Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Chapter 7 - Kansas City to Grand Island, Nebraska

Kansas City to Grand Island, Nebraska:
Sunday, June 7th:  We were on the road again by 7:30 AM and headed northwest out of Kansas City. The sky was blue, the traffic was light, the scenery consisted primarily of farms with their rolling green hills of trees and some newly planted corn, and best of all, the roadside was totally void of those ugly billboards. It was a perfect day to drive, Sunday's usually are, and we thoroughly enjoyed the 5-1/2 hours that it took us to drive up to the Grand Island KOA located just off Interstate 80 near Grand Island, Nebraska.  If there was a negative about the drive today we would have to say it was the relatively high winds that would occasionally cause both our trailer and our car to sway slightly. This took some getting used to but we knew that there was no real danger. One interesting thing about driving across our country is how much the scenery changes over the course of just 200 miles.  When we left Kansas City we were driving through very hilly and somewhat tree covered countryside.  As we entered Nebraska the land flattened and on both sides of the interstate there were vast acres of newly planted corn and almost no trees.  The photograph above shows a typical cornfield but it is a poor substitute for what the human eye sees when viewing the same scene but with a panoramic view. Unfortunately, as Kathy pointed out, the corn is only as high as an elephant's ankle, and had it been taller considering the high winds we were experiencing today, the view of the waving corn in every direction would have been truly wonderful.

We knew that we were approaching the exit to our new campground for off in the distance we could see a huge clump of trees against an horizon otherwise void of any tall vegetation. Underneath the trees we could see little white dots, clearly our new neighbors in their motorhomes. This particularly exit was interesting in the respect that the only thing at the exit was the Grand Island KOA. This observation led us to conclude that the KOA must have been there before the interstate was built and therefore had they not built the exit, the campground would probably have been forced out of business.  The campground itself was very nice although it was only around 50% occupied.  We were given a pull-thru pad with full hookups.  Once we were all connected (sewer, water, and electric), Kathy and I and Cabo left the park and headed for the local Walmart which we knew to be six miles away in the town of Grand Island.  Grand Island has a population of 48,000 and according to Kathy, after she had finished shopping, she concluded that most of the towns population was in the store.  It was very crowded and to think that we had thought that we had stopped to spend the night in the middle of nowhere Nebraska.

On the drive to the Walmart we crossed over the Platt River.  The Platt River is an important feature on the Oregon Trail in that it is the first major river that the wagon trains encountered once they left Independence, Missouri. Beginning just west of the present day city of Grand Island the wagons followed the river westward for hundreds of miles almost to the rivers' source at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Western Wyoming. The shallow waters of the Platt provided the travelers with a source of water not only to drink for both themselves and their animals, a place to bathe, a place to fish for food, and a source of water for cooking.  The river also showed them the way westward.  In theory, if one were to throw a branch at the source of the Platt River, the branch would float down river to the Missouri River near Independence, then down the Missouri to the Mississippi River near St Louis, and from there down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. In the 1800s, the rivers of America were somewhat analogous to our modern day interstate system.

Monday June 8th:  We awoke this morning to sunshine and a temperature of around 60 degrees. With all of the windows open last night in our mini-home it was a bit chilly in our bedroom-kitchen-bathroom so we each bundled up in sweat shirts to enjoy a good breakfast. Kathy told me that because I was being such a good driver she was going to make me a special breakfast of eggs and hash. Yes, just like the fancy restaurants in the big city but then also like the pioneer familes of old. Actually the city of Grand Island is a fairly big city with a population of around 48,000. The city was originally settled in 1857 by German settlers who first settled on an island in the Platt River, however after the Union Pacific Railroad passed through the area around 1869 the settlement relocated a few miles from the island so as to be along side the railroad tracks. We drove through Grand Island around 10 o'clock Monday morning and it might as well have been a Sunday morning - very quiet. Most of the downtown buildings were not historic in nature and they reflected more of a 1950s look and feeling.  This is not meant to be a criticism only an observation of a typical American town.

To get a more accurate picture of what a town like Grand Island might have looked like in the 1890s we visited a wonderful museum named the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer.  The museum was actually a recreated Railroad Town that was built on 200 acres of land. Almost all of the homes, businesses, a train station, and even a church that were on the site were actually old buildings that had been removed from their original locations and reconstructed on the museum site. Each building was staffed by a worker dressed in a period outfit who showed us through the home or business.  The buildings were furnished with authentic old furniture.

For us to find and visit a museum of this quality in Grand Island, Nebraska was a very pleasant surprise and a wonderful way to spend three hours. We returned back to our campground by early afternoon ready to relax and prepare for our next move the following morning.  Our drive tomorrow will be shorter than normal as we will be traveling only 200 miles to a small town with the unusual name of Ogallala.  Our adventures in this town with such a special name will be the subject of our next chapter.

One final observation that I might mention is with respect to our purchase of gas here in the cornbelt. This afternoon we filled up our gas tank for tomorrows drive.  At the fuel pump we were offered two types of regular gas. The regular gas with no corn ethanol costs $2.799 per gallon. The regular gas with the added 10% ethanol costs 20 cents less or $2.599 per gallon. Seems to me that someone is awful eager to push corn on us poor drivers even though ethanol is suppose to be less fuel efficient and hard on the engines. I guess if I were a Nebraska farmer growing hundreds of acres of corn, I too would appreciate the Democrats in Congress pushing ethanol on the American driver.  Enough said.  Until the next chapter.                 

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