July 7, 1999 - Day 32 - Holdrege to Grand Island, Nebraska
- 83 miles approx. (My trip computer quit working today - hopefully just the battery) - 1900 total miles
The words for today: hot and humid. The first day of the trip my CoolWick shirt just couldn't keep up. EVERYTHING just feels greasy. I LOVE the lowlands!
An improvement in the wind, but still no tailwind in Nebraska. The wind was from SSE, and I spent a pretty good portion of the day moving northeast or due north, but mostly due east. It's actually a lot like sailing (I've done two days worth, so Popeye I ain't). The wind can be SOOO close to filling that sail, but close is only good in horseshoes. But turn 2 degrees and WHUMP! - those sails just blossom. (These thoughts got me thinking about the "prairie schooners", as they called the pioneer covered wagons. I've always heard it's because they looked like sailing ships moving through the tallgrass prairie, but I wonder if wind didn't have something to do with it, too. It would certainly have been a factor for them as well as for me.)
The junction of Route 99 with "The Great One
And this is the reason I was thinking about prairie schooners. I won't go into detail about the Oregon Trail, except to say that it follows the Great Platte River Valley. You can read so much more about it on our 'Trails' page. I also strongly recommend the book "Oregon Trail Revisited" by Gregory Franzwa, Patrice Press, Independence, Mo. Greg does an outstanding job of describing the everyday heroics as well as the history that led to the use of this route. It's great reading.
The Platte River
To continue our river lesson, the Platte is formed when the North and South branches join (conflue?) in western Nebraska. It flows easterly across the state (Nebraska means 'flat water' I think) and joins the Missouri at the appropriately-named town of Plattsmouth. Rte. 34 will cross the Missouri there.
The Platte River Valley is, arguably, the most important transportation corridor of our history, past and present. It was used by the Native Americans, the fur trappers, the Mormons, the Oregon and California pioneers, the Pony Express, the first transcontinental telegraph lines, the Union Pacific Railroad as its mainline for the first transcontinental line. It was the bed of the first paved transcontinental highway, the Lincoln Highway (Rte. 30). It is currently the bed of Interstate 80.
And all because of the geography.
So today's ride was all kinds of routes intersected, bisected, and ridden upon, over and through. Cool.
The Crossing of the Routes
This is the big one, though: The Oregon-California Trail.
I show Route 99 (actually Rte. 34) coming from the southwest, then turning north at Hastings to head up to Grand Island. (I hope the map is readable.)
The Oregon Trail comes from the southeast out of Kansas, following the Big Blue, a tributary of the Missouri. The pioneers followed it until it headed west and petered out. At the best point to do so, they cut away from it, went about 30 waterless miles north, and joined the Platte just east of present-day Kearney. (Interestingly, I also had my own 30-mile waterless stretch today.)
I passed into Kearney, Adams and Hall Counties, in that order. (John Klemak, Katie Binks and Nicole Sfura, in that order.) There is good information there. On the Kearney County site, there is a much better picture of the Platte River than mine; it shows the real character ('a mile wide and an inch deep').
About 25 miles east of Holdrege, where I stayed last night, is Harold Warp's 'Pioneer Village', Nebraska's Number One tourist attraction. And for good reason. What a museum of our history!
The 'town square' at Pioneer Village
Yes, that IS an Edsel on your right. This is one of 26 buildings on the property!! It would take days to see it all. I stayed an hour and a half. They have washing machines, farm equipment, steam-powered merry-go-rounds, stained glass, railroad cars, bicycles, etc. etc. etc.
A car barn
This is as close as I can remember to my Grandpa Hall's John Deere. (I'd like some help from my family on this.) This is a 1938 model. I'd swear to the steering wheel, the seat, the gear shift levers, but most of all the flywheel that I could never budge but Grandpa could just turn over easily. Big difference was the color, of course. Grandpa's was something that USED to be green.
Harold Warp's statement
Warp made his money in Chicago in plastics, Ben, plastics. He then used a portion of that money to honor his Nebraska pioneer parents with this tribute, a lesson Bill Gates could learn.
This sign hangs directly above the main entrance. It's kind of dated in its own right, isn't it? "Industry" equals "Progress". We're beginning to discover the ways that "progress" has hurt us.
And while I respect the pioneering spirit and the incredible fortitude it took for these people to come out here... what ABOUT the Indians?
You have seen no mention in any of my journals about Indians because... they have been virtually invisible on my trip. Outside of Ely, Nevada I took a picture of a sign that said "Entering Ute Indian Reservation - it is understood that you will be under Ute Indian law while on this reservation". "Interesting" I thought. Less than a hundred yards later was the sign saying "Leaving Ute Indian Reservation"
Side question: Is the situation in Whitehall, Nebraska, just south of the Pine Ridge Ogallalla Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, making headlines anywhere but in Nebraska? Russell Means of the American Indian Movement led a couple of marches from the reservation down into the town to demand the closing of liquor stores there (very much like was done in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago by that African-American pastor). There was ugly confrontation, the Indians looted and burned a store, SWAT teams arrived en masse to "protect" the town, and a week later there was another march and Means was arrested.
Today, Bill Clinton flew to Pine Ridge as part of his "Hey, I'm leaving office, so now I can go out looking like a humanitarian Campaign". He spent 3 hours talking about all the investment opportunities there. As the Omaha paper pointed out, at least we have a President who made the trip, instead of summoning the chiefs to come to Washington to visit the Great White Father.
Do we just chalk our Indian situation in America up to "inevitable" or do we examine our national personality a little more deeply? (Can we draw any comparisons between the depersonalized 'Columbine HS mentality' and the depersonalized 'Exterminate the red man mentality'?)
So that users of this web site will be able to voice their opinions easily, we've opened up an American Indian topic in the Message Board
Speaking of firing at will, doesn't this just present the most hilarious mental images? Who should star in the movie? (I'm thinking Buster Keaton). This sign was at Pioneer Village in the bicycle building.
(I'm thinking, however, of adapting the rapid-firing gun concept after a little run-in with some nice boys in Hastings. Very funny to drive by and scream profanities at a bicyclist. A few 50-caliber slugs to the trunk would turn their attitude around, I think. Oops - sorry about the gas tank, kids!)
Goodbye Ranchers, Hello Farmers
My map of Nebraska does not indicate where the 100th meridian is. This is (or was, anyway) the great 'Wet/Dry' Line of America. West of the 100th, too dry to farm, perfect for grazing. East of the 100th, enough rain to make the land too valuable for grazing.
So I couldn't remember exactly where the line was and I wasn't going to ask ("I say, old chap, could you be so kind as to inform me as to the precise location of 100th meridian?" Blank stare.)
But this sign is probably a good enough indicator that we've left the last little vestige of the Great American West behind us for good, eh?
Mormon Island is now a state rec and campground right at the Grand Island exit of I80. When you're on I80, you don't realize you actually are on an island of the Platte. The main traffic of the Oregon-California Trail doesn't really join the Platte until farther east (see map above), but the Mormons used this island on their trek to Utah from Nauvoo, Illinois in 1845. Thus it's name.
I really put it on here because I know Lois was here just last week and that means I'm getting closer to home.
Tomorrow: Lincoln or beyond? I'm hoping to visit with two sets of friends, but have yet to make contact with the Reinkordts in Denton. Unlisted phone!!
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