Spring Break Road Trip 2022 | Day 1 | Omaha, NE to Pineville, MO | Fort Scott National Historic Site | KS/MO/OK Tri-Point | February 2022
We’ve done a lot of road tripping throughout our 8.5 years of marriage, especially throughout the last year. But there is one part of the country encompassing 3 whole states where neither of us have ever traveled: Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. For years, these states have remained completely untouched on our multitude of maps tracking our travels. While we do not yet know what the year 2022 will hold for us, we decided this was one trip we needed to take. With an abundance of vacation days needing to be used, our home in Nebraska being in the center of the US (hopefully the closest we’ll ever live to the South again) and (*deep breath*) my thirtieth birthday slowly creeping up, it was time to complete this not-very-exciting-but-still-a-big-deal bucket list trip.
Spring just felt like the right time to go — even though we could end up camping in the cold, being rained or even snowed on, and the scenery would be mostly sticks and the trails would be mostly mud — we knew all that was better than enduring the heat and humidity of the South, and all the bugs, snakes, and alligators that rear their ugly heads during the warmer months. Luckily, Curtis had two weeks off from his master’s program for spring break, so everything sort of fell into place.
We set off on our first day of the trip with about 7 hours of driving and a few exciting stops ahead of us. We made it about 2 hours driving on I-29 through Iowa and into Missouri before abandoning the fastest route in pursuit of a new county — Leavenworth county in Kansas (because, as the Extra Miler Club says, “The fastest route from point A to point B is no fun”). We stopped for a short walk around the courthouse for Charlotte’s sake, then drove East to I-435, around Kansas City, and took US-69 South through Kansas.
Curtis: Our main stop for today was at Fort Scott National Historic Site in Fort Scott, KS. This fort and the town that grew around it find their history rooted in the 1840’s-1860’s. Originally, the fort was built as a permanent frontier outpost as at that time the West was to be a permanent reservation for the plains tribes and those natives relocated during the Jackson Administration. But after the Mexican-American War – during which troops from Fort Scott were deployed and lands further West were added to the Union – the idea of a permanent reservation disintegrated, the frontier boundary shifted further West, and the US Army began favoring smaller frontier stations like Fort Kearney. So the War Department sold the fort to civilian entrepreneurs and a small town arose around the same site with many of the original fort’s buildings being repurposed.
During this same period, Kansas and Nebraska were organized as territories, but with the caveat that they self-determine their legality of slavery as territories and prior to being admitted as states. Kansas entered into a tragic time often called ‘Bleeding Kansas’ when proponents of both sides of the issue fought vehemently: First through voter fraud and intimidation – eventually resulting in the existence of two separate legislations – and then through outright violence. Anti-slavery ‘Freesoilers’ and ‘Jayhawkers’ from the Northeast clashed with pro-slavery ‘Border Ruffians’ from Missouri and the rest of the South. Due to its proximity to the Missouri border, Fort Scott saw much of the clash with two of the repurposed buildings, standing across the parade ground from each other, functioning as hotels; each serving its own clientele of either pro- or anti-slavers.
The rapid succession of events at the end of 1860 into 1861 ended this tragic period: Lincoln was elected and the South seceded, allowing the remaining members of the US Congress to ratify the Kansas constitution and admit Kansas as the 34th State, and, amid the greater context of the Civil War, the conflict moved East into Missouri where many of the ‘Border Ruffians’ had returned to convince the Missourian government to secede.
Fort Scott was returned to the US Army for the duration of the Civil War to prevent any incursion of Missourian or Confederate soldiers into the Midwest, but ultimately saw no direct action (a small skirmish was fought in 1861 just across the Missouri border)
Jess: After enjoying the mid-day sun, and walking around the fort, we continued down US-69 until it turned into US-400, then as we were nearing the Missouri border we drove South a few blocks to reach the tri-point between Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. There was a graffitied monument there and a plaque on the exact point, thereby adding a new Oklahoma county to our yearly tally. Curtis found a letterbox and Charlotte enjoyed a short walk around before getting back in the car for one last hour of driving for the day.
We took I-44 to I-49 and drove South to Pineville, MO, where we found a free campsite East of town for the night in Huckleberry Ridge Conservation Area. There were patches of snow and the ground was soft and muddy, but we found a dry space to set up our tent and made soup on our soda can stove for dinner. We bundled up for a chilly night of camping — it dropped into the 20s that night, but thankfully that would be our coldest night of camping for this trip!