Winston’s Big Adventure; The Heartland.

Day 4: Gibbon > Grand Island > Columbus > Norfolk > Menominee > Yankton > Sioux Falls

Yesterday we left the plains of Colorado and crossed Kansas into Nebraska. Today we crossed Nebraska into South Dakota. Most of both days were through relatively flat farm country, as was expected. But never, or at least very rarely, could we exclaim with any certainty that the terrain was wholly flat. We discussed this often. More poignant, in many cases, was the lack of trees. Many times the landscape approached “flat”, but most of the time it undulated. Often it seemed slightly rippled, though rarely was it ever rolling. When contemplated with intent, it was never dull.

What crops were growing there, or had grown recently? How different is that seemingly unmolested vegetation from what it was, say 200 years ago? When was that farmstead built? How old is that town? What sort of raptor is that? Look at how the barn architecture is so very different here.

At one point my questions turned to archaeology. Knowing that when American Westward expansion efforts reached the “Great Plains”, the Sioux peoples were long skilled in horsecraft. Yet, the horses that they rode, were descended only from those brought to the New World, by the Spaniards. The Spanish Entrada into what is now the U.S. of A. happened in the mid- to late 1500s, or thereabouts, while American pioneers were exploring the west in the middle 1700s. Thus, the Sioux only had roughly a century and a half to become the people we now know them as having been. It is uncertain how long the people now known as Sioux have inhabited the “Great Plains”… at least to me. It is generally accepted though that people have been mucking about there for a good 10,000 years or so. Most of that without horses, or wagons, or trucks, or trains, etc.

Driving across the plains in the modern day can seem to take forever. Try it in a wagon, or on horseback, dragging all of your belongings behind you on a sledge of some sort. Now picture it on foot. Does not really work to our modern minds obsessed with fast paced input and instant gratification. My guess is people stuck to the rivers, and given that, driving through the region, questioning thus, one naturally can focus on the various waterways. Following that then, how long have people been navigating the Arkansas? The Platte? The Loup? The Vermillion? The Missouri? The Big Sioux?

How old is the original “Corps of Discovery”?

Anyways, as I have been pondering since our previous cross country roadtrip (just a few weeks ago now), When faced with the seemingly mundane, cultivate an appreciation for subtlety. I find that it also helps to avoid the damn interstates. The backroads may be a bit slower, but are far more interesting.

The Boy has been flirting with some manner of pestilence; snotty nose, bit of a hacking cough. I too seem to be flirting with it today. Thankfully it was a shorter day than yesterday, as I was feeling less than ideal and he did not sleep much along the way. Thankfully, the hotel tonight is beyond comfortable, with a great mini waterpark that the Wife and the Boy enjoyed immensely and we intend to visit again on the morrow.

One more night. Two more drives.

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Winston’s Big Adventure; the High Plains.

Day 3: Punkin Center > Arriba > Burlington > Colby > Clayton > Alma > Kearney

La Junta, “The Junction”. Not to be confused with a post-coup military dictatorship. A crossroads on the Santa Fe Trail and the road to Pueblo. A cow town, that is not overly inspiring at this point. My apologies to any residents.

In an attempt to save space and reduce waste, I combined the remaining “milk” products yesterday, thinking that the ratio of non-dairy to dairy would not cause a noticeable amount of trouble. I was wrong. A professor once shared an insight with me on why there might not be more evidence of Nordic people’s in North America, knowing as we do that they did make it here. He postulated that the native peoples killed them all, after realizing that the milk they had been given was poison. Winston does not do well with cow’s milk. We knew this, but I foolishly engaged in the risky behavior just mentioned and we paid for it last night.

Anyway, no real harm was done and we all slept, finally. We rolled out bleary eyed in search of coffee and some manner of breakfast, finding a dubious form of the former and a donut form of the latter. We drove north, through the Arkansas River valley, aiming for Interstate 70, out into the heart of the High Plains.

Once there, we turned right and barreled on eastward to Burlington, where we had a lovely interlude at the new city park, found some surprisingly exceptional coffee, and then barreled on east. Across the Colorado/Kansas state line (at Kanorado of course…), we eventually veered east-northeast at Colby towards Clayton… a town that, had we more time, I would have stopped to take many photos. Remarkably orderly and tidy despite its notable decrepitude.

Just past Woodruff we struck north, into Nebraska, through Alma and Holdredge, across the Platte River, and on to Interstate 80. A sharp right and a few more miles brought us to Kearney, where we reside for tonight. Today was our longest day. We are officially over the hump and tomorrow we bear north-northeast through Nebraska to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The Boy slept most of today. When awake, he was mostly in good spirits. He pointed out the passing “gucks” of course, but has also added “cows” (cars) to his repertoire. He has also learned “hop”, though not yet how to exactly. He exclaims this when he wants out of the car seat, knowing that “outside” and “down” are not very effective.

Halfway, and three days to go. We are on the downside of the mileage parabola, and are all mostly intact… though fraying a bit around the edges.

Winston’s Big Adventure; Blue Highways

Day 2: Bayfield > Pagosa Springs > Del Norte > Monte Vista > Walsenburg > La Junta

Despite waking up to the feared, but not found in the middle of the night, dog excrement fiasco, today started much better than yesterday. Getting packed and sorted and the truck reloaded was infinitely more pleasant given the large room, the great back yard for the dogs to play, and the realized promise of a decent breakfast, with sufficient coffee. We rolled out of Durango at a reasonable hour and headed east, into the mountains.

A brief stop in Pagosa Springs for additional coffee and we veered north towards Wolf Creek Pass. One last blast of elevation (nearly 11,000 feet), and we rolled on down the other side, bound for the San Luis Valley. A brief stop at a side road to let all stretch legs and get a snack and then back to the grind, again heading east.

A stop for fuel in Monte Vista, which was a very different experience than the previous time we rolled through here, that time headed south in a whiteknuckle white out, on our way to our then new home in Arizona. On eastward under the shadow of Blanca Peak and Mt. Lindsey, past Fort Garland, and up and over La Veta Pass. Down the east side and out of the mountains altogether, on into Walsenburg, which has one of the oldest Safeway stores I have ever seen. Stopped for a break for nature and a water refill, rolled on under Interstate 25 and out onto to Colorado 10 across the plains to our evening destination.

Failing now to be lulled to sleep by the occasional train nor the dulcet tones of despondent cattle in the nearby stockyard, I write this, looking forward to tomorrow’s journey to Kearney, Nebraska on the Platte River.

The Boy, well, he slept a lot today and during the final stretch, had a grand time attempting to reduce some leftover pancakes to their constituent ingredients.