After we left the Badlands, we headed east and overnighted at a nondescript campground in Sioux Falls, SD. The next morning, we drove “Beauty” and the “Beast” due south towards the Omaha, Nebraska area.
I wanted to make a stopover there to take a look at this area, and see how much it’s changed. I lived in this area from 1976-1979, when I was in the Air Force and stationed at Offutt Air Force base. My two oldest children, Nicole and Todd, were both born here. This would be my first time back since I was discharged from the Air Force.
Offutt AFB’s legacy includes the construction of the first two bombers,the Enola Gay and Bockscar, the planes used by the US to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, respectively, ending the Pacific war, and over 40 years as the headquarters for the former Strategic Air Command (SAC). This was the home for its associated ground and aerial command centers for the U.S., in case of nuclear war during the Cold War. When I was stationed there, I worked in the SAC command HQ building, working on computer systems that were used for warehousing data related to nuclear missile targeting.
Offutt is now headquarters for the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM, one of nine Unified Combatant Commands of the United States Department of Defense (DOD). It is charged with space operations (military satellites), information operations (information warfare), missile defense, global command and control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, global strike and strategic deterrence (the United States nuclear arsenal), and combating weapons of mass destruction.
Carol and I stayed at a nice city rv park(Haworth Park), in Bellevue, which is the town right outside of the base. The park was right on the shoreline of the Missouri river.
I was blown away by how much larger and more populated everything is now! Bellevue is probably 10 times larger than it was when I was there and the part of Bellevue that I remember is now called “Old Town”. We found the first two apartments that I ever lived in as an “adult” – unbelievably, the apartment complexes are still standing and in use!
I took evening classes at Bellevue “College” when I was stationed here, and now it’s Bellevue “University”. The college consisted of three small buildings when I attended and now it’s huge, and from what Carol and I could tell from local TV commercials, a large medical curriculum.
We drove into the Old Market entertainment area of Omaha, which is the old warehouse district that has been transformed into a lively shopping, dining and nighttime destination. When I was here in the 70’s this areas transformation was in it’s infancy but now it’s a jewel! Great restaurants, clubs, hotels…it has it all!
Our first night there we went to eat at the Spaghetti Works that has been here since the ’70’s. It hasn’t changed at all – including the old Model T truck used as the platform for their salad bar! And the spaghetti is still good!
Another night we had dinner at a seafood restaurant! Yeah, I know, who would want to go to a seafood restaurant smack dab in the center of the country? Well, it was unbelievably good! The Plank Seafood Provisions is an oyster bar and seafood grill that has their seafood flown in daily. I had the Citrus & herb crusted Grouper – it was pan fried, pan roasted broccolini, roasted mushrooms, garlic mashed potatoes and lobster gravy. Lobster gravy? REALLY? Highly recommended! Carol had the Walleye Puttanesca – pan seared, panko crusted, roasted garlic, creamy parmesan and kale polenta, pan roasted broccolini, caper and fennel tomato basil sauce. Smoky and delicious, (I know because I had the leftovers!).
Our last day there we went to see the Henry Doorly Zoo and what was left of Rosenblatt Stadium which used to be right next door to the zoo.
I had a lot of good memories of Rosenblatt. At the Air Force base, we used to get free tickets all the time to go see the Triple A affiliate that played there in the 70’s. Cheap entertainment for us! Rosenblatt was the location of the College World Series since 1950 before being demolished in 2012. The CWS is now played at the new TD Ameritrade park not too far away in a different part of Omaha. Most of what was Rosenblatt stadium is now is a parking lot for the Henry Doorly Zoo and a small memorial, (Johnny Rosenblatt’s Infield) of the stadium.
We then ventured over the the Henry Doorly Zoo and really enjoyed the day here. Being after Labor day, there were hardly any kids around, and the zoo was relatively quiet. This zoo like everything else in the area has grown. My favorite parts of the zoo were the Hubbard Gorilla valley and Orangutan forest. The cat complex was excellent also! Siamang gibbons were our favorite animal at the zoo – click on the video below, and you’ll understand why! LOL!
Carol said she didn’t know what to expect about Nebraska before we traveled through the state. She thought Nebraska would be an extremely rural “void” of anything interesting! And I can understand why she would think that, I believe most people have that image of Nebraska. However there is a lot to do, especially in the Omaha-Lincoln area.
It was fun going down memory lane!