Nebraska City, NE, Part II: Lewis & Clark
When we first started full-timing back in 2006, we started blogging to document our travels. When we first started, we were under the impression we would be able to copy our blog entries onto CDs as a way of preserving our posts. About a year into blogging we found out that wasn't possible. Then Margery found Blurb, which allows you to transfer your posts to book form. We completed the book for our first year of travels while we were in Florida last winter. You can find more details about how the publishing works in our post titled How We Became Publishers.
We recently finished the book for our second year of travels, and it arrived while we were staying in Nebraska City. We are again very pleased with the results.
We're hoping now that we have more practice in formatting and a good system for proofreading we will be get years three and four completed in the near future.
The day after visiting Arbor Day Farm we wanted to visit Arbor Lodge, which is a 52-room mansion that belonged to the Morton family. Arbor Lodge is part of a state park located adjacent to Arbor Day Farm.
Shortly after arriving in Nebraska City, J. Sterling Morton and his wife built a modest 4-room frame house on their 160-acre claim. Joy Morton, who was J. Sterling Morton's oldest son and founder of Morton Salt, inherited the house when his father died in 1902. Although the house had been enlarged and remodeled several times by his father, Joy Morton expanded the house to the 52-room, neo-classical mansion that stands today. Joy Morton lived in Chicago and used Arbor Lodge as a summer home.
In addition to the mansion, Arbor Lodge State Park includes gardens and an arboretum. The arboretum contains 270 varieties of trees and shrubs. Since we figured some of our time at the state park would be spent outside, we wanted to go early in the day to beat the heat. Although the AAA Guide Book said the house didn't open for tours until 10:00 AM, we searched the state park web site hoping to find earlier summer hours. Since we couldn't find anything on the web site at all about the hours for the mansion, we assumed the AAA Guide Book was right and went a little after 10:00. Unfortunately, when we got there we found out the mansion didn't open until 1:00 PM. Apparently, they are experiencing budget cuts and had to shorten their hours. Shudda called.
Since it was already getting hot and humid, we didn't want to go hang out at the motor home and come back later, so we decided to save Arbor Lodge for another visit. We did take a quick look around the gardens, but found them to be somewhat seedy and weedy - another apparent victim of budget cuts. They did, however, have several beautiful hibiscus. The blooms were as big as dinner plates.
The other thing we wanted to see in Nebraska City was the Missouri River Basin Lewis & Clark Center, which was less than a mile down the road from the campground. Since our plans to see Arbor Lodge misfired, we headed to the Lewis & Clark Center instead.
After President Thomas Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, he commissioned Meriwether Lewis, who was his aide, to explore the area to try to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean. Lewis selected his friend and colleague William Clark to be his partner. In 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Pacific Northwest paddled up the Missouri River right past the site of present-day Nebraska City.
Outside the Lewis & Clark Center is a replica of the 55-foot keelboat used by Lewis and Clark.
The boat had three methods to propel it upstream. A sail could be used if the wind was favorable. If the water was relatively shallow, poles were used. Oars were for deeper water.
The original keelboat was built in our old hometown of Pittsburgh. Meriwether Lewis left Pittsburgh with the boat on August 31, 1803, so that date could really be considered the start of the expedition, and Pittsburgh could be considered the starting point. However, Lewis declared the official starting point of the expedition to be Camp Dubois, which was a spot on the east side of the Mississippi River near present-day Hartford, IL, that was used as a camp during the winter of 1803-4. The expedition officially departed from Camp Dubois on March 14, 1804.
The Lewis & Clark Center includes an indoor interpretive center with interactive displays by the University of Nebraska. There was also a good movie about the expedition.
The displays concentrate on the travel, the flora, the fauna and the scientific discoveries made by Lewis and Clark. The first floor has displays about navigation and river travel. Beavers were plentiful along the rivers back then.
A fun display featured a super-sized mosquito that emphasized how the expedition was plagued by insects along the rivers. By the way, we think we saw this guy's big brother back at Fort Bridger RV Campground. The display dared visitors to stick their arms into the opening. Actually, there is nothing in there but several strings hanging down to tickle your arm.
The second floor of the center has many of the larger animals observed by the expedition like this elk.
Bison were a common sight in the northern plains.
Outside, there are several walking trails. The center is located on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, so we took the trail that went to the river overlook to see where Lewis and Clark passed by over 200 years ago.
Another trail led to a Native American earth lodge. The earth lodge was commonly used by Plains Indians, especially those who were less nomadic. The lodges were a familiar sight to traders along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.
Inside, the lodge was surprisingly roomy, and surprisingly cool.
After visiting the Missouri River Basin Lewis & Clark Center, we went back to the motor home for a while to cool off. A little later, we went to up into Nebraska City to La Portal Mexican Restaurant for an early dinner. We passed by the restaurant several times around lunchtime, and every time we did the parking lot was packed. We went in mid afternoon after the lunch rush, so there was hardly anyone else there.
There were at least a dozen combo dinners to choose from that all cost $6.99 each. We both ended up having the same one that included an enchilada, a burrito and a chili relleno. Margery had a beef enchilada and burrito, and Paul had chicken.
While most Mexican restaurants include two menu items plus refried beans and rice, El Portal skips the sides and gives you three items. The food was good, but not great, and the prices are very reasonable.
We stayed in Nebraska City for a week. We didn't do a lot of sightseeing, so that gave us plenty of time to relax. On the day before we left, we did our usual pre-departure chores. Then we headed southeast the next morning.