We made good on our plans to leave early this morning and were on the road by 6:30 a.m. It was a long day of travel, but a good one. We crossed 150 miles of Colorado prairie, heading east. The soft morning light glowed on golden fields of wheat, and thin, wispy clouds (mare's tails) lay in patches on the crystal blue sky.
Last night, Emily asked the question that I've been pushing to the back of my own mind. "What happens if the car breaks down?" I said, "Well, it's not like we'll be in the 'middle of nowhere.' We have tow insurance, and we'll just deal with whatever comes our way. It's an adventure, after all."
This morning, as we opted for the more scenic route of U.S. 36 rather than the busier I-70, we were the only car for miles and miles. A golden eagle flew overhead for a while. Later, a turkey led her brood of chicks across the road, causing us to slow a bit to let them pass. "Mom," said Emily, "I hate to tell you, but we're in the 'middle of nowhere.'"
Crossing over into Kansas, the scenery changed little, and the road was dotted with small towns every 20 or 30 miles. Deep green fields of corn flanked our path, broken up by fields of hay that had been mowed and baled into big, round bundles that looked like spools of thread tossed around the landscape. Luke was at the wheel and when we passed by the occasional pickup truck coming our way, the driver would lift a hand off the wheel in our direction. "Why is everyone waving at me?" asked Luke. It's what they do in the country, was my guess. He soon had the lazy hand wave down, signaling back.
We found the northern route through Kansas to be quite beautiful. Unlike the route along I-70, which is flat and rather unremarkable, U.S. 36 offers views of gently rolling hills, farmhouses with wrap-around porches, the occasional livestock, but mostly fields upon fields of corn, wheat and hay. A portion of the highway follows the old Pony Express trail. A cutout silhouetted Pony Express rider placed on top of a hill was fodder for the imagination and we wondered what it would have been like to ride through the state on horseback, Pawnee Indians at every turn. Okay, I was wondering -- aloud -- until I turned and looked at the kids, plugged into I-pods and DVD player, not hearing a word of my colorful musings and descriptions.
We drove through the little town of Norton, and like several other towns, the streets were paved with brick, the houses and yards neat as a pin. The town seemed to breathe in Sunday morning. It was very quiet, save for the crowd dispersing from the local church.
As we came to the eastern part of the state, the landscape slowly began to change with more trees and vegetation. It's funny that the kids noticed, on our first stop in Kansas (St. Francis) when we got out of the car, that the "air feels heavy." I guess we're so used to the dryer, mile high climate of Colorado.
Tomorrow morning, we'll spend some time exploring St. Joseph, the starting point for the Pony Express trail that weaved its way all the way to Sacramento. Although its chapter in history has become legendary, the Pony Express lasted only 18 months. St. Joseph was the starting point for more travelers to California gold towns than any other city, and its rather gloomy claim to fame is that it was the place Jesse James was shot and killed. The bullet hole still remains in the house that is now a museum. Not sure if we'll make it there or not!
The kids are taking their second dip of the evening in the hotel pool. We ordered pizza for supper and it feels good to have our feet on the ground. I'm sure everyone will sleep well tonight.