Sunday, June 05, 2011


The big trip to the Southwest started Sunday. It always is a draining deal for me. I get wrapped up in being the "man-in-charge" of things and excited about going to the point that I can be a little edgy the morning of. Well, I managed to keep a lid on it till we got rolling!

The flat, featureless plain
 This trip always seems to go the same no matter when we take it, or the season in which we decide to go, but this time something did stand out.

I noticed the new sprouting agricultural plants and then noticed how much more they were matured down south as we went.

Then the corn gave way to wheat and its golden and amber hues. Still, all along the way, the only real "hiccup in all of this is the stretch from Emporia, Kansas to Wichita, Kansas. The Flint Hills, and those big, rolling waves of grassland punctuated by bovines and a few trees. Otherwise, the march of carefully husbanded land stretches as far as the eye can see. This tends to get a wee bit monotonous.

Then is when you start counting dead deer carcasses, or trying to render just what that smear on the road may have been when it drew breath last. A coyote? A skunk? Maybe a bloated raccoon over there yonder. Well, as you can tell, it isn't all that interesting running down the four lane concrete ribbons of the MidWest and Plains states.

Wait a minute here......
Traveling along in triple digit temperatures and such terrain lulls you to sleep. There we were, in Southwestern Kansas, when Highway 54 quietly and unceremoniously punches its way at a lazy angle towards New Mexico across the county line into Meade County. All of a sudden, like a cool splash of water on a hot, dusty neck, I saw sage brush, soap tree yucca, and reddish sand underneath the low scrub of an erroded, undulating landscape.

It might be the northernmost fringes of the llano estacado, or just a geologic oddity, but for a few miles, there is a preview of the Southwest. Then, just as soon as you start to grasp what you are looking at, the wheat fields return, and the land goes all flat again. For a little while....

I Can't Drive 25
Then there is the late day haze, the coating of insect guts screed across your windscreen, and a westering ball of fire in the sky that makes for a cocktail called "Lackadazicalness". could say I was snookered by a wizened city planner. At any rate, a three block stretch of road in Meade, Kansas drops 10mph in speed limit. Right.....

Well, they let me off for past good behavior, at least, and now I can say that my "driving like a grandma" paid off for once. (Thank you to the kind officer in Meade for your undeserved mercy)

Somewhere west of town the landscape turned the page to "South-by-Southwest" for good and the excitement of the desert is looming.

Union Pacific rail bridge over the Cimmaron River
For me it is a solid when we cross the Cimmaron River. I mean, it's the Cimmaron River for cryin' out loud!  If that doesn't conjur up cowboys, wild West, and all, I don't know what does.

Then we hit Liberal, Kansas. It is so great to hit the motel after 12.5 hours of windshield time, it is just crazy. Dead tired, pizza, shower, bed.

Tomorrow we hit the high plains and cross the mountains to the desert Southwest.......

1 comment:

Matt Maxwell said...

It is beautiful out there in western Kansas. I drove through on Hwy 56 a few years back. But the Cimarron River? I looked for it, but all I found was a dry sandy ditch. Maybe it's a river this year with record snowfalls and all.