Southwest – Day 23

Home, Sweet Home (1996-1999)

Southwest USA

Retirement Trip

September 2019

29 Days – 6,500 Miles – 19 States

7 National Parks

Several State Parks – 6,000+ Photos

1 Trillion Insects Squished by Car Windshield

 From 108 Degrees to Snow

From 282 Feet Below Sea Level to 12,000+ Feet

Bison, Elk, Prairie Dogs, Lizards, Wild Horses

Elvis, Aliens, John Wayne Westerns

Walking In The Footsteps of Forrest Gump

And More! 

Family Photo On Front Porch – 1996


Our trip today takes us to our home from 1996-1999 at Offutt AFB, just south of Omaha, Nebraska.

Our original plan was to take our time getting to Bellevue since we were familiar with this area.  Then, we were going to spend all day tomorrow looking around Bellevue and then head back to West Virginia.  Then our plans changed.

I found out they were having special music at our church next Sunday and I would not be needed. We suddenly had another week free.

So, we decided to get back on the interstate and high-tail it to Bellevue and look around this afternoon.  Then, tomorrow, we would make a slight detour to Wisconsin and visit with Beth’s family for a few days.  It only added about 200 miles to the trip, but saved us a 1,300-mile round trip Beth was planning in 2 weeks.

Because of security reasons, outdoor photography is not allowed on base.  

However, I did take some photos off-base around our old neighborhood.

We started out on the Lincoln Highway again for awhile.
This is a common scene across all of Nebraska.
And so is this. 
And this.  Lots of cows, corn, and hay.
And lots of trains.  First from this direction.
Then from that direction. 
We went through the farming town of Gothenburg, Nebraska.
This huge grain storage facility is next to the railroad tracks.  That’s a lot of corn flakes! 
At Gothenburg, we got back on I-80 so we would have time to look around Bellevue today. 
As we approached Kearney, we passed under the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument.
It opened in July, 2000, just after we left for Germany.  There is a museum inside exhibiting the role of Nebraska and the Platte River in the development of America.  When it first opened, around 250,000 people visited each year.  By 2010, that number dropped to less than 50,000.  They filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and it was taken over by the city of Kearney.  
After many updates, they posted a profit for the first time in 2018. 
Learn more about the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument: 
It was time for lunch, so we off the next exit to see what was available.
Olè!   We haven’t been to Taco John’s in years.
When we lived in Bellevue NE, this was one of Spencer’s favorite places to eat. 
Potato Olè!!  These seasoned Tater-Tots are almost a meal by themselves. 
We would each get tacos and then share a bucket of Potato Olès.
Mmmm.  Just as good as we remembered! 
When we lived in Clarksburg WV (2008-2012), we would sometimes drive 2 hours to Athens, Ohio to the Taco John’s there.
They are THAT good! 
And, of course, you can probably guess Spencer’s favorite sauce. 
(Hint: If it doesn’t say “Super Hot”, it’s not the one.)
As we were leaving, I noticed this Sapp Brothers sign across the street.
They are a very popular truck stop chain in Nebraska, and you can spot them by the signature coffee pot sign. 
Near the exit for Bellevue.  We also get to go by Papillion (named for the French “Papillion”, or butterfly)
I think the Papillion water tower was decorated with butterflies when we lived here.  Not today.
Our first stop was to see our home from 1996-1999.
Lots of great memories here.  Beth’s vegetable garden in the back looks like it has been reverted back to lawn.  Too bad.
Family photo on the front porch – 1996
Spencer and Mike with the motorcycle – 1999. 
Beth has always made our home beautiful with flowers.  Here, you can see a few.
Beth and Spencer planting flowers along the fence.  (Circa 1998)
Next, we circled around to see the two churches we attended and where Mike served as organist/pianist from 1996-1998. 
This is Bellevue Christian Church – Disciples of Christ.  A very nice neighborhood church – very friendly and welcoming.
Shortly after we returned from Germany a few years later, Pastor Stephanie was tragically killed in a car wreck.  Very sad.
In 1999, Mike accepted the position as Organist/Pianist at St James United Methodist Church near our house.
It was a short-lived position as we got orders for Germany later that year. 
Photo of Saint James sanctuary from their website:  
Next on our “Nostalgia Loop” was Spencer’s grade school – Birchcrest Elementary. 
He attended 1st and part of 2nd grade here before we left for Germany.
It was only a 10-minute walk from the house.  We enjoyed that walk almost every day, whether rain, sun, or snow.
Several of his friends and classmates would join us on the walk so we had a group by the time we got to school.
Our house was in a nice location, being just a 5-10 minute walk from the school, the library, and Krispy Kreme Donuts! 
Our next stop was on base at the band hall.  No outside photos allowed.
I spent ALOT of hours with the Concert Band rehearsing in this room. 
Now the band has been reduced to a Brass Quintet and Rock Band.
Learn more about the US Air Force Heartland of America Band:
I also spent ALOT of time rehearsing in this room as NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge) of “Night Wing”, the Rock/Country band.
Next, we looked around the Base Exchange (I bought another T-Shirt) before heading to the hotel and supper.
Next to the hotel was Don and Millie’s, a restaurant Beth and her friend Martha used to go to frequently when we lived here.
Great selection of burgers, hot-dogs, and other sandwiches and soups. 

After a nice dinner, we turned in for the night.  Since we saw everything today, we are a day ahead again.

Tomorrow, we have about 500 miles to go to Beth’s home in Wisconsin.  It’s a road we’ve traveled many times.

Hope to see you tomorrow.

Mileage Today:  294 Miles

Trip Total:   5,357 Miles