From Pine Grove RV Park – Greenwood, NE
We began the day with a short drive into Ashland and enjoyed breakfast at Cheri-O’s. Combining the taste of a modern coffee shop with the feel of an old-fashioned soda fountain makes for a very charming atmosphere.
In the back of the restaurant you can browse around the gift shop filled with local art work, coffee cups and mugs, various coffees and syrups as well as Cheri-O’s memorabilia. Adding to the feel of the restaurant are two themed party rooms on the second floor.
“Harold & Thelma’s Basement” has a 50’s décor and contains items straight from the owners childhood basement. A second room upstairs is a tearoom named “My Funny Valentine” that has an antique, old-fashioned romantic feel. Its décor is a result of the owner; Cheri O’Kelly having a birthday on Valentines Day and has always collected antique valentine cards and memorabilia.
After breakfast, we walked the sidewalks of the brick paved main street of Ashland enjoying some shopping in its many quaint and old-fashioned stores. Later, we enjoyed just driving the streets of the community of 2,262 residents.
Our drive took us past several area churches most of which seemed to have been built in the 20’s to 40’s era except for St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. It was built in the Gothic Revival architecture in 1872 and has had only minor alterations since that time. It is the oldest church building in the state of Nebraska and is the only Episcopal Church in the county. Today, it is no longer an active congregational church but is used for historical tours and other events sponsored by the Ashland Arts Council.
Another point of interest we sought out was the site of the Ox-Bow Trail. This was a route that was used by emigrants seeking a new life in the West from 1840 to mid 1860’s. A historical marker was all that marked the site.
As we explore a new area of the country, we are always seeking out State Parks and what they offer residents compared to other State Parks we have visited. This area was no exception and today we toured Eugene T. Mahoney State Park.
The park overlooks the Platte River valley near Ashland. It contains 690 acres and is open year round. Located on wooded ridge tops there are 54 modern cabins with housekeeping available for rent. In addition, the Peter Kiewit Lodge has 40 guest rooms. Campgrounds offer 149 shaded sites near Owen Marina Lake.
Within the park are a family aquatic center which has a pool with diving area, wading pool, wave pool and 2 twisting 236 ft water slides. There are also tennis courts, softball diamond, a golf driving range and an 18-hole miniature golf course. Fishing in two lakes is available with ice fishing in the winter months. Paddleboats are available to rent and trail rides on horseback can be found at the on site stables.
The park even offers activities during the winter season at the park. An ice skating rink and with sufficient snowfall sledding and cross-country skiing are popular activities and a toboggan run near the lodge also attracts visitors. I can only say that this particular park leaves many others we have visited “out in the cold”. It is a beautiful park and has so many facilities and activities for its visitors.
The Bistro eatery was our choice for lunch. For such a small community we found a second coffee shop style restaurant that offered a lunch menu featuring sandwiches, soups and salads. It also had a very delectable bakery counter which offered muffins, cookies, kolaches, scones and cinnamon rolls that we will have to try for breakfast another day before leaving the area.
Next on our agenda of the day was a visit to the Holy Family Shrine. This is a chapel built on a 23-acre site overlooking the Platte Valley. You enter a Visitor Center which is built underground.
It is here that you learn of the vision for the chapel and how it came about. There are also several sculptures on display in the center. When you exit the Visitor Center you see the entry façade of the chapel.
The sight of the 850 arching trusses interlock like waving wheat in a field and the chapel sits on a quarry limestone block base. The walls are of glass allowing seamless harmony between nature and structure suggesting how we might live to obtain the beauty and harmony of God’s will.
When we saw the design of the chapel, it reminded us of one in Eureka Springs, Arkansas that we visited 6 years ago. Reading more of the history of the building of the structure, we realized that this chapel and the one in Eureka Springs were designed by the same architect; Fay Jones. It was also noted that Mr. Jones has designed 5 other simplistic chapels like the two we have now seen across the United States. Hopefully on our travels we will again be able to see and visit another of his architectural works.
The last stop of the day was Baker’s Candies in Greenwood. This is a family owed and run candy factory and retail outlet which is a chocolate lover’s delight. Chocolate Meltaways are the best sellers and come in an assortment of flavors. They also make these favorites in sugar-free flavors. These fine chocolates are also sold in more than 2,000 retail outlets across the country including Hallmark stores. Of course we brought home some of the goodies to enjoy later.
Once again, it is amazing that such small rural communities contain beautiful, historical and fascinating points of interest. So remember that if you just stay on the Interstates of the country you are missing an important part of “Americana”. So take those exits that lead to small towns and communities and see what you can discover. I think you will be amazed.