DOWNSHIFTERS' DIARY: A day of nature, history, and the highway

This morning, we were up before the sun to see the migration of the sand hill cranes on the Platte River.

We went on the recommendation of my brother-in-law, who is a former park ranger. It was completely worth the small sacrifice of actually having to set our alarm. These creatures stop on the Platte River near Kearney, Nebraska twice a year on their migrations, landing on islands then walking into the water where they feel safe.

The sights of hundreds of cranes "lifting off" together in the early morning sun and making the sky go practically black with birds were spectacular, but the sound was even more amazing. I have a brief video which I'll post on YouTube if it's worthwhile.

Afterward, it was back to the hotel for showers, breakfast, and a full tank of gas before getting back onto westbound I-80.

A short while down the road, we came to the town of Gothenburg, which boasts a museum dedicate to the pioneers' sod houses as well as a restored Pony Express station. Both were within easy striking distance of the freeway and made interesting diversions.

We were quite surprised by the serendipity. Today, April 3, is the 150th anniversary of the start of the Pony Express, which ran from St. Louis, Missouri to Sacramento, California for slightly more than 18 months starting on April 3, 1860. The station is several miles from where it actually served Pony Express riders but is nonetheless fascinating. It's a small building, so only a short time in required to see what it has to offer.

Heading back toward the freeway, we stopped at the sod house museum. It's only open during the summer months, but the sod home on display is still interesting from the outside, as are the sculptures of the bison and mounted cowboy made entirely out of barbed wire.

Back on the road for the remainder of the drive to Ft. Collins, where we will spend Easter Sunday enjoying family time with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. More on Downshifters' Diary next week.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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