater, the skeletons of these animals are preserved in their death positions, complete with evidence of their last meals in their mouths and stomachs and their last steps preserved in the sandstone below.

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Of the seventeen species of vertebrates recovered from the volcanic ashbed, twelve are mammals. Over 200 fossil skeletons from 12 species of Clarendonian Land Mammal Age have been discovered at the site so far.Related articles

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Geology is fascinating, Yellowstone is a place I'd like to visit before it erupts again.  I hope it waits until I'm dead to erupt again too (I'm a realist AND an optimist).  

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I feel like you as a reader gain more when I share snapshots of the information shown at these historic sites and museums.  

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So if  you ever decide to make this fossil pilgrimage to Ashfall as we did, you will have an interesting day.  

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So this is a very long post but I didn't put all the pictures I edited in it.

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Check out what the Smithsonian has to say about Ashfall

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That's Gross (Nebraska)

Gross Nebraska is a little town in Boyd County.  Kind of like Monowi (also same county), Boyd County is known for it's small towns.  

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It's always funny looking up these tiny villages in the county where I spent my childhood.  There are plenty of blogs of people who drive through out of curiosity.  Gross Nebraska was founded in 1893 by homesteader Ben Gross and family.  This is another small town that died when the railroad failed to go through, it did at one time have  a population of 600.   

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See the deer?  

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In 1965 the Gross School district became part of the Spencer District; which would be where I attended school from K-9.  So as much as there isn't much here now, stop and read about what it used to be: History of Gross Nebraska

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So, I got a pressure cooker for Christmas.  I'm now mastering the art of cooking quickly; I'm not as afraid of blowing up the kitchen now.  I probably should be.  <--I posted this and was told that this statement was kind of random.  I'm sure it is.  But, the soup I made for dinner was nice.   

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 So there is a park in a town with the population of two, and a swimming pool in a town with the population of 500. Nebraska treats their children right.  Now what is going on in our small towns where we can't make our parks and have pools in Oklahoma?  It's a shame.  

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Save often! My internet froze as I was working on this post and fortunately I had just saved. I believe this is the business establishment, and they do have a Facebook Page.

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I handed over my other camera to my friend and she took a few shots of me shooting.  

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It was a good day! We haven't met in person since Summer of 2008 and that summer she was pregnant the first time I drove through and had a new baby the next time so this visit was much more fun.  The time before that I was up for her wedding.  We had a great visit. Oh Monowi is another town that is frequently blogged about for it's distinct lack of population.  Here is what Yahoo has to say about these small towns. Go Here and Double The Population...



Historic Geddes, South Dakota

So, I've figured out a more efficient way of saving photos for posts (sometimes my organization is lacking). But, I'm saving slightly smaller files so they'll upload quickly.  

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Last June 20th (I think) I was in Geddes, South Dakota with my friend.  We just stopped, just to stop at the town.   It was more interesting than we expected. 

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These photos are more of the photo-journalist variety.  No artistic attempt, just documenting a time and a place, but sometimes that's all you need. 

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This was my second trip to South Dakota that month.  Yes, I went at the beginning of the month, went home to Oklahoma for a week or so and returned to do more visiting.  Geddes was my next to last stop before we left.  

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 So this is the historic Papineau trading post.  

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Here is a piece written about Old Papineau's Village   in South Dakota Magazine.  

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Here are some wonderful downloads with information about this old trader Papineau.  "The Epic of Papineau's Domain."  Cuthbert DuCharme was the man called Papineau.  He arrived in Charles Mix County South Dakota from Quebec, Canada.  His trading post was the first county seat of Charles Mix County.   He was a purchaser for the J. Astor Fur Company.  Go ahead and read more from the links provided. 

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Here is an image from the South Dakota digital archives

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This was an interesting little historical park.  

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I'm trying to upload smaller images, so I can post faster.  I still have quite a few things I can share from travels. 

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It was a warm day in South Dakota.  

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This historic schoolhouse is also located by the trading post. 

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The one room school house lasted far longer on the northern plains. I have friends who attended one room schoolhouses until they joined our school in the mid-eighties. 

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What else do we have in this little block of Geddes History. 

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A settlers shack.  

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This was my favorite building. 

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Peter Norbeck,  go ahead google him. You know if you're interested you will.  

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And a radio station.  It's good that there are people dedicated to preservation.  We need more people who value our past.   


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Mom's Mudflaps at Chimney Rock

So in the 1970s and early 80s my parents had a trailer manufacturing business in Butte Nebraska- S&S Trailers it was called.  They were pretty successful for a while. 

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This is where I spent my early childhood.  This is the kind of town where I could ride my bike to the store a few blocks down at age seven and be safe.  This is the kind of childhood our kids deserve but most don't have.  I was fortunate.   

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The paint shop, where some of my earliest memories are helping wipe down trailers to clean them before they were painted.  

So not a lot to say about Butte Nebraska but I'm one of the Sharp kids.  Which even decades after moving away people know whose family you belong to.  That's what small Nebraska towns are like. So when I was a kid my parents sold mud flaps that she designed with the outline of the state map around them.  

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One of the shop buildings.   

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The big green shop.  The old burnt out shop caught on fire before I was born sometime.  The irony of internet addiction when your phone has no coverage is for whatever reason I had 3G coverage if I walked over on the property.  I was staying across the road at my best friend's home.  

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But a few days later I was on the way on a spur of the moment last moment change of plans with my Plainsgirl buddy from Omaha...

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Way out west - we were taking the Great Nebraskan Pilgrimage to Chimney Rock, a place that was far, far away from our Eastern Nebraska.  Yet, it has always been such a huge part of the state's identity having never been there seemed kind of wrong in our advanced ages of the somewhat early middle.  

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So Chimney Rock in the Platte River Valley which was incredible.  This just doesn't seem like the Nebraska I've known.  Yet there it is Chimney Rock.   

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And WOW.  We were there.  

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So there was a museum, cool, we can go learn about this monument.   

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I walk in and see these.  I kind of did a double take.  I told my friend that my Mom designed those and my parents sold them all over Nebraska when I was a kid.   I had to call Mom and make sure I was correct that she did indeed design these mud flaps.  COOL.   My Mom did this and it's in a National Monument Museum that many people walk through and see every day.  

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So were it not for flooding in Omaha, and our random decision to travel west I wouldn't have known about this.  But I'm proud of my Mom's creativity in this museum.   Also, yeah how cool is that to go into a museum and see a part of your own family history preserved. Chimney Rock Joy Franklin -5585

I'm trying to work my way through more of my images from The Great Plains tour 2014, because I just confirmed the dates of The Great Plains tour 2015 this evening.  I'm excited!  I love going North in the Summer.  Maybe I just love traveling anywhere, anyways!  Yay for road trips.  I'd be a happy person if I could travel more.  

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So it was an interesting day last June when we visited Chimney Rock and Scottsbluff, and I'm even more thankful that we had more time with Grandma that evening.  

Yankton, South Dakota

So, I said I had many posts that I could do from my travels last Summer and I haven't forgotten. I am browsing through my images and found some that I liked from Yankton.  Named for the Yankton Nakota tribe. It is located on the Lewis and Clark Trail and just an hour or so from where I grew up.  

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Pretty cool sculpture that you will see if you head to walk across the bridge in Yankton.   My Sister and I decided that we were going to walk to Nebraska before we headed home to Oklahoma.  So we did. 

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I realize as an adult how conflicting the information was  to be told as a child that you lived in a state that was considered "The Great American Desert"  - and to return as an adult and see all the abundant water and realize how many rivers and streams flow through rural eastern Nebraska and South Dakota.   Not everything you learn is the truth.  Sure if you head west you find yourself in more desolate country but there is still a lot to learn about a region.  

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It amazes me how little we think about the importance of bridges in our lives until one is gone.  Recently the small one lane bridge on the north side of town was out.   It reopened this week after about a month of driving around town which was an inconvenience.   

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In the 19th century Yankton flooded and a small Nebraska town across the river was wiped off the map.  The Missouri River is an impressive work of nature.   

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Yankton- I did not take a lot of photos of Yankton. I mainly photographed the Missouri and the bridge.  

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Here is one photo from when we stopped for fuel on the way to Sioux Falls.