Nebraska Outlaw Trail

Text: Rick Schunk • Photography: Rick Schunk

What motorcyclist doesn't feel a kinship with America's cowboys? Our bikes have saddles, not seats. We use saddlebags for storage, not a trunk. And, of course, we wear boots, not shoes when we ride. So, when the opportunity arose to tour Nebraska's romantic Outlaw Trail, I had my bedroll and six-shooter packed within minutes.

Mid-afternoon finds me in Sioux City, IA, chomping at the bit to hit the trail. Leaving that fair city, I point my trusty steed west on Interstate 129. This concrete slab has a short life span of only four miles when it drops down to two lanes and becomes Nebraska SR 20. After another nine miles, I spot the soon to be familiar Outlaw Trail sign, Nebraska's Scenic Byway SR, 12. Pausing for a Kodak moment, I realize why the outlaws selected this route. There's almost no traffic (or lawmen), on this Monday afternoon.

Geologists Gone Wild

Wide open spaces are the hallmark of much of Nebraska, and the northeast corner of the state does its best to uphold that tradition. Gently rolling hills with few sharp curves greet me as I head west toward Newcastle. A modest town of 295, and whose downtown bisects SR 12, Newcastle appears locked in time - which is refreshing actually. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a historical marker with the unusual title: Ionia Volcano. Volcanoes in Nebraska?

The fact is this geological oddity was mislabeled by some earlier travelers. Almost 205 years to the day I ride into town, the Lewis and Clark expedition hopped out of the Missouri River near present day Newcastle. William Clark, perhaps not the best geologist of his time, thought a huge 180-foot cone-shaped bluff was a volcano. The name stuck, and some 80 years later, Ionia, the nearest town to the volcano added its name to Clark's findings. Unfortunately, Ionia was all but washed away in the great flood of 1878, which resulted in Newcastle getting the historical marker and the glory.

DUI: Decisions Made Under the Influence

A clear sign that alcohol taken in large quantities can have a negative impact on the thought process is the tiny town of Wynot, NE. Like most, I puzzle over the name. Located just a mile north of SR 12, I ride in for a look. As I gas up the Yamaha, I ask the attendant about the unusual name. His story is one that town residents no doubt have repeated hundreds of times.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the July/August 2010 back issue.