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Hard driving, Hells Angels and lots of pit stops



Now I know how Class A motorhome drivers live. They spend lots of time checking their mirrors, looking for places to park that are big enough to handle their length and…. visiting gas stations.

As we are towing a 21-foot travel trailer behind our Roadtrek on a family caravan vacation trip to the Rockies, I’ve found towing very easy and parking not so bad as long as I don’t try pulling in to fast-food places with my 30-foot-plus length.

Truthfully, I’ve quickly gotten used to towing and with 1,000-pus miles under my belt as we pulled into Gothenberg, Nebraska, last night, the only complaint I have is what towing a trailer has done to my fuel consumption.

Where before my 2012 Roadtrek eTrek averaged 17-18 mpg, towing the 2,780 extra pounds in the trailer has dropped it to 11-12 mpg.

Still, it’s well worth it to be all together as a family.

This is now my third trip west along I-80 and I have forgotten how much corn they grow our here in the prairie. And how tall it is, easily eight feet in most fields.

The biggest challenge we’ve had so far is group sightseeing with three big dogs. Someone always has to stay outside or behind to tend to the dogs.

The biggest excitement yesterday was having lunch with a bunch of Hells Angels motorcycle club members. About a dozen of them from the California chapter pulled into the same Kum & Go gas station and Subway restaurant we chose west of Des Moines. A guy named Demento told me they were headed to Sturgis in San Diego, and the big motorcycle week doings up there.

They seemed like nice enough guys. In the Subway, one of them groused that there was a steakhouse up the road and he couldn’t figure out why they were eating at a Subway rather than a steakhouse. One of the other members said they could eat steak tonight and that about ended the discussion.

Steak sounded pretty good to me, too, but with all the extra fuel expenses, I’m lucky I can afford Subway.

As we pulled out of the station, we saw an Iowa State Police cruiser backed into the Kum & Go keeping an eye on the Hells Angels.

We drove 480 miles yesterday from Amana, Iowa to get to this little community, which bills itself as “the the Pony Express Capital of Nebraska” because of a restored station in town that is a great tourist stop. Gothensberg is near the original route of the Oregon Trail and right on the Pony Express route west.

The Pony Express was in existence a very short time – from April 3, 1860 to late October 1861 and provided the fastest mail delivery between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. As explained by the Nebraska Tourism folks, the whole reason it existed was promotional – to draw public attention to the central route in hope of gaining the million dollar government mail contract for the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak express Company.

In total there were 183 men that were riders for the Pony Express during this period of just over 18 months. They had to be young, skinny men, not over 18 and must have been expert riders. It was said they had to be willing to risk death daily and that orphans were preferred. Most of the riders were around 20 with the youngest of them 11 and the oldest was in his mid-40s. The average weight was 120 pounds.

These men worked for $100 a month. The riders traveled for between 75 and 100 miles with fresh horses being provided every 10 to 15 miles. The speed of the horses averaged 10 miles an hour. The mix of breeds included thoroughbreds, mustangs, pintos, and Morgans. There were approximately 165 stations along the route of almost 2,000 miles.

The cost of a 1/2 ounce letter was $5 when the rides began but by the end of the Pony Express the price had dropped to $1 per 1/2 ounce.

The end of the Pony Express happened on October 24, 1861. With the outbreak of the Civil War and the lack of getting the government contract and the debt incurred by the owners the route could not be continued. The Pony Express station in Gothensberg is open from 8am – 8 pm during the summer and 9 – 6 in May and September.

Also in Gothensberg and right off I-80 at the town exit 211 is a sod house.

Sod houses or “soddies,” as they were also known, were built on the prairies from the sod of thickly rooted prairie grass by the settlers and were forerunners to the log cabins in North America. The sod was used primarily as there weren’t standard building materials such as wood or stone on the prairies. The houses were naturally very cheap to build and surprisingly well insulated but were susceptible to damp and even rain damage.

The Sod House Museum is a red barn shaped authentic replica of the sod houses built by early settlers in this region and was established in 1988. The lives and working practices of the settlers is honored here with memorabilia and photographs taken during the pioneer era. The inside of the sod houses were pretty sparse reflecting the hard times experienced by the settlers who lived there. The women who work at the musem tell fascinating tales of life on the prairie and its many hardships. Many of the women settlers here, isolated in such big country, committed suicide.

One story they told us involved a variation of the sod house, lean-to houses carved into the sides of hills. Seemed that sometimes,snakes would some down through the earthen roofs of some of these dugout homes, dropping right on the floor.

We’ll stick with our RVs, thank you very much.

We spent the night at the Gothenberg KOA, a pleasant shaded little campground just a half mile from the Interstate.

Off we go again today, 360 miles to Colorado Springs, CO and the Cheyenne Mountain State Park.

But first, I better fill up.


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