Hi! We went to Omaha and saw lots of junk! This post is a doozy, I don’t know how that happened, so refill your cup before you sit down to read this monster.
So here is the back story on our Omaha trip: I totally copied my friend Christy. She and her husband did the same when their daughter turned two last summer, and after hearing about their time in Omaha a quick little road trip there sounded so fun and nice so I filed it away in my brain and that was what we planned when the Doots turned two. Initially we were going to leave after Pete’s party, and then that darn virus attacked. Fortunately the pediatrician said Pete was okay to still head to Omaha, so Saturday morning we packed up the car, stopped for some gas and the ever important road trip snacks, and off we went.
Omaha is about 3 and a half hours from us, not much farther of a drive than visiting Scott’s family, so we weren’t too concerned about Pete on the drive. He’s a good little traveler these days, if maybe a little… energetic. I think maybe next time we wait and travel during his naps, so the poor kid isn’t stuck in the back seat entertaining himself quite so long. He took it like a champ but got a little slap-happy about midway through. You know he’s ready for a “potty stop” when you hear uncontrollable giggling from the back seat and turn around to find him LICKING A TOY.
And then there was one point where it was suspiciously quiet in the back seat and, wondering if he had fallen asleep, I looked back to check on him and found him like this:
So this was a fairly new drive for us, I haven’t taken this route in years (not since my business trip to South Dakota once, and that was a doozy). I would like to point out to anyone who has not yet traveled to this area of the country: fireworks appear to be the big business in those parts. I think the most were located in Rock Port, where we stopped to use the bathroom. Fireworks emporiums, as far as the eye could see, in all directions…
It rained on us a bit, too. Hence the random windshield photo (ignore that splotch of bird pewp). Aaaand we saw a train hauling a teal plane fuselage, in-between its boxcars. Don’t see that everyday. Then we finally, blessedly, hit Nebraska.
Our first stop was Papillion, Scott wanted try the Nebraska Brewing Company. Yummy pizza, decent beer. They put the spent grain in their pizza dough, which I thought was pretty cool.
The brewery was in an outdoor shopping center so we let Pete run wild for awhile, considering he was cooped up in the car most of the morning. And run wild he did, stopping only to check out the Victoria’s Secret window display and to play in the fountain (I took a few pictures of these high-school age girls doing this weird spontaneous hand-walking thing on the ledge of a fountain. Random. High school kids are officially weird to me).
Pete loves Nebraska and their awesome fountains. Double Number-One, yeah! Or maybe that looks more like devil horns.
After sufficiently running the Wildman out of our child, we got back into the car and made our way up to downtown Omaha (a quick trip; Papillion is the ‘burbs). I Pricelined our hotel and happened to get the Hilton for an awesome price. Sah-weet. We love the cheapo budget hotels as much as the next person, especially when road trippin’, but I think that’s something we’ll wait on for at least another year or so – we only have one kid and he has an uber-early bedtime so we might as well spring for the nice places. If I’m stuck in my room all evening I’d like to be able to lounge in a fluffy robe surrounded by down pillows, in the dark, enjoying my plasma TV (on mute). You know?
Anyhoo, so we stayed at the Hilton. Pete immediately claimed a bed, invited over his friends, and watched some cartoons in luxury while sipping his water on the rocks. Trying to ignore kitty and doggy who appeared to be sharing a passionate embrace. Kitty doggy forbidden looooove.
Then we went down to check out the lobby AKA there goes Doots squealing while tossing pennies into fountains and then trying out every chair in the joint. Note: there were a lot of chairs. It took him awhile.
There happened to be a TON going on in Omaha this past weekend: Sand in the City (which we watched from our hotel window, just at the end of the block), Taste of Omaha, the circus was at the Qwest Center… And there are a lot of museums to check out. We had heard a lot about Old Market and thought we would venture that way first, then see where the evening took us after that. It ended up being our only stop that day – most towns/cities have an “old town/market/downtown” area. This one really clicked with us, lots of antique stores and quirky little boutiques, restaurants and bars, and a good dose of art galleries. Walkways are wide with nice shady awnings, there are row-style shops in black mixed in with older buildings, and all the shops/restaurants have tons of cute container gardens going. It was a cute area to check out. Pete was hit-or-miss most of our time there, he was either a Puddle of Sad on the sidewalk or Manically Happy (this is what happens when we don’t nap, folks). Thankfully the Happy outweighed the Sad, so we hung out for awhile.
God bless this little bookstore, so stuffed full of books that there was barely room to walk the aisles – just how I like it. We went in hoping to spot some bookstore cats; no luck there but Pete immediately found a choo-choo board book (what are the chances, seriously?) so he was a happy camper.
The candy place! For one, they are awesome because all you have to do is ask and they’ll turn on the carousel outside for free. As long as you want. Once inside, you grab a little red basket and head over to the walls lined with penny candy jars, floor to ceiling. Fill ‘er up with whatever your heart desires, one bulk price for the whole bit. Pete was obsessed with the Pez and Bazooka gum jars. Yay. I tried to fish most of it out of his basket but we still ended up with about half a dozen of each. Thankfully he let me sneak in some of our favorites too, like banana-flavored Laffy Taffy and Sixlets.
We promised Pete some ice cream so we stopped at Upstream Brewery – Scott and I each had a beer and Pete tackled a yummy, messy apple crumble with homemade vanilla. The IPA here was yummo, I am sad that we didn’t think to get a growler of it to drag back to Kansas. Harrumph.
One thing we didn’t get to do was run over to the pedestrian mall to hit up this slide. BOO! Next trip, I promise.
We headed back kinda late, super close to Pete’s bedtime, so he had a quick dinner, bath, and a little cartoon time before hitting the crib. Scott ran out to grab our dinner while I put Peter to bed: he picked up some take out Goodnights pizza. Super-duper delicious stuff, my friends.
The second day we headed to the main Omaha attraction (for the younger set) – the Henry Doorly Zoo.
We were totally pumped. We were up and out the door so we hit the zoo as soon as it opened. We then proceeded to stand in line for 25 minutes… This is what we get for picking the ONE DARN LINE that apparently was the unmarked SLOW line. Three groups were ahead of us. The first two groups took forever to figure out what they wanted and then finally pay. The third group was a deaf group, who had trouble communicating what they wanted to the cashier. So that kinda took awhile too. Although I kinda stopped getting all frustrated with our line after some little kid in the next line over hurled all over the sidewalk. At least we didn’t have to stand downwind of that.
Anyway. So we got in and holy moly, but it was worth the 25 minute wait for tickets. Kansas City has a decent zoo, Sedgwick County (Wichita) has an edge over KC, but Omaha blows the others straight out of the water. Lots of exhibits, indoor and outdoor, so many more animals and things to see and even an aquarium. We hit up the aquarium building first, and Pete could have spent all day in there. We had to drag him away from one particular exhibit in there; this guy was cleaning the tank/glass and yeah let’s just say Doots was so excited and was dying to help the guy but we told him “no” so he just politely stood next to the guy for a good five minutes. That’s our boy.
They also have this awesome walk-through tube thing where you are literally surrounded by a huge aquarium. So lovely! Until the giant shark comes by and floated over my head, that creeped me out a little.
I know you are trying to be discreet but we can totally see your Swiffer thing.
So then we were off to see all the other awesome animals. Of particular note: the bears. The gorillas. Oh my goodness, and but do they have quite the collection of big cats here, be still our cat-loving-son’s heart. Also: the sun bear loved us, he climbed from the bottom of his tree allllllll the way to the top, and stared. When he came to the realization that Pete wasn’t sharing his Nutter Butter he climbed back down.
This zoo is so darn shady, we loved it. Scott and I were comparing it to KC, there is this terrible awful heat-stroke-inducing walk to Africa at the KC Zoo and man, but there aren’t any hellish spots like that here. The layout was very well planned! And planted! Shade, glorious shade…
Dude: misting hoses. Pete loved the misting hoses.
I am the black swan.
In the center photo? That is a gorilla peeking out of the window above the floor. And the photo on the right (click if it’s hard to see) – those are giant gorilla-sized hand prints on the glass.
So this big hulking gorilla looked over and smiled at my kid and omg, it was actually kinda cool.
Here is a random shot I took of Pete looking at Something Can’t Remember but anyway! Anyway! Check out that scar from way back in October when he bit through his lower lip…
We officially wore ourselves out, and after 4 hours of zoo we went to ride the train. TRAIN. Yep, he freaked. First it was much loving on daddy while repeating his signature “thank you!” over and over. With a side of eye-rubbing (foreshadowing….).
When we got on the train he freaked in that way that he does when something is intensely important to him, he stared all bug-eyed and didn’t talk and just clutched his toy train and took it all in. Then he actually started to nod off, and we realized that yeah it was a bit past nap time so maybe we should start heading to the exit…
After a ride on the carousel. I mean, duh.
So we barely made it to the car before Pete passed out. And one last stop, before heading out of town: the ever beloved TJs. I love TJs, everyone loves TJs, my sister Anne in California sends frequent care packages, making sure we are always well stocked with their candies and coffees and jarred goodies. But I have heard so much about the other stuff, the frozen foods and cheese selection and their ever-popular hummus…
So we parked near a coffee shop (free WiFi for Scott in the car!), Scott got on the laptop and Pete snoozed and I went shopping, like real shopping, like we-stashed-a-cooler-in-the-car-just-for-this-occasion kind of shopping. I bought jarred curry sauce and different salsas, several cheeses, the hummus quartet, some breads and chips and cereal, and lots and LOTS of frozen goodies: veggie gyozas, mac n’ cheese, wild mushroom risotto, chicken burgers, Indian food, oh yes I went cah-razy. I filled my cart right up. I am super excited to start trying it all out. We get our own TJs in KC very very soon, so hopefully I have a good idea of what will be worth the trip. TJs + Nemmie = Tru Luv.
And then we headed home. Scott and I snacked on TJs wraps in the car, then Pete woke up about Rock Port so we stopped there and got him a Happy Meal. And then next thing you know we were home, traded in those crazy-cool painted silos for a random silo fire that we spied when almost to St. Joe 😉
We had a great time, it’s totally worth doing again. Although for heaven’s sake, but I’ll have to work on my packing skills. For me, there is a certain (false) sense of security to road trips. No careful packing necessary, I don’t have to worry about squashing it all in a suitcase within a certain weight limit like when we fly. Hell, I don’t even bother fitting it all in one suitcase, I just toss a bunch crap in the car. It’s fine! And I have everything you could ever need!.
Well the problem is that I kinda tend to forget about things that way. Like that time I played wedding florist with my friend Nikki, and I left my overnight bag in the trunk of her car because dude but I was sitting in a warm room assembling bouquets/vases for the next several hours, I didn’t need it yet. So anyway, her car had been valeted. And then valet somehow lost her keys or something weird like that and anyway I never got to retrieve my bag and actually WEAR A DRESS AND LOOK PRESENTABLE for her brother’s wedding (um, yeah: awkward). Well so this trip I cheerfully tossed my toiletries bag into the back seat, without a care in the world. Then promptly forgot all about it.
So by about 9pm I realized it was still in the car. In the parking garage (which was not conveniently attached to the hotel). And there was no way I was making the trip there in the DARK at NIGHT all ALONE, and besides Doots’ crib is right by the door so I’d probably wake him up, so anyway that means I was (unsuccessfully) combing my hair with Pete’s teeny tiny comb and brushing my teeth with my finger and oh, but did I mention that I also packed my phone charger in that bag? So by Sunday afternoon we were praying while using the precious wispy fumes of energy left in my poor dying phone to use the Navigation feature (because maps: they are for people stuck in 1997, why on earth would we bring one). Yeah. Brilliant. Anyway! People of Omaha, please forgive my makeup-less and messy ponytailed appearance on Sunday. Also sorry for any crazy lane-switching on the way out of town. It’s because I was too lazy to get my toiletry bag out of the car.
And that concludes the post known as Mueller Summer Road Trip 2011. Not too shabby. We’re already talking about the next one (maybe St. Louis…).