The first leg of our summer vacation car trip to Washington State back in the 1960’s was a stop at Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska. The folks piled all of us Hauck kids in the back of the station wagon, loaded up the camping gear, attached a U-Haul trailer full of our trappings for a two-week family vacation, and drove the first leg of the journey from Medicine Lodge, Kansas, to this mecca in the middle of Nebraska. It was almost 300 miles and took longer than the suggested time with all of the coffee breaks followed by required potty breaks on our route to the great Northwest.
The Pioneer Village complex comprises 28 buildings on 20 acres — as a kid it was huge! There are 12 historic buildings around the circular “green”. There’s a Frontier Fort, a real honest-to-goodness Pony Express Station, an Iron Horse, and a home, made of sod. You all know about my fascination with Little House on the Prairie by now. It started on this journey. http://www.pioneervillage.org/
We stopped here because my brothers loved cars (they were teens and pre-teens at the time of trip) and this place has a doozy of a collection along with tractors, airplanes and other mechanical devices. Even better, according to frugal Hauck rules, Pioneer Village had its own campground which is where we set up camp for at least one night. The night we stayed there, I leaped over a concrete divider in the parking lot, peeled off one of my growing number of warts on my knees, and nearly bled to death. It was the first night of many memorable ones traveling with the family. Our next stop on our journey after leaving Pioneer Village that summer was to Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota. There was a mix up in our camping arrangements that night and for some reason I remember us sleeping out beside the car on a blanket with only the night stars as a cover. It was a little dewy but I don’t remember being scared just a little uncomfortable on the hard ground. There were many more bizarre experiences on this trip including one in which our parents were sure we were camping next to the infamous Manson Family in Utah and we departed quietly and unharmed the next morning before dawn.
I think this journey as well as several others in my youth may be why I am not a big fan of camping today. While a fun experience as a child and full of good memories, as an adult I don’t consider camping a vacation. It is dirty, there are bugs, and sleeping on the ground is a horrible idea which is why we built sod houses. I can do “cabining” but only in small doses. If you are in the Minden area in the spring, look for the sandhill cranes along the Platte River. From March through early April, about 600,000 sandhill cranes — nearly 90 percent of the world’s total sandhill population — make a stop at the Nebraskan river, something of a pit stop on their path to breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska, and as far away as Siberia.
Now, birding is more up my alley….