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.