Monday, May 9, 2011


Huge windmills on rented farmland
We arrived in Ashland, Nebraska on the Saturday before Easter. Our choice of campground resulted entirely from a recommendation of, Joey, a native Nebraskan who used to teach in Phoenix with Chris. He was confident that Mahoney Park was the best in the state and he was justified in that claim. With a lakeside campground, huge lodge with restaurant, minigolf, water park, picnic areas, skating rink, indoor playground, rental cabins, disc golf, driving range, and horse barn with trail rides this place was incredible! Granted, we were there before Memorial Day so many of their amenities were not in service but we enjoyed it nonetheless. I did however choose not to shower during our stay as the bathrooms were not heated or terribly nice and we only had electric hookups so were limited on water and tank space.

We arrived to find families who chose to spend their Easter weekend camping. This may not seem unique but we’ve seen so many RV parks filled with retired people that it was refreshing to see kids running about and to smell campfires. We instantly met some of our neighbors who were fascinated by our trip and Chris’ sabbatical work. They loaned us the movie RV which we appreciated given the rainy weather that evening. We had dinner at the lodge which consisted of a typical buffet style option that seemed the popular choice. Lily enjoyed standing—with help—in her car seat in the stroller and trying out the acoustics with some of her loudest squeaks. We are learning to put things out of her wingspan to avoid spilled drinks and flailing forks. She loves spoons and napkins but throws them to the floor as soon as the novelty wanes. Not a fan of restaurant high chairs, Lily would rather sit on our lap and interact with the neighboring tables than be locked into a seat.
My littlest laundry helper
One evening, Chris was sitting at the dinette working when he saw a small white critter zip across the camper floor and under the couch. He had seen some evidence of this little visitor in his slipper the day before so this sighting confirmed his suspicion. We suspect “Harry” climbed aboard in Colorado to avoid being made dinner by our great horned owl neighbor. After discovering that he had nibbled into our travel bag of snacks we left by the door one night in transit, we decided to take action. As soon as we arrived at Mahoney I emptied out the storage compartment underneath the couch and uncovered the water pump compartment next to that. We ventured into town about three miles north to the only grocery store called No Frills—they’re not kidding. Tall shelves stocked with lots of everything processed, chemical, and cheap. We found the critter bait across the aisle from the baby food but didn’t see anything other than pesticides until I spotted one lone package of mousetraps on the bottom shelf shoved on top of some ant traps. It only took an evening at dinner for Harry to find our peanut butter-smothered traps. He turned out to be a teeny, gray field mouse and we said goodbye to him that night.
Joey, Kristan, Samuel and us
It was refreshing coming back to April showers after spending so much of winter and spring in the desert. We saw familiar sights like brand-new baby Canada geese, big fat robins, Johnny Jumpups, Daffodils, and oak trees. It rained much of the time at Mahoney causing us to meet Joey and his family at a local Mexican restaurant instead of having a campfire. We enjoyed enchiladas and chile rellenos Nebraska-style while we caught up with Joey, Kristan and baby Samuel! What a treat this meal was as we weren’t able to attend Joey and Kristan’s wedding and Samuel was just born in January. We really enjoyed their company and hearing about their newest adventures together with baby and pending new home. It was especially neat holding Samuel as a little reminder of how little Lily was not so long ago.

We were spoiled on Easter as well when we received an invitation from MaryLou and John (parents of a Notre Dame roommate) to join their family at the Omaha Hilton for Easter brunch. We attended mass at the cathedral in Omaha before heading to the meal. I wasn’t prepared for the dim lighting, heavy incense, and slow organ music but I’m glad we went. The New Jersey parish we joined while living in the farmhouse really went all out for Easter with banners and bright flowers and jovial, celebratory music. The cathedral experience was a more traditional Easter celebration. Brunch was incredible. Omelet station, chocolate fondue, crab legs, prime rib, and on and on and on! MaryLou held Lily for much of the meal which was a beautiful gift as Lily enjoyed it and we were able to just eat and talk a bit. We are still so grateful for the gift of this Easter meal with friends and for their generosity. We left the gathering with full bellies and gifts from MaryLou and John of a super-soft Easter bunny with long floppy ears for Lily, and a gift bag of goodies from a local bakery called Market Basket. 
MaryLou and John loving Lily time on Easter
We enjoyed a couple long walks at Mahoney on the paved paths, useful for helping Lily to nap. Chris still has the touch with the rocking chair but I’m getting better. We were able to Skype with Muzzie and Popsie and Nana which was great as Lily was enjoying her spatula and bowl while we chatted. I converted an empty yogurt container and a maple syrup bottle into toys for her and offer up various kitchen items to maintain novelty in the toy department. Pastey the tomato and Crinkle the peacock remain her favorite if I had to guess. She’s sitting up on her own now although we don’t leave her alone quite yet as her curiosity often has her diving forward or falling backward without any awareness that it will hurt.

After four nights at Mahoney and some route planning, we packed up, dumped the tanks, and hopped back on I-80 East to finish out Nebraska. Iowa had more rolling hills and wind farms than I expected. We stayed overnighted in Newton for some laundry loads and rest from the road before another state park stay in Illinois and the beginning of a string of roommate reunions.

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