The Feldman’s Visit America’s Heartland originally appeared in the March-April 2016 R&R Travel Newsletter. Because we love subscriber story so much – as they provide you all with such great travel information and tips – we thought we’d start posting stories for you all to enjoy!
We would love to hear from you if you have a military travel story to share! Please reach out to us at email@example.com and we will be happy to answer any questions! Enjoy the Encore Presentation!
The Feldmans Visit America’s Heartland – An Encore Presentation!
The Feldman’s at Minnehaha Falls, MN. Photo provided by Marv and Carole Feldman.
We started this trip with a Southwest Airlines flight to visit family in the San Francisco Bay area with the hopes of taking an adventure to Asia. On earlier Space-A trips to Asia, just getting to the West Coast was our biggest obstacle, so we had our eyes on a potential trip to the Orient.
Possible Space-A flights from nearby Travis AFB were irresistible, so we headed there with high hopes. Over the years, we have been rewarded numerous times with fascinating flights to exotic destinations – but not this time. While there were many flights to Asia, no seats were offered. Perhaps this was “meant to be” as we saw the news report terrible rain and flooding in Japan from a cyclone where our flights might have taken us.
Nonetheless, on the trip we did take, we were able to “Travel on less per day….the Military way™” by staying in Air Force lodging at five Air Force Inns.
After spending five comfortable nights at the Westwind Inn (Travis AFB) but with no flight possibilities to Asia, we devised a “Plan B” and thankfully, our Plan B often becomes Plan A++!
Carole (born in Australia) has seen much of the USA but never explored America’s Heartland (the Midwest). So, we took Southwest Airlines to Kansas City, picked up a rental car for a month, and off we went. Under clear skies and with crisp Fall weather, we left Kansas City (having been there before) and drove north, leaving Missouri, passing through Iowa, into Nebraska. Offutt Air Force Base (just south of the city of Omaha) provided us wonderful lodging for our visit to the Omaha area, the home of billionaire Warren Buffett, the birthplace of President Ford and headquarters of several large American companies (Berkshire Hathaway, TD Ameritrade, ConAgra).
IOWA – COUNCIL BLUFFS We started our exploration of the area at Council Bluffs, just over the Missouri River, which divides Nebraska and Iowa. In 1804, CB was one of Lewis and Clark’s stops as they made their famous exploration of the USA’s newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. Here, on a high bluff over the Missouri River, they first met and had a “council” with the local Indians, hence the name of the city. The beautiful and well-maintained Veterans’ Plaza in Council Bluffs includes numerous monuments to the fallen war heroes of the area.
NEBRASKA – OMAHA
Marv Feldman at Joselyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE. Photo provided by Marv and Carole Feldman.
Omaha is home to Boys Town, made famous in a 1938 Hollywood movie with Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. We were most impressed with this vast complex (larger than many university campuses) with its churches, sports facilities, classroom and medical buildings, etc. Its founder, Father Flanagan, probably never dreamed this would become what it now is.
On a sunny Sunday morning we “looked just around the corner” and found Omaha’s Old Market, a multi-block cobblestone area full of eclectic bars, shops, galleries and eateries where we enjoyed a delicious lunch. Equally impressive was Omaha’s magnificent “Art Deco” style Joslyn Art Museum, a gem full of priceless paintings and sculptures. In fact, the entire city of Omaha was most impressive.
SIOUXLAND (THE DAKOTAS) – North & South
We continued our “expedition” northwards over the Great Plains. This gave us a feel for the vastness of the Midwest – endless flat prairies covered, for hundreds of miles, with corn and sunflower fields, cattle grazing, grain silos of every shape and size, and the occasional rolling hills. Populating the towns en route, were warm, welcoming, solid, good people who work hard to feed this country.
We had traveled to the west of this state before and explored Mt. Rushmore, but this time we were in the east, staying in Sioux Falls, a vibrant city which is South Dakota’s largest. On a summer day, we explored the magnificent Falls Park, watching raging water dashing over pink quartzite rocks in the Big Sioux River. No American tourists were here, so we enjoyed lunch with a delightful couple from Wales, UK.
In town, a dilapidated area on the river had been turned into an urban Greenway (for cyclists and walkers), lined with old warehouses that are now trendy lofts. At dusk, we meandered past 55 original sculptures in the city’s main street. Marvin had a burger at his favorite place (Fuddruckers), while Carole found a Top Chef winner’s gorgeous French patisserie and savored French macaroons. Who knew there were such sophistication and culture here?
This was our first time in this state which borders Canada. Fargo was our destination, a quirky city made famous in the 1996 movie of the same name and a 2014 TV mini-series. If you want “North of Normal (a refreshing break from the ordinary)” in a “Town for Misfits” as the local Convention and Visitors Bureau says, this is the place! We were not disappointed. Fargo has numerous galleries, top-notch restaurants, cultural events and looks like a Hollywood movie set. It is definitely a “city different” with many unconventional people and its mix of academics and students from the three universities located here.
A couple of local museums were of interest – the small, but well done Fargo Air Museum, and the city’s equally small Plains Art Museum. However, the most amazing place was the country’s largest sporting goods/hunting gear shop which had an indoor Ferris Wheel and lots of enormous stuffed animals. The place was packed with shoppers!
A trip across the Red River to Fargo’s “twin city” of Moorhead (Minnesota) took us to Viking Ship Park, which housed magnificent replicas of a Norwegian stave church and a Viking ship which actually sailed from the USA to Norway in 1982. We spent hours here.
Concluding our visit to the area, we attended a wonderful performance by the Heritage Blues Orchestra, a Grammy-nominated group which focused on alternative New Orleans style music. Lots of cultural offerings out on the Plains!
MINNESOTA: MINNEAPOLIS- SAINT PAUL (THE TWIN CITIES)
Our next stop (Minneapolis) gave us great, economical military lodging at the Minneapolis ANG Base Air Force Inn (adjacent to MSP Airport) and close to public transport. Again, we “Traveled on less per day….the Military way!™”
Since we just visited the world’s largest sporting goods store in Fargo, it was appropriate for us to make our first stop in Minneapolis at the Mall of America, “Mother of all Malls” (the world’s largest). Huge, massive, awesome, and exciting: half a dozen scream-worthy roller coasters and zip line thrills in an indoor theme park, 520 shops and 60 restaurants (and ever-expanding) while attracting 40 million visitors annually! We spent an entire day in this amazing mall.
But there was much more to this metropolis of some three million: world-class theater, art museums galore, ethnic restaurants, multi-cultural community, elegant parks and gardens, and impressive architecture of cutting-edge modern and classical. Leaving our car behind, we bought all-day passes on the Twin Cities’ new and efficient light rail system from Ft. Snelling station just outside the ANG Base, allowing us a “hop on-hop off” experience at stops of interest.
So many things to see! From the Minnesota Vikings’ billion-dollar stadium (under construction) to the recently restored Union Depot Station in Saint Paul; from a colorful and exotic Hmongtown Farmers’ Market to the sprawling campus of the University of Minnesota. Here, among buildings straddling the Mississippi River (which divides the Twin Cities), we visited the striking Frank Gehry designed Weisman Art Museum. And, all over town, were thousands of sports-mad supporters, proudly wearing the colors of the University of Minnesota “Gopher” apparel on this sunny football game day.