Monday, October 03, 2011



We did a lot of bike riding in Omaha. It’s another city with miles of paved flat bike trails. We were hoping to ride the trail along the Missouri River but much of it was underwater, still flooded from the spring thaw.

While in Omaha, we just had to hit one of the six restaurants featured on Triple D. (Diners, Drive-ins and Dives). We picked Big Mama's Kitchen located in the cafeteria of an old high school. Known for down home comfort soul food, it’s popular with the locals. When we got there just before lunchtime, there were just a few tables left open. We each ordered the special, Chicken Fried Steak with mashed potatoes, and cornbread. I opted for a side of Macaroni and Cheese, while Cathie chose Stir Fried Cabbage. We topped it off by sharing a slice of Peanut Butter Pie. We waddled out fully satisfied, promising ourselves a 20 mile bike ride in the morning.


In downtown Omaha, there is a series of sculptures depicting a wagon train crossing the plains. It’s very detailed with larger than life settlers, their wagons and animals. The sculptures tell a story of the journey west and are spread over six blocks of downtown. First there are the wagons, with the wagon master on a high point overlooking the wagon train. There is a hunter bringing his kill to feed the members of the group. There are men helping a wagon through the mud.

The approaching wagon train spooks the buffalo herd that stampedes ahead of the train.

And lastly the buffalo scare a flock of geese on a lake causing them to take flight.

After just under a week in the Omaha area, we continued out trip east. Next up, Des Moines. We found another great campground on Saylorville Lake, operated by the Army Corp of Engineers. Again huge sites with lots of grass and trees overlooking the lake. With our Golden Age Passport, just $9 a night. Once again great bike paths. One day we rode the 11 miles along the Des Moines River into the city for lunch. A beautiful shaded paved trail and level just like we like it.

We spent most of one day checking out the Bridges of Madison County. Although we didn’t run into Clint Eastwood or Fay Dunaway, we did manage to find 5 covered bridges. The county seat of Madison County is Winterset, the birthplace of John Wayne. The town is typical of many Midwest towns, with a square surrounded by shops and the courthouse in the center. Winterset seemed to be thriving, but many towns we passed through are dying, with vacant storefronts in the town center.

We moved on, arriving on the Mississippi at the Quad Cities. Davenport and Bettendorf on the Iowa side of the river and Rock Island and Moline on the Illinois side. We found another county park, Buffalo Shores just south of Davenport. With a site right on the river, we can sit and watch the barge traffic on the river. We also crossed the river and at Rock Island we watched as barges passed through the locks. Again nice bike trails in the area, one along the Mississippi. We spent a couple of days on two wheels touring the area.



Here's some barge facts you probably didn't know.  Barges hold a whole bunch of stuff and lots of it.  Corn, wheat, coal, sand, gravel just to name a few. As an example, one tug can push 15 barges, 3 across, five barges long.  A fifteen barge tow is too big to fit in most locks on the Mississippi, so the barges are split and pushed through in two passes.  So how much does 15 barges hold?  How about 26,250 tons or 937,387 bushels of corn.  If that doesn't do it for you, here's another way to look at it.  Fifteen barges hold the same amount as 240 rail cars.  A typical freight train is 100 cars long.  For you truckers out there, fifteen barges is equivalent to 1050 semi truck trailers.  Still don't get it.  A fifteen barge tow is 1/4 of a mile long, 240 rail cars are 2.53 miles long, and 1050 truck trailers is almost 14 miles long.  How do I know all this stuff?  Hey, I measured them.




One day we drove up river to LeClaire, Iowa. LeClaire is the home of Antique Archeology, the antique store made famous by the owners, Mike and Frank of the History Channel show, American Pickers. As an antique store, it really bombed. Most of the limited items in the store were only on display and not for sale. Lots of overpriced T-shirts, hats and other stuff with their logo. Quite a disappointment.


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