Tuesday, June 17, 2008

We're not in Kansas anymore...

After the stormy night in Oklahoma, we turned north following I 35 and 135 thru Kansas, roughly following the Chisholm Trail. (Think Lonesome Dove, the TV saga). During the late 1860’s there were many Texas Longhorn cattle herded from Texas and Oklahoma to the stockyards in Caldwell and Wichita, Kansas along the Chisholm Trail. Wild Bill Hickok and Wyatt Earp are among the Cattlemen who frequented the cattle towns of Kansas.

The wheat fields and farms are never ending; a very “comfortable” scene, unless you remember The Wizard of Oz. You can “follow the Yellow Brick Road” to nearby Wamego, KS to visit the The Oz Museum. It’s very easy to visualize the tornadoes and violent storms that frequent this area.

The weather has been absolutely lovely…no humidity and low 80’s for temps, with a light breeze.

Leaving Kansas, we entered Nebraska on State Route 83, a scenic route which took us thru the little town of McCook then on to Interstate 80 at North Platte. We left the interstate at Ogallala, an old western Saloon town, and followed Route 26 along the banks of the North Platte River and The Oregon Trail. This was also the route of the Mormon Trail.

In the mid 1800’s this was a main thoroughfare of the great western migration. One can only imagine the hardships those pioneers endured as they “went West” to stake claims to free land and build lives for themselves. (Beatrice, Nebraska boasts the location of the first homestead obtained through the Homestead Act of 1862.)

The simple task of having fresh water along the way presented a major difficulty, thus the following of rivers and streams. Cross country in a Conestoga wagon?….I don’t think so….not unless it has A/C, heat and hot water!!! Those women were REALLY made of something!!!

Nebraska, with it’s corn and wheat fields and friendly people, makes you want to stay around awhile. The many tiny towns along the way reminds you of years past, most of them with railroad tracks running through the middle of town. Speaking of railroads, NEVER have we seen so many trains traversing a line…there was a constant stream of trains traveling along the Western Route 26. We started counting them but lost count at around 12, and that was only in about 80 miles.

Continuing North on Route 385, we passed thru the western edge of the Nebraska Sandhills and entered South Dakota. We soon had our first view of the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota....truly breathtaking!!

As we approached our destination of Custer, SD, we drove thru the Wind Cave National Park and were so excited to see our first BUFFALO, and PRAIRIE DOGS, and PRONG HORN antelopes!!!

There were several bison grazing along the road and we watched them for quite awhile. The prairie dogs played and barked or chirped away, as we took photos...what a wonderful sight!!

It was almost 6 PM when we arrived at Big Pine Campground in Custer, South Dakota, and a thunderstorm was just playing itself out with golf ball sized hail!!! So we quickly found our site up the hill amidst the pines and got settled in.

Wednesday we'll be exploring the beautiful Black Hills of SD and Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments.

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