Image || The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri.

Epic US Road Trip 2016 – The Great Plains

More so than the plains to the north, where there are actually mountains, the Black Hills of South Dakota being the obvious example, the endless southern plains of the American Heartland offer up the quintessential Great Plains snapshot of unimaginably long lines of freight train wagons hugging deserted highways, striking cloud formations overhead, lightning storms, and twisters spinning above endless rolling nothingness; welcome to the tornado belt, the so-called Tornado Alley of the US. Distances here, between nothing of note, are vast. Mile after mile after mile of nihility can seem boring at first, but the sight of abandonment & failed homesteads amid the hypnotic contours of waving fields of grain stretching to the seemingly limitless and endless horizon is both somewhat captivating & undeniably photogenic.

By the side of US Route 30 in Albany County, Wyoming, USA. September 14, 2016.

Reflections on US Route 30 in Albany County, southeastern Wyoming. September 14, 2016.

This vast, sparsely populated and under-appreciated region isn’t just somewhere to drive through to get elsewhere. From the southeastern corner of Cowboy Wyoming, through the very middle of corn-heavy Nebraska, to city hopping in Missouri, and with forays into both Iowa & Arkansas, we found 5 whole days worth of plains attractions. And it was awesome. Welcome to epic US road trip days 18 to 22.

PICTURE OF THE DAY || DAY 18 || September 14, 2016

Buckhorn Bar, Laramie, Wyoming.

Day 18 || September 14 2016

Route || Estes Park, Colorado to Cheyenne, Wyoming (via Laramie, Como Bluff, Medicine Bow, & Buford, Wyoming)
Miles (Kilometres) Driven || 307 (494)
Posted From || Cheyenne, Wyoming
Today’s Highlight || The Buckhorn Bar, Laramie

A new car, a goodbye to the hills, another quick and dramatic change of scenery, & an afternoon of cowboy delights on the deserted & seemingly endless flat plains of southeastern Wyoming. Bullet holes at ‘The Buck’ in Laramie; abandoned dinosaurs at Como Bluff; meeting The Virginian in Medicine Bow; a pit stop in Buford, the country’s smallest town; & a lightening storm welcome to ‘Live the Legend’ Cheyenne. Just some of the (largely unexpected) highlights of epic road trip day 18, the first of 5 days of crossing the Great Plains.

By the side of US Route 30 in Albany County, Wyoming, USA. September 14, 2016.

By the side of US Route 30 in Albany County, southeastern Wyoming. September 14, 2016.

Wyoming, Take III
We’ve already been to Wyoming on this road trip. Twice actually, visiting the northeastern corner of the state on day 7 and the northwestern corner on days 8 to 10. Now it was the turn of the southeastern corner. It was a largely spur-of-the-moment decision to embark on an out-of-the-way drive to the towns of Laramie & Medicine Bow, 50 miles and 110 miles respectively west of the state capital of Cheyenne, our intended destination for this day. Neither place gets many visitors but both places have reasons to visit, not only in the towns themselves but also along the 57-mile stretch of two-lane US Route 30 that separates them.

East Ivinson Street, Laramie, Wyoming, USA. September 14, 2016.

East Ivinson Street, Downtown Laramie Historic District, Laramie, southeastern Wyoming. September 14, 2016.

Founded as a tent city in the mid-1860s off the back of railroad construction, Laramie may be the of home of Wyoming’s only four-year university, the University of Wyoming, but, and make no mistake, this is primarily a cowboy town. Sitting on the windswept Wyoming prairie and a busy railroad junction, the town boasts the Downtown Laramie Historic District, a small (5 blocks) but historic downtown region of attractive two-storey redbrick buildings, murals, and pickup trucks.

The Buckhorn Bar, Laramie, Wyoming, USA. September 14, 2016.

We stopped off in Laramie’s Buckhorn Bar for a beer and to experience one of the most famous cowboy bars in the US. The city’s oldest standing bar, ‘The Buck’ was established in 1900 and generations of University of Wyoming cowboys have been making the pilgrimage here ever since. Listed as one of the best ‘Cowboy Bars in the West’ by AmericanCowboy.com, the 21st century spit-and-sawdust Wild West saloon features many a mounted dead animal; a hangman’s noose; a severely dented payphone; a stale glass of beer belonging to a patron who went to the toilet and never came back, dying while tending to business; & a half-century-old condom dispenser in the graffiti-heavy, unisex toilet (honest). However, easily the saloon’s most notable feature is the bullet hole in the mirror behind the bar, put there in August 1971 by one Charlie Phillips who wasn’t too happy when his advances towards Nelda, one of the bartenders, were not reciprocated, or so the story goes. The Buckhorn, famous in fact, fiction, and speculation. While quiet enough when we visited mid-afternoon on a Wednesday, I’d imagine it could get quite rowdy in here of a raucous evening. Yee-haw! The Buckhorn Bar, Laramie, southeastern Wyoming. September 14, 2016.

Life on the range can be lonely, so when you’ve seen enough muddy watering troughs, head to one of these iconic watering holes instead. Here’s mud in your eye!

On display in The Buckhorn Bar, Laramie. AmericanCowboy.com’s introduction to their list of ‘The Best Cowboy Bars in the West’.

Southeastern Wyoming & The First Transcontinental Railroad Project
It’s a 57-mile drive via US Route 30 from Laramie to Medicine Bow across the largely deserted high Laramie Plains. It struck me once again, and shortly after pulling out of Laramie, how quickly the scene can and does change around here, reminding me just how diverse the US really is. It had scarcely been 3 hours since we turned our backs on, and descended from, the Rocky Mountain peaks of Colorado and yet here we were driving across the Laramie Plains of southeastern Wyoming, empty rolling prairies with not a peak in sight. There were, however, no shortage of railway tracks. In fact the tracks, laid as part of the First Transcontinental Railroad project, are the reason there’s anything to see in this region at all.

US Route 30, Albany County, Wyoming, USA. September 14, 2016.

In 1868 the Laramie Plains were crossed by the lines of the Union Pacific Railroad as part of the First Transcontinental Railroad project, an almost 2,000-mile railroad line constructed over a 6 year period between 1863 and 1869 that connected the existing eastern US rail network with the Pacific coast. The coast-to-coast railroad connection cut the cross-country wagon train travel time from over 160 days of toil down to 10. It also ushered in a new era in American history, one which saw the development of industry and the rapid settlement of the American West; the population of southwestern Wyoming grew, one consequence being the founding of the city of Laramie (and most other present-day regional settlements). Today US Highway 30, an all-weather route from coast-to-coast, hugs the railroad, an ever-present accompaniment to a drive through these parts. US Route 30 between Laramie and Medicine Bow, Albany County, southeastern Wyoming. September 14, 2016.

Como Bluffs
Approaching Medicine Bow on US Route 30, one passes many an abandoned settlement, dilapidated and rusting remnants of previous times. One of the most famous, and certainly the most unique example of abandonment along this stretch of two-lane highway has to be the Fossil Cabin of the so-called Dinosaur Graveyard at Como Bluffs, once one of the greatest fossil beds of dinosaur remains in the world.

Fossil Cabin, Como Bluff, Albany County, Wyoming, USA. September 14, 2016.

Believe It Or Not… but it’s true – prehistoric remains unearthed here in the late 1870s and 1880s makes this remote region one of the most important and abundant collections of Jurassic fossils found anywhere on earth. It is claimed that discoveries made here did more than any other fossil bed find in bringing dinosaurs into the public consciousness. The scene of the so-called ‘Dinosaur Wars’ of the late 1800s, which saw fierce competition among paleontologists and academic institutions, so many well-preserved specimens of dinosaurs were unearthed here that it was deemed acceptable to use bones to construct a building, the Fossil Cabin. The small structure, once dubbed as “The Building that Used to Walk”, was constructed of almost 6,000 dinosaur bones gathered over a 17-year period. It was built by a Thomas Boylan as the centrepiece of a roadside gas station, a relic of a bygone era of motorised travel when petting zoos and buildings made of dinosaur bones could entice a driver to stop and gas up. Traffic fell off with the construction of Interstate 80 further south and the station closed in the 1960s. The site has been abandoned for years, both sad and somewhat surprising given the fact that the Fossil Cabin was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. Sadly abandoned & forgotten it may be, but peering through the windows & poking around the exterior of the Fossil Cabin was an unexpected treat on this forlorn stretch of road. The Fossil Cabin near Como Bluffs off US Route 30, Albany County, southeastern Wyoming. September 14, 2016.

Medicine Bow
The whole town of Medicine Bow, a short drive west of Como Bluffs along US Route 30, feels abandoned. A tiny settlement of barely 300 people, it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of place dissected by US Route 30 and one clinging desperately to its rather lofty claim to fame, as the setting for the popular 1960’s American TV series The Virginian. A black-and-white memory from my Dad’s youth, The Virginian was the reason we found ourselves in this remote part of the country (frankly, why else would one find themselves in Medicine Bow?).

Medicine Bow, Carbon County, Wyoming, USA. September 14, 2016.

Running from 1962 to 1971, The Virginian was an American Western television series loosely based on the 1902 novel of the same name by American author Owen Wister. References to the show are not hard to find in the town. People or any signs of life are, it would seem, a little less common. Needless to say this museum was closed and thus reasons to linger in Medicine Bow were very limited. We were soon back on the road, retracing our steps along US Route 30 to Laramie. Medicine Bow, Carbon County, southeastern Wyoming. September 14, 2016.

Heward's Ranch off US Route 30 in Carbon County, Wyoming, USA. September 14, 2016.

Ranches abound here on the Wyoming prairies, the long entrances to some much more photogenic than others. Heward’s Ranch off US Route 30 in Carbon County, southeastern Wyoming. September 14, 2016.

Abandoned by the side of US Route 30 in Albany County, Wyoming, USA. September 14, 2016.

A common sight. More abandonment by the side of US Route 30 in Albany County, southeastern Wyoming. September 14, 2016.

Bullet holes in a cowboy bar. A building made of dinosaur bones. Just when we thought this day couldn’t get any more bizarre, up pops Buford, the nation’s smallest town.

Buford, off Interstate 80, southern Wyoming, USA. September 14, 2016.

We only pulled into Buford, which is nothing more than a petrol/gas station off Interstate 80 between Laramie and Cheyenne, in search of a toilet. It’s only then we saw the sign, realising in the process that we had inadvertently stumbled upon somewhere rather unique, the dictionary definition of a one-horse town… or rather a one-person town. Just like most southern Wyoming towns, Buford was founded in the 1860s – in 1866 to be precise – during the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad project. It’s hard to believe today but seemingly it once boasted a population of some 2,000. However, by the time it was purchased by Don Sammons in the early 1990s the town’s population was down to less than a dozen. The exodus continued until Don really was the Don, the town’s only resident, by 2007, 3 years after the closure of the town’s 104-year-old Post Office, the source of Buford’s 82052 Zip Code and thus claim as a bona fide town. Eventually Don also wanted out so he, and as you do, put his metropolis up for sale. Sold for $900,000 via public auction in April 2012 to Vietnamese businessman Pham Dinh Nguyen, the 10-acre site, consisting of a convenience store, a gas station, and a modular home, succumbed to the inevitable by sitting abandoned for a few years. It was eventually revamped & reopened under the name PhinDeli, a commercial promotional name given to the town to help it sell “PhinDeli” brand coffee in the convenience store; a coffee brand in Vietnam, PhinDeli is the source of Pham Dinh Nguyen’s wealth with booming Buford/PhinDeli the entry point for the coffee brand into the US market. Again, all was closed for the day when we stopped by, save for the convenience store/gas station toilets. A Vietnam-imported coffee would have been nice for the rest of the drive to Cheyenne. Buford/PhinDeli, Interstate 80, southeastern Wyoming. September 14, 2016.

We didn’t have to wait too long to sample one of the impressive lightening storms synonymous with the Great Plains. Although the cloud cover was ominous, it wasn’t raining in Buford/PhinDeli. However, it was nicely wet by the time we rolled into Cheyenne, the Wyoming state capital, 28 miles east of Buford along Interstate 80. We’re hoping it’ll have dried up by the time we get around to exploring the the city in the morning, after which we’ll saddle up and continue on our merry way east through the centre of Nebraska, state number 12 on epic road trip day 19.

PICTURE OF THE DAY || DAY 19 || September 15, 2016

Carhenge, Alliance, western Nebraska.

Day 19 || September 15 2016

Route || Cheyenne, Wyoming to Burwell, Nebraska (via Scotts Bluff National Monument & Carhenge, Nebraska)
Miles (Kilometres) Driven || 404 (650)
Posted From || Burwell, Nebraska
Today’s Highlight || Scotts Bluff National Monument

Day 19 already. Wow. We finally bid cheerio to Wyoming before embarking on a long drive through the railroad-hugging agricultural plains of central Nebraska. Vast, vast distances again and lots more nothingness, but plenty to see regardless, from a ‘True Western Town’ to a National Monument to a bizarre replica of an ancient megalithic monument.

Off Nebraska Highway 2 in central Nebraska, USA. September 15, 2016.

A cow outstanding in is field. Boom boom! On the long drive via Highway 2 through central Nebraska. September 15, 2016.

Cheyenne – the name brings forth romantic images of the West – cowboys, rodeos, railroads and majestic plains.


Cheyenne – ‘Live The Legend’
The rain of the previous evening had abated, the sun was out, and early morning Cheyenne looked great, and deserted. It wasn’t that early. Where is everyone?

Depot Plaza, Downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA. September 15, 2016.

Our first port of call on this day was the Wyoming State Capitol Building, presently off-limits undergoing some rather extensive renovations. Heading down Capitol Avenue and through the Downtown District brought us to Depot Plaza, Depot referring to the famous Union Pacific Railroad Depot building overlooking the plaza. The hub of modern-day Cheyenne, this is where you’ll find plenty to read on the history of the city, not to mention some of Cheyenne’s many Big Boots, picturesque eight-foot-tall cowboy boots decorated by local artists. Also seen here is one of the city’s most distinctive & picturesque buildings, The Wrangler. Home of the Boot Barn & ‘Famous For Ranchwear Since 1943,’ it sits on prime real estate on the corner of Capitol Avenue and W Lincolnway, a one-stop mega-mart for boots, buckles, spurs, lassos, stetsons, check shirts, & all other cowboy & rodeo bits and bobs. Depot Plaza, Downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming. September 15, 2016.

Yee-Haw! & Choo-Choo!
Unsurprisingly, it is all cowboys & trains in the Wyoming capital, named a ‘True Western Town’ by True West Magazine. This is somewhere to ‘Live The Legend’, both the city’s slogan and an invitation from the good folk at Cheyenne.org to ‘step back into the Old West’. The city is billed as both the nation’s railroad capital – it’s still home to the Union Pacific Steam Train Fleet, and Big Boy, the world’s largest steam engine – and also the nation’s rodeo capital; remember, Wyoming is the state that has registered the iconic silhouette image of a ‘Bucking Horse and Rider’, which appears on state licence plates, as a federal and state trademark. It should, therefore, come as no surprise to learn that Cheyenne is also the location for the world’s largest outdoor rodeo, the world-renowned Cheyenne Frontier Days festival. Maybe the state of Wyoming’s biggest event, it draws the hordes from far & wide for the last 10 days in July each year, when the city is at bursting point and when the ‘Daddy of ’em All’ provides 10 days of ‘honest-to-goodness excitement at its Western best.’ But for those who happen to ride into town outside of those 10 days in late July, there are still cowboys, albeit bronze ones, on hand in Depot Plaza to welcome you.

Depot Plaza, Downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA. September 15, 2016.

Depot Plaza, Downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming. September 15, 2016.

Cheyenne – History
Cheyenne was founded as a tent city in July 1867 by the Union Pacific Railroad, the company assigned with building the westward portion of the First Transcontinental Railroad to link the US West & East coasts. It was founded as a base, or division point, for the new railroad and named after the Cheyenne Indian tribe, ironically the very same people who were outraged at the encroachment of the Iron Horse through their traditional hunting grounds – Cheyenne means ‘aliens’ or ‘people of foreign language’ to the Indian tribe who roamed the open plains in the region. From the outset, the city was envisioned be to one of the most important railroad cities in the country with massive railroad shops and facilities built to maintain and support the new railroad. The first steam-powered locomotive reached the town in November 1867 & by 1868 Cheyenne’s population had swelled to over 3,000. Nicknamed ‘The Magic City of the Plains’ because of its rapid growth, it became the capital of the newly formed Wyoming Territory in 1868 and the capital of the State of Wyoming when it was granted statehood in July 1890. Given its founding & by being home to the Union Pacific Steam Train Fleet, Cheyenne might just have a valid claim to the title of Railroad Capital of the Nation.

The 'A New Beginning' statue fronting the Union Pacific Depot in Downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA. September 15, 2016.

Cheyenne’s present-day Downtown District is an eclectic mix of architectural styles with a heavy emphasis on commercial Victorian that was mostly built between 1870s and the 1920s, the earlier wooden structures having mostly been destroyed by fire. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, the district contains 68 buildings in an 11 block grid. One of the city’s most famous buildings is the former Union Pacific Railroad Depot. Built from sandstone between 1886 and 1887 and designated a National Historic Landmark, the building has been restored a few times over the years, most recently in the early to mid-2000s. Looking all the more impressive as a result, it’s easily one of the city’s most picturesque buildings. Today the building is home to a Visitor Centre, a restaurant, and the Wyoming Transportation Museum, a.k.a. Cheyenne Depot Museum, somewhere rich with railroad history, exhibits, and interactive displays. Fronting the building is yet another statue, this one entitled ‘A New Beginning’. Dedicated in June 2011, it was erected in recognition of the role of women in settling the West, and in recognition of Wyoming being the first state to grant women the right to vote. Depot Plaza, Cheyenne, Wyoming. September 15, 2016.

A drive of a little over 90 miles northeast of Cheyenne, via a stop for breakfast at Deacons in Torrington, our very last stop in Wyoming, got us to the Wyoming/Nebraska state line where we bid our final goodbye to Wyoming. Not since day 15 of the road trip have we crossed over a state line and into a new state. Hello Nebraska.

On the Wyoming/Nebraska state line of US Highway 26 in Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska, USA. September 15, 2016.

State Sign #12 || At the ‘Nebraska… the good life’ sign straddling a rail line (what else) on the Wyoming/Nebraska state line of US Highway 26 in Scotts Bluff County, western Nebraska. September 15, 2016.


State Nickname – Cornhusker State. State Motto – Equality Before The Law. Admitted To The Union – March 1867 (37th state). Population – 1.9 million (14th least populous state). Area – 77,400 sq miles (16th largest state). Capital – Lincoln. National Parks – 0. National Scenic Byways/All-American Roads – 0/0. Famous For – Interstate 80; empty space; Lewis and Clarke; corn; fossils; beef, Arbor Day, a day designated for planting trees & which first occurred in the US in Nebraska City in 1872. State Highlight – The endless rolling plains. Nebraska Titbits – Nebraska is 1 of only 4 US states, and the only one we’ll visit, with no National Scenic Byways or All-American Roads; the state has two time zones; as of mid-2015, Nebraska’s unemployment rate was 2.5%, the lowest in the nation; it’s the only state in the US with a unicameral legislature.
Spalding, Nebraska, USA. September 16, 2016.

Nebraska. State #12. Spalding, Nebraska. September 16, 2016.

It was a short 25-mile drive from the state line to Scotts Bluff National Monument. I didn’t know what to expect of the monument, did no pre-arrival research on it. Visible from afar – as a bluff, a high steep bank of rock, it’s something of an anomaly jutting from these flat plains – it turned out to be my highlight of road trip day 19.

Scotts Bluff National Monument, Scotts Bluff County, western Nebraska, USA. September 15, 2016.

Commemorative covered wagons and Eagle Rock. Scotts Bluff National Monument, Scotts Bluff County, western Nebraska. September 15, 2016.

Scotts Bluff National Monument – A Witness To History
A series of clay and sandstone bluffs, remnants of ancestral high plains that were hundreds of feet higher than today’s surrounding Great Plains, the natural landmark of Scotts Bluff, named after fur trader/trapper Hiram Scott, was a towering beacon on the Oregon & Mormon trails of Western migration in the mid-19th century. Between approximately 1841 and 1869, hundreds of thousands of men, women & children passed within sight of these bluffs, encountering them after a six to eight-week trek across monotonously flat grassland on the massive trek from the East in a bid to settle the West. A witness to history, apart from guiding the 1846–1868 Mormon migration to the Salt Lake Valley, Scotts Bluff also saw the so-called 49’ers, miners, mostly male, who flocked West after the discovery of gold in 1848 at Sutters Mill in California, starting the great California Gold Rush. And for a brief period in the early 1860s, the Bluff was used by Pony Express riders, a relay of horseback mail carriers ferrying mail between Missouri and California – short-lived, the first transcontinental telegraph lines, completed in late 1861, also crossed Scotts Bluff and doomed the Pony Express. Slowly disappearing due to the forces of nature, today Scotts Bluff is a National Monument that was established in 1919 to both commemorate and recall, primarily through informative exhibits in the monument’s Visitor Center, the courage and enterprise of the covered wagon emigrants who embarked on those mid-19th century Westward migrations in search of a better life.

Scotts Bluff National Monument, western Nebraska, USA. September 15, 2016.

Westward-bound emigrants loaded possessions and provisions, everything they owned, into small, canvas-covered wagons. Two to four yoke of oxen pulled the wagons, while the family walked alongside (that is assuming the family could afford wagons & pack animals – the poorest families pulled their own supplies on hand carts). Scotts Bluff National Monument reenacts this by placing, during warmer months only, restored covered wagons on the path from the Visitors Center through Mitchell Pass, the natural pass through Eagle Rock (right) & Sentinel Rock (left), two of the 5 rock formations that are collectively known as Scotts Bluff. Once a path worn by Westward pioneers, today a road traverses the pass, what can only be described as a modern-day blight on an important chapter in human history. Scotts Bluff National Monument, Scotts Bluff County, western Nebraska. September 15, 2016.

This path leads to traces of the old Oregon Trail. Take a 15-minute walk through Mitchell Pass and follow in the tracks of pioneers, goldseekers, freighters, cavalry troops, soldiers, and Pony Express riders.

– Encouragement on display in the Visitor Center of Scotts Bluff National Monument

It’s a 90-minute drive from Scotts Bluff National Monument to the town of Alliance, home to Carhenge, one of the quirkiest of all quirky US roadside attractions.

Carhenge, Alliance, Nebraska, USA. September 15, 2016.

Carhenge, Alliance, western Nebraska. September 15, 2016.

Rising like monoliths from ancient times on the western edge of the Sandhills of Nebraska stands a formation of vehicles from days gone by. Is it a temple for sun worship, a healing centre, a burial site or perhaps a huge calendar? Did ancient people in hooded robes move the mighty structures from distant lands and then, using only the most primitive of tools, build this amazing structure? Nope.


It’s Stonehenge made of cars. Kind of. OK, so it’s not ancient, it’s not a megalithic monument, it’s not located in southern England, & it’s most definitely not used for ritual purposes. But you get the idea, right? Alliance native Jim Reinders spent 7 years working in England, returning home with an idea – to create a replica of Stonehenge for his hometown in memory of his father. There are 38 now but initially 25 cars ably substituted for stone slabs to create “Stonehenge West,” first erected over a 6-day period and dedicated on June 21, 1987, the Summer Solstice. Surviving early efforts by the city of Alliance to demolish the monument, the site has since expanded and in the process has created a so-called ‘Car Art Preserve’ that presents efforts beyond the centrepiece ring of grey ‘standing stones’, sculptures made from cars and parts of cars & most of which were done firmly tongue-in-cheek – four partly-submerged Fords known as ‘The Fourd Seasons’ is a good example of the tomfoolery that goes on around here on the western Nebraska plains. Oh, and there’s even a couple of cars buried as time capsules… sorry, time carsules. Reinders donated the 10 acres of land where Carhenge is located to the Friends of Carhenge, who in turn gifted the site to the Citizens of Alliance. Due to celebrate its 30th birthday on June 21, 2017, Carhenge is promising a party, and of course everyone’s invited.

Carhenge, Alliance, Nebraska, USA. September 15, 2016.

Needless to say, most of the Carhenge structures are a graffiti-free preserve. But not here, the… emm, Auto-graph Car. Carhenge, Alliance, western Nebraska. September 15, 2016.

Is it a socio-economic statement? Is it art? A car lover’s passion? Is it a photographer’s delight? Is it quirky? Do you get a mystical, magical feeling by standing within the Henge?


Carhenge, Alliance, Nebraska, USA. September 15, 2016.

The centrepiece of Carhenge, and all there was in the early days, is of course the circle of cars, 38 gray-painted autos in a 96-foot circle, perfect panorama fodder. Some are buried five feet deep, trunk end down. Some jut from the ground at odd angles. Nine vehicles welded atop some of the half-buried autos form the arches. There’s also three standing trilithons within the circle, a heel stone, a slaughter stone, and 2 station stones. And while it may be a quirky attraction, it is accurate quirkiness – the Carhenge autos/stones actually mimic the Stonehenge stones in everything from size to colour to dimensions to their northeast orientation to the sunrise. Carhenge, Alliance, western Nebraska. September 15, 2016.

Captures the majestic sweep of the continent’s centre.

– Lonely Planet USA, 6th Edition, commenting on Nebraska

It was a long, long drive eastward from Carhenge. My guidebook claims that to get the most out of this ‘stoic stretch of country’ that one should take ‘little roads’. We did just that, taking Nebraska Highway 2 & shunning the quicker Interstate 80 further south. It took us through the dead centre of Nebraska. Dead is right. There wasn’t/isn’t much to see but what there is to see is kind of pretty.

Off Nebraska Highway 2 in central Nebraska, USA. September 15, 2016.

Again we saw lots of locomotives pulling unimaginably long lines of freight cars as the tracks paralleled the road. Trundling along at a slower pace than a speed-limit car, you eventually chase down and overtake the locomotive, something that keeps the drive interesting. This was just one of the coal trains we saw today, this one just as long as all the others. It’s being pulled by a BNSF Railway’s locomotive, one of the largest freight railroad networks in North America & second only to the Union Pacific Railroad, it’s headquartered out of Forth Worth, Texas. Off Nebraska Highway 2 in central Nebraska. September 15, 2016.

Off Nebraska Highway 2 in central Nebraska, USA. September 15, 2016.

We passed hundreds of these, an old-fashioned wind-driven well pump, an abundant and iconic sight on the windswept plains of the US Heartland. It took a while to find one easily accessible from the road. Nebraska Highway 2 in central Nebraska. September 15, 2016.

Nebraska ‘Nice’
We were hoping to make Spalding, 260 miles from Carhenge, but only made it as far as Burwell, 50 miles shy of Spalding, before the day closed in. We would have made it if not for the hour we lost en route crossing a time zone. But, and as is always the case, everything worked out for the better. Seemingly Spalding is short on accommodation, so said both the proprietor of Burwell’s cozy Rodeo Inn and the ladies in the town’s Sandstone Grill. Charming each and every one, and definitely ‘nice’. Burwell. A ‘nice’ little find.

Visit Nebraska. Visit Nice. Here, authenticity and honesty hold unprecedented value. Hospitality is genuine and company is always appreciated. It’s a place best described by a simple word. A word that captures the true Nebraskan in you. It’s ‘nice’. So we invite you to pay nice a visit and experience all the wonderful things our state has to offer.


PICTURE OF THE DAY || DAY 20 || September 16, 2016

Royals Vs. White Sox, Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri.

Day 20 || September 16 2016

Route || Burwell, Nebraska to Kansas City, Missouri (via Spalding, Nebraska, SW Iowa, & Omaha, Nebraska)
Miles (Kilometres) Driven || 407 (655)
Posted From || Kansas City, Missouri
Today’s Highlight || Baseball in Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City

Another long day covering long distances across the US Heartland. From starting the day in a sleepy Nebraska town to ending it in a raucous baseball stadium, epic road trip day 20 saw lots more corn, multiple crossings of three state lines, a few must-sees in a state capital, and a blurry night thanks to new-found friendships while sampling the national pastime.

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, a.k.a. Bob the Bridge, spanning the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska, USA. September 16, 2016.

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, a.k.a. Bob the Bridge, spanning the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska. September 16, 2016.

It didn’t take long this morning to cover the 50 miles between Burwell & Spalding that we didn’t cover yesterday. And when we did roll into Spalding, a town of some 500, just after 9.00 a.m., it became obvious that choosing Burwell over Spalding for an overnight pit stop was a wise choice.

Spalding, Nebraska, USA. September 16, 2016.

Options for doing much of anything in sleepy Spalding are few & far between, options to lay one’s head even fewer. W Joseph Street, Spalding, Greeley County, Nebraska. September 16, 2016.

Spalding, Nebraska, USA. September 16, 2016.

People don’t visit Spalding. You’d need a very good reason to find yourself here among the town’s grid of residential streets, themselves seemingly lost amid the surrounding corn fields. We had a reason, it being the Glaser Brothers. Hailing from the town, the trio were one of the best, if not the best harmony groups in Country music history. Active from the 1950s through the early 1980s, their connection to the town these days is remote, what connection there is announced to those who visit via this badly neglected sign overlooking Highway 91 on the outskirts of the town. We didn’t know it until we arrived but this is what we drove across the middle of Nebraska to see, the first of many music-related pilgrimages we plan on making over the remainder of the road trip. Spalding, Greeley County, Nebraska. September 16, 2016.

Corn fields outside Spalding, Nebraska, USA. September 16, 2016.

The scenery in eastern Nebraska, while en route from Spalding to the state capital of Omaha, didn’t alter much from the scenery of the rest of the state – rolling corn fields as far as the eye can see. As seen from Nebraska Highway 91, Greeley County, eastern Nebraska. September 16, 2016.

Outside Leigh, Nebraska, USA. September 16, 2016.

A farmstead by Nebraska Highway 91 outside the town of Leigh, Colfax County, Nebraska. September 16, 2016.

Almost 3 hours after leaving Spalding we finished our drive across the plains of central Nebraska. We had reached the state line with Iowa. Crossing the Missouri River, which we last saw further north in Forth Yates, North Dakota, on road trip day 05, brought us across the state line into Iowa, state number 13.


State Nickname – Hawkeye State. State Motto – Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain. Admitted To The Union – December 1846 (29th state). Population – 3.1 million (30th most populous state). Area – 56,200 sq miles (26th largest state). Capital – Des Moines. National Parks – 0. National Scenic Byways/All-American Roads – 2/0. Famous For – The Iowa caucas, the opening of the US presidential election season; farms; pigs; being the birthplace of John Wayne. State Highlights – The covered bridges of Madison County. Iowa Titbits – Although manufacturing is officially the largest sector of the state’s economy, this is still farm country – over 90% of the state land is fertile; Iowa leads the country in the production of corn & pigs – there’s approximately 8 pigs for every person; Once part of French Louisiana, the state flag is patterned after the French tricolour; it is the only state in the country whose east and west borders are formed entirely by rivers.
Iowa licence plate, Howard Street, Omaha, Nebraska, USA. September 16, 2016.

Iowa. State #13. Omaha, Nebraska. September 16, 2016.

Welcome to Iowa. On the Nebraska-Iowa state line spanning the Missouri River off Highway 30, The Lincoln Highway. September 16, 2016.

State Sign #13 || Welcome to Iowa. ‘Fields’ indeed. On the Nebraska-Iowa state line spanning the Missouri River off US Route 30, The Lincoln Highway. September 16, 2016.

Highway 30, The Lincoln Highway, western Iowa, USA. September 16, 2016.

We went some 20 miles out of our way to cross the state line into Iowa, the direct drive from Spalding to Omaha, both very much in Nebraska, not necessitating a visit to Iowa at all. The lure of another state was too strong to pass up so we found ourselves driving portions of Iowa’s US Route 30, a.k.a. The Lincoln Highway, & Interstate 29 in choosing an alternate route in getting to Omaha. In total, we spent about 45 minutes in the state before crossing back over the Missouri River once again and back into Nebraska. There wasn’t much to see, just more corn. That’s not surprising really; this region is the heart of the so-called Corn Belt – Iowa is the largest producer of corn in a country that produces 40% of the world’s crop, most of which is fed to livestock. Sandwiched between two mighty rivers, the Missouri to the west & the Mississippi to the east, the state is all (more) rolling plains & corn fields. Even if we had have spent more time in the state than the limited time we did spend, I doubt we’d have seen much else. Off US Route 30, The Lincoln Highway, western Iowa. September 16, 2016.

After two days of rural two-lane highways, sleepy communities, & corn fields, the Nebraska capital of Omaha provided a welcome change of scenery, and pace. Home to, somewhat bizarrely, the world’s largest indoor desert & America’s largest indoor rain forest, both at the town’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Omaha is otherwise know for its abundance of well-to-do locals – the city has the highest number of millionaires per capita in the nation. We spent a portion of the afternoon getting acquainted with the city, time split between exploring its Old Market and ‘Bobbing’ on the rather cool Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, a.k.a. Bob the Bridge, spanning the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska, USA. September 16, 2016.

The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, a.k.a. Bob the Bridge, spanning the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska. September 16, 2016.

Old Market
On the river edge of downtown, Omaha’s Old Market is a revitalised & vibrant warehouse district full of cobblestone & brick paved streets lined with restaurants, funky shops and pubs. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 as the Old Market Historic District, it’s a hip & bohemian place to hang out.

The Old Market, Howard Street, Omaha, Nebraska, USA. September 16, 2016.

Old Market, Howard Street, Omaha, Nebraska. September 16, 2016.

THE OLD MARKET is Omaha’s most historic, most entertaining neighborhood. The cobblestone streets are home to a diverse mix of shopping, galleries, restaurants, taverns and people-watching.

– OldMarket.com

Homer's, Howard Street, Omaha, Nebraska, USA. September 16, 2016.

Homer’s, ‘New and Used CDs, DVDs & LPs’ since 1971. Old Market, Howard Street, Omaha, Nebraska. September 16, 2016.

Old Market, Omaha, Nebraska, USA. September 16, 2016.

Totally rejuvenated & reborn, many of the original Old Market’s redbrick warehouses, still displaying original signage today, have been converted into living spaces. Old Market, Omaha, Nebraska. September 16, 2016.

The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
Opened in September 2008 and built at a cost of $22 million, Omaha’s Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, named after former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey, runs for 3,000 feet (910 metres) & sits 52 feet (16 metres) above the surface of the Missouri River that it crosses. The snaking structure has a lot of cables strung from its twin 210 feet (64 metre) towers and offers pedestrian access to Iowa from Nebraska and vice versa.

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, a.k.a. Bob the Bridge, spanning the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska, USA. September 16, 2016.

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, a.k.a. Bob the Bridge, spanning the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska. September 16, 2016.

Hi, I’m Bob. I’m a bridge. Technically I’m a 3,000 ft. pedestrian bridge, but actually I’m a 3,000 ft. magic trick – suspended in air by mere cables (and two really tall towers and a whole lotta something going on under the water), but other than that it’s all magic.

– VisitOmaha.com

The Iowa / Nebraska state line on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spanning the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska, USA. September 16, 2016.

‘Bobbing’. That’s what you’re said to be doing when straddling the Iowa/Nebraska state line encountered on a stroll across the bridge, the only pedestrian bridge in the country to connect two states. Yes, #ItHappensOnBob. At the Iowa-Nebraska state line on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spanning the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska. September 16, 2016.

We had a ballgame to catch in Kansas City, Missouri, 200 miles south of Omaha. It’s interstate the whole way but still, leaving Omaha mid-afternoon in a bid to catch the first pitch of the 7.05 p.m. game didn’t leave much time for dilly-dallying en route. That said, we did of course have to stop at the Iowa-Missouri state line for the (now) obligatory photograph.

Welcome to Missouri. At the Iowa/Missouri state line, Interstate 29, USA. September 16, 2016.

State Sign #14 || Among the foliage at the ‘Missouri Welcomes You’ sign on the Iowa/Missouri state line, Interstate 29. September 16, 2016.


State Nickname (unofficial) – The Show-Me State. State Motto – Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto (The health Of The People Should Be The Supreme Law). Admitted To The Union – August 1821 (24th state). Population – 6 million (18th most populous state). Area – 69,800 sq miles (21st largest state). Capital – Jefferson City. National Parks – 0. National Scenic Byways/All-American Roads – 2/0. Famous For – Budweiser; The Gateway Arch; being the birthplace of Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain. State Highlight – Baseball in St Louis. Missouri Titbits – Present-day Missouri was once French territory; it’s bordered by 8 states, most in the US (tied with neighbouring Tennessee); Missouri is the only state in the Union to have two Federal Reserve Banks; this is a drinking state – Missouri never enacted statewide prohibition & present-day state law expressly prohibits any jurisdiction from going dry. Whose round is it?
St. Louis, Missouri, USA. September 17, 2016.

Missouri. State #14. St. Louis, Missouri. September 17, 2016.

Kansas City – Both Of Them
We never did make it to Kansas, Kansas the state. We’re in Kansas City alright, but we’re in KC Missouri, not KC Kansas. Divided by State Line Road, the two KCs are two very separate cities – each has its own mayor – in two very separate states with two very separate outlooks; the former open and inviting, the latter an urban sprawl of little interest to travellers, hence why we’re in KC Missouri. A city of distinct neighborhoods, KC Missouri is something of a jazz hotbed & BBQ heaven, the latter a consequence of the city’s past status as a bustling farm-distribution centre. Yes, KC was once a serious cow town.

Along every boulevard and around every corner, there’s something to do that’s unique to Kansas City. With a thriving creative arts scene, eclectic mix of entertainment and die-hard sports—it’s safe to say there’s something for everyone. Find your way in KC by doing it all… or, at least trying to.

– VisitKC.com

We didn’t have time to do it all. For us KC was going to be all about its MLB baseball stadium, Kauffman Stadium, which isn’t in the city at all but rather on its outskirts. And we did arrive from Omaha in time for first pitch of the game which we saw, unlike the final pitch.

Royals Vs. White Sox, Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri. September 16, 2016.

Royals Vs. White Sox, Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri. September 16, 2016.

Beer & Baseball
The Twins were out of town when we were in Minneapolis some weeks ago now, the Cardinals are out of town this weekend when we’ll be in St. Louis, and the Cubs are out of town for the final weekend of the regular season when we’ll be in Chicago. So, and as things worked out, here in KC was to be the only option we’d get to sample that most American of experiences throughout the whole 5-week-long road trip, a baseball game. Beer & baseball. The American pastime doesn’t come any more American than that.

Royals Vs. White Sox, Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri, USA. September 16, 2016.

Royals Vs. White Sox. Dusk in Kauffman Stadium. ‘The K’ opened in April 1973 and is recognized throughout baseball as one of the game’s most beautiful ballparks. The stage for the 1973 All-Star Game and three no-hitters, the stadium is home to the Kansas City Royals. Established in 1969, they were pretty good in the 70s & 80s (they won their first World Series title in 1985), stunk in the 90s and 00s, and are now pretty good again, getting to the World Series in 2014 and winning it all again last year (2015). They stink this year (a 2015 hangover maybe) and have no chance to make the playoffs but there was still a good buzz around the stadium this evening, a gorgeous mid-September evening in the US Heartland. This image, captured from the nosebleed seats behind home plate during the early innings of the game, show two of the stadium’s distinctive features, the 104 feet (32 metre) high video board and the 322-foot (98 metre) wide water feature to the right of the video board. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri. September 16, 2016.

Group selfie. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri, USA. September 16, 2016.

Group selfie. Hunger & a search for food brought us down from the stands and into the bar behind home plate during the 6th inning of the 9-inning game. At the time the Royals were winning, but they’d go on to lose, not that we saw any of the late-inning capitulation. Befriended by Royals fans and plied with booze, we never did find food, only a great time & some new friends. It was an awesome end to yet another great day. Thank you all for making us feel so welcome. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri. September 16, 2016.

PICTURE OF THE DAY || DAY 21 || September 17, 2016

The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri.

Day 21 || September 17 2016

Route || Kansas City to St. Louis, Missouri
Miles (Kilometres) Driven || 286 (460)
Posted From || St. Louis, Missouri
Today’s Highlight || Sunset at The Gateway Arch, St. Louis

After almost three weeks of exploring the US West, today we reached that iconic symbol of Westward expansion, The Gateway Arch in St. Louis. We’ve so far only peered at it from ground level, but the sight of the world’s largest stainless steel structure bathed in the warm glow of a mid-September evening was the undoubted highlight of road trip day 21.

The Arch, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. September 17, 2016.

The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri. September 17, 2016.

After the exploits of the previous evening, it was a slow start to proceedings on day 21, a Denny’s breakfast setting us on our way for the 3-hour, 250-mile drive east via Interstate 70 to St. Louis, not only the state of Missouri’s largest city but the largest city on the Great Plains. Not long thereafter and we were ticking our first St. Louis box by touring the world’s largest beer plant. A booze-filled evening the night before followed by a tour of a brewery. Missouri was more than living up to its reputation as a drinking state.

Bottoms Up! Drinking in Missouri

With a large German immigrant population and the development of a brewing industry, Missouri always has had among the most permissive alcohol laws in the US. Missouri never enacted statewide prohibition, state voters rejecting prohibition in three separate referenda in 1910, 1912, & 1918. Indeed, alcohol regulation did not begin in Missouri until 1934, and today alcohol laws are controlled by the state government with local jurisdictions prohibited from going beyond state laws. Missouri has no statewide open container law or prohibition on drinking in public; no alcohol-related blue laws; no local option; no precise locations for selling liquor by the package (allowing even drug stores and gas stations to sell any kind of liquor); no differentiation of laws based on alcohol percentage; and state law protects persons from arrest or criminal penalty for public intoxication. Also, Missouri law expressly prohibits any jurisdiction from going dry, & state law also expressly allows parents and guardians to serve alcohol to their children. Finally, The Power & Light District in Kansas City is one of the few places in the United States where a state law explicitly allows persons over the age of 21 to possess and consume open containers of alcohol in the street – as long as the beverage is in a plastic cup.

The Home of Bud. Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. September 17, 2016.

Cheers! At The Home of Bud, Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Missouri. September 17, 2016.

Anheuser-Busch Brewery – Clydesdales & Beer
Whether you admit to drinking it or not, a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, a.k.a. The Home of Bud, is a St. Louis must-do. The brewery, opened in 1852 by German immigrant Adolphus Busch & designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966, offers free tours, a well-oiled, market-driven look behind the scenes of the world’s largest brewery, including a peek into the antique-esque carriage house housing the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, the historic, feathered-legged draft horse originally from Scotland that were used to pull wagons carrying beer in the early days of beer production. Samples are provided and of course there’s the requisite freebie at the end, both of which confirmed to me exactly what I had suspected from the outset – that Budweiser sampled from the source tastes as bad here as it does anywhere else in the world. It’s consistent alright, consistently bad.

The Home of Bud. Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. September 17, 2016.

Not all tours on offer at The Home of Bud are free, but even the free ones, including the 1-hour Brewery Tour, sell out. It’s first come, first served. Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Missouri. September 17, 2016.

The Barley Cleaning House at Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. September 17, 2016.

Owned today by Belgian brewing behemoth InBev, the almost 200 buildings found throughout the 142-acre Anheuser-Busch brewing district date from the late 1800s. Made mostly of distinctive red bricks and in a Romanesque style, many are decorated with gargoyles and other such figures on the exterior. The whole district was designated a US National Historic Landmark in 1966 in recognition of the company’s importance in the history of beer brewing and distribution in the US. The towering castle-esque Barley Cleaning House, seen here, is one of the most distinctive of the site’s redbrick buildings, its square crenelated corners towers its most notable feature. Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Missouri. September 17, 2016.

After polishing off our Anheuser-Busch freebies, it was time to take a closer look at the iconic St. Louis Gateway Arch. And all we had to do was follow the pavement signs.

CityArchRiver, St. Louis. Missouri, USA. September 17, 2016.

This Way. CityArchRiver, St. Louis, Missouri. September 17, 2016.

St. Louis & The Gateway Arch
Founded by French fur traders in 1764, St. Louis became a center of regional fur trade with Native American tribes. Fur trade dominated the regional economy for decades but the city cemented its status as the ‘Gateway to the West’ in the mid-17th century when, and thanks largely to its geographical location at the convergence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, the latter of which flows through the city en route to the Gulf of Mexico, it became a jump-off point for get-rich prospectors heading West as a result of the discovery of gold in California in 1848. Host to both the 1904 World’s Fair & the 1904 Summer Olympics, the first time they were held on US soil, today the forward-thinking city is the largest on the US Great Plains and one of the country’s 41 independent cities, only 3 of which – St. Louis, Missouri, Carson City, Nevada, and Baltimore, Maryland – are outside the state of Virginia. A baseball-mad city with a storied history that’s home to the world’s largest brewery, there’s plenty to see here, but for most it’s the iconic Gateway Arch, sitting pride of place on the west bank of the Mississippi River, that steals the St. Louis show.

The Arch, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. September 17, 2016.

The brainchild of St. Louis lawyer Luther Ely Smith, who saw the building of a memorial to the westward expansion of the US as a way to rejuvenate the once-dilapidated St. Louis riverfront, the world-famous St. Louis Gateway Arch was first conceived in the 1930s, was designed in 1947, and was finally completed in October 1965. Dubbed ‘An Architectural Dream’ and the centrepiece of the wider Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, a 90-acre riverbank park that’s presently undergoing some rather extensive and eyesore-esque renovations as part of the CityArchRiver project, the Arch is the single largest stainless steel structure in the world. Curving to an impressive height of 630 feet (192 metres) means it’s also the world’s tallest arch, the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere, and Missouri’s tallest accessible building. The inverted weighted catenary curve was constructed from many double-walled triangular stainless steel sections, with an internal layer of concrete for strength & stability, sections tapering from a width of 54 feet (16.5 metres) at the base to a width of 17 feet (5.2 metres) at the top. Stainless steel was chosen to project the timeless and modern quality of the Arch, a good choice in hindsight; half a century on and the structure still hasn’t aged, still looks futuristic, and still shines, no more so than when viewed from its base in the late September evening light and when set against the striking combination of blue skies and fluffy white clouds. The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. September 17, 2016.

The Gateway Arch packs a significant symbolic wallop just by standing there. But the Arch has a mission greater than being visually affecting. Its shape and monumental size suggest movement through time and space, and invite inquiry into the complex, fascinating story of our national expansion.

– Robert W. Duffy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 4, 2003

We were happy to view The Gateway Arch from ground level this evening, very happy – it was a gorgeous sight. We’ve plans to tour its interior tomorrow, road trip day 22 and our last day on the Great Plains, including a ride to the top. So we’ve at least one more high to look forward to on the flat plains of the US heartland.

PICTURE OF THE DAY || DAY 22 || September 18, 2016

Dusk on Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.

Day 22 || September 18 2016

Route || St. Louis, Missouri to Memphis, Tennessee (via Dyess, Arkansas)
Miles (Kilometres) Driven || 322 (518)
Posted From || Memphis, Tennessee
Today’s Highlight || Dusk on Beale Street, Memphis

It was a beautiful ending to road trip day 22, sunset by the Mississippi River and dusk on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, vying for the highlight of the day; the latter won out. The day didn’t start as welcoming, the blue skies and sunshine of the previous evening hidden beyond a thick blanket of low-lying clouds on a sleepy Sunday St. Louis morning. Not that the clouds overhead really mattered all that much when peering down on St. Louis from on high.

The Arch, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. September 18, 2016.

Looking up. Beneath The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. September 18, 2016.

We got to The Gateway Arch early. It was quiet enough, the queues short. Not so coming down. Best get there early, even on a Sunday.

The dedication and determination of the designers, engineers and workers on the arch echoed the pioneer spirit of those it commemorates, the people who explored and settled the American West.

– Text on display in the Visitor’s Center at the base of The Gateway Arch

A capsule of the Arch, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. September 18, 2016.

The inverted arch form of the Gateway Arch is a deceptively simple design that presented several problems, one obvious issue being the design of the elevator system installed to ferry passengers to the viewing deck at the apex of the Arch. Conventional elevators could not negotiate the tapering curves and triangular shape of the structure’s legs so a unique Arch Transportation System was devised based on attributes adapted from the elevator, the Ferris wheel, and the streetcar. The system developed resulted in the installation of eight 5-passenger capsules in each leg of the Arch, tiny capsules that look like something out of a sci-fi movie. The window-less capsules (claustrophobes might want to steer clear of this particular attraction) take about 4 minutes to travel to the top & 3 minutes to return; travelling at 3.86 mph, or 340 feet per minute, they are capable of shuttling 240 passengers per hour to the viewing platform. When we visited, only the capsules in one of the two legs of the Arch were operational, causing delays and long queues in the tight confines of the viewing deck. A lot of people were not happy. We were just happy to get down when we did, and even happier then when we saw the queues for the accent. A capsule of The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri. September 18, 2016.

The Arch, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. September 18, 2016.

It’s tight up here in the curved viewing deck of The Gateway Arch – it feels every bit as enclosed as it looks from ground level. Only measuring 65 feet (20 metres) long by 7 feet (2.1 metres) wide, the space can hold up to about 160 people. Sixteen small windows on both sides, each measuring only 7 by 27 inches (180 mm × 690 mm), offer views down over St. Louis, to the west, & across the Mississippi River into southern Illinois, to the east. A window on the viewing deck of The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri. September 18, 2016.

St. Louis as seen from The Arch. St. Louis, Missouri, USA. September 18, 2016.

A portion of downtown St. Louis as seen from the observation deck of The Gateway Arch. There’s not a whole lot to see from the eastern-facing windows of the Arch, just the mighty Mississippi River and a region of aesthetically-challenged southern Illinois stretching off in the distance. It’s to the west where the views are at, down over The Gateway City. The views are great, even on overcast days. Seen here is two of St. Louis’ prime attractions – the Old Courthouse, the white domed building to the right, and Busch Stadium, home to the St. Louis Cardinals. St. Louis, Missouri. September 18, 2016.

Your visit to the Gateway Arch is not complete without journeying to the top of the awe-inspiring, 630-foot tall Gateway Arch. From the top of the tallest man-made monument in the United States and highest point in downtown St. Louis, you will experience unforgettable views of the city and the Mississippi River.

– from the Official Gateway Arch pamphlet

Busch Stadium
Before hitting the road for Memphis, I had to have a quick snoop around the outside Busch Stadium, home to the St. Louis Cardinals, one of the most celebrated teams in baseball.

Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. September 18, 2016.

Completed in time for Opening Day in April 2006 and with a capacity of 44,000, Busch Stadium is home of the Cardinals, the city’s beloved MLB franchise and the most successful team in MLB’s National League, a.k.a the Senior Circuit; the Cardinals have won 11 World Series championships, second only to the New York Yankees’ 27, the primary reason St. Louis is classed a baseball town. The present stadium is the third stadium in St. Louis to carry the Busch name. It replaced Busch Memorial Stadium (a.k.a. Busch Stadium II, 1982-2005) and occupies a portion of that stadium’s former footprint, the rest of the footprint turned into a multi-phase residential and entertainment complex dubbed Ballpark Village. Busch Stadium is similar to the many other so-called ‘retro-classic’ fields built in recent years, and like all the others it too offers a panoramic view of the downtown skyline, including views of The Gateway Arch. Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri. September 18, 2016.

Outside Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. September 18, 2016.

The Cardinals were out of town for the weekend, losing to the San Francisco Giants 3-0 on this particular day in AT&T Park, another ‘retro-classic’ ballpark I visited some 3 years earlier. Thus, Busch Stadium was very closed and its surrounds very quiet today when I was taking a look around. I spent a while peering into portions the empty stadium through the gaps in street side fencing, while also taking the time to read the various plaques detailing the ‘Greatest Moments’ in the Cardinals’ storied franchise history as imortalised on the public walkways surrounding the stadium, all shamelessly sponsored by a credit card company. I particularly searched out this plague recounting Mark McGwire, a.k.a. Big Mac, breaking the then MLB home run record on September 8, 1998. In the US for the summer of that year, I vividly remember watching the event live on TV all those years ago. Standing outside Busch Stadium earlier today really brought me back. St. Louis, Missouri. September 18, 2016.

Interstate 55 south from St. Louis, Missouri, to Memphis, Tennessee. September 18, 2016.

Time to move on. Leaving St. Louis heading south via Interstate 55 to Memphis, Tennessee. September 18, 2016.

It’s a 4-hour, 300-mile drive south from St. Louis to Memphis via Interstate 55, broadly following the course of the Mississippi River. The last 100 miles of the drive is via the state of Arkansas, epic US road trip state number 15.

Welcome to Arkansas. At the Missouri-Arkansas state line, Interstate 55. September 18, 2016.

State sign #15 || Welcome to Arkansas. At the Missouri-Arkansas state line on Interstate 55, Mississippi County, Arkansas. September 18, 2016.


State Nickname – The Natural State. State Motto – Regnat populus (The People Rule). Admitted To The Union – June 1835 (25th state). Population – 3 million (33rd most populous state). Area – 53,180 sq miles (29th largest state). Capital – Little Rock. National Parks – 1 (Hot Springs). National Scenic Byways/All-American Roads – 3/0. Famous For – Bill Clinton; Wal-Mart (the world’s largest private employer was founded and is still headquartered in the state). State Highlights – The state’s abundant park and wilderness areas.
Arkansas, The Natural State. Dyess, Arkansas, USA. September 18, 2016.

Arkansas. State #15. Off Arkansas Highway 77 near Denwood, Arkansas. September 18, 2016.

Dyess – Historic Pioneers & Johnny Cash
While we knew our route from St. Louis to Memphis would see us passing through a portion of Arkansas, we didn’t expect to find anything en route worthy of a stop or a detour. But then we passed a sign, and exit, on Interstate 55 inviting us to visit the boyhood home of one Johnny Cash on the fringes of the settlement of Dyess. That in and of itself was reason enough halt our charge towards Memphis, reason enough to see us turning around, leaving the Interstate, and finding ourselves navigating the empty back roads of rural Arkansas. However, we never banked on the pleasant surprise that the tiny & historic settlement of Dyess itself would be. I love stumbling upon hidden gems. It’s what road-trippin’ is all about.

Dyess, Arkansas, USA. September 18, 2016.

Dyess was founded as Dyess Colony in 1934 by President Roosevelt and was home to nearly 500 families stricken by the Great Depression of the 1930s making it the largest agrarian community relocation experiment established by the US federal government during the Great Depression. Selected on the basis of need, farming knowledge, and physical fitness, the Dyess pioneers each cleared land for farms with the government-subsidised help of 40 acres and a single mule. Many buildings were built by the pioneers for the fledgling colony, including a large Commissary, a Town Hall, a Cannery, a Theater, & a school. Succumbing to fire, few of the original buildings survive to this day, but those that do are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the ‘Dyess Colony Center’ – the colony has been somewhat resurrected through restoration of several historic buildings by Arkansas State University, buildings now open to visitors. Two of those restored buildings are seen here on Center Drive of Dyess Colony Circle, its town square. The large Dyess Colony Administration Building, first built in 1936, today houses the Dyess Colony Museum with exhibits related to establishment of the colony, lifestyles of typical colonists, and the impact that growing up in Dyess had on Johnny Cash and his music. To the right of the Administration Building, the Dyess Theatre, built in 1947 after the original community building burned, is today home to The Dyess Colony Visitors Center. The tiny present-day settlement of Dyess, measuring only 2.5 km² & with a population of some 500, was a veritable ghost town when we drove through late on a Sunday afternoon (we found it hard to find a local in order to garner directions to the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home). Nevertheless, Dyess still impressed with its array of ‘Historic Dyess Colony’ signage informing us as to the hidden gem that we had unexpectedly just stumbled upon. Dyess, Arkansas. September 18, 2016.

A less-than-two-mile drive from Colony Circle in ‘downtown’ Dyess via the dirt road W Co Rd 924 eventually brought us to the barred gates of the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home.

Johnny Cash Boyhood Home, Dyess, Arkansas, USA. September 18, 2016.

Johnny Cash (1932-2003) was born in Kingsland, south-central Arkansas, about a 4-hour drive from Dyess. Johnny’s parents, Ray & Carrie Cash, were among the nearly 500 colonist families recruited from all over Arkansas to settle the historic Dyess Colony. The Cashes moved to Dyess in March 1935 with their five children: Roy, 13; Louise, 11; Jack, 5; J. R., 3; and Reba, 1. Two additional children, Joanne and Tommy, were born in Dyess. First built in 1935, the Cash home is one of the few houses remaining in the former New Deal-era colony. Johnny Cash lived here until he graduated from high school in 1950 (the Cash family lived here until 1954). He would go on to be one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, finding success within the Country, Rock & Roll, Folk, Blues, and Gospel spheres and selling over 90 million albums worldwide during his long career. Several of his songs reflect his hardscrabble farming youth in Dyess Colony, where locals are said to have simply known him as J.R. Today the modest bungalow where he spent his youth has been restored, again thanks to the efforts of Arkansas State University, and is open to the public via tours organised and ran from the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home Visitor Center in Colony Circle. Needless to say, on this particular Sunday afternoon all was quiet in this even quieter corner of rural Arkansas. Johnny Cash Boyhood Home, Dyess, Arkansas. September 18, 2016.

Shortly after departing Dyess we found ourselves by the banks of the Mississippi River once again, this time in Memphis, Tennessee, bringing an end to our 5-day, 1,726-mile drive through the US Great Plains. And what a beautiful evening it was, a beautiful start to our 3+ days of exploring the bluesy US South.

Epic US Road Trip Home

THE UPPER MIDWEST || Wisconsin & Minnesota

DAY 01 139 miles || Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to Madison, Wisconsin

DAY 02 302 miles || Madison to Saint Paul, Minnesota (via Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area & Prescott, Wisconsin)

DAY 03 259 miles || Saint Paul to Bemidji, Minnesota (via St Cloud, Brainard & Walker, Minnesota)

THE DAKOTAS || North & South Dakota

DAY 04 458 miles || Bemidji to Bismarck, North Dakota (via Grand Forks, Lakota & Rugby, North Dakota)

DAY 05 459 miles || Bismarck to Deadwood, South Dakota (via Fort Yates, North Dakota & Badlands National Park, South Dakota)

DAY 06 167 miles || Deadwood & The Black Hills (Mount Rushmore National Memorial & Crazy Horse Memorial)

THE NORTHERN ROCKIES || Wyoming, Montana & Idaho

DAY 07 354 miles || Deadwood to Billings, Montana (via Devil’s Tower & Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monuments)

DAY 08 262 miles || Billings to West Yellowstone, Montana (via the Beartooth Highway & Yellowstone National Park)

DAY 09 227 miles || West Yellowstone to Jackson, Wyoming (via Yellowstone National Park & Grand Teton National Park)

DAY 10 280 miles || Jackson to Salt Lake City, Utah (via Alpine, Wyoming; & Montpelier, Paris, & Bear Lake, Idaho)

THE SOUTHWEST || Utah, Arizona & New Mexico

DAY 11 330 miles || Salt Lake City to Panguitch, Utah (via Brian Head & Cedar Breaks National Monument)

DAY 12 273 miles || Panguitch to Page, Arizona (via Bryce Canyon National Park, & Zion National Park)

DAY 13 307 miles || Page (Horseshoe Bend) & Grand Canyon National Park (North Rim)

DAY 14 175 miles || Page to Kayenta, Arizona (via Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona & Monument Valley, Utah)

DAY 15 252 miles || Kayenta to Durango, Colorado (via Monument Valley, Utah, the Four Corners Monument, & New Mexico)

THE ROCKIES || Colorado

DAY 16 348 miles || Durango to Leadville, Colorado (via Wolf Creek Pass & Monarch Pass)

DAY 17 299 miles || Leadville to Estes Park, Colorado (via Independence Pass, Aspen, Berthoud Pass, & Rocky Mountain National Park)

THE GREAT PLAINS || Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri & Arkansas

DAY 18 307 miles || Estes Park to Cheyenne, Wyoming (via Laramie, Como Bluff, Medicine Bow, & Buford, Wyoming)

DAY 19 404 miles || Cheyenne to Burwell, Nebraska (via Scotts Bluff National Monument & Carhenge, Nebraska)

DAY 20 407 miles || Burwell to Kansas City, Missouri (via Spalding, Nebraska; SW Iowa; & Omaha, Nebraska)

DAY 21 286 miles || Kansas City to St Louis, Missouri

DAY 22 322 miles || St Louis to Memphis, Tennessee (via Dyess, Arkansas)

THE SOUTH || Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama & Georgia

DAY 23 308 miles || Memphis to Vicksburg, Mississippi (via Clarksdale, Yazoo City & Bentonia, Mississippi)

DAY 24 336 miles || Vicksburg to Prattville, Alabama (via Selma, Alabama)

DAY 25 297 miles || Prattville to Cornelia, Georgia (via Montgomery, Alabama & Stone Mountain, Georgia)

THE APPALACHIANS || Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia & West Virginia

DAY 26 261 miles || Cornelia to Asheville, North Carolina (via Helen & Brasstown Bald, Georgia & Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina)

DAY 27 200 miles || Asheville to Galax, Virginia (via the Blue Ridge Parkway)

DAY 28 004 miles || Galax, Virginia

DAY 29 354 miles || Galax to Lewisburg, West Virginia (via the Blue Ridge Parkway & Shenandoah National Park)

KENTUCKY & THE GREAT LAKES || Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana & Illinois

DAY 30 404 miles || Lewisburg to Lexington, Kentucky (via Chesapeake, Ohio; Cordell, Kentucky; & Sandy Hook, Kentucky)

DAY 31 241 miles || Lexington to Beaver Dam, Kentucky (via Lincoln Homestead State Park & Mammoth Cave National Park)

DAY 32 190 miles || Beaver Dam to Bloomington, Indiana (via Rosine & Owensboro, Kentucky)

DAY 33 282 miles || Bloomington to Chicago, Illinois (via Indianapolis, Indiana)

DAYS 34-36 017 miles || Chicago, Illinois

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