Exploring N.E. Nebraska Part 2

Missouri River

Missouri River, Nebraska

Stacy Kreycik Miller & Tom Wilmer

Stacy Kreycik Miller & Tom Wilmer

Exploring Northeast Nebraska—a realm of never ending surprises

Niobrara State Park is located on a bluff top overlooking the confluence of the mighty Missouri and Niobrara rivers. What makes the setting distinctive is that it’s one of the rarely found, last remaining free-flowing segments of the Missouri. The mile wide section is much as Lewis & Clark would have witnessed back in 1804…and they camped right here. Join National Park Ranger, John Rokosz as he shares his passion for the region. Family farming has been a tough row to hoe for most Nebraskans for a very long time.

For those who cannot evolve and change with the times, farming and ranching quickly becomes an unprofitable exercise. But the Kreycik family has come up with creative ways to keep their operation viable. Under the watchful eye of Mom, Chris Kreycik, her daughter, stacy and her husband along with Stacy’s brother and sister in law, Allison, run every aspect of daily life on the farm, from feeding and doctoring the herds to fencing, repairing, driving tractors and much more. Join Stacy Kreycik Miller at Kreycik Elk and Buffalo Ranch in Niobrara Nebraska. Ponca State Park like Niobrara is set on the flanks of the wild & scenic portion of the Missouri River, Ponca is a one stop destination for families and especially extended family retreats. Main attractions at Ponca include, hiking, biking, golf, archery and of course, kayaking and canoeing on the Missouri. Join Jeff Fields, Nebraska Game and Parks Superintendent at Ponca State Park and Tyler Wulf, Assistant Superintendent. Dean Knutson is the Museum Curator at the De Soto Wildlife and National Refuge located in Missouri Valley, Iowa. In addition to an extensive wildlife interpretive center, a highlight of the facility is the showcase of pristine condition freight artifacts from the riverboat Bertrand that sunk on the Missouri back in 1865. The wreckage was recovered in the 1960s with 90 percent of its freight in showroom new condition due to the being entombed for more than a century in riverbed mud. And then it’s a visit with Nancy Gillis in Bancroft, Nebraska at the John Neihardt State Historical Site. Neihardt’s incredible lifetime achievements are chronicled and  showcased and his legacy remains ensured by being honored as Nebraska’s Poetic Laureate in perpetuity.

Listen to the show on the Lowell Thomas Award winning travel show, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer: Check out this episode!


Geocaching in Helena, Montana

 Geocaching at the Helena State Capitol

Treasure Hunting with a GPS: Geocaching in Helena, Montana

When correspondent Julie Henning takes her family on vacation, they always hunt for treasures. But instead of a treasure map and a compass, she uses a handheld GPS device and a website to find geocaches—containers of all shapes and sizes hidden around the world. Since she started geocaching in 2010, Henning has been to 29 states and four countries and geocaching has be come a major influence on how she sees the world. When she learned Helena was a hot spot for geocaching, the Montana state capital quickly jumped to the top of Henning’s travel bucket list. Recently selected by Rand McNally as the best place for geocaching in the United States, the Helena Montana GeoTour showcases the best Helena has to offer by taking high-tech treasure hunters to 38 truly unique destinations located in greater Lewis and Clark County.While the ultimate goal of a GeoTour is tourism and drawing out-of-towners in to see a city, one positive side effect of a GeoTour is that local geocachers become more aware of the history and significance of unique places within their own community. And it just so happens, the earliest settlers of Helena came to the area were looking for their own treasure—gold. Join Henning as she geocaches with her family at the Montana State Capitol Building, Manlove Homestead (the site of the first settlers in the Prickly Pear Valley), and at a historic cemetery Elkhorn, a ghost town once bustling with prosperity as residents made their fortunes. She also connects with the Capitol City Cachers, the local geocaching community instrumental in establishing and maintaining the Helena Montana GeoTour. Over breakfast the conversation ranges from how geocachers are perceived to notorious hiding spots, and the group laughs at some of the adventures and mishaps that make for great tall tales.

For more information on the Helena Montana GeoTour, visit http://www.helenamt.com/content/geotour/. Anyone can create a Geocaching account (it’s free) at http://www.geocaching.com

Check out this episode!



Exploring Northeast Nebraska


Nebraska Elk                              Photo Credit Thomas Wilmer


Deb Loseke

A journey of discovery of Northeastern Nebraska, featured on the NPR.ORG Podcast site, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer. Join Deb Loseke, Director of the Columbus Nebraska Platte County Convention & Visitors Bureau as she shares her insights in to why Columbus’s economic vitality is leading the pack in the Midwest.


Kim Bean COO Tasty Toppings Columbus, Nebraska

We’ll also chat with Kim Bean COO of Columbus based Tasty Toppings, manufacturers of the Midwest’s longtime favorite and revered Dorothy Lynch French salad dressing. The Genoa, Nebraska U.S. Industrial Indian School opened in 1884 and operated continuously, until the midst of the Great Depression. Nancy Carlson Curator at the US Indian School Interpretive Center in Genoa, Nebraska talks about the boarding school’s history.Indian school2


Donna Herrick


Kara Weander-Gaster

Next up is a visit to Norfolk, Nebraska’s 9th largest city is affectionately known by locals as the Capital of Northeast Nebraska. We’ll visit with Kara Weander-Gaster, Executive Director of the Norfolk Arts Center. And then it’s on to the Norfolk Lodge & Suites, owned and managed by an incredible woman, Donna Herrick.



Kim Kwapnioski

Johnnyh CarsonNorfolk is the town where Johnny Carson grew up and performed his first magic shows for the locals before pushing on to fame and Fortune as the most revered 20th century talk show host. Kim Kwapniosiki, Director of the Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau shares her passion for the town that annually hosts the Johnny Carson Comedy Festival the 3rd week in June. Listen to the full show on the Lowell Thomas Award winning travel podcast show, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer Check out this episode!


Edwin Grosvenor


American Heritage's 60th Anniversary Eleanor Clift (rt) Ed Grosvenor (lft)

American Heritage’s 60th Anniversary Eleanor Clift (rt) Ed Grosvenor (lft)

It’s a sad thing when a family member or friend begin to lose their memory, when they no longer recognize people close to them or understand what’s going on around them. The other day I was wondering what would happen if our nation began to lose its collective memory. What would happen if America’s next generation doesn’t understand how our country came to be and what it stands for.

One person who’s worried this may be happening to us right now is Edwin Grosvenor, the editor of the revered history magazine, American Heritage.  Grosvenor comes by his interest in history naturally – his family founded National Geographic 126 years ago, and ran it for most of the years since. It was Grosvenor’s grandfather Gilbert who explored Yosemite with John Muir and Stephen Mather and subsequently played a key role in establishing the National Park Service almost 100 years ago.images

Ed Grosvenor

Ed Grosvenor

Ed Grosvenor recently started a nonprofit organization, the American Heritage Society based in Washington DC, to take over the 65 year old magazine and to transform it into a “National Geographic for history,” to help educate Americans, especially our youth, about our country’ exceptional history. Grosvenor is inspired by the generations of contributors to American Heritage, including President John F. Kennedy, who have gone before him and created a rich archive of articles for the American heritage website. President Kennedy, took the time while he was in the White House to pen an essay for the magazine on why Americans should know about the past, pointing out that “history is the means by which a nation establishes its sense of identity and purpose.”

Ed Grosvenor (rt) Thomas Wilmer (lft)

Ed Grosvenor (rt) Thomas Wilmer (lft)

Join correspondent, Tom Wilmer, Host of Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer–the Lowell Thomas Award winning audio travel show–for a conversation with Ed Grosvenor as he shares his passion for American history and his concern about the demise of federally funded history projects and educational components: Check out this episode!

History Education – Fourscore (4score.org)

Magazine - AmericanHeritage.com


Little Rock 9 Remembered


Little Rock 9 PICSeptember 4th, 1957 was the first day of school in Little Rock Arkansas. Nine black children attempted to start classes at the all white Central High school. But their entry was blocked by hundreds of Arkansas national Guardsmen who had been sent on direct orders issued by Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus– to block the entry of the nine black students who will forever live on in history as the Little Rock Nine.

President Eisenhower subsequently dispatched the 101st Airborne Division and placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal Command. With bayonets fixed, more than 1,000 federal troops provided protection and escorted the 9 black students into the school as hundreds of taunting. Rock throwing white men and women venomously protested.  The Nine were reluctantly allowed to attend classes, but not without endless harassment and abuse. And they were not allowed to attend any extra curricular affairs, proms, programs or sports. The events of September 1957 at Little Rock Central High school was a seminal turning point in America’s civil rights movement—the lessons learned live on at Little Rock’s Central high school today.

Little Rock ( #2Join correspondent, Tom Wilmer as he visits with Phyllis Brown, little sister of Minnijean Brown who was one of the Little Rock Nine. Ms. Brown recalls the pure terror her family and friends lived with 24 hours a day. Robin White, Superintendent at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, shares her passionate insights in to the history and lessons learned. Rex Deloney Little Rock Central High School teacher and head of the art department today, shares his insights in to the legacy of the Little Rock Nine that lives on palpably in the classrooms, in the hallways and throughout the entire community of little Rock Arkansas and across America.



Listen to the feature show on the Lowell Thomas Award winning travel show, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, featured weekly on NPR.ORG’s podcast site. Check out this episode!

Eureka CA’s Carter House & Smith River Oregon Border


Carter House Inn Photo Tom Wilmer

Carter House Inn
Photo Tom Wilmer

Mark Carter started the Carter House Inn, located in the heart of old town Eureka by accident back in the early 1980s. He started out building an intricately crafted Victorian intended for use as his personal residence. But the exceptionally talented craftsman and visionary kept adding things—much like the Mrs. Winchester’s Mystery house and by the time he was done it was much bigger and grander than he initially envisioned.

One thing led to another and before long he was the innkeeper of the newest and smartest B&B in Eureka. Over the years he remodeled a row of Victorian residences down the street and added them to his stable. He also built a three story Victorian hotel with a cornerstone restaurant. Dubbed 301 for its address—and his empire soon garnered rave reviews and a fond following that continues today, 30 years later. The Carter House is where Morgan Freeman and Dustin Hoffman stayed while filming Outbreak in nearby Ferndale…and over the years film crews and stars, including Barbara Streisand and Brad Pitt just few months ago, have come to stay at Carter’s inn. Carters 301 restaurant is the place to dine in Eureka and one of the many reasons why is its exceptional wine list, the winner of Wine Spectators Grand Award—the only recipient of the coveted accolade between San Francisco and Seattle. I stopped by for a visit with my old friend Mark Carter, come along and join mark in Eureka.

Roosevelt Elk on outkirts of Smith River CA Photo Tom WIlmer

Roosevelt Elk on outkirts of Smith River CA Photo Tom WIlmer

A four and ¾ hour drive north on Highway 101 from San Francisco. Heading north from Eureka our next stop is the Wild Rivers Coast Region that ranges from Port Orford on the Oregon Coast south to Crescent City and Klamath along the California Coast.  We’ll stop in at the Smith River region, just three miles from the Oregon Border for a visit with the executive director of the Crescent City Del Norte Chamber of Commerce and visitors bureau, the publisher of the Del Norte Triplicate, and Barbara Charmella who runs the Travel Oregon Welcome Center.



Listen to the show on the Lowell Thomas Award winning travel show, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a weekly featured podcast on NPR.ORG produced by California Central Coast NPR affiliate KCBX.

Check out this episode!

Chicks Dig Tanks

Julie Hemming trims the shrubs with her tank

Julie Hemming trims the shrubs with her tank

Ditch the Minivan for Something Bigger and Badder at Drive A Tank in Kasota Minnesota

Join correspondent Julie Henning in Kasota, Minnesota as she participates in an extreme adventure at Drive A Tank, a family-owned business that owns over two-dozen authentic military tanks and military vehicles from around the world. People come to Drive A Tank for the ultimate “testosterone” adventure: driving a tank, firing a machine gun, and (if you want to go all out) even crushing a car or a mobile home.

Julie barrels through a giant mud puddle in a de-militarized Abbot FV433, a British war tank that weighs 16 tons fully loaded and can fire 6-8 rounds of ammunition per minute up to 15 miles with or without a clear line of sight. Next up, she fires a fully automatic, authentic STEN machine gun that was used in combat during World War II—discovering what it’s like to feel your heart is about to pound its way out of your chest. The experience is interwoven with military history and some common misconceptions about tanks and other military warfare. While it’s becoming a popular Midwest attraction, Drive A Tank has drawn customers from across the United States and around the world and is a relatively short (1 hour and 15 minute) drive from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. Owner Tony Borglum shares how business has been quite literally booming since opening in 2007, including some of the newest additions to his fleet of over two dozen tanks and industrial equipment. From corporate “team building” outings to special occasions and visits by remaining World War II veterans, everyone takes something unique away from their experience.

Website: driveatank.com/

Phone Number: 507-931-7385

Check out this episode! Click here to listen to the audio show about Julie Henning driving a tank and firing a machine gun in Kasota Minnesota for Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer the Lowell Thomas Award Winning travel show featured weekly on NPR.ORG

Where the Midwest Meets Out West: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls From Tower

Join Correspondent Julie Henning reporting from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Summer seems to inspire feeling of restlessness and wanderlust, and for many people that means a road trip Out West in search of Wide Open Spaces. But if you’re on a bit of a vacation crunch, a trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota might be just west enough. IMG_8347From the majestic Falls Park just outside of downtown to the community celebration on the first Friday of every month and the annual Outdoor University—a day long event featuring everything you could possibly want to do in the great outdoors, there’s something for every age and interest in South Dakota’s largest city. Inspired by the friendly people, the landscape, and affordability true to the Midwest, join correspondent Julie Henning in Sioux Falls where she discovers why Sioux Falls is a fabulous vacation spot. Listen to Julie’s interview on the Lowell Thomas Award winning podcast, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer.

For more information visit: www.visitsiouxfalls.com.

Check out this episode!

Montserrat–The other Emerald Isle


Montserrat Coat of Arms

Montserrat Coat of Arms

The only country outside of Ireland that celebrates ST. Patrick’s Day as a national holiday is the petite isle of Montserrat in the midst of the Eastern Caribbean. The British Overseas Territory’s flag is emblazoned with the Irish Harp and the words Erin, with an obligatory Union Jack in a corner. Pass through customs and your passport is stamped with a green Irish Clover. Today, common surnames on Montserrat include Bodkin, Browne, Blake, Meade, O’Gara, Darcy, Ryan, Dean, French, Joyce, Kerwin, Sweeney, Riley, Driscoll, Castle, Lynch, Martin, Morrison, and Skerritt. Numerous island geographic locales pay homage to the motherland such as Cork Hill, potato Hill, Roche’s Mountain, Sweeney’s Well, Kinsale and Delvins and long vanished Irish sugar plantations are remembered as Farrell, Riley, Dyer, Molyneux, and Lee.

How Did the Irish Get There?

Emigration from Ireland to the lush green Caribbean commenced in earnest on the heels of the defeat at the Battle of Kinsale near Cork in 1601. Thousands of disgruntled and disenfranchised Irish Catholics packed their bags in hopes of a better life in the Caribbean where they set up shop as planters, For many it was brutal indentured servitude on St. Kitts and other Caribbean islands for 5 to 7 years work in exchange for their ultimate freedom and the hope of someday becoming landholders. The next rush of Irish Catholic emigrants arrived under duress. They were unwilling deportees, transported following Oliver Cromwell’s genocidal invasion of Ireland in 1648 and subsequently even more under Cromwell’s son’s watch. Departing from Cork and Kerry to Wexford and Galway, Clare and Donegal to Tipperary, Waterford, Drogheda, and Westmeath. Some were literal slaves while other toiled as indentured servants.

Eventually clashes with the ant-Popish Cromwellian influenced British Colonial power structure on St. Kitts, Nevis and other Caribbean Crown colonies led many free Irish to migrate to Montserrat in hopes of opportunity and religious freedom. By the mid-seventeen hundreds, Montserrat census records listed more than 1,500 Irish, 700 English, 52 Scotts, and 1,000 West African slaves. Many eventually became successful planters and eventually became slaveholders themselves. Not coincidentally, the only slave revolt recorded on the island was planned for St.Patrick’s Day, as the slaves were confident their overlords would be three sheets to the wind from too much Guinness. It almost worked but some one snitched off the plot. Through intermarriage, and mass baptisms of slaves given their Irish master’s last name en masse proliferated Irish Surnames on the island.

 Listen to the interview on the Lowell Thomas Award winning travel show, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer a weekly featured podcast on NPR.ORG.

Montserrat Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Check out this episode!


Watch the RTE television feature on the Black Irish of Montserrat:


Rebirth of Montserrat Part 4


Montserrat Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

The island of Montserrat in the Eastern Caribbean, about the same size as the county of San Francisco, is in the midst of rebirthing itself—an entirely brand new town, is in the initial stages of rising from the earth.

How the deftly designed, beachside new town, on the island’s north shore, came about, is the direct result of the dramatic and devastating volcanic eruption of the Soufrière Hills in 1995. Repeated pyroclastic flows eventually buried the historic capital town of Plymouth under mountains of ash in 1997. The entire south end was abandoned and Islanders relocated to the northern half of the island that is protected from future eruptions by the ancient Center Hills mountain chain.

The Montserrat Development Corporation has created a brilliant master plan to ensure that the Phoenix like rebirth of Montserrat incorporates ecologically sensitive, environmentally sustainable concepts in all aspects of its architectural master plan—but just as important, or maybe more so, is its parallel quest to ensure the island’s unspoiled, tropical paradise remains as an essential ingredient—an irreplaceable, delicate touchstone. The Montserratians government intimately understands that the essence of the island’s allure is its unspoiled tropical rainforests, its alluring black sand beaches, some stretching for a mile or more, and its azure waters teaming with coral reefs and marine life. Coral Cays, an international conservation organization has been retained and has been working intensely for more than a year, doing exhaustive terrestrial and maritime environmental surveys. They are developing sustainable management plans, but most importantly Coral Cay is teaching and empowering the island’s student population to become stewards and ambassadors of their incredibly pristine and yet fragile ecological wonderland—that is and will remain as essential draws for vacationing hikers, birders, scuba divers and those who just love basking in an unspoiled rainforest paradise. We’ll visit Coral Cay’s headquarters for a chat with Field Base Manager, Kenny McDonald, and Sean Daniel, Project Scientist.

Afterwards we’ll trek up to the Montserrat Volcanic Observatory and meet with research scientist and volcanologist, Dr. Adam Stinson. And then David Crichton with Montserrat Development Corporation shares the back-story on the Soufrière Hills Volcano… and takes is on a walk through the ash covered abandoned town of Plymouth. At the moment, plans are being finalized to offer regularly scheduled hikes through Montserrat’s Modern Day Pompeii.

Listen to the interview on the Lowell Thomas Award winning travel show, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a weekly-featured podcast on NPR.ORG Check out this episode!