Vagabond in America 2015 travel blog

Missouri River ("Big Muddy:)

He caught a Paddle Fish

Dakota Territorial Museum

Crossing the Meridian Bridge

“The first white men of your people who came to our country were named Lewis and Clark. They brought many things that our people had never seen. They talked straight. These men were very kind.”
Chief Joseph

My next stop was Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I used this opportunity to meet one last time with my South Dakota lawyer, visit the local Planet Fitness, and reorganize RV for the next leg of my journey.

After that, my intention was to visit Sioux City, Iowa. A funny thing happened on the way there. The folks at the information desk in a Rest Stop told me about the Lewis & Clark Recreation Area, yet another place I’d never heard of. Plus, they recommended a new public campground that wasn’t in any of my campground directories. One of the beauties of traveling with minimal planning is that I was able to immediately add that to my itinerary.

The Missouri River, also called “The Big Muddy” is the longest river in North America. If you look at the southern border of South Dakota, you’ll see that most of border is a straight line. But, some of it is jagged. The jagged portion is where the Missouri River forms the border between South Dakota and Nebraska.

The Lewis & Clark Recreation Area is in Yankton, South Dakota. I knew nothing about Yankton. Had you ever heard of it? By now, I wasn’t at all surprised that the locals thought that their city was famous. What did surprise me is how famous it really is. Its nickname is “Mother City of the Dakotas”. Long before North Dakota and South Dakota attained statehood, Yankton was the capital of the entire Dakota Territory, which included today’s Montana and most of Wyoming. In the landlocked state of South Dakota, the huge, man-made lake is the second most popular vacation area in the entire state (after the Black Hills).

I pedaled my bike to Nebraska and back. Not as far as it might seem. I road along the top of the dam that crosses the Missouri River and then road back. A little farther downstream I encountered the double-decker Meridian Bridge. The bridge was the built in 1924 and was the first permanent bridge to cross the Missouri River. Prior to 1924, there was a seasonal pontoon bridge which was disassembled every fall and rebuilt every spring. In the winter, people could walk across the ice. Between the seasons, it was difficult to cross the river. The Meridian Bridge was so popular that the locals didn’t want to have it torn down after a newer bridge was built. So, they turned the old bridge into a pedestrian bridge. I took the opportunity to ride my bike to Nebraska and back, again. This was the first and, possibly the last time, I’ve ridden my bike on both the upper and lower spans of a bridge. The upper span had been for highway traffic; the lower span was for trains. Now, both spans are for recreation: walking, biking, and jogging. Finding little surprises like this bridge is what makes my slow, steady progress around the country so much fun.

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