July 12, 2017
We said goodbye to Barrett, Robert and yes their parents before we left Berthoud around 8. We got ourselves into the morning rush on I25 heading north towards Cheyenne, Wyoming. The Pueblo, Colorado to Cheyenne route contains a large percentage of the mountain population on the flatland east of the Rockies. Many of them were on the road this morning.
We found out that fireworks are big business in Wyoming. Not sure why but there are numerous huge warehouse sized fireworks emporiums right on the border. We didn’t stop as being from California, buying fireworks might be seen as suspicious. Reached highway 80 and headed east on I80. We are in Lincoln some 400 miles east and still on 80. The important thing is that the highway essentially follows the track of the Union Pacific Railroad that connected with the Central Pacific in the years following the Civil War.
The railroad followed the immigration paths of the Mormons and the pioneers heading west to California and Oregon. The route was great for people relying on animals to pull their wagons across the prairie as it followed the Platte River almost all of the way from the Missouri River to the Rockies. Water and grass, the fuel of the day, were plentiful along the route. Also in abundance were unhappy Indians including the Cheyenne, Sioux and Pawnee. Actually, the Pawnees made their peace fairly early on. The Cheyenne and Sioux for the most part allowed emigrants in wagons to pass through peaceably. This was not the case with the railroad builders. They fought a continuous guerilla war against isolated surveyors, wood cutters and workers laying the grade for the railroad. Occasionally, trains carrying passengers were attacked like in the movies.
Probably more dangerous to the rail crews were the inhabitants of the tent city known as Hell on Wheels. The murders averaged better than one a day in the traveling cesspool that provided entertainment and a range of sinfull activities to separate the rail workers from their wages. In our travels today, we saw little evidence of the rowdy past. Mostly we saw tranquil farms and ranches on almost endless straight roads. There were infrequent rest stops and even fewer bathrooms until Easternp Nebraska. We survived even the Velveeta quesadilla.
We stopped in a small town with a reconstructed Pony Express station where horses were swapped for fresh mounts. The young, wiry riders made a 100 miles a day on their way from St. Joseph to Sacramento. It was over in 18 months as the telegraph was faster and cheaper in 1861. All of these paths crossed at Fort Kearney where we also took a couple pictures. It was all a reconstruction on the original sites. I told the Ranger that my great grandfather Joseph La Porte stopped there in 1853. She smiled but seemed pretty vapid so we left.
We reached Lincoln after a long but easy drive with only one sketchy period with a dunning rain storm that temporarily shut down my electronic navigation stuff. We decided to give Nebraska another chance at Mexican food. I will have to admit that the chicken fajita salad that we both had was one of the best ever. The $3 margarita helped.
In conclusion, we made it across the Great American Desert like the Mormons, my ancestors, Native tribes, Pony Express riders and the Union Pacific RR what eventually provided a ride for my O’Rourke and Foster relations who took the train instead of wagons to reach Oregon in relative comfort. In reflection, our day crossing most of Nebraska was pretty easy.