Wednesday, September 15, 2004

U.S. 75 North blog.

Time to leave the resplendent confines of the capitol in Lincoln, Nebraska, and hit the road. Besides the short shot between Omaha and Lincoln, I had other driving to do on this trip, and was I determined to make the most of it.

The cheerful young woman at the Enterprise rental car desk at Eppley Airfield offered me an array of really big vehicles to drive, for only a dollar a day more. This is a way to win customer loyalty. It works. She listed the available vehicles, a fairly long list, but I had trouble picturing them in my mind as she went along, since I’m not fluent in car typology. So I took a stab in the dark.

I picked a Silverado, a vanity pickup. It was light silver, this Silverado, with a spacious truck bed that was completely useless for my purposes, since I put my bags in the space behind the driver’s seat, had no need to haul heavy equipment to Sioux City, and didn’t hit a deer en route that needed to go to a taxidermist. It had a fine sound system and a stylish instrument panel, but no gun rack. For such a large thing, the Silverado handled reasonably well, but perhaps shock-absorber technology hasn’t advanced enough to smooth the ride for such a massive agglomeration of glass, steel and plastic. Even little bumps in the road tended to shoot vibes upward into the cab, whump-a-whump-a-whump.

U.S. 75 roughly follows the Nebraska bank of the Missouri River, and I followed that road northward through Blair, Herman, Tekamah, Decatur, and into the Omaha Indian Reservation, which sits like a bottom brick under the brick-shaped Winnebago Indian Reservation, whose main town is Winnebago. The route was a mix of farms, with the crops sometimes following the contours of low-rise hills (I also saw this in western Iowa, from the plane). Much was corn, now harvested, browning stalks still standing; some was soy; and occasionally I would pass a field of yellow. Sunflowers? I couldn’t tell, and didn’t investigate. But it was a pretty haze of distant gold.

Now and then pastureland appeared, or woodlands. None of the hills were especially high, but they had just enough shape to distinguish this drive from many of the flatland routes of the Midwest. The road did not, however, climb hills and offer sudden curves, like Missouri 94, which I drove in the spring (see April 6, 2004). It was a more modestly curving path through more modest hills.

The rural parts of the Indian Reservations looked exactly the same as the non-Indian lands, with a mix of farms and woods. According to 2000 Census Bureau numbers, Winnebago has a population of 768, with about 92% listed as Indians, and probably the other 8% work for the BIA. I noticed a few details as I drove through, such as a new Indian Health Service hospital under construction, in fact nearly finished. Also, the high school looked precisely like any other Midwestern high school, down to the football field uprights. But my favorite sight was a public service billboard upon entering the town: “Keep the Rez Clean. Don’t Litter.”


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