Weekend in the IA-MN-SD Tri-State Area | August 23, 2020
On Sunday morning, we packed up our tent and got back on the road. We drove back into Iowa, made our way to US-75 and began heading South. For our first stop, we drove to Le Mars, IA, which is known as the ice cream capitol of the world. We arrived around 9 and attempted a letterbox. We stopped by the ice cream museum and shop, but it didn’t open until noon. I’ve always believed that it’s never too early for ice cream, but apparently the so-called “ice cream capitol of the world” doesn’t believe that! Instead, we drove to the county courthouse and got a few pictures. Our official goal is only to visit all of Nebraska’s courthouses, but that’s kind of turning into “see all the courthouses we possibly can.”
Next, we drove to Sioux City and stopped at the Sergeant Floyd Monument. The obelisk is easy to spot when you’re driving on I-29 as it’s on a hill overlooking the interstate and Missouri River. We took time to walk around, read the signs, and enjoy the view. The obelisk marks the final resting place of Sgt. Floyd of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery and is the only member of that party to have died during the expedition. We were surprised to learn that, not only is the obelisk near the original bluff the Corps buried their comrade, but that the remains of Sgt. Floyd are actually interred in the base of the obelisk. Needless to say, we’re very excited to be living near the Missouri and so many Lewis and Clark points.
From Sioux City, we crossed the Missouri back into Nebraska, and drove North to our main stop of today’s trip: Ponca State Park near Ponca, Nebraska. Our first stop in the park was to purchase our Nebraska State Parks Pass, which we could now get with a discount as official Nebraska residents!
We then drove to the “three state lookout” and took in the view of the Missouri River, Iowa, and South Dakota. Unlike much of the Missouri river, which is dredged, dammed, and controlled to protect the surrounding agriculture and infrastructure, the stretch of the Missouri around this view point is ‘wild’ and much similar in state to when the Corps of Discovery passed through 220 years ago. We went on a short loop hike for a letterbox. It was starting to heat up, but as long as we were in the shade and moving we managed to stay cool.
Finally, it was time for our long drive back. Well, it didn’t have to be that long, but of course we wanted to take the scenic route. We drove back to South Sioux City (on the Nebraska side) and then took US-75 down all the way back to Omaha. On the way back, we were able to see 4 more Nebraska county courthouses: Dixon, Dakota, Burt, and Washington. We’ve found that it’s quite easy to see each of them and get decent pictures on weekends since there isn’t anyone else there, and most of these small towns have parking right out front where we can just pull up, take pictures, and leave. I know this doesn’t sound like the most interesting hobby, but we’re really enjoying it. We love seeing the different styles of architecture and landscaping, as well as driving down the main street each of the small towns. It’s also an interesting way to break up an otherwise long drive.
Speaking of which, we found this drive to be very scenic, with rolling hills and beautiful countryside. There were even a few scenic pull-outs on the way. We passed by a few other forts and attractions, but since they’re relatively close to Omaha we decided to save them for other weekends when we don’t have the time to drive as far. Overall this short weekend trip made us excited for all the things we can do in the Midwest, and the humidity made us excited for fall weather!