My regular weekend fell on July 24-25, which I used to get the camper
packed. I managed to get everything packed except fresh food. Early on
the morning of the 26th, Cheryl packed the food items that needed
to be chilled in a small cooler that we could carry in the car. We managed
to leave the house by 08.30am(very good for us) and we stopped at the atm
and picked up some cash. We then stopped at a Kwik Trip/Burger King on
the University Ave exit, West Des Moines, topped the car off and had breakfast.
We left Des Moines at approximatly 09.15am.
We followed the 80 West toward Omaha, driving about 70mph, we then took
the 680 bypass north around Omaha. At a couple minuites after 11.00am we
crossed the Missouri. Within a few minuites a major vibration developed,
I pulled over to see what was wrong. A quick scan showed that all of the
tires were inflated, but a more careful inspection revealed a balooned
camper tire(and it was still inflating.)
I hadn't even thought much about the tires on the camper, we had already
had it out once this year without any problems. Well I didn't even have
a lug wrench that would work on the camper, so I had to call for help.
We first called AAA, who told me the camper wasn't covered. They then recomended I call the local police. I called the Omaha Police Dept. And they gave me two numbers for local tow services. The first company said they would come out for $45and it would be about 30 minutes, I agreed.
It was about 90 degrees and the car was getting hot, so we got out the lawn chairs and set back and relaxed. In about 30-40 minuites the tow truck showed up, they pulled the tire off and put the spare on for us. They then informed us, two exits down was a TSC and they would sell us tires that would fit our camper. We figure we lost about an hour.
We went to the TSC and purchased a spare for about $45 and a four way
for about $15. We filled up at a gas station next door. We had driven 131
miles and used 7.6 gallons of gas giving us about 17mpg(not very good)
We had intended on driving west on 80 to North Platte and then taking US
highway 83 north to Valentine. But the clerk in the gas station said we
would save several hours if we went the back way.
So feeling brave, we went north on US Highway 75 and then followed US
Highway 30 into Fremont. We stopped there at a Runza fast food returant
My brother in law Phil had put us up to that, He knew they were popular
in Nebraska and was curious. It is spiced hamburger, cabbage and onions
in a baked piece of bread(kind of like a small calzone, only diffrent.)
It is probably of german heritage. We then followed US Highway 275 North
out of Fremont. About 20 minuites before we got to O'Neil, NE, the spare
tire came apart. I felt the vibration, but couldn't see anything wrong.
Cheryl could see rubber flying off of the tire. I pulled over and changed
the tire, time lost 20 minuites. When we got to O'Neil we fueled up(180
miles and used 10.5 gallons.) One of the patrons recomended that we go
to Bomgards, farm retail chain. They mounted one of their tires and charged
us $37. Cheryl said that she was in love with farm retail stores.
It was after 8pm before we arrived in Valentine, I believe we filled
the car up there(177 miles, 8 gallons giving 22 mpg) and then headed for
Merritt Resovoir(about 25 miles.) It was after 9pm before we had the camper
set up. I think we just had sanwiches and went to bed. I also discovered
the flies bite up here leaving some welts on my legs, they left Cheryl
About 10 am the next morning, the camper was just to hot to spend much time in there. So we took the car back to Valentine, had lunch at Jordan's. It was a buffet, all you can eat, the steak here is very very good. We headed out to the observing site and set up at about 07.30pm and set up. Bryan and Jim from our local club(DMAS) found us and Bryan assaulted us with his digital camera. Unfortunatly clouds moved in, so we were back at the camper by 11pm.
Monday we were up by 8am and we went and did some site seeing. We saw
two of the three waterfalls and took a hike. There is a dollar entry fee
for the Snake River Waterfall(well worth it!)
After we saw Snake Falls, we went to Fort Niobrara Wild Life Refuge,
which had a drive through park, with lots of prarie dogs and some larger
herbivores of which we saw several elk.
We then went to the falls at the wild life refuge. We had to work our
way down some metal stairs and at the the bottom was the falls in all of
their glory. We were on a trail head which we didn't know how long it was
going to be, so we followed it. It turned out to be 2.5 miles long, mostly
up and down hill. We found our selves on a very hot long hike(it was in
the 90s.) Afterwards we went back to town and had a nice long cold drink
It was now after 3pm, so we headed back to the campground, cleaned up(By
the way their shower facilities leaves something to be desired) and invited
Bryan and Jim to have dinner with us at the Waters Edge(Merritt Resort's
fine dining facility.)
After dinner(7.30pm or so) we all headed out to the observing site and
set up. I noticed clouds developing to the west of us, but they ended up
going south of us and we got a clear night of observing. As soon as it
got dark, I got a crude polar alignment, looked at m22 for a few minuites
and then got started on my observing program.
I picked off the following objects on the night of the 28th.
We broke off after about 12.30am and I slept in until about 9am. We
went into town for lunch, after whiuch we noticed storm clouds building
to the south west. We hurried back to the camper, got all of the windows
zipped up and then the storm hit. 40mph winds rocked the camper, the lights
flickered a few times and then it was over(about 20 minuites.) For our
evening meal there was the NSP catered meal at the Waters Edge, which consisted
of hamburgers, baked beans and several salad items. By evening it had cleared
off and we went out and set up again. After we got set up, we realized
that we had only one red flashlight between the two of us. Cheryl was working
on her Binocular Messier List, so we were fighting all night over who can
use the flashlight.
I picked off the following objects on the night of the 29th.
After getting 8 messier objects in one night, I looked at Mars for a
while(I could clearly see the ice cap) and then we headed down to where
the boys were with the big scopes. One of the guys there had a 20+" scope
with a uhc filter on it and he got a very nice view of Mars with lots of
detail. We mostly chatted until about 1:30am when we came back and took
the scopes down. While driving back to the camper at about 2.15am or so
we could clearly see the Pleides.
I didn't get up until 11am when the camper got to hot to sleep in. Cheryl was already up, sitting outside in one of the lawn chairs. We went over to the beach party where they were serving foot long polish sausages and brats.
I picked off the following objects on the night of the 30th.
After that we went down and visited with the boys with the big scopes.
I overheard one of them mentioning that he was studying to be a proffesional
astronomer and that he had spent a month on top of Mt. Kea and the skys
here compared favorably(the seeing was steadier on Mt Kea though.)
Thursday we had lunch in town(your small town square cafe sort of place.)
Then we tryed out their version of a coffee shop. It was a combination
Coffee shop, Flower Shop, JCP Catalog store and a Mexican Resturant. They
also sold nick nacks, Cheryl said this place would do anything for a buck.
Well the Mochas and Frapachinos weren't to bad and we got a memory. Back
at camp, Cheryl bought me a new flashlight and a book that I wanted.
We set up again Thursday night, but I could tell the weather wasn't
going to hold. Gnats were buzzing around our heads, which usually indicates
that we are under the influence of a low pressure front. And clouds were
building to the west. I did manage to bag one object before the clouds
moved in though.
I picked off the following object on the night of the 31th.
Friday, we had beakfast in town(lots of eggs and meat,) and then we
attended the classes NSP were giving(mainly for a chance to win the door
prizes.) In the morning session we didn't win anything and I found all
of the classes except for one boring.
Cheryl enjoyed the class on art and astronomy, but I enjoyed to class
on the expansion of the m1 object. For lunch they had brought in pizza,
but we weren't really hungry yet. So we headed back over to the coffee
shop for a picker up. In the afternoon Cheryl won a free subscription to
We didn't go observing Friday night, because we wanted to leave early
Saturday Morning for Des Moines. To bad it was clear.
Saturday was fairly uneventful. We had the camper folded up by 8.30am, and were on the road by 9am. We arrived in Des Moines at about 6pm.