Our family RV road trip continues from Nebraska to Indiana. We find the biggest permanent shamrock in the world, visit one of the best zoos in the world, sit out the storm in Illinois as the Mississippi’s banks are flooded, and glimpse Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline for the first time.
Nebraska’s border sign: Nebraska – The good life. Home of Arbour Day
Day 19, Sun 7 Oct: Crossing Nebraska
Travel Day. We left Valentine, Nebraska at 8:30 am to get to Omaha. A 260-mile drive via US20 and US183, both good roads.
Our route to Omaha: Valentine – O’Neill – Neligh – Oakdale – Norfolk
First pitstop: O’Neill, the Irish capital of Nebraska, at 10:30. Shopped at Dollar General for £1 toys to keep the little one busy in the RV. It gets hairy on long travel days, so anything that can keep her distracted a while longer goes a long way to keeping the peace.
Find the biggest permanent shamrock in the world at 4th & Douglas intersection, painted on the concrete road. The town was founded in 1874 by Irish settlers and named after the founder, General John O’Neill.
We left O’Neill at 12 pm after a quick lunch.
Nebraska is also known for the Rueben sandwich (Omaha), the Ogalala aquifer (an underground lake), and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, Nebraska’s highest-earning and most visited attraction.
We boondocked at a Walmart near the north of Omaha on an uneven parking lot, but it was okay for one night. From there, it will only be a short drive to get to the Omaha Zoo in the morning.
Travel Miles: 260 mi
Travel Hours: 7hrs
Day 20, Mon 8 Oct: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo
Read all about our day at Omaha Zoo in this post.
We left the zoo at 5 pm in a thunderstorm and heavy rain and drove to the Adair Rest Area, just an hour east on I80, to spend the night.
Adair Rest Area offers a free dump station, wi-fi, toilets and free overnight parking.
Distance: +- 80 miles
Travel Time: 1hr 15min
Overnight: Boondock Adair Rest Area
Day 21, Tue 9 Oct: Sitting Out The Storm
Pulled out at 8 am from Adair rest area. We want to reach Chicago today so we have a long day of driving ahead of us and the day seems bright.
The radio reports that Hurricane Michael is now set to hit homes all the way from Panama City Beach to North Carolina. We can only pray that people stay safe and that the damage will not be too great.
The wind grew strong and gusty and the further east we went the more difficult it got to keep the RV in a straight line. It was time to make the call and find a place to wait out the storm.
Once again, over to trusty RV Parky to find a last-minute campground nearby, where we could keep an eye on the weather and get some downtime. We found a spot at Colona’s Scott Family Park and headed straight there.
As we left Iowa and crossed the mighty Mississippi into Illinois, the riverbanks seemed flooded with more rain to come! I hoped this campsite was far away from the river.
Colona was hot and humid, so different from the freezing temperatures we had up north only a few days ago.
The campground was basically shut for the winter, like so many others, so all the fun facilities were closed; the indoor pool, the games arcade and the paddle boats. It looked a bit tired, in need of some paint and TLC but it didn’t bother us. We were just happy to be off the road and have somewhere safe to sit out the storm.
We were all down to our last clean clothes anyway. Nick’s worn the same tracksuit for more than three days in a row. Don’t even want to know about the undies and socks! The RV desperately needed a good clean so it was an ideal time for me to get the housekeeping done.
One of the permanent campers tipped me to use the showers down by the lodge because they were better and they were kept cleaner than the ones by the laundry nearest to us. I took her advice and she was right; they were better, but it gave me the creeps to shower there.
It’s the stuff of horror movies I tell you. A Nightmare on Elm Street comes to mind.
It felt spooky.
Whenever I walked through the dead still arcade to the showers, there was never another soul; not alive anyway. I passed through the small arcade games room, wishing it was open because then the kids definitely would’ve been with me.
On my left was a flight of stairs that led up to the lodge but it was closed off with safety gates at the top of the stairs. I looked up, chills creeping down my spine as I continued down the quiet corridor, wondering if I was in part of the basement.
I was in and out of the shower quite fast, all the while listening for strange sounds. (Queue the Phsycho music). Feeling deservedly foolish, I ran hollow-backed through the arcade doors and back to the RV as if Freddie himself was chasing me.👻😱😂😜
Hopefully, no-one saw me. I know it’s all just in my mind, but it’s these moments that I regret every horror movie I’ve ever watched and every ghost story I’ve ever listened to, in my life!
Distance: 240 mi
Travel Time: 4hrs
Overnight: $35 Full Hookups at Colona’s Scott Family Campground
Day 22, Wed 10 Oct: Rest In Colona
Still at the creepy campground in Colona. Sorry, Colona’s Scott Campground; I’m sure the place has a wonderful vibe when it’s freshly painted and busy in summer.
The manager told us to stay put and not wander too far from the RV in the afternoon because they were expecting the storm to hit again.
We managed to play a round of mini-golf, raid the vending machines in the arcade and walk back to our campsite via the pond and playpark before the first drops fell. Snuggled in the RV with the awning safely tucked away, we waited for the impending storm, but it never came. As soon as the rain cleared, we were out, lit our campfire and roasted our marshmallows.
Overnight: $25 Full Hookups. Colona’s Scott Family Campground.
Day 23, Thu 11 Oct: Get To Chicago
Today is the day. We must reach Chicago.
Hit the road by 10 am. We stopped at a Walmart near Princeton to stock up on groceries, but by 4 pm we reached Whiting Lakefront Park and Whihala Beach just East of Chicago central.
If you approach Chicago in an oversized vehicle, you need to plan your route carefully. The number of low rise tunnels and bridges that are unsuitable for RV’s are insane. I need to earn a commission from the RV Parky people because I’m going to say it again: just download the RV Parky app.
The RV Parky app clearly shows tunnels that are too low for motorhomes to safely clear, with red triangles and exclamation marks. In most places, you’ll see a few of them, but Chicago is a minefield!
As we drove into the park we saw a college football practice underway, joggers, more sports teams training in and around the park and a few families in the play area; a nice area altogether.
Whiting Lakefront Park is lovely. The parking lots were mostly empty and we paid for parking until 7 pm so it felt like we had the park to ourselves for a few hours. The kids made a beeline for the play areas the minute we opened the RV’s door.
Oh! Our first view of Lake Michigan was magical, the Chicago skyline clearly visible in the distance just as the sun was setting over the lake.
Watching the sky paint the lake with colourful hues of pinks and purples, I made a quick dinner of chicken burgers and salad before we head over to nearby Hammond Walmart to boondock for the night.
Tomorrow, we explore CHICAGO!
Overnight: Free. Boondock at Hammond Walmart – Whiting, Indiana
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