Monday, July 18, 2005

Sioux City, Nebraska/ Iowa/ South Dakota

We got an early mark from Onamia, so managed to get away before the huge holiday influx. After cutting across country on minor roads to avoid traffic and we eventually arrived in Hudson, WI and spent a few days there with family relaxing before heading towards South Sioux City, Nebraska.
Our apartment, a new large 2 bedroom affair, is on the south edge of town in a recent development overlooking bean fields and a silo. That night we certainly had a ringside seat from the third floor for about an hour as 4th July fireworks were let off all around the river on both sides of the border.
Sioux City sits on the borders of South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. The town was actually founded in Iowa, just east of the confluence of the Big Sioux and Missouri rivers but as a result of expansion, if you now live in Sioux City, you can live in any of those three states. This can be very confusing for the uninitiated.
The town has a similar history to many in the mid west. Native Americans were the first inhabitants who met up with the French and the Spanish trappers and explorers in the 1600’s. The first recognized explorers were Lewis and Clark as they made their way up the Missouri River in 1804. Sioux City was founded in 1854 when a young surveyor, John Cook, incorporated a town company. Although growth was initially slow, it became a steamboat and railway supply town for military outposts in the Dakotas and for goldminers in Montana. By the 1890’s the town was booming.
More historical data is available at:
Sioux City has held onto its historical past with many blocks of well preserved late 19th century buildings. This area now features antique and specialty shops as well as pubs and restaurants. The rest of the city is typically modern with a central business district that contains the usual government buildings, major retailers (Sears, Younkers, J.C Penny’s), specialty shops and service centers. There is also a concentration of sports, entertainment, convention and arts facilities. National and college “football” and baseball are big sports here. The older suburbs that sit on the eastern hills overlooking the town
contain some pretty large and grand looking houses on tree lined streets. The new urban sprawl outside that area has typically modern housing.
The riverbanks are given over to recreation and with a number of easily accessible large parks on both sides. The Missouri is quite wide here and very swiftly flowing. There is a huge amount of private watercraft which is accommodated in modern marinas dredged off to the side of the main stream. Of course the river is nothing like the one Lewis and Clark struggled up 200 years ago. Flood mitigation as turned it into an engineered canal. It is no longer a relatively shallow waterway with shifting sandbanks and treacherous snags which meandered through the countryside. Now it basically races straight through it. And there is also the question of its ranking. Some say because of its length and size of drainage area it should maintain its name after it meets the Mississippi at St. Louis and continues onto the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing like a little bit of controversy!
You all know I have a deep interest in the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1803-06. Sioux City has a brand new Lewis and Clark Interpretive Centre on the banks of the river. It has a wonderful bronze statue of the pair with their dog, Seaman, below a 150 ft. flagpole which flies a giant replica of the 15 star, 15 stripe flag they took with them. This is all surrounded by a garden of native flowers that were growing in the area when they passed through.

Lewis and Clark, Sioux City, IA
There is also an on going attempt to faithfully reproduce a few acres of original prairie. The centre itself concentrates on the human aspects of the expedition. It’s interesting to learn about the lives and tasks of the relatively anonymous members of expedition (including Clark’s black slave) rather than the main participants. There are also two theatres, one showing the National Geographic film on the expedition (not as good as the Ken Burns series shown on SBS some years ago) and the other, a film on Sacajawea, the pregnant Shoshone Indian wife of a French trader they employed up river as a guide and interpreter. She proved to be a life saving asset on more than one occasion.
More information on the centre at:
It’s worth just clicking on the ‘photo gallery’ link.
It was near the future Sioux City that the only member of the expedition died. Sergeant Charles Floyd succumbed to what was much later diagnosed as a possible ruptured appendix. He was buried by the expedition near where the Floyd River runs into the Missouri. His grave has been moved a few times due to the encroaching Missouri but he finally now lays at rest under 100 ft sandstone obelisk on a bluff overlooking the river and city. It is not only a memorial to him and the explorers who followed but to Thomas Jefferson whose foresight on securing the future of his country lead to the Louisiana Purchase and the exploration of the west.
Sioux City seems to be a city of memorials. High on the cliffs overlooking the river is the War Eagle Monument honoring a respected Isanti Dakota Indian.

War Eagle Monument
At Trinity Heights there are two 10m stainless steel statues of Jesus and Mary. On the riverfront there is the Flight 232 memorial. This commemorates the United Airlines DC10 flight that experienced complete hydraulic failure on a transcontinental flight and was steered to a crash landing at the local airport by the crew using engine thrust only. A great number people lost their lives but many didn’t thanks to the skills of the captain. He survived when the cockpit separated on crashing and slid into a cornfield. The crash has been featured on many Discovery Channel programs on air safety. Once you see the plane cart wheeling down the runway in flames you never forget it.

Flight 232 Memorial
I had a week where I succumbed to three American “institutions” that I had been avoiding for a number of years. One was the drive through coffee shop. Ok, we were late and just couldn’t spend 15 minutes inside the shop for a relaxing break. Nothing like sipping a cappuccino at 75mph! So the drink holders in cars are not superfluous after all. The second was the dreaded “box” (doggy bag) at a restaurant. Well, it really wasn’t our fault. The fact the usual service ethic broke down and they served the main course 30 seconds after the entrée (appetizer) was the cause.
The third was going to the Outback Restaurant. Now there are a lot of bad kitschy things about this pseudo Aussie eatery but the food isn’t one of them. The steak we had was absolutely delicious. Ok, stuffed koalas climbing up the pillars are a little off putting but I think some of the menu items, or rather their names, are the worst. You know how us Australians just love an onion flower. For those that can’t remember, it’s a whole onion that’s been opened up, breaded and deep fried and served with a dipping sauce!
NO! I am not kidding!
But the worst thing is this item was listed as an “Australian Ab-original” (sic)!
One thing I miss in the Midwest is Asian food, especially Thai. But there is a great substitute ie. Mex! It’s usually cheap, plentiful and of high quality especially if you find a genuine restaurant ie. not a chain. There is one down from the road from us which is fairly new and run by Mexicans. It also has a take out (take away) and a Mexican grocery store attached. Another plus is that the vast majority of the cliental seems to be Mexican.
The sauces served with the chunky crisp corn chips as appetizer need a 911 call to the fire brigade and the fajitas and enchiladas are to die for. All this with a couple of cold beers will set you back about $25 with tip for two.
My “local” wine shop on Cornhusker Avenue (great name!) has a good selection of American and foreign wines at good prices. The Aussie selection is quite broad.
There is a variance in liquor laws throughout the USA, probably as a result of prohibition but living in a tri state corner you get to run the gambit. In Iowa you can’t buy grog between 2am and 6am, Monday to Saturday. This is extended to 8am on Sunday. In Nebraska, they are a little more strict. It’s 1am to 6am on weekdays. In South Dakota, no grog at all on Sundays!
There are about 20 wineries and a few hundred grape growers in Nebraska, mainly in the south of the state. The largest has only 9000 vines. They concentrate on native or native/European hybrids. Due to this fact, we decided against the journey south.
More information at:
Two weeks left in the USA. Will let you know the rest of the story later.

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