We took northern Nebraska’s Highway 12, called “The Outlaw Trail” from Valentine toward Niobrara State Park, about 150 miles due east. The road goes from Valentine to Sioux Falls and was said to be a hide out for Jesse James and other bad guys. About 40 miles east of the park was a big “road closed” sign; we called the park, found out that the recent Missouri River floods still covered Route 12 both west and east of the park, and took a 70-mile detour. Lesson learned: always check a Department of Transportation web site before heading across a state. But the bigger lesson is just how devastating a flood can be to a local economy.
Near downtown Niobrara’s mall (a big, low building housing the post office, a grocery and hardware store, bar, and a couple of other small shops) we met the owner of the grocery store. She said she was down five employees; she’d either let them go because of lack of business, or they quit because they could not afford gasoline to make the detoured drive. She and the remaining employees are working extra hours to make up for the staffing shortage -- no time off for even new grandchildren -- and the store has a third fewer customers. She told us of a day care center owner who declared bankruptcy, people whose homes were still under water since the flood hit Memorial Day weekend, and the high financial cost the flood caused the locals.
We were going to wait until we got to Lincoln to buy supplies, but Jim and I decided to support the local economy and bought groceries. Then Jim went to the “carry out,” where selection was limited and my IPA-loving husband bought a six-pack of Budweiser (if it’s really cold and you drink two of them, he says, the third one tastes pretty good.)
The grocery store owner said the local cafe owners had lost their home in the flood, so we decided to support them, too, and purchased a restaurant meal for the first time since we left home. The fiancee of the owner’s son waited on us; she said their home -- which was 50 feet away from the river -- still had three feet of water inside. They plan to burn it when the water recedes and the house dries out (which could be a long time, she said) and maybe rebuild. Or maybe not.
The Missouri River as seen from Niobrara State Park in Nebraska. Notice the house in the middle of the photo.
|A similar shot as above, but wider.|
|The Sage Cafe where we ate lunch. Piles of sand that protected the building from the flood circled the building everywhere except the entrance.|
|Jim and Cooper at Highway 12 just west of Niobrara.|