Westbound Day 13 – 335 miles – Des Moines to Yanckton

Thursday, 30 June 1994

In Lost Continent, his hilarious dig at the midwest, Des Moines escapee Bill Bryson declares  that the city is the most powerful hypnotic known to man, escape is near impossible. We must have got a mild dose as for some reason it’s nearly noon before we’re out on the highway.

Out on the hot highway, an air-conditioned lunch stop is a real pleasure and we’re grateful Des Moines’ water supply is drinkable. Are some American cities in cohorts with mineral water suppliers to increase their sales? Chicago must have the most unpalatable water I’ve ever tasted. It was like a heavily over-chlorinated swimming pool. Surprisingly another city with truly horrible water was pretty Stockbridge back in Massachusetts.

SAC MuseumToday’s only real sightseeing stop is at the Strategic Air Command (SAC) Base Museum, just south of Omaha, Nebraska. All Dr Strangelove’s favorite playthings are lined up here, most of them rather redundant these days, since there’s nobody much to point them at anymore. After visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki a few years ago I’ve often pondered why thousands of big bombs were needed when two little ones was all it took to sort out Japan.

And would all the technology have been much good anyway – remember the young German who flew his light aircraft right through all the Soviet air defences and landed in Red Square? In 1980 a lumbering old DC7, loaded down with 12 tons of marijuana, was flown clear across the US before making an emergency landing in South Dakota, presumably passing somewhere near the Omaha SAC Base en route. Nobody even noticed it until after it had been on the ground for some time.

We pass by Sioux City and turn westwards into South Dakota. Almost immediately we catch up with a car driven by a woman cruising along with both arms behind her head. Is this a South Dakotan driving style? The Shrine of Music Museum in Vermillion is already closed and we stop for the night at Yankton, a quiet little place where over dinner the waitress tells us of pitched battles between the local womenfolk in the town’s bars on Saturday nights.