Day 4: Gibbon > Grand Island > Columbus > Norfolk > Menominee > Yankton > Sioux Falls
Yesterday we left the plains of Colorado and crossed Kansas into Nebraska. Today we crossed Nebraska into South Dakota. Most of both days were through relatively flat farm country, as was expected. But never, or at least very rarely, could we exclaim with any certainty that the terrain was wholly flat. We discussed this often. More poignant, in many cases, was the lack of trees. Many times the landscape approached “flat”, but most of the time it undulated. Often it seemed slightly rippled, though rarely was it ever rolling. When contemplated with intent, it was never dull.
What crops were growing there, or had grown recently? How different is that seemingly unmolested vegetation from what it was, say 200 years ago? When was that farmstead built? How old is that town? What sort of raptor is that? Look at how the barn architecture is so very different here.
At one point my questions turned to archaeology. Knowing that when American Westward expansion efforts reached the “Great Plains”, the Sioux peoples were long skilled in horsecraft. Yet, the horses that they rode, were descended only from those brought to the New World, by the Spaniards. The Spanish Entrada into what is now the U.S. of A. happened in the mid- to late 1500s, or thereabouts, while American pioneers were exploring the west in the middle 1700s. Thus, the Sioux only had roughly a century and a half to become the people we now know them as having been. It is uncertain how long the people now known as Sioux have inhabited the “Great Plains”… at least to me. It is generally accepted though that people have been mucking about there for a good 10,000 years or so. Most of that without horses, or wagons, or trucks, or trains, etc.
Driving across the plains in the modern day can seem to take forever. Try it in a wagon, or on horseback, dragging all of your belongings behind you on a sledge of some sort. Now picture it on foot. Does not really work to our modern minds obsessed with fast paced input and instant gratification. My guess is people stuck to the rivers, and given that, driving through the region, questioning thus, one naturally can focus on the various waterways. Following that then, how long have people been navigating the Arkansas? The Platte? The Loup? The Vermillion? The Missouri? The Big Sioux?
How old is the original “Corps of Discovery”?
Anyways, as I have been pondering since our previous cross country roadtrip (just a few weeks ago now), When faced with the seemingly mundane, cultivate an appreciation for subtlety. I find that it also helps to avoid the damn interstates. The backroads may be a bit slower, but are far more interesting.
The Boy has been flirting with some manner of pestilence; snotty nose, bit of a hacking cough. I too seem to be flirting with it today. Thankfully it was a shorter day than yesterday, as I was feeling less than ideal and he did not sleep much along the way. Thankfully, the hotel tonight is beyond comfortable, with a great mini waterpark that the Wife and the Boy enjoyed immensely and we intend to visit again on the morrow.
One more night. Two more drives.