19 June 2009

Paleo Road Trip '09: Lincoln

I've stopped in Lincoln several times on my road trips across the country, and on my very first trip I realized that it makes an excellent home-away-from-home for two reasons. First, it is the only place in the Northern Plains where you can reliably get dinner after 8:00. In fact, you can get some really good food there, particularly around the Haymarket district. This is a product, of course, of Lincoln being the college town to end all college towns, giving it a cosmopolitan air of a city several times its size. Case in point: Omaha is a much larger city less than an hour down the road, and it is certainly more of an economic powerhouse, but while it's not a bad place, it is something of a cultural wasteland. It is, to be fair, home of the College World Series and one of the nation's best zoos, but force me to choose between the two and I'll choose Lincoln 10 times out of 10. It was, in fact, Lincoln that taught me the valuable lesson that road trips are best broken up as legs between college towns, which has made my many cross-country excursions over the years much more enjoyable.
The other reason I have always had a fondness for Lincoln is what brought me to town this summer: it's home to one of the best - if most overlooked - paleontology museums in the US. As I noted in my last post, Nebraska is probably the best part of the world in which to find Miocene mammals, and the University of Nebraska State Museum reflects this rich fossil record spectacularly. It has case upon case of horse, rhino, and camel skeletons, but somewhat counterintuitively, the real reason paleontologists should take the time to visit Lincoln is their collection of fossil elephants and elephant relatives, which is the largest in the world and includes the largest mammoth I've ever seen (which is, not coincidentally, the state fossil of Nebraska).
Of course, nowhere is perfect, and I happened to arrive in Lincoln at the same time as a fairly formidable storm front with some equally formidable tornadoes in tow. As noted before, I'm not a big fan of thunderstorms, and that goes double when those storms blot out the sun between the Missouri and the Wabash. Still, there are only so many ways of getting to Cincinnati from Lincoln, and the end of the first stage of my trip was destined to be made in the company of lightning, thunder, and blindingly heavy rain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice blog page. Found you while looking 'fer camel bone photos or illustrations.

Good on ya'