but not quite!
02.05.2016 - 02.05.2016 21 °C
Room 324, Hampton Inn, Cheyenne, Wyoming
4.16pm Wednesday 4th May
“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
So Monday we leave Omaha early after a Doubletree breakfast, courtesy of Bob's Gold card.
A long drive ahead but we are greeted by blue skies and the sun just starting to warm the chill of the early morning mist. Our aim is Ogallala, on the other side of Nebraska, but we don't want to do it all on the Interstate. Instead we follow the old Lincoln Highway, the original transcontinental highway (yaboo to Route 66) of which we had driven a stretch out of Chicago on our last trip.
We're following the North Platte River and the Union Pacific railroad, so we cross both frequently.
GAS(oline). Now this is important! We have lost out because of the £/$ exchange rate but gained because of the much cheaper fuel. This time it is costing us about $23 to fill the tank. Last time we paid up to $80. Admittedly a bigger tank and in LA, but we were regularly paying $60 a day for fuel. Our Ford Explorer can take E Fuel which is gasoline and alcohol and that is even cheaper. But we have only found it once.
This part of Nebraska, though flat, has neat farms and huge fields. But no one working on them anywhere. And this was the case for the next 700 miles, almost, into Cheyenne. Not a soul working on a single farm or field anywhere. To be fair, the corn crop had been cut (last year?) and the cattle can look after themselves. Gradually we go from farmland to range, with cattle dotted everywhere. Their unfortunate brethren we saw travelling in the opposite direction, presumably to the meat processing plants in Dodge City, KS. Oh dear!
We stop at Fort Kearney and learn a lot about the plight of the Emigrants on their trek to the promised land, West. We are following, more or less, 3 trails. The Mormon, Oregon and California trails. We learn also of the native American who suffered so much as time went on. From all the facts we learned, (far too much for here) this one was telling. Far more emigrants died from accidents with guns than from attacks by American Indians. (Tell that to the National Rifle Association, please!).
These carts were pulled by Mormon converts, mainly from Liverpool, who could not afford ox or mule drawn covered wagons. Just imagine dragging that 1,500 miles over this terrain!
American Indians were usually among the least of the emigrants’ problems. They were peaceful and actually helped the emigrants in their journey in a variety of ways. Mostly, the Indians traded with the emigrants. Tales of hostile encounters far overshadowed actual incidents, and relations between emigrants and Indians were further complicated by trigger-happy emigrants who shot at Indians for target practice and out of unfounded fear.
Our next port of call was the immense Union Pacific marshalling yards at North Platte. Someone had the idea to build a tower so that we rail freaks could watch the amazing spectacle of thousands of freight cars being shunted and sorted over hundreds of miles of track. It was like watching a giant model railway layout. Brilliant.
This earlier image is of the yards before they reached their current 315 miles of track
We had been over-ambitious in planning today's route and cut out our diversion off Interstate 80 (which has now replaced the historic Lincoln Highway) to the Museum of the Prairies. I expect they're still looking at their watches wondering where the heck we are!
We drove on, sticking to the Freeway, to our stop for the night at Ogallala, named after the Oglala Sioux tribe. The city was a stop on the Pony Express and later along the transcontinental railroad. It first became significant as a terminus on the cattle drives from Texas to the Union Pacific railhead here in Ogallala.
Now here's today's useless but surprising fact. The famous Pony Express only existed for 18 months. It never got a mail contract and then the amazing transcontinental telegraph line was built by Western Union, which killed it off.
This would have been Arthur's choice of motel, but not ours!
Dinner was taken at Arthur's favourite, Denny's, where we were by far the youngest customers! Even the staff were older than us (not really).
Not even Arthur fancied the bacon sundae! We keep forgetting to photograph our food. Sorry!
Next, Elk's Penis (aka Chimney Rock) and Scott's Bluff on the way to Cheyenne. And we find hills in Nebraska!