Seward, NE

I’m biking east along I-80 and I’m in the middle of nowhere.

One thing I always wondered about American midwest is how the roads are forming a perfect grid. I can imagine how one city can do that, but playing with the map for this trip, it’s clear that the grid stretches much bigger areas, beyond state boundaries.

So I did a bit of Googling and discovered that this grid is created by the Public Land Survey System and dates back to 1785. The Confederation Congress back then needed to raise money and promote the settlement of the West, so they came up with the longitude & latitude based grid system, called every 6 miles by 6 miles square as a “town” then further divided a town into 36 lots of a square mile each. Later in 1860, the government started selling these square mile lots for just $18 each to anybody who was willing to live & farm the land. That’s how most of Nebraska was settled.

And that’s how this vast grid we fly over today got created. A stroke of a pen 250 years ago determined where the roads and cities are built, shaping the vast landscape of American midwest. I find that amazing. Every piece of this grid was settled, cultivated, and turned into farmland by one family. Just imagine that.

I suspect this is pretty basic knowledge for any kids who studied US history in schools, but today I learned.

My next stop is Omaha. It’s 150 kms away now, and I should be able to cover that in about a week. And with that I’ll be leaving Nebraska behind and entering Iowa. Can’t wait!

(This trip is virtual, not physical)

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