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Recommended Tent Camping Sites for 2011 - NE, NV
Nebraska Tent Camping Trip
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Nebraska is a land of contrasts. Rolling hills with horizons of farmland, once dominated by Native Americans and later European pioneers, are broken up by several metropolitan areas, each possessing its own cultural bounty. Along US-6 you’ll encounter all this and much more.
Start your tour of Nebraska in the town of Ashland, located along the state’s eastern edge. The 300,000 square foot Strategic Air & Space Museum brings 20th-century military aerospace history alive as it pays tribute to the men and women who safeguarded liberty around the globe for the past 55 years. The aircraft, missiles and exhibits on display focus mainly on the tools and strategies of America’s defense during the tension-filled Cold War years.
Naturally, we have to include a stop in Omaha and, while there, take in the Lewis & Clark Landing. The original landing site of the famed expedition in 1804 is today a 24-acre park that regularly hosts concert and other events. If you want to explore Lewis and Clark’s route in style, consider an excursion on the River City Star, and elegant riverboat dedicated to ferrying passengers up and down the waterways.
Omaha is also home to the famous Girls and Boys Town. Founded by a priest named Father Flanagan in 1917, Boys Town was a shelter for homeless youth. By 1936 it had become its own town, governed by the boys who called it home. In the 1980s, the town’s name was changed to Girls and Boys Town. Today, the National Headquarters of Girls and Boys Town offers tours and has an interactive museum and a rose garden, in addition to its historic buildings.
Stop by the University of Nebraska campus in Lincoln for the Great Plains Art Collection at the Center for Great Plains Studies. Here you can visit a by-gone era where immigrants staked their claims and farmed the land. Today the museum holds more than 400 pieces of work, from sculptures to oil paintings, as well as an impressive library of Americana. A few miles outside of town, one can find Nine Mile Prairie, a rare remnant of the prairies that once dominated the landscape out here. Today, this 230-acre parcel provides an educational venue where visitors are welcome to view some of the 80 species of birds that can be found here.
Continue westward to the town of Hastings. Okay, so the town isn’t the birthplace of a famous artist or U.S. president, but it is the birthplace of Kool-Aid. We suggest quaffing a ceremonial cup of the stuff while here, just to say you did so. The area is also home to a natural phenomenon, as migrating sandhill cranes regularly make stops in the fields surrounding town on their flights north and south.
If you want to see one of America’s more famous, and oddest, roadside attractions, take a detour far west and north of Holdrege where Hwys. 385 and 2 converge at the remote western town of Alliance. Modeled after the old Druid monument, Stonehenge, you’ll find the modern-day equivalent, Carhenge, which consists of 38 cars, held upright in pits with the trunk end down. Whatever your take is on Carhenge, it undoubtedly captures the heart of the great American roadside attraction.
US-30 is part of the 1st Transcontinental Highway. Also known as “The Lincoln Highway” it passes through small farm towns like Kimball, Sidney, Ogallala, North Platte, Gothenburg, Kearney, Grand Island, Columbus, Fremont and Blair. It parallels the Platte River, so if you’re feeling a little dry through this part of Nebraska, there are myriad opportunities to pull the RV over and drop your feet, or your whole body, into the river for a cool break.
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Nevada Tent Camping Trip
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For those who decided to stay inland from our original Arizona stopping point (see above), welcome to Nevada tent camping. Obviously, we’re going to need to immediately roll (pun intended!) into Sin City itself, Las Vegas. What’s to say about Las Vegas that hasn’t been said already – folks either love it or hate it. However, it’s worth investigating no matter what side of the fence you’re on. If you have never been, or it’s been a while, give it another shot. No town in America has reinvented itself more than Las Vegas, which seems to be entering yet another “Golden Age.” The old-time acts like Wayne Newton are moving out, replaced by slicker, more artsy acts like Cirque du Soleil and casinos that take you away to New York City, Paris, Venice and beyond. But fear not, the Las Vegas of old hasn’t completely vanished, you just have to look a little harder to experience nostalgia. It’s the part of Vegas that first saw the Rat Pack. Check out Binion’s Horseshoe, an old-style gamblin’ joint that has ignored Vegas’ recent makeover. Today, Binion’s also hosts the World Series of Poker, an annual event whose growing popularity will soon rival that other World Series. Don’t miss The Stardust, a nostalgic casino that still displays its famous neon sign. Although the famous neon sign is gone from another classic casino, the Golden Nugget, gamblers are still welcome to throw their money away here. And what says “Vegas” more than a 40-foot giant, neon cowboy? Sure, the Pioneer Club may have closed up long ago, but the symbol of nostalgic Las Vegas -- Vegas Vic -- still greets visitors as a souvenir shop in the infamous “Glitter Gulch” section of downtown, where neon still rules brightly.
From Las Vegas, consider taking US-93 north until you reach the town of Ely, formerly known as Nevada’s longest-running mining venture. The mines dried up in the early 1980s and most people skipped town. What’s left is the semblance of a modern ghost town, but don’t count Ely down and out just yet. It features the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, a glimpse at what life was like in this one-time boomtown. For a little Nevada nostalgia away from the bright lights of Las Vegas, check out the Hotel Nevada, a landmark hotel with a giant cowboy sign outside, and plenty of active slots inside. Be sure to stay at one of the Nevada tent campgrounds here in Ely.
From Ely, head west on US-50, affectionately known as “The Loneliest Road.” This is the open road at its finest – or worst – depending on your need for human contact. The trappings of civilization are few and far between as your rig takes you across the open spaces of the southwest desert. Near the town of Sand Mountain, you’ll find some of the last remnants of America’s original postal service, The Pony Express. The region was once known as the most remote and dangerous stretch in the 1,900-mile Express route. A pair of relay stations still stand today, commemorating the intrepid riders of long ago.
Head west off US-50 and Virginia City comes a’calling. In 1859, the future of Nevada changed forever in this town when the Comstock Lode was discovered nearby, eventually producing over $300 million in mostly silver ore (in mid-1800’s dollars). Overnight, prospectors flocked to the area but, like all other boomtowns, the mines gradually tapped out and the town nearly wasted away. But thanks to the 1960s hit TV show “Bonanza!”, Virginia City enjoyed a new awakening as visitors came to see the town depicted on the show. It’s a charming little frontier- style town to spend a day exploring. You can even ride in an open-air rail car on the train tour.
Carson City, another original frontier town and the state capitol, is our last Nevada tent camping stop. Named after famed frontiersman Kit Carson, Carson City is a growing city with several landmarks casinos, most notable among them the venerable Carson Nugget. Old West nostalgia can be had on the nearby Kit Carson Trail, a walking path through the town’s residential district. The Governor’s Mansion (1909), State Mint (1869), 1800’s-era Victorian-style homes, museums and churches are all along the route. Here there are also several great Nevada tent campgrounds to check out.
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