Friday, November 20, 2020

November Day Trip + Family Time


I had always said the only thing that would make me homeschool is if we were traveling full time (kind of like those full time RV families, but minus the RV). I never once considered a pandemic, but ya know, here we are. Since 2020 is about reinventing how we do things, I decided my main focus would be teaching my minis with as many hands on learning opportunities as possible (while also working full time). As two of the minis read about the Oregon Trail and the Pony Express, a quick Google search of places to see both of these things as close to us as possible, led me to Rock Creek Station National Historical Park in Fairbury, NE.

With Covid numbers on the rise, I didn't feel comfortable spending the time anywhere. So, we got up at 5 a.m. to make the four hour journey to the Park. The drive was easy peasy and uneventful. Our Starbucks before we left Des Moines really helped us all!

A four hour drive and only one stop! I have rock star road trippers!

I managed to find a site that has both wagon ruts from the Oregon Trail that you can see (and hike some of the Trail as well!) and was a Pony Express site! The visitors center was not open, but once the dog stopped barking at the big, fake oxen, we grabbed a picture before we hit a prairie trail.
We started on a smooth prairie trail and I didn't pay much attention as we turned a bend and the trail became very uneven, with deep, wide ruts. I was much too busy trying to keep the dog from eating the "presents" the horses had left behind on the trail. It wasn't until we were nearing the historical houses and buildings that I realized we were walking ON the Oregon Trail and the trail ruts! At this time I decided to check Facebook and I saw the election results. I stood crying (happy tears), in the trail ruts at a Historical Park. I could not have planned that any better if I had tried.
We explored the historical buildings (they are all closed currently, so only the outside), sat in old wagons, saw many abandoned wagons and wagon parts in the old creek, read every sign, took so many pictures in front of every historical post marking (I will not bore you with them all!), and finished hiking the prairie trail. Surrounding the Historical Park is private farmland, so we hiked the Oregon Trail as much and as far as we could in both directions. 
Seeing Oregon Trail wagon ruts had been on my bucket list since the 3rd grade when I died of dysentry on the Oregon Trail. Don't ask me why, but it has. I was ecstatic to share this with the minis, who are Oregon Trail game fanatics. I was worried Elizabeth, at 8 years old, would be disappointed there weren't actual horses where we were....I wasn't totally convinced she actually understood what the Pony Express was, considering a few years ago, she stood crying, in Independence, MO. In the middle of the town square, as she screamed, "but WHERE are the wagons and dysentry!??!" Hilarious memory and I was relieved to hear I am, in fact, teaching her things in homeschool!

This is where we learned that these small creeks on the prairie were actually harder to cross that large rivers due to the steep, rocky, unstable soil on the creek beds. I found this fascinating because I never would have imagined that, but thinking about it, it did make sense.

The Trail ruts here weren't as deep, but they were so many everywhere it was amazing to walk over them. Some of the old horse hoof prints were beginning to fossilize. They used their newfound science knowledge of fossils, rocks, and weathering to talk on, and on, and on about that!

Our next stop was for a very late lunch at Runza. The minis and I had never tried it. We got the typical Runza sandwich, chili and a cinnamon roll (it's highly recommended by the middle mini), and a burger. No bad, not wonderful, but we always enjoy trying local eats.

Since we were in Nebraska, we wanted to check out Indian Cave State Park (along the border of NE and IA). I had noted that the actual cave was closed, but after driving through the entire park, hiking a short trail, checking out a few "look out areas," we discovered the entire Cave Trail was closed! That was the one hike we really wanted to do. By the time we got all the way to the end of the Park, the sun was beginning to set, so I didn't feel comfortable doing a longer hike. We did have fun exploring all parts of the park. Then it was driving home, a stop to look at the stars and constellations, and home in time for a night of election news coverage. It was a lot of driving, a lot of learning, and a lot of fun! I love taking homeschool on the road.

There was an old town in this state park. There was a broom works, a school house, small playground, and walking paths.

Elizabeth: "Mom! There's the Missouri River where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explored!" Homeschool for the win!

Typically, after a busy Saturday, we would do a slow down Sunday. Except, the weather was gorgeous, so we were able to get together with family for my aunt's 65th birthday! We were able to do a socially distanced lunch and spend time with family. The reality is we have no idea when we'll be able to spend time with each other as colder weather sets in, so we took advantage of the opportunity and loved every minute of it.