“Remember, perspective can cause two people to look at the same
thing and see two totally different things”
Gail Lynn Goodwin
State 15: Nebraska - September 8, 2017
We woke up in Hastings, NE Walmart, with a jam packed agenda, and 400 miles of driving ahead of us. First, we headed across town to The Hastings Museum to partake in the Cross Country Couple's; Famous Food for the State of Nebraska “Kool-Aid”. Yes, you read that correctly! I was shocked to learn Hastings, Nebraska is the birthplace of Kool-Aid, and is also the official soft drink of Nebraska. There is even a 90-year-old packet of Kool-Aid in the Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln.
The town of Hastings, is very proud of their Kool-Aid origins, and has dedicated an entire floor of their museum to the fruity powdered beverage called Kool-Aid: Discover the Dream. In addition, on the second weekend in August, Hastings celebrates a yearly summer festival called Kool-Aid Days where copious amounts of Kool-Aid are consumed, and children run wild across the plains of Nebraska for the next 3 days. In 1927, Kool-Aid was invented by Edwin Perkins in his mother’s kitchen, but his story begins in his father’s general store in Hendley, NE. From a very early age, Perkins was interested in creating new products, and used to experiment with Jell-O sold in his father’s store. They even have a replica store front located in the Hastings Museum. Please see the pictures below.
As a young adult, Perkins went on to develop a wide variety of consumer products, and the most famous was a fruit liquid concentrate called Fruit Smack. Albeit popular, Fruit Smack was plagued with significant disadvantages such as: the weight of the liquid and glass jars resulted in an increase in shipping costs, and the Fruit Smack glass jars frequently broke during shipping. Please see a picture of a jar of Fruit Smack courtesy of the Hastings Museum.
In 1927, Perkins discovered a way to remove the liquid from Fruit Smack, which left only a powder. Perkins named his new product Kool-Aid! In order to have better access to supplies and shipping, Perkins moved Kool-Aid’s production to Chicago in 1931. Kool-Aid went on to become a household name, and the rest is history. In 1953, Kool-Aid was sold to General Foods when Perkins announced his retirement. The Perkins family remembered it's Nebraska Roots, and generously donated to charities within Hastings and all throughout Nebraska. Please see the picture of Edwin Perkins and his wife to the left.
While at the Hastings Museum, we learned Edwin’s Perkins favorite flavor of Kool -Aid was raspberry. However, we would be unable to try Raspberry Kool-Aid because it was discontinued in 2001. Instead, Nate decided to try the lemon-lime, and I opted for the cherry. Both Nate and I, could only remember drinking Kool-Aid once as a child, as both our parents would forbid us to consume it. We are vegetarians who eat organic whole foods, so Kool-Aid doesn’t really fit the bill. Nonetheless, Kool-Aid is the famous “food” for the state of Nebraska so bottoms up. We mixed our Kool-Aid drinks, toasted to our week in Nebraska, and slugged it as fast as we possibly could. After we had finished our Kool-Aid, we agreed on two things. The first was we both enjoyed our week in Nebraska, and the second; we will not be drinking Kool-Aid ever again.
After “drinking the Kool-Aid”, we departing the Hastings Museum, and drove 297 miles Northwest to the Cross Country Couple's Historic Location for the state of Nebraska; “Chimney Rock National Historic Site”. Chimney Rock is a prominent natural geological formation rising nearly 300 feet above the Nebraska plains. Chimney Rock was the most famous landmark on the Oregon Trail during the 19th century mass migration West. It is estimated nearly half a million West bound immigrants and other travelers saw Chimney Rock, but how Chimney Rock got it's name is a story unto itself! Legend states, the Native Americans named the rock formation to what translates in English to “penis of an adult male elk", because well... that’s what the formation looked like to them. However, the 19th century puritan Angelo-Saxons (white men) felt a more gentlemanly name for the formation was Chimney Rock verses Elk Penis. Chimney Rock was designated a National Historic Site on August 9, 1956, and symbolizes and commemorates Nebraska’s role in Westward Migration.
It was a long 4-hour drive do get to Chimney Rock, but I was so honored to be here. To personally gaze upon the same site as the Americans who first settled the West was a special moment and a powerful experience. In a coincidental fluke, we happened to visit Chimney Rock on Pioneer Day, and scored free admission! We were hoping to hike around the base of Chimney Rock, but soon realized it was not going to happen. Apparently, Chimney Rock is located on privately owned land, and we could not get any closer than the visitor center. In addition, the area surrounding Chimney Rock and the visitor center is a notorious rattlesnake lair. Trespassing on private land and on rattlesnake dens, are two very convincing reasons why Chimney Rock is best viewed from afar. To be ethnically fair, please enjoy the pictures below of Elk Penis is you are Native American or Chimney Rock if you are everyone else.
We proceeded to watch a brief dated video about pioneers and their migration West, and then toured the quaint museum within the visitor’s center. Oddly, my favorite exhibit within the museum, was a children’s display called “Pack your Wagon”. There was a wooden wagon on the floor, and sacks of flour, corn meal, dried apples, rice, beans, salt, biscuit boxes, furniture, tools and more on nearby shelves. The children were encouraged to pack the wagon with just enough supplies to last 6 months on the Oregon Trail. Weight sensors in the wagon bed informed you if you over packed or under packed your wagon. Although we got more than a few strange looks, Lori and I had a blast loading and unloading our Westward bound wagon. It was reminiscent of when we loaded up Rosie 4 months ago for our yearlong cross country trip. I think we would have handled ourselves well if we traveled the 19th century Oregon Trail.
Based on sketches, paintings, and written accounts, Chimney Rock’s height has been reduced by over 20 feet since it was first seen by settlers. The loss of 15 feet in height has been attributed to erosion, and the loss of 5 feet in height resulted from a lightning strike in 1992! A chuck of Chimney Rock was on display, which was broken off during the lightning strike. Interestingly, there were names carved into the stone form 19th century travelers. Please see the pictures below.
After departing Chimney Rock, we drove 98 miles South to a Walmart in Sterling, Colorado. We are not scheduled to explore Colorado for another 3 months. However, we will be taking a week and a half off from our travels to relax and rejuvenate at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Northern Colorado.