We made our way out of Nebraska and into Kansas, accompanied by hot, windy weather. Got off a little later than we wanted due to a minor issue with the hitch but after that the trip was smooth and uneventful. We rolled into Dodge City about mid afternoon and found the park adequate but bordering a railroad track and stockyards detracted from the experience a bit. Our hopes for an interesting stay were let down a bit. It was evidently not the right season for the true Dodge City experience so we went through the gift shop and saw a lot of Gunsmoke (TV show) souvenirs, a little disappointing but we managed to find a great Mexican restaurant.
The next couple days were rainy so we spent some time planning more of our route to Yuma. When we left Dodge City it was with rain and thunder but we managed to get to Amarillo, Texas, without any issues. We have had really excellent traveling weather for most of the time on the road these past 2 years so we can’t really complain. At least it’s warm! The RV park we stayed at was the Oasis RV Resort and I think it was one of the best planned parks we have seen. It is also very close to the Cadillac Ranch which we had to stop to see. If we are back through here in the future, this is where we will stay.
The main reason for stopping in Amarillo was the proximity to Palo Duro Canyon, billed as Texas’ Grand Canyon. The ride down into and through the canyon and was quite beautiful. We had considered taking the RV down into the canyon and spending the night, but I am glad we didn’t. A smaller 5th wheel or motorhome would have been okay but ours, at 40′ might have given us some problems on some of the turns. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our afternoon there.
We left Amarillo and headed toward Dallas, stopping overnight in Vernon,Texas, about half way between the two cities. It was overcast and rainy these 2 days but the road is good and didn’t have any issues.The truck is running like new after the great job the guys in Detroit Lakes did for us. Crossing our fingers it stays that way!
We got an early start and met with the director of the Custer County Historical Museum, Tammy, and her mother, Rosalie, concerning Mary’s father (born in Oconto), grandfather and grandmother, along with plenty of detail about their lives. I can’t say enough about these two gracious ladies. They really went above and beyond in their research.
Mary was able to see county records of her grandparents, Edwin F.and Mary H. Russell: their land purchase and eventual sale; Edwin’s grave in the old Viola cemetery (Viola was a town that is no longer there); the 160 acre plot of land where they built their home, and we were able to talk with the gentleman who now owns the land (it is part of a 3,000 acre spread).
The museum also had a large collection of photographs by Solomon D. Butcher, chronicling the lives and everyday struggles of early settlers to the sand hills. Nearby was 2 large murals constructed of sculpted bricks, reminiscent of the murals on the Chamber of Commerce building in Concordia, Kansas, that we saw 2 years ago.
Finally we had lunch with Tammy, and after again thanking them for their efforts, said our goodbyes and headed back to Gothenburg to get ready for the next leg of our journey, Dodge City, Kansas.
We left Woodland Trails on September 19th, with our ultimate destination of Yuma, Arizona, around October 22nd. Meanwhile we have several stops along the way to visit friends, relatives, and to do a little ancestor hunting.
Our first stop was in Sioux Falls, SD, for a night and took in the falls along the Big Sioux river in Falls Park. This is a beautifully maintained park. Here again was the remains of a very large flour mill which had burned to the ground. The mill was erected along with a water turbine for power however the owner was a bit overly optimistic and it failed after a short time. The park features a tall viewing tower, giving a panoramic aerial view of the remains of the mill, the falls, and the city nearby.
We had nice, warm weather on the next leg of the trip to Valentine, Nebraska. Two years ago we traveled south through Nebraska and saw lots of fields with crops. This time it was different. The trip to Valentine went through beautiful, hilly terrain as we crossed the Missouri river. To us it was reminiscent of driving through the state of Missouri. We stopped along an overlook to take in the view and grab some lunch.
After a stormy night, the day dawned bright and sunny as we continued on to the town of Gothenburg, NE. This was to be our HQ for the next few days as we explored Broken Bow and Oconto, the one-time center of much of Mary’s paternal ancestors.
Getting there allowed us to travel through the Nebraska sand hills. This is the area you may have read about where early settlers built homes from sod because there were no trees, literally. Even though the landscape is a bit barren, there is still a lot of beauty in it to see. It’s strange driving for many miles, seeing nothing more than sand hills and a few scattered head of cattle, then all of a sudden seeing a town.
Tomorrow we go to Broken Bow to meet with folks from the Custer County Historical Museum.