Luci’s 2017 Journey North, and West: Arizona to Nebraska

Our trip began with a quick side trip to Montezuma Castle ruins just off I-17 near Camp Verde. Historians say Southern Sinagua farmers built this five story, twenty room dwelling between 1100 and 1300 AD. Nearby was a 45 room castle like structure which is now in ruin. The Verde river is close by providing irrigation for corn, beans, squash and cotton. No one knows why these people left this area to migrate north to other villages or if they returned to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. 

Proving the “small world” theory, we saw music friends LuAnn and John Roos who just happened to be visiting this National Monument on their way to a Verde Valley Railroad excursion. 

Camping this first night after a swing through Winslow to see the “Standing on a Corner” statue, was at Homolovi State Park. North of Interstate 40 near Winslow Arizona, this park was established to protect the ruins of the Hisat’sinom (Anasazi) who lived here and farmed. They built Pueblos using stone and adobe construction. Today the Hopi people claim these people as ancestors and were instrumental in encouraging Arizona to preserve the area. The campsites had small trees, electricity and water and was perfect for our one night stay. We toured the ruins and I watched for birds. 

Onward through Arizona on I-40 to our destination KOA in Bernallilo New Mexico. It is Mothers Day, a perfect time to eat an early dinner at the Range Cafe. Yummy New Mexican style Mexican food and Lavender Cake for dessert. Lavender seeds top the cake. It looks like mice may have been gnawing but….just us. We took it home in a box and enjoyed it several times. 

The next night was spent at Clayton Lake State Park in New Mexico. The scenery changes that happen between Phoenix and the eastern plains of New Mexico are major in elevation, geology and ecology. Clayton Lake State park was built at the edge of a man made reservoir on the high plains where farming and cattle feeding are prominent. The wind was blowing, making us think about the dust bowl days. Our campsite had a gravel pad with electricity and water. Facilities included a large shelter for group meals with a sand volleyball court. The information cabin had a birding guide and information about dinosaur tracks that were found when the dam was built. I watched birds and Dave hiked over to the dam to see the tracks. I saw turkey vulture, cliff swallow, robin, lark sparrow, meadowlark, western kingbird, horned lark and canyon towhee. Here are the tracks!


One night and away we go again across the plains of a small part of Oklahoma and most all of Kansas. Our destination for this night is Chautauqua Park on the Solomon river. Electric hookups and water a picnic shade with a table and grass to park on. It was a warm day and humid! Old friends from teaching days at Sandy Creek, Wyatt and Vickie Frohling welcomed us. Their daughter has a nice bistro downtown Beloit called “Kettle” where we joined them for dinner. As we were eating a rain storm dumped three inches of rain. Consequently, we were stuck when we tried to leave the next morning.  A tow truck made short work of getting us back onto the pavement. A lesson learned? We’ll see.

Mary, Dave, Vickie, Wyatt and their grandson Wakefield at Kettle cafe. We ate breakfast there after getting unstuck. 

A fairly short drive north into Nebraska and to a spot for Luci at Camp Away just minutes from our kids in Lincoln. This is an opportunity to see the kids and grandkids, do our laundry and take a good shower. Daniel is just finishing seventh grade and has his last performance in Boys Choir of Lincoln this evening. Katie is taking end of year tests as a sophomore at Lincoln High.  Matt is at work at Nelnet and Jennifer at Tetrad. Dave and I get our chores done and are ready for the Choir performance and dinner at the Oven. 


The Brinkman guys at the Choir venue in Lincoln. 


Daniel and Katie on last day of classes. 

The next day we pick Katie up from school and take her to piano. The evening is spent cooking dinner and visiting. Katie and Daniel played their recital pieces and amazed us with their talent. The family is up and off to school and work. We are on the road again heading west to Hastings where we park in our son Ross’ apartment parking lot and stay in his guest room.  He has reservations for dinner this evening at Odyssey a nice resturant in downtown Hastings. We had a lovely meal and a good visit. Two nights catch us up. So good to see our kids and know they are doing well and hug the grandkids and find out their summer plans. We are lucky to have Face Time to be able to see them at any time. 

Riverside Park in Neligh is the next campsite. Green grass, electricity and water plus a shower house/restroom and wifi are the amenities. We are invited for dinner by Gloria and Brian Christiansen. Fried chicken with all the trimmings and pumpkin dessert. Can’t be beat. Jerry Schrader comes later to visit. It is good to see our friends from teaching days in Neligh and playing with Sweet Corn band. Lots of memories are shared and we get caught up on everyone and their kids. 

Brian and Gloria Christiansen. 

Two nights in Neligh and on west to Atkinson, our home town. My sister lives here and brother lives nearby in O’Neill. Luci has a nice gravel pad and full hook-ups at the Wheel In RV Park. Next to us is a park like lawn with bird feeders and lots of birds. Sandy’s house is our headquarters. We hang out there, cook and eat, pet cats, sort fabric, rearrange furniture and just relax. Dinner out with brother Robb and Sandy at the Flat Iron grill downtown Atkinson.  The next few days are spent catching up, sightseeing in the country where Sandy and I pick wild asparagus in lush green meadows in the misty rain with songbirds all around. Memories from childhood surround us. We are on property that once was owned by our grandparents and now belongs to a cousin. Meanwhile, Dave is playing fiddle tunes with friend Jay Kelly and getting ready for a reunion of his high school class of 1967. A side trip to Springview NE was made to see and play music with a bunch of friends at the Senior Center. 


LaVern Billingsley from Douglas WY and Jay Kelly from Atkinson. 


Vanessa Kenaston in above photo. Sharon Kenaston on bass, Roger Kenaston on dobro and Mary Channer Paul singing. 


Class of 1967 got together for dinner and lunch the next day. Some even made it to the Alumni Banquet! The class graduated 35; two are deceased and 19 attended the 50th class reunion. 

Memorial Day the Legion men are out early placing flags along the city highway and Legion women placing flags on veteran’s graves. Sandy, Dave and I take flowers to family graves in Atkinson and Stuart. 



After a last coffee with Sandy and a brief hug and visit with Uncle Lawrence, the last surviving Slaymaker of our father’s family, we took off across the sand hills for our last night in Nebraska at Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford NE.  Beautiful green hills and meadows, Angus, Hereford, Charlois cattle in pasture alongside Highway 20 and the vacated railroad now a walking/biking trail. Goodbye Nebraska and the first leg of our summer trip.

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