Unbound

southeastern Colorado

iPad photo from a speeding car

Yes, we made it to Dubuque! (The image above is from southeastern Colorado.) The trip was long and arduous—approximately 1,200 miles in two days on the backroads of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa—where the confluence of grazing and cultivation has so essentially altered the original landscape, I’m sure no one living remembers the way it was.

Lewis and Clark are my longtime heroes. They didn’t traverse much of where we drove—that would be farther north and west—but reading their accounts of what the unspoiled country looked like over two hundred years ago along the path of the Missouri River will stir your soul, just as awareness of the gift of this planet has a way of dissolving parochial concerns. Interesting word, that, “parochial,” referring as it does first to churchly concerns and then to “having a limited or narrow outlook or scope,” and how notable the outposts of the faithful that dot the battered plains.

The driving was a wonder, though, on mostly empty roads through huge, impossible spaces almost all the same, the landscape like a frozen rolling sea. But for the grasshoppers and butterflies colliding with the windshield every now and then, you might think you were piloting a spaceship to another world. To stop and piss along the road, you stop and piss along the road. I’m reminded of another great account of travel west of the Mississippi by Mark Twain in Roughing It, where the all-male passengers on the stagecoach stripped down to their underwear and rode on top to feel the breeze.

  • Bob June 22, 2015, 10:44 AM

    Glad you made it!
    It’s my belief that you can stand in the north-west corner of Kansas and see everything that state has to offer. I do like Nebraska for some reason but Iowa has the same hills, the same cows, and the same trees repeated over and over again. At least that was my impression of I-80.
    We traveled in Mississippi yesterday and explored from Natchez to Vicksburg. We saw about forty miles of the Natchez-Trace, found Windsor Ruins, and many miles of the dangedest vine-choked landscape I could ever imagine, it looked like pictures I’ve seen from the Asian jungles. The foliage covered the ground and trees nearly to their tops.
    I photographed a school bus that is covered with vines so thick that you’d never know what was beneath were it not for the very top of the bus being exposed. There was a house similarly over-grown. I’m convinced that if a person fell asleep in that stuff he’d be matted over by the time he woke up.
    That’s the great thing about traveling, isn’t it? Whether it’s rolling hills in Iowa or the jungles of Mississippi there is always a travel story to bring home. Just like Mark Twain.

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