It was Sunday the 27th. I was two days out of St. Louis and had easily 

covered over 500 miles. Lewis and Clark took well over two months to cover 

the same distance. They spent four days in this area south of present day 

Omaha, and continued to marvel at the vast prairie devoid of trees. By July 

27/28 they passed through the area now known as Omaha and shortly after 

encountered a lone Indian. Through him they arranged their first formal 

meeting with Indians for August 3rd at the area that became Fort Atkinson. 

Their thoughts on the Omaha area? Clark wrote, "A butiful Breeze from the 

N.W. this evening which would have been verry agreeable had the Misquiters 

been tolerably Pacifick, but they were rageing all night, Some about the Sise 

of house flais." One of the best things brought along by Lewis was mosquito 

netting. Without it, the men wouldn't have been able to sleep many nights. 

And it was a thick coating of bear grease or some such that got them through 

many days.

    The meeting with the Missouri and Oto tribes took place on the 3rd. By 

today's standards, the speeches by Lewis would turn your stomach. They were 

full of the "Great White Father" taking care of his "children" type 

references. It would have been interesting if the tribes had been keeping 

journals. I'd love to read what they recorded when told that the area they 

called home now belonged to someone else.

    I was to spend most of the early part of the drive on I-29 on the Iowa 

side of the Missouri River until crossing into South Dakota just after Sioux 


    Iowa, the 11th State entered on the trip, gained Statehood in 1846. It 

can truly be called a "melting pot" State. Besides, of course, the Indians 

who already lived there, Danes settled around Elk Horn; Norwegians settled 

around Decorah; Czech, Moravian and Slovak people settled around Cedar 

Rapids; and the Dutch founded Pella. You'll find the Amana Colonies; evidence 

of the Mormon migration, and the Amish. You'll also find the birthplaces of 

Herbert Hoover (the English named a vacuum after him), Marion Robert Morrison 

(a.k.a. John Wayne), William Cody (a.k.a. Help Wipe Out the Buffalo Bill), 

and Grant Wood, he of the painting, "American Gothic." You know. The one with 

the unhappy looking couple holding the pitchfork. They always looked to me 

like they had false teeth and here they were in the corn capital of the U.S. 

No wonder they were unhappy. You've probably never heard of John Atanasoff 

and Clifford Berry. They are credited with building, on the campus of Iowa 

State University, the first computer in 1939. That might be open to debate 

depending upon how you define a computer.

    Iowa's population is just slightly bigger than our smallest so far 

(Kansas) at 2.9 million people, and at 51 people per square mile also ranks 

after Kansas as least dense. Those 2.9 million people are scattered over 

56,290 square miles (rank 25), almost the same size as Illinois, about 12% 

bigger than England, and just a bit smaller than Georgia and Florida. Fitting 

to its prairie background, Iowa doesn't vary much in elevation: 480 feet to 

1,670 feet.

    As I mentioned, I followed I-29 into South Dakota, but first I stopped at 

another Lewis and Clark State Park, this one on Iowa 175 a ways across the 

Missouri River from Decatur, Nebraska. The park is on an oxbow lake. Oxbow 

lakes are interesting phenomena that are caused by a curving river's natural 

tendency to straighten itself leaving the former big bend as a stand-alone 

lake. Both the Missouri and Mississippi are full of them and their existence 

hint at how both rivers looked in times past.

    This park was very busy near the boat launch ramps and seemed to be THE 

spot for fishing this misty morning. Farther along I found what I came for.


A full-sized replica of the keelboat

    I described the Discovery in the last Part, but it is something to be 

seen. I can't believe that this craft was coaxed as far up the Missouri as it 

was. Although I don't know for certain, this is probably the craft that you 

see in the background of Ken Burn's wonderful documentary, "Lewis and Clark, 

The Journey of the Corps of Discovery." Find a copy of this video. It tells a 

wonderful story. (Check the PBS stores.)

    I couldn't get on the boat, well, I could have because no one was around, 

but I respected the Keep Off signs. Across the road were a series of display 

boards and a small building that I'm sure contained more interesting 

information, but was still closed.

    I drove back out of the park, dodged the boat launchers (who all stopped 

to watch EG drive by), enjoyed the sight of the mist-shrouded lake (great 

atmosphere), and turned on Highway 175 towards Nebraska. I wanted to get to 

the Blackbird Scenic Lookout on the Omaha Indian Reservation. (Blackbird was 

an Omaha chief.) The view of the river area is supposed to be quite good.

    The Lookout is just north of Decatur, Nebraska so I crossed over the 

Missouri River and ran into another tollbooth. This one was even less busy 

than the one the night before, fortunately, and while I fumbled around for 

the high toll of $0.25 the tollbooth attendant and I had a nice chat about EG.

    Just a ways from the tool booth was a BIG welcome to Nebraska sign so I 

stopped and amused the locals while getting the photo opportunity I'd missed 

on my first foray into Nebraska the day before.


Thanks for the big Welcome!

    Where does Nebraska fit in our list? Glad you asked. Only Kansas is 

bigger, so far. Nebraska's 77,355 square miles (rank 15) is about 6% less 

than Kansas. It's population of only 1.7 million is smallest to date by 

almost one million people. With a population density of only 21 people per 

square mile it is far less than the next nearest, Kansas at 32. Like they 

say, you'd certainly have room to swing a cat - if'n you've a mind to.

    By the way, the State's name comes from an Indian word, "nebrathka" 

meaning flat water, a name given to the Platte River that wanders east/west 

from the Missouri just south of Omaha.

    How about this history. In 1837, The Indian Intercourse Act (any 

snickering and you go sit in the corner) prohibits white settlement west of 

the Mississippi River. This "reserves" (how nice) the Great Plains for 

American Indian settlement. By 1862, however, The Homestead Act lets settlers 

grab onto land in 160-acre parcels for very little cost. A land rush 

followed. So much for intercourse; although, one could make a case for 

someone getting screwed.

    I left Decatur and headed north to the Lookout. Like an early trip up 

Mount Mitchell, all I got to see was fog. Fortunately, the drive was not too 

far north of Decatur, and I was soon back at the toll bridge breaking the 

bank by handing another 25 cents to the attendant. Just the other side of the 

river I was able to make up for missing another Welcome sign.


Thanks. I was beginning to think you didn't

    Back on I-29, I headed for Sioux City and my turn into South Dakota.

    Near where Dakota City is today, the group paused around the 18th to 

recoup. They hoped to meet up with the Omaha tribe, but that didn't work out. 

The few that remained after surviving the big small pox epidemic a few years 

before were out hunting. The Corps stuck around for a few days anyway waiting 

for a squad of men to return who went out after deserter Pvt. Reed. They were 

to bring him back dead or alive. They brought him back alive and the court 

marshal also spared his life but he ran the gauntlet four times. That's equal 

to about 500 lashes. He probably slept on his stomach for a few nights. For 

some strange reason, once the punishment was over, the camp seemed to perk 

up. They celebrated (well, all except Reed) Lewis's 30th birthday by getting 

"an extra gill of whiskey" and dancing until 11:00 PM. What party animals!

    The current Sioux City area was reached by the Corps of Discovery on 

August 20th and Sgt Floyd died. He'd been sick for some time and finally 

cashed it in of bilious fever, as I think it was described. The best guess is 

that he had a burst appendix. At that point in history the problem wasn't 

known and it wasn't until 1884 that the condition was first operated on 

successfully. The interesting fact of the expedition is that Floyd was the 

only casualty on the trip! Think of taking about 4 dozen, very ill-prepared 

men (by today's standards) out into the wilderness for a couple of years; 

fight your way through incredible country and hostile inhabitants (human and 

otherwise), live on their diet and without any real medical help (bleeding 

and powerful laxatives were prescribed for most everything); and only one 

person died.

    I drove through Sioux City (another city with a "river city" look to it) 

on I-29 and got a peek at the monument to Sgt. Floyd - sort of a Washington 

Monument-shaped obelisk. I-29 going out of Sioux City leaves Iowa and runs 

into a little toe of South Dakota stuck in between Iowa and Nebraska (the 

Welcome sign was on a busy road so no photo opportunity). I followed 29 until 

near Junction City and then said goodbye to the interstate (and good 

riddance) choosing, instead, to follow Highway 50 along the Missouri River. 

At this point, the Missouri River forms the boarder between Nebraska and 

South Dakota. On a map, this is the wiggly portion of the otherwise fairly 

straight-sided States. Grace, of "Will and Grace" (the best comedy on 

American TV) referred to the States in this area as the "square states out 

there." Sort of a New York attitude.


A fancy South Dakota plate, and...


one not so fancy.

    The route becomes a little hard to follow for a while, partly because I 

wasn't always sure where I was, but it was a good drive! I followed 50 until 

it turned into 46 on the Yankton Indian Reservation, which then turned into 

18 as it crosses the Missouri River at Ft. Randal Dam. For a short while 18 

runs right along the boarder between Nebraska and South Dakota, although, the 

prairie country looks all the same!

    As an aside, the major routes in the US that travel north/south have odd 

numbers, like I-29 I was on earlier. The east/west routes have even numbers, 

like 50, 46 and 18 I'd been traveling. That doesn't mean that the roads can't 

travel for some distance the wrong direction just to confuse you. Later on 

this day I'd follow 50 and 34 north.

    A little short of Burke I found the following.


Thanks, but I was really hoping for a

    At Burke, I finally got smart and decided to fill up with gas (and Red 

Line, again, finally) even though I wasn't running on fumes, yet. I'd peeked 

at the map and knew the next stretch was unlikely to have anyplace big enough 

to have a gas station - and I was right. EG continued to run satisfactorily, 

but I could tell something wasn't quite right. I promised I'll check it out 

in Pierre.

    A few miles down the road I headed north from Gregory on 47 towards I-90. 

This was high plains farming country. There wasn't anything else around for 

miles. Very pretty, in its own way, to drive through or maybe visit, but it 

would take a special type of person to live there. I think it was along this 

stretch of road that I first encounter a huge field of sunflowers. There must 

have been acres of them! Great sight. But answer me one question. Why do they 

all have their heads pointing to the east? Is there some sort of sunflower 

Mecca that direction? I noticed this on fields I passed through later in the 

day and several times the following morning. Evening or morning, all the 

sunflowers were pointing east.

    East pointing mystery aside, I like sunflowers, and it was nice to see a 

crop I could identify. Corn, sure, and there was lots of it, but many of the 

fields I went through on the trip were just unidentifiable crops. There ought 

to be a law. Farmers have to post signs by the road saying what they're 


    Somewhere along 47 I noticed this building standing off by itself. There 

was nothing else around, and I do mean nothing. This is empty country, 

people. I also noticed the sign so I stopped for a photograph. I hope the 

sign shows up.


Wonder what is taught?

    This is tough country and the school is probably a tough school. Right 

across the dirt road from the school I found the school's former mascot.


That's one tough school!

    When 47 finally ran into I-90 I backtracked a bit by heading east on 90 

until just across the Missouri River. I could have continued on up 47 (which 

was tempting) crossing the Missouri River again at the Big Bend Dam. (Another 

dam in the same day. One could have said the day's trip was just one dam site 

after another, but I couldn't possibly say that.) I'd been down the stretch 

of highway a few weeks before on the trip to Florida. It was my first sight 

of the Missouri River. This time it looked just as magnificent. There's a 

restaurant up above the river on the east side, Casey's, which is advertised 

as selling the best hamburger in the US. I didn't stop this time. I was 

fooled by that advertisement once already.

    From the river crossing I drove through Chamberlain and some road 

construction and followed 50 north. (Remember the lesson on roads. Fifty 

should run east/west!) I wandered up and down small hills following the 

Missouri River, 50, 47, and 34 (which also ran north for a while) until 34 

made a bend to the west towards Pierre. Unlike many of the drives along the 

Missouri River, this one actually afforded good views, and with the sun 

hitting it just right it was a very scenic drive.

    EG and I chugged into Pierre and checked into a motel just before 6:00 

with 5,784 miles on the clock. We'd covered a little over 480 miles for the 

day (3,902 since Miami) and had seen some interesting country. Food for me 

first, and then time to check out EG and replace the tarp on the roof rack.