05. December 2013 · Comments Off on Nebraska Discoveries 22: My last trip to Nebraska…for now. · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
The Historic Fort Crook Suites are on "General's Row" on Offutt AFB.

The Historic Fort Crook Suites are on “General’s Row” on Offutt AFB.

Just before Thanksgiving I took one last trip to Offutt AFB in Nebraska. This time I was signing out of my unit at STRATCOM. The folks in my office took me out for a nice lunch at Sinful Burger, and I even caught one last Omaha-Offutt AMS chapter meeting to see some of my friends from my time with that group in 2008-2010.

I had been traveling to Nebraska 5-6 times per year in 2011, 2012, and 2013 for my reserve work. Dave had received orders from Nebraska to Florida a mere 6 months after I had been hired locally.

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20. May 2012 · Comments Off on Nebraska Discoveries 21*: The Keystone Trail in Bellevue · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,

* I plan to renumber/redesignate my Nebraska-sightseeing-related blog posts into something more mangeable for search engines. Stay tuned, if you subscribe via RSS you might get inundated with updates. I’m not changing the text of the posts, just the titles and tagging.

The Keystone Trail parallels Papio Creek in Bellevue.

On Friday I took a short run on one of eastern Nebraska’s awesome running trails: The Keystone Trail.  I used to run on this trail a LOT when we were living in Nebraska, and I’ve written previously about the great views it gave us of the Offutt Air Show in 2008.  This is how I did my 10K and 1/2 marathon training when I lived in the area.

From where I’m staying in Bellevue for my reserve work right now, it was about a 1/2 mile run to a trailhead off Capehart Rd.  It was so easy.  So I set my Nike+ for a 5K run and ran out 1.5 miles or so on the trail.  On the return trip, once my Nike+ told me I had run 5K, I stopped to enjoy the views.  I could take some pictures too.

The markers are approximately every tenth of a mile. They are a bit misleading on this marker: the "K" is for "Keystone" and not "kilometer". The numbers posted are miles.

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07. October 2010 · Comments Off on Nebraska Discoveries 20: Runza · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Tonight for dinner, we went out.  It tends to be a necessity 1-2 times per week in the fall while the boys are in soccer 5-days per week (Jacob 3 days, Timmy 2).  I do what I can to cook but it’s rather aggressive; when I do cook I try to get the dinner on the table at 5:30pm, the boys have to be finished with dinner by about 5:50pm.

I asked the boys “Where would you like to go?”  We have several choices between our house and Jacob’s practice field.  I had suggested a family favorite, Jimmy John’s, but Jacob had a roast beef sandwich for lunch and said he didn’t want another one for dinner.  Since roast beef is the only kind of deli meat he eats.  Sigh…

We ended up at a local restaurant called “Runza”.  It’s a chain throughout Nebraska (the first one opening in Lincoln, NE in 1949), with a couple of additional stores in Iowa, Kansas and Colorado.  It’s quite good, a fun fast food alternative to your typical hamburger joint.  Definitely not the healthiest option, so we’ll go there 3-4 times per year.  Jacob LOVES Runza sandwiches!  The kids’ meal isn’t enough now, we get him an adult-sized combo meal!

Fortunately, they also sell hamburgers so Timmy doesn’t mind going either.

So…what’s so great about this Runza place?  Well, Runza restaurants feature these unique sandwiches: a seasoned blend of ground beef, onion and cabbage sealed in a special bread.  Cheese optional.

Today I made a cool “Nebraska Discovery“.  Runza is not only the name of this restaurant chain, but it’s also the name of the sandwich featured there.  It came to the Americas via “Volga German” immigrants.  If you do a Wikipedia search for “Runza”, you’re presented a choice: Do you want to learn about the sandwich itself, or the restaurant chain with the same name?

I’m not going to regurgitate what you guys could click on and read for yourselves regarding the history, but I thought it was pretty darned cool.

PS: Our local Runza puts a package of Silly Bandz-like bracelets in the Kids’ Meals! Whoo hoo!

We’ve done this two times before here and here, but it’s worth discussing again.

It’s late August at Offutt AFB — time for an AIRSHOW!

This year’s airshow lucked out with a last-minute booking of the Thunderbirds after the Coney Island Airshow was cancelled. (Don’t know why, message boards have speculated it was financial). Unfortunate for an entire airshow to be cancelled, but yay for us, right? When the airshow was first announced in mid-July, the F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team was the headliner.

Like the past two years, the aircraft start to roll in around mid-week and we can see the air traffic from throughout my neighborhood as the aerial demo teams start to practice their shows. While the propeller planes and helicopters stay pretty close to the runway, the jets need more maneuvering space and often have to turn around over our neighborhood. Whoo hoo! So we were seeing the Thunderbirds, the F-22 and F-18 several times right from our yard! The kids at school had quite a treat during their recess on Thursday and Friday too 🙂

In 2008 we watched the Thunderbirds from the local bike trail. In 2009 we watched from a local neighborhood that offered a good view. This time, the boys and I watched right there in the middle of the action.

Enjoy some of our experiences from the airshow.

These KC-135s are Nebraska Air National Guard planes from Lincoln
From 2010 08 28 Offutt AFB Airshow
I’d never seen a Global Hawk UAS up close before, after all the times I’d forecast for them….
From 2010 08 28 Offutt AFB Airshow
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Today Shannon and I took our boys to this new “splashpark” that opened 2 weeks ago in North Omaha.  What a fun, FREE, way to spend a hot summer afternoon! School starts Monday!

Since the original post this afternoon I’ve had a chance to add more commentary about this place. The City of Omaha has built several of these “Splashgrounds” around the city and they’re a great time for the boys. Papillion has one, but Bellevue has none (hint hint!)

Today the boys spent nearly 3 hours at the park — then the horseflies started attacking and the boys were happy to go. Shannon and I sat under a tree in the shade and had a good old fashioned chatfest.

This particular one was intriguing: there’s this innocent looking post stationed near the entrance to the fenced area — you rub the top of the post (yes, I know what I’m saying here) and that activates the water for 5 minutes.  As long as a kid runs back to the post every 5 minutes or so, the water stays on.  A nice conservation tool.  You can see the post in the 3rd picture here.

From 2010 08 13 Fontenelle Splashground
12. August 2010 · Comments Off on Nebraska Discoveries 17: Ashfall Fossil Beds & "Fossil Vacations" · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

A couple weeks ago, Jacob and I (Timmy was in NY visiting Grammy and Grampy) headed out with our friends and neighbors, Shannon, Brandon, Connor and Dean to the Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historic Park, which is near the small town of Royal, Nebraska.

From 2010 07 30 Ashfall Fossil Beds

We had learned about it from our visits to Morrill Hall State Museum in Lincoln, there’s a room dedicated to the skeletons assembled from Ashfall, along with an advertisement for the facility.

Ashfall isn’t close. About 180 miles from Bellevue, and well over 3 hours worth of driving each way. So Shannon and I aimed for a 7am departure time, and headed out.

View Larger Map

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27. June 2010 · Comments Off on Nebraska Discoveries 16: The Mormon Trail Center · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

Yeah, it’s been a while…

We’re in the middle of a crazy summer here — with the family currently scattered to the 4 winds! Well, the 3 winds anyway. Jacob’s in NY enjoying a visit with Grammy and Grampy Vollmer, I’m currently on my 2-week AF Reserve tour, and Dave and Timmy are holding down the home front in Nebraska.

On June 13, my sister’s family came for a visit on their way home from a 2-week cross country drive between their house in NC and Las Vegas. They spent a full day with us, and in typical “Major Mom” fashion, I crammed a bunch of activities into that one day.

I presented my sister with a variety of options of what we could visit, and the Mormon Trail Winter Quarters Visitor’s Center caught her fancy. Jacob had been here as part of a Bellevue Schools summer camp program in 2009, but didn’t really seem to have an opinion about it. He didn’t even remember making the trip until we pulled into the parking lot and said “Hey, I’ve been here!”.

I had seen some reviews of this attraction on Trip Advisor, and prepared myself for some, uh…Mormon education? Some of the more brash reviewers spoke pretty rudely of the “preaching” that the center seemed to emphasize. I will say up front that I learned a lot…only a couple times did our guide ask some pointed questions about whether we might think that we’d be interested in the Mormon message.

The kids enjoyed the statue in front:

From 2010 06 14 Baba Visit to Omaha

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17. May 2010 · Comments Off on Nebraska Discoveries 15: Herbie the Thirteen-Striped Ground Squirrel · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

For those who didn’t know, living is Nebraska is the farthest west I’ve ever lived in the Continental U.S.  I lived in Hawaii as a child, and Seoul, Korea in the late 1990s, but this discussion is about experiences in the GREAT PLAINS!

Not long after we moved here, we started noticing the changes in flora and fauna compared to our many years east of the Mississippi. Of course, the first thing was the lack of trees. There are lots of trees in Bellevue, but once you come away from the Missouri River Valley, you are greeted with the flowing grasslands and enormous corn and soybean fields. I was definitely surprised at how hilly Nebraska still is. I always thought it was flat, like Indiana and Illinois. But it isn’t at all. And trust me, we drove through plenty of Nebraska in our first weeks here.

In our first couple months here, Howie was doing a lot of digging in our backyard. It turned out it was due to these little critters that were burrowing in the backyard, preparing to hibernate.

Chipmunks? No.
Prairie dogs? No.
Marmots? No.

After some research I figured out what the little rodents were: “Thirteen Striped Ground Squirrels”. It’s more closely related to the gopher than a squirrel, so much so that apparently Goldy the Gopher of the University of Minnesota is designed after one of these things, albeit due to the first artist’s misunderstanding about what a gopher actually looks like.

So…Howie has had his share of digging in certain locations in our backyard when the ground squirrels are breeding or preparing to hibernate. We just fill in the holes and re-seed the area.

Unfortunately, on Friday night Howie made an incredible mess out of our garden near the downspout on the southeast corner of our house. Howie had scared a ground squirrel into the downspout, and apparently with some sticky feet, the squirrel was able to suspend himself partway up the downspout.  That’s romaine lettuce on the right side of the picture, and that area you see was ALL romaine before Howie got to it Friday afternoon.

From 2010 05 14 Ground Squirrel in Yard

I think I’m going to call the squirrel “Herbie”, for simplicity’s sake. I’m tired of typing “the ground squirrel”.

After attempting to bang Herbie out by knocking on the downspout, then by using the hose to blast him out with water, Dave suggested I use one of our wax firestarters shoved up into the downspout to “flame” him out. So we did it:

From 2010 05 14 Ground Squirrel in Yard

Herbie leaped out from the vertical part of the downspout, over the flames, and into the horizontal extender, which takes the water over my garden into the grass. Dave was then able to disassemble the horizontal piece:

From 2010 05 14 Ground Squirrel in Yard

…and try to poke him out with the handle of a rake.

You’d think a normal rodent would freak from the rake handle and drop out. But I think Herbie knew that Howie and 2 young boys were waiting in the open for him. In this next picture, if you look very closely at the upper right of the bottom opening, you can see a foot sticking out:

From 2010 05 14 Ground Squirrel in Yard

BOOM! Out he plopped — with Howie at the ready!

From 2010 05 14 Ground Squirrel in Yard

Herbie came out of there in such shock — soaking wet, probably semi-burned from the flames, and definitely freaked from the dog and the kids hovering…Herbie just stood there and let me take all kinds of pictures of him.

From 2010 05 14 Ground Squirrel in Yard
From 2010 05 14 Ground Squirrel in Yard
From 2010 05 14 Ground Squirrel in Yard

This is the last picture I took — Dave took Herbie to the front yard to get Howie away from him, and he sat there and shivered.

From 2010 05 14 Ground Squirrel in Yard

Our neighbor Jake from across the street came over and offered some advice — get a box for him and get him warmed up, so that’s what we did. Dave set him up in a printer cartridge box, wrapped him in a small towel and we put him under our apple tree. By the following morning, Herbie was gone.

Was he eaten? Did he recover well enough to go back to his burrowing life? We don’t know. The important thing was that we got him away from Howie somewhat humanely, and got Howie out of our garden…for now.

15. May 2010 · Comments Off on Nebraska Discoveries 14: Kool Aid!* · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

*Yes, you read that correctly!

I introduced Kool-Aid to the kids recently.  I guess they’d had it before at birthday parties and stuff, but I never made it for the boys the good old fashioned way: the little packet, 1 cup of sugar (give or take) and 2 quarts of water (give or take.)

It got me thinking (can you smell the smoke?) about Kool-Aid in general.  How much I grew up with it as a kid — there are dozens of pictures of me as a kid with Kool-Aid mustaches, and I tried to find one, but I couldn’t find one easily.  But I did find this picture from April 1977:

From 1977 04 California-to-Hawaii

See? That’s how much I must have loved Kool-Aid…

Or was it that my Mom made me so much Kool-Aid, she sent in 50 envelopes for a free t-shirt? I contemplated doing that with Mr. Bubble for my own boys…

Anyway, I got to thinking about the history of Kool-Aid, and I happened across this website.  Go about 2/3 the way down the rather verbose history and you’ll see the breakthrough information…Edwin E. Perkins introduced Kool-Aid to the world from Hastings, Nebraska in the late 1920s.

Well would you look at that? Kool-Aid was invented in Nebraska!  The city of Hastings is about 2 1/2 hours west of where I am now. And look what else! In August there’s a Kool-Aid Days right there in Hastings! That sounds, um…INTERESTING. Not sure if I’d make the big trip west expressly for that, but I’ll stick it in my hip pocket if we’re desperately looking for something to do the weekend before school starts…but I’m guessing we won’t.

Back at the home front, I broke out my two-quart pitcher and whipped up some grape Kool-Aid for Timmy. He guzzled the first cup down so quickly! In fact, I had to chide him for gulping too loudly! “Glug, glug, glug!” Ha ha!

That batch lasted about 2 days, and yesterday I made fruit punch and even poured some into two cups for popsicles.  I should try to find some legitimate molds, but for now plastic cups and craft sticks are working just fine…

I like the idea of my boys enjoying Kool-Aid. It’s cheap to make (20 cents for the packet, about 30 cents worth of sugar, the negligible cost for the water). So 2 quarts for less than the cost of 1 16 oz. soda or Gatorade.  Without the high fructose corn syrup.

05. May 2010 · Comments Off on Nebraska Discoveries 13: Historic Fort Crook & SAC Chapel, Offutt AFB · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Today I’m sharing some of the history on Offutt AFB.  Unfortunately, everyone can’t just get onto Offutt.  You need to have a military ID card to get onto the base freely, or make a friend with a military member who can sign you in as a guest.

As mentioned before, I started using this software to track my runs. The software doesn’t seem very stable on my iPhone (probably because I downloaded the free version and they want my money before it works the way I want it to…). So this isn’t the most accurate thing out there, but it’s fun to give it a go.

So here’s a map of the most recent run I performed:

If you choose “view full” in the lower left, then select the satellite map (or Hybrid), you can see that I’m running the perimeter of a large field. This is the parade field of what was formerly Fort Crook, which was the original military installation that is now the home of Offutt AFB. Fort Crook was established in 1888, and was completed in 1894.  Today, many of the buildings surrounding the parade field are from their original mid-1890s construction, including the buildings of “General’s Row” which are seen in the background here from the late 1890s:

And here are the same houses today, the same ones as on the left side of the above photo: