What is it about Iowa and cities? Sioux City, Iowa City, and Webster City (where I woke up this morning refreshed and ready to really begin this milestone trip). Hey Iowa, real cities don’t bother calling themselves cities. New York City does, but only because it is in New York State. Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia are cities. Webster City is a nice but small dot off route 20. It is a city like the hill at North Park Nature Center is a mountain. But in Webster City I did make my first of at least forty cool stops. Let me present to you the Seneca Street Saloon.
The Saloon has Mills beer on tap (made by and for Iowans), worn out wood floors, posters of forgotten sporting teams decades old (like a high school wrestling team from 1992), endless fish caught and deer shot playing on the television over the bar, and thirty cents buffalo wings on Monday. Pizza, two draft beers, a dozen buffalo wings, and an order of fries with a generous tip; $30 (and they only take cash). Sitting in oversized booths were Webster City firemen (the firehouse was next door), families, men in camouflage, and three tourists from Chicago. The bartender served everyone with a smile and for the first time that day we felt at home.
After swimming we caught Shaw hoisting the cup while swearing loudly on live television. Blood streaked down his cheek from an open gash. I was honestly just glad he was alive as I saw him earlier take a puck to the head from maybe three feet away then drop to the ice motionless. From the hotel lobby I thought I heard the fireworks going off in Edison Park. Noel
Cool Stop #2: Smith Falls State Park in North East/Center Nebraska
Quick, pronounce “Niobrara River.” I am guessing that if you don’t live in Nebraska you can’t pronounce its’ prettiest river. Coming in from South Dakota and meandering south with a western tilt, it is a lazy southern river trapped in the plains. Just west of Smith Falls State Park you can rent tubes, kayaks, and canoes then drift south assured that a packed bus will eventually bring you back to where you started. We passed but did take a four mile gravel road to the state park were we could have also camped right on the river bank. Instead we took a short hike to the base of Nebraska’s highest waterfall then played right under the cascading falls. Another small hike led us to the river and we cooled off in the water just like the cattle we saw all day by the side of the road. Come to think of it the passing river people might have resembled us in our cars. Moo.
Quick note: Not making the list of cool stops only because we wrote about it last year was Ashfall Fossil Beds. If you remember, Ashfall is the site of a former watering hole. About 11 million years ago a volcano blew up in Idaho (the source of this volcano, its “hot spot,” moves below the surface of the earth and is presently fueling Old Faithful and every other attraction in Yellowstone) and covered much of Nebraska in ash. The confused rhinos, three toes horses, camels, and other prehistoric creatures sought comfort in the watering hole before eventually dying of various ailments. The ash blew and blew and covered their remains then sheltered their fossilized bones from the crushing soil that eventually layered above them. The result is well preserved and more three dimensional fossils. The site was discovered in the 1970s and graduate students work the site under a giant awning/ barn, each summer. Every day they uncover something and at the visitor center a friendly student will happily show you something (last summer it was prehistoric poop). There also is a fun kid area and some hiking (Corey will share a story about that hilarious hike soon).
Fort Robinson State Park (Nebraska), where I am presently waiting for the ladies to wake up, also deserves a special shout out.
We did pass on Seusical The Musical(last summer we saw Godspell at their Summer Stock Theater). We also met three generations camping near us and Henna played with the youngsters. I really enjoyed talking with the adults right up until they started talking politics. I had no idea that the government was sending armored carriers into major cities! And I think the correct pronunciation of the president’s last name is Obama, not Osama. Maybe they were a little on edge because of yesterday’s Supreme Court’s decision that will (hopefully) open the door for gay marriage. I will never know for sure though because I shifted the conversation back to Nebraska state parks. Noel