Nebraska 2010 – Day 18

Waubonsie State Park, IA to Nebraska City, NE: For the love of trees

Sunday May 23, 2010, 29 miles (47 km) – Total so far: 728 miles (1,171 km)

Yesterday, I made a deal with the wind, as it was buffeting my tent and blowing things all over the campground. The Sunday forecast was for windy conditions again, though not as bad. I said, ‘now, I know you’ve gotta do your thing and I know you need to head toward areas of lower pressure; HOWEVER, I also need to do my thing and get to Colorado. If you can just hold off each day until 9 or 10 to let me get some miles in, I promise to get up early even though I’m not much of a morning person. I’ll let you think on it’.

So this morning, the wind is calm, even though the forecast was for 20 mph winds through the night and into today. Thank you wind, I’m keeping to my end of the deal, too. I’m up at 5:50am, after a short sleep due to my campsite neighbours keeping me up til 1:30 with drunken talk about the merits of square graham crackers and different lengths of sticks used in Smores-making.

I know the road across the Missouri River floodplain is narrow and has no shoulder. So let’s get going before everyone wakes up on this Sunday morning. I’m off at 6:50am. Whee! The ride down out of the loess hills is fun and pretty fast. Only 3 cars overtake me and 7 cars pass going the other way between the state park and the interstate exit. I grab a chocolate milk and then head up and over the Missouri River.

Today, I’m crossing several ‘trails’. Lewis and Clark came by here in 1804 and talked about how this area, where Nebraska City sits today, would make a nice town site. In town, Mayhew Cabin was a stop on the Underground Railroad route. Nebraska City was also one of four main entry points to the overland trails (Oregon, California, Oxbow Cut-off) from the Missouri River. It was a preferred trailhead due to easy access up the gentle slope from the Missouri River.

The bike poses at the state line.

I head downtown and even though it’s dead this early Sunday morning, there are plenty of businesses. There is a bike store across from the Burger King. I have a look at the historical buildings around the place and note how well sign-posted all the tourist sites are (there’s more than 11 museums and things to visit).

This is the original post office and county courts – restored and used by a bank nowadays.

I head up to Arbor Lodge. J. Sterling Morton, whose son founded the Morton salt company, was into trees. He imported over 270 types of trees to find suitable species to break up the ‘monotony of the prairie’ and to use as windbreaks. His original plantation of white pines was planted in 1891 to show that trees could grow on the plains. However, these trees succumbed to drought and were replanted in 1937 – you can still take a walk through this stand. Morton is most famous for founding Arbor Day. Later he became Secretary of Agriculture under Grover Cleveland.

Arbor Day Lodge, Nebraska City, NE

I take some photos of my bike in front of the mansion and then have a ride and walk through the arboretum and grounds. I love trees and I’ve been looking forward to this visit. After I exhaust my brain and donate considerable blood to the local mozzie population, I head across the road to check out the Arbor Day Farm – sort of the amusement park of trees. I was interested in a film that they show about ‘trees in the movies’, and the potential for cool stationery and photographs at the gift shop, but they don’t open til 11. Never mind.

I couldn’t relate to the ‘Monument to Women’ back at Nauvoo, but I could relate to this part of the monument to the founder of Arbor Day.

I really like the feel of the town with all the parks and trees and well-kept homes. I have a look at the Freighters Museum, but it is only open by appointment. This was the home of the Russell, Majors and Wadell freighting company – the guys who founded the Pony Express. If you’re interested in the significance of freighting and emigration in US history, the numbers for scheduling an appt. are: 402-873-9360; 402-873-4240.

Now I’m off to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Centre – back up on the river bluff. There’s a lot of Lewis and Clark Centres which have sprung up in recent years, this one is no exception. This one’s slant is that it examines the significance of the expedition related to the flora and fauna discovered. There’s a replica keel boat, like Lewis and Clark would have used, outside. The building is gorgeous and the exhibits are well-done, but there is just something missing. Not quite sure what it is. There are a few short trails to explore outside along the bluff, too.

Verne poses by the Missouri River while out looking for habitat.

By now it’s noon and I have a snack in the picnic area and call around to the cheap motels to see if they have guest laundries. I really need to do laundry and I don’t like the prospects over the next 4 or 5 days. I’m scared off of the idea of using the Laundromat in town after my last experience.

Unfortunately, none of the cheap places have a laundry, so I pay a heck of lot of money ($88 after tax) to stay at the Best Western which does have a laundry. When I ride over at 1pm to pay for the room, the lady is very unfriendly. When she finds out I’m on a bike, she asks, ‘do you even HAVE a driver’s licence’? Um, not the point. I nearly have to beg her to let me leave my rear panniers at the front desk while I go back into town for awhile (no rooms are ready).

However, I am able to stop at the Walmart and get my photos put on CD, and pick up a bunch of stuff for a much-desired salad for lunch. I also buy the newspaper and spend the next few hours at a nice park, eating, catching up on the news (nothing earth-shattering seems to have happened in the past two weeks) and watching a bunch of kids be kids on the playground. The wind has picked up, so it’s quite breezy, hot and humid. But thank you wind, for upholding our deal.

The room is still not ready at 3:30 (check-in at 3) so I go over to Walmart again to pick up some photos I printed out to send to my husband. I also get dinner and food for tomorrow. I get back, lug everything up to my upstairs room and make the most of the expensive room while I do my laundry – I turn on the AC, use all the towels, take a long shower, recharge all of my camera and cell phone batteries, etc.

There is a wind advisory for tomorrow. Winds predicted to be out of the south 20 mph, increasing as the day goes on, with gusts up to 45 mph. Okay, wind, you know our deal.

**miles today include those ridden around town

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