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TRAVELING THE GREAT PLAINS

On the road from Bismarck, ND to Pierre, SD & a Capitol visit

sunny 75 °F

(Wednesday) The Great Plains are a wonderous sight. They seem to go on forever. Leaving Bismarck I opted to take highway US 83 S., a direct route to Pierre, SD, about 4 hrs. away. Along the way my mind wandered to the days when the courageous homesteaders left their homes seeking a better life in the untamed west of the USA. I mentioned the Homestead Act of 1863 in a previous blog, but I failed to mention that the government gave vast right-of-ways of land to the railroads as an incentive and an investment in developing a rail transportation system linking the east & west coasts of the US. The railroads established towns in accordance to their engines' fuel & water needs along the way. In so doing, they sold land along the right-of-way to merchants, etc. who wanted to set-up businesses near the railroads. A win-win for the rail companies.

At the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 there were 3 significant territories; the Louisiana, the Spanish, and the Oregon Territories. Subdivided among those were the Northwest, the Dakota territories. The Northwest covered all of the present states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the northeastern part of Minnesota. In 1846 the Oregon boundry dispute was settled with Great Britain with the US owning the land below the 49th parallel. It included the present states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, parts of Montana & Colorado. The Dakota territory encompassed the land mass of both present day North & South Dakota. It was split upon both being admitted into the Union in 1889. The Spanish territory included the present states of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, & California. That's another story to come.

Back to my trip to Pierre..... There were not many towns that I drove through & most were very small, with populations of less than 300 people. I observed more grain silos than people. Lawrence Welk of "Champagne Music" fame was born on the outskirts of Strasburg, ND in a sod hut. The little town of Strasburg has more grain solos than people. The Welk Story is America at its best, from a sod hut to the riches of Hollywood and the Lawrence Welk Show. Our family watched it every Saturday night when I was a kid. Ugh!
Each little town has its own sherriff and each town's speed limit drops suddenly from 75 to 55 to 35 to 25. Truckers & locals abide by the posted limit for both know traffic tickets are a great source of revenue for the unwary.

Pierre (pronounced 'peer') (don't they know their French heritage?) is a charming Capitol city situated on the mighty Missouri River. It is divided into Pierre and Fort Pierre across the river. Nestled in a beautiful depression (valley) with hills surrounding it the view is breath-taking. At the crest of the hills are the plains extending in all directions. A small city of 14,000 with wide streets (8 lanes) it has a comfy small town feel. I can just picture stage coaches, horses & wagons, and cowboys on the streets of yore! While there is much hustle & bustle, it seems to be in a relaxed way. People speak to you on the street & are friendly country-folk. Agriculture and ranching are very evident with farm tractors driving down main street, and huge field tractors towing huge, huge implements drove past my campground location headed to the fields. Last night, at the campground host's recommendation, I patronized the "Silver Spur Salloon" just down the street for a brewsky and a pulled pork sandwich. I tried a local Wyoming beer called Black Tooth Amber. It was great. The question posed by the bartender, "16 oz., 22 oz., or 32 oz." ? They deal in large quantities here! The 'Happy Hour' crowd was comprised of cowboys and ranchers. Should have known. Instead of horses tied up out front there were a dozen or so pickup trucks with rifles in the back windows parked there. Some were sporting 10 gallon hats at the bar, some not. I didn't think it my duty to suggest they remove their hats at the bar. It is not really polite, you know. Anyway, I enjoyed joining in the merriment. Met a fellow whose name was Travis Richardson, a roughneck ranch hand/heavy equipment operator. Nice guy. He gave me an insight into life out here. Unemployment is not a problem (3% state-wide) and they work long, hard hours but meet about 5:00 pm several times a week to exchange news, joking, etc. It made for an enjoyable time for this 'drifter' (me). About the Capitol tomorrow..............

Posted by dixter 14:01 Archived in USA Tagged travel of a day pleasant

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