Since first doing it 35 years ago I have believed that you can't grasp the meaning of America without road tripping across the Great Plains stopping along the way to appeciaate the local culture. IMHO everyone should do that at least once. I crossed 2/3 of the lower 48 last week, picking up my son in Chicago enroute to a family ski week at Steamboat CO. We then drove across IL, Iowa, Nebraska, and parts of Wyoming and Colo. It is open land with mostly small towns, all with a cornball pride. Van Meter, Iowa is the home town and location of the Bob Feller museum. Feller was probably the greatest baseball phenom ever, if not the greatest in any American sport. http://www.bobfellermuseum.org/about/bobFeller_Biography.asp
Just before crossing the Mississippi into Nebraska we passed through Council Bluffs Iowa, the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad, the eastern company of the transcontinental railroad. The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869 within months of 100 years before the moon landing of 1969, Both accomplishments took about the same length of time and consumed a similar fraction of the nation's resources. In Nebraska we soon found ourselves alongside the Platte River, following the route taken by the UP railroad and the Oregon Trail. As you go west the land becomes steadily dryer and the river was the only source of water and life for the pioneers traveling west. If normalized by its average volume of flow the Platte must be one of the longest rivers in the world. You can tell where it is on the plains, to the left or right of I-80, by looking for the line of trees that grows along the river where there is water. Everything else is treeless. Cholera swept the plains several times during the westward migrations and it is easy to see why. There was, in those days before artesian wells, no other reliable source of water for about 500 miles. if someone became ill, the bug was in the water and heading downstream very quickly. A whole family would awake healthy one day and by sunset 2 or 3 of them would be dead. The vastness of the plains and stories like these give me enormous respect for the people who traveled across those plains with wagons and draft animals. Nebraska is more strongly associated with that era of history than any other state.
We are skiing at Steamboat this week. On Sat. I say goodbye to the family and head to Utah. I hope to have better snow luck than I had in VT.