The World According to Keitho

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Let’s hear it for the west

Posted by keithosaunders on August 11, 2011

I’ve driven across the country three times.  The first time, in 1989, took me across on I 70, which meant, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and on into Nevada and California.  Contrary to what most people had to say, I loved the rolling hills of Eastern Kansas, followed by the stark, pancake-flat western half of the state.  Eastern Colorado was impressive, not for its scenery, but for the fact that you could make out the Rockie mountains from hundreds of miles away. 

Last year we took a northern route — I 90.  This saw us through Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota (the Badlands!), and Wyoming.  We turned south through a corner of Idaho and came down I 15 in northern Nevada, picking up 80 into Cali at Reno.

This year has me splitting the difference, taking I 80.  Contrary to last year, when we took our time and spent a few days sight-seeing, this year we’re trying to get home in a reasonable amount of time.  80 goes from the George Washington Bridge to within a mile of my house in Albany, California, so it is a direct route.

In regards to I 80, the country does not begin to get interesting until you cross the Mississippi River.  Sure, Pennsylvania is a pretty state, but it’s long, and there is so much country ahead of you that you’re mostly concentrating on getting your sea legs for the trip.  Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, at least the parts that can be viewed from I 80, are bland and chock full of fast food restaurants and factory farms.  Also, the fact that you are tolled every ten miles puts you in a surly mood, negating any beauty you may happen to encounter.

But once you cross the Mississip — BAM — it’s as if the country emerges, Wizard of Oz-like,  from black and white into Technicolor.  The most striking thing is the sky, and how much of it you can see.  It’s as if a giant blue dome has been lowered. 

I love the old Plain States towns — beat up, way-gone, and bursting with character.  You can tell that they were once great places to live.  People built homes and buildings with loving care, and there is still a whiff of that feeling, even in their ghostly modern state. 

Chappell, Nebraska

 

Kimball, Nebraska

 Wyoming…is there a more beautiful state in the union than Wyoming?  Last year we were in Grand Teton, which was a mountain paradise.  This year we are in the southern portion of the state, but it is no less striking.  We pulled off the road at Medicine Bow national forest at a park called Turtle Rock.  We spent an hour among gorgeous rock formations, which we hiked up. 

On the way west there was a thunder-storm which we could see in the distance for miles in advance.  The storm was to the north of us, but we were able to make out a small tornado.

We are currently staying at a hotel in the Rockie Mountains in Rawlings, Wyoming.  Tomorrow we have 250 more miles of Wyoming before we turn south-west into Utah.  We plan on stopping off in Salt Lake City for a respite to view some Mormons before continuing into Nevada.  

This is the life!

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6 Responses to “Let’s hear it for the west”

  1. Lee said

    Following your journey across the country is quite fascinating, especially for someone like me who moved from a small town directly to New York City. Your close-up picture of Turtle Rock takes me back to high school Physical Geography class where we were shown slides of exfoliation domes from that very same area.

    I have to agree with you about PA’s beauty but I’m curious though, how do you determine the butt-ugliness of the parts of Ohio, Illinois and Indiana that you passed through.

    Do you have a website where more pictures can be viewed?

    Lee

    • Lee,

      In regards to Ohio, Indiana, and Illionois: I wasn’t clear enough in thepost — I was rfeferring to the parts of those states that are visible from I 80, which are largely fast food, restaurants, factories, and farms. It feels blighted and bland compared to what comes wast of the Mississippi. I realize that there are beautiful parts of those states, but you would have to travel the state routes to see them.

      I’ll probably go back and edit that sentence so it’s a little less harsh,

  2. verdun2 said

    Glad to see someone appreciating the “fly over” parts of the US. Growing up in the Southwest (Oklahoma and Texas) I love the “wide open spaces” and the wonderful silence of the plains. There was a wonderful place you could go about five miles from my hometown. You crossed over a railroad embankment and I swear you could pretend you were the first human being to ever see the place (as long as you didn’t look back at the railroad embankment). Wonderful feeling of time and space. Thanks for reminding me.
    v

  3. The edit is up
    ——————-

    “Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, at least the parts that can be viewed from I 80, are bland and chock full of fast food restaurants and factory farms. Also, the fact that you are tolled every ten miles puts you in a surly mood, negating any beauty you may happen to encounter.”

  4. Lee said

    I re-read your post and you did say that which was visible. Now that you have clarified, I understand what you mean when you say its full of fast food joints and toll collectors. Yikes.

    Btw, I’d rather drive than fly, unless I’m going over the ocean.

    Lee

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