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by Ozzie Nogg

On the morning of Oct. 16, an intrepid band of twenty-five participants hopped on a bus at the JCC and set out on the Annual Mainstreeters Mystery Trip. “Before we arrived at our first destination, there was lots of guessing as to where we were going,” said Harry Alloy who coordinated the adventure. “But all the guesses were wrong.” As it turned out, the Mystery Trip included a tour of the Mormon Trail Museum and Historic Winters Quarters, followed by a visit to Castle Unicorn in Iowa’s Loess Hills and the Hitchcock Nature Center. “All the locations are only about twenty minutes or a half-hour drive from Omaha,” Alloy said. “You don’t have to travel far to enjoy something new.”

At the Mormon Trail Museum, the Mainstreeters got a glimpse of the great Mormon Migration. “We all knew the Museum existed,” said Maggie Conti, Director of Activities and Outreach Programs at the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home, “but most of us had never been inside the building. It was fascinating to see the covered wagons, the hand carts, and to imagine the journey across Iowa.”

Celia  Barron, left, Anne Skolkin and Tootie Simon enjoying the Mormon Trail Center

Celia Barron, left, Anne Skolkin and Tootie Simon enjoying the Mormon Trail Center

The visit to Castle Unicorn was like finding “a bit of Bavaria in the Heartland,” Alloy said. He and Conti made a dry run of the facility before the day of the actual Mystery Trip. “We wanted to make sure that the bus could make it up the narrow, winding road to the Castle,” Alloy said. “Also, the stone and brick Castle has many steps that lead to vantage points on various levels, and we needed to make sure that the building itself was easily accessible to our Mainstreeters participants. We managed just fine, and the views of the surrounding hills, hiking trails, a real moat and fountains are breathtaking.”

The group was served lunch in the Castle’s elegant Dining Hall. “The room is fit for royalty,” said Conti. “The menu offered a choice of the proprietor’s famous chicken salad on croissant or trout, both served with fresh fruit compote, potato salad, dessert and beverage. Lunch was delicious, with such lovely service. The owners and staff catered to our every need.”

The well-fed Mainstreeters headed next to the Hitchcock Nature Center. “A couple of days before our Mystery Trip, it rained cats and dogs, so I was a bit worried that our outdoor plans

Bill Dreyfus, left, and Roger Tederman enjoying the autumn vistas at Hitchcock Nature Center.

Bill Dreyfus, left, and Roger Tederman enjoying the autumn vistas at Hitchcock Nature Center.

would be ruined,” Alloy admitted. “But the afternoon turned out to be perfect, so we were able to really enjoy the Nature Center, its observation tower and the surrounding sights. The view from the Nature Center of the Missouri valley hills and prairies is spectacular and a must-see in the area.”

The location of next year’s Mainstreeters Mystery Trip remains (obviously) a mystery. “It can be a challenge to discover off-beat places for us to visit,” Alloy said. “I got the original idea for Castle Unicorn from Linda Abrams Tederman, and when I saw an article in the Jewish Press about a couple who got married there we decided that having lunch at the Castle would be fun. It’s a good feeling when people get off the bus and say, ‘The trip was wonderful. How did you come up with this idea?’ Those positive comments make it all worthwhile.” Alloy is also proud of the operational precision of the trip. “We promised the group that we’d return to the JCC by 3:30 p.m. to accommodate their personal schedules, and we pulled into the parking lot at 3:31 p.m. Everything went off like clockwork.”

Mainstreeters programs are supported in part by grants from the United Way of the Midlands and the Jewish Federation of Omaha.