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Though modern transcontinental travelers tend to see NEBRASKA
in much the same light as did the early pioneers, heading west
during the Gold Rush - as just another dreary expanse of prairie
to get through as fast as possible - this flat and sparsely
populated state in fact encompasses quite a few places of interest.
However, its most appealing cities, commercial Omaha and the
livelier state capital, Lincoln , are separated by a good three
hundred miles of underwhelming, livestock-rearing flatlands
from the western Panhandle, where the landscape finally erupts
into giant sand hills and valleys, broken by towering rocky
columns and hemmed in by sheer-faced buttes.
Western Nebraska was still embroiled in vicious and bloody
battles against Native Americans long after the east had been
settled; from the first serious uprising in 1854, it was 36
years before the US Army could make white control unchallengeable.
Close to the South Dakota state line, Fort Robinson , where
Crazy Horse was murdered, remains one of the West's most evocative
Without navigable rivers, Nebraska had to rely on the railroads
to help populate the land. During the 1870s and 1880s, rail
companies, encouraged by grants that allowed them to accumulate
one-sixth of the state, laid down such a comprehensive network
of tracks that virtually every farmer was within a day's cattle
drive of the nearest halt. Thus the buffalo-hunting country
of the Sioux and Pawnee was turned into high-yield farmland,
which today has few rivals in terms of beef production.
Omaha airport offers the best domestic links, though planes
from other cities in the region also fly to Lincoln. Several
Greyhound buses traverse I-80 each day on the coast-to-coast
marathon, stopping at all the major towns. Amtrak trains , traveling
through the night, follow a similar route and call at Omaha,
Lincoln, Hastings, Holdredge and McCook. Driving on I-80 can
get tedious; if you're not in a rush, Hwy-2 is a good alternative.
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