Wednesday, August 17th 2011

Arose at 5:30 and after webwork, email and packing I hit the road leaving Carroll, Iowa behind. My route would take me nearly due west through what little remained of Iowa and then across the Missouri River and into Nebraska.

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This is just to the west of Carroll. I call this photo "Energy Fantasy" - corn for Ethanol and wind for Electricity. Humans are nothing of not optimistic.

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Who says Iowa is flat!! Although well treed here I was still seeing mile after mile of rolling cornfields and soybeans.

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Hills! Real hills!

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This is on Rt 37 near Turin, Iowa in Monana county about 70 miles west of Carroll. I had broken out of the roller coaster country and dropped into the wide valley of the Maple River (foreground) and here are the Loess Hills.
Having known more than one geologist in my time the term "Loess" was not new to me. But, I really had no idea what the name referred to. So, here's the skinny:

Loess Hills area map

Loess (pronounced "luss"), is German for loose or crumbly. It is a gritty, lightweight, porous material composed of tightly packed grains of quartz, feldspar, mica, and other minerals. Loess is the source of most of our Nation's rich agricultural soils and is common in the U.S. and around the world. However, Iowa's Loess Hills are unusual because the layers of loess are extraordinarily thick, as much as 200 feet in some places. The extreme thickness of the loess layers and the intricately carved terrain of the Loess Hills make them a rare geologic feature. Shaanxi, China, is the only other location where loess layers are as deep and extensive.
Though much older (2.5 million years) and much thicker (nearly 300 feet) than Iowa's loess, the Shaanxi loess hills have been greatly altered by both natural and human activity and no longer retain their original characteristics.

Although early geologists assumed loess was either fluvial (deposited by a river) or lacustrine (formed in a lake), today we know that loess was eolian (deposited by the wind). During the Ice Age, glaciers advanced down into the mid-continent of North America, grinding underlying rock into a fine powderlike sediment called "glacial flour." As temperatures warmed, the glaciers melted and enormous amounts of water and sediment rushed down the Missouri River valley. The sediment was eventually deposited on flood plains downstream, creating huge mud flats.

During the winters the meltwaters would recede, leaving the mud flats exposed. As they dried, fine-grained mud material called silt was picked up and carried by strong winds. These large dust clouds were moved eastward by prevailing westerly winds and were redeposited over broad areas. Heavier, coarser silt, deposited closest to its Missouri River flood plain source, formed sharp, high bluffs on the western margin of the Loess Hills. Finer, lighter silt, deposited farther east, created gently sloping hills on the eastern margin. This process repeated for thousands of years, building layer upon layer until the loess reached thicknesses of 60 feet or more and became the dominant feature of the terrain.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

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Here, the steeply ridged bluffs of the Loess Hills' rise abruptly from the ag fields of west central Iowa. This is just outside of Turin and seen from the banks of the Maple river.

Loess Hills Google Terrain Map   Click for larger image

The Maple River is channelized here with a flood wall, or berm, on the east side.

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Then it was on to Onawa which claims to have "The Widest Main Street in U.S.A."

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This is the Monona County Courthouse in Onawa.

The county seat of Monona was originally Ashton, but changed to Onawa in 1858. At Onawa, county officials were housed in a small building known as Mechanics' Hall.

Onawa was constantly being challenged for the honor of being the county seat. The citizens of Onawa raised $12,500 to be used for a new courthouse if it were to retain the county seat. In an election against East Mapleton, Onawa won and a $7,000 courthouse was erected.

The present courthouse was built in 1892 in Onawa. It is of typically late Victorian architecture. The design is similar to that of the courthouse in Adair County.

Source: WikiPedia

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This in on 10th Street in Onawa. I love these old theaters. And, there are more of them around than you might suspect.

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Somebody musta been trippin' when they painted this pooch. The town mascot perhaps?

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This has been a reoccurring theme lately. The bridge across the Missouri River was closed due to damage caused by the massive Spring flooding.
This required a detour up I-29 to Sioux City and then south again via US 75, and through the Winnebago and Omaha Indian Reservations.
The tribes looked to be putting their Casino profits to good use. I saw several housing developments connected by new pathways and several stores and shops and, of course, the signs for "Cheapest cigarette prices in the State!"

After yet another detour in Nebraska (where the detour had road construction), I finally made it down to SR 91 which I would spend most of the rest of the day on. I figger the detours and consruction added two hours on to the days drive.

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My welcoming party to the Sand Hills of Nebraska. This was taken on the west side of Albion in Boone county. The rolling, grass covered hills here a welcome sight after many days of corn and soybeans.

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"The Sand Hills are Pleistocene sand dunes derived from glacial outwash eroded from the Rockies, and now (mostly) stabilized by vegetation."
More on this later...

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I stopped to take a shot of an irrigation ditch and look what I found - more Mary Jane. Lot's more!

"Before we went crazy with drug wars and such against marijuana, there used to be a thriving hemp industry in the US (as there still is in every other industrialized country) Iowa was a prominent location. I remember traveling across Iowa in the mid 70ís and waking at dawn to squint at a suspicious plant along the Interstate. We pulled off the road and found wild hemp growing everywhere!" - Blueberry Mike

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Plenty of water to irrigate the sand and water the livestock. The Loup River provides much of that.

The Loup River (pronounced /lup/) is a tributary of the Platte River, approximately 68 miles (109 km) long, in central Nebraska in the United States. The river drains a sparsely populated rural agricultural area on the eastern edge of the Great Plains southeast of the Sandhills. The name of the river means "wolf" in French, named by early French trappers after the Skiri or Skidi band of the Pawnee, who called themselves the "Wolf People," and lived along its banks.
The river and its tributaries, including the North Loup, Middle Loup, and South Loup, are known colloquially as "the Loups", comprising over 1800 mi (2900 km) of streams and draining approximately one-fifth of Nebraska.

Source: WikiPedia

After many miles of gorgeous Sandhill Landscape I arrived in Halsey and settled into the Wilderness Motel. And, indeed, it feels like the wilderness.
At one point on my drive I thought to myself: "Man, I am in the middle of nowhere!!"
And, boy - do I like that.