The Platte River
I crossed over the Platte River on my way into Central City, noting to return to it on my way out-of-town. A shallow river bed, muddy islands poke out from its center. Nebraska means “flat water”, which is derived from the native word for the Platte, thus making it the state’s namesake. Platte itself comes from the French for flat.
The Missouri River
The Missouri River marks the Eastern border of the state, between Nebraska and Iowa. This also makes it Omaha’s Eastern most border. Not as impressively wide as the Columbia River here in my home state, nor as mythic as the “Mighty Mississippi” which borders Iowa to the East, it’s easily traversed. On its western border in Omaha, it marks a landing site for Lewis and Clark.
A patchwork of highways frame Omaha, taking you anywhere in the city in 15-20 minutes. With a population over 400, 000 it’s a quiet city with minimal traffic. (A most welcome change from Seattle’s constant gridlock). Rolling hills break from the traditional landscape of the Midwest. A lazy Missouri River rolls to the East, keeping Iowa at bay.
Omaha is hot pavement, with nary a tree in sight. I can’t imagine how barren winter must be, once the few deciduous trees drop their leaves.
The Gene Leahy Mall of hand-crafted waterfalls, and artfully cascading steps, point to a condensed cluster of downtown high-rises. The buildings huddle together in defiance of its surrounding agricultural communities. (Even the ever-present grain silos wink at the traveler driving East into the city. Dressed up in the urban-chic of commissioned graffiti).
The Bob Kerry foot bridge angles across the Missouri River into Council Bluffs, Iowa. I’ve heard the locals call it the “Bridge to Nowhere”, as there isn’t much on the Iowa side other than a small amphitheater, a suburban neighborhood, and a nice view of Omaha.
The people of the city are wonderfully down to earth, and the epitome of “real”. Brusk without being brash. Polite but not overly effusive. It’s not a city where strangers meet your eye as you pass on the sidewalk, or share in a polite smile of acquaintance. Yet, the musician/waitress and local glass artist that I met were eager to share with me what they enjoy most about their city.
With only a day and bit of an afternoon to explore the city I regret not making it to The Old Market District. Equally wish I could have gotten some late afternoon shots of the Jocelyn Art Museum and the Durham Museum. But sunburn, and the uncertainty of being alone in an unfamiliar city near night held me back. It’s the only time when traveling alone became a liability.