Thursday, August 20, 2015

Strategic Air Command Museum

Two years ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Strategic Air Command Museum in Ashland, Nebraska. We were lucky enough to have a private tour arranged. (Three hours long!) Not only did we get to see all those fantastic aircraft, we got background information and history as well. Though the tour was fantastic, I knew I wanted to experience the museum on my own. I also knew I wanted my grandsons to see it. 

This June we were lucky to be able to go again, this time with all the family. Your first experience outside the museum is the Atlas rockets. Inside, your breath is taken away by the SR-71 Blackbird overhead. We were on our own this time. There were so many planes and in such a wide open space you never felt crowded. The boys (ages 9 and 10) loved it and can't wait to go back. Even our three-year-old granddaughter enjoyed herself. Why? Because there are a lot of interactive displays. There are planes and simulators you can sit inside. Placards explain the history. There's also a great section of science experiment for the kids. 

Whether or not you like aircraft, I'd definitely recommend checking it out. It's a wonderful museum where you can easily spend hours and not realize time has passed. Informative with lots of hands-on stuff for young and old. We'll be going back there again. No doubt about it. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Eugene Mahoney State Park

The Eugene Mahoney State Park in Ashland, Nebraska is a great place to visit for singles and family. We were there in June 2015. The park has oodles of things for people to do (water park, horseback riding, paddle boats, fishing, crafts, miniature golf, disc golf, theater). You can stay at the lodge or find a campsite for your mobile home or to pitch a tent. Minutes away, you'll also find the Strategic Air Command Museum and Wildlife Safari Park. This was our second visit and we stayed at the lodge.

I love the park for all it offers people to do in the general vicinity. I love being able to stay in the lodge and I generally love the loft rooms. I was particularly thrilled to discover the coffeepot, microwave, and refrigerator in the room during this trip. They were a great convenience for us and I hope they remain. We had two maintenance issues that were handled very quickly—a burned out light bulb and a refrigerator that wouldn’t close. It was hot in the loft bedroom unless we cranked the air conditioner on low. A minor inconvenience.

Housekeeping was very short staffed during the period we were there. As long as I had fresh towels every day, the trash emptied, and the bed was made, I was fairly happy. However, the coffee grounds were never emptied and on the last day housekeeping made the beds but left the pillows on the floor.

There was an issue with the Wi-Fi connection when we arrived. My husband reported it to the lady at the front desk, whose response was, “Well, mine works.” My husband said, “But mine doesn’t.” She said, “Sorry” and returned to her computer, essentially ignoring him. Later I went to the desk when two women and two rangers were there and asked if I needed to do something special to get the Wi-Fi to work. Again, a woman said hers worked. I showed her that mine didn’t. She turned to the park rangers and said, “The Internet’s having problems again.” Both rangers started to assess the situation and by morning it was working.

Now we come to the biggest issue. The restaurant. The food is good. The service isn’t. Dinner our first night there (Thursday) was disappointing for the lack of service. We were seated promptly and promptly ignored. I had to find a server in order to get drinks. (It also surprised me that the drinks weren’t included in the price of the buffet.) A server arrived, took the order, delivered it, and ignored us until she delivered the check…which was incorrect. I couldn’t find her so I took the check to the station and reported the problem to the manager. Minutes later our server returned to the table where my sister-in-law advised her of the incorrect check. She said, “You ordered 3 dinner buffets.” I said, “You gave us a ticket for 4 buffets.” She snapped her padfolio closed and stormed off. At the breakfast buffet on Friday morning, the servers were more on the ball and a manager was onsite. Again, the food was good. On Saturday morning, there was no manager and service was again questionable. I do appreciate that the restaurant recently reopened and there is a learning curve. I do hope the bumps are ironed out quickly.

We would stay at the lodge again in the future.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sky Falconry

It was one of those meant-to-be experiences. As we were coming up on our anniversary, my husband and I separately read an article in Westways Magazine about Sky Falconry, a place in Alpine, California where you could take a Basic Course in Falconry. Then we approached each other at the same time about taking the course. How could we not at that point?

It. Was. Amazing!!!! The instructors (Denise and Kirk) were engaging, informative, caring, educated, and entertaining. They made the one hour Basic Lesson feel like two with all the information and interaction involved. After a briefing on history and training, our group circled up and gloved up to have our own interaction with Hajduk the Harris Hawk we worked with. Female red-tailed hawk Ananda was returned to her sanctuary. Harris Hawks are easier to work with. With our left hands gloved and under the instructors' guidance, we called Hajduk to us (Hey Duke), then moved into position to allow the person across from us to call him. After we each had two chances to do this, we then had the opportunity to toss him food (raw quail) and watch him catch it in flight. After that it was time for a photo op, so we each got to call him again and have our photo taken by our companion with the bird. Absolutely amazing. As I stood there and watched, I could feel the bird's wings grazing my head. There were a couple of times he was distracted by prey, and he was on it in the blink of an eye. It's hard to believe so much was packed into one hour.

I would highly recommend this.We hope to return in the future for the Hawk Walk offered by Sky Falconry, which gives you even more time with the bird and watching it in its environment. A wonderful experience for adults and children. Even if you don't want to participate, you can will watch from the sidelines and still have an extraordinary experience. Pictures of the instructors and the star of the show are below. You'll find more photos on my Flickr page.