n About time to head home. I am at the bottom of the circle I’ve been driving the past ten days. Time to point the car north in the morning, that is if I can make it safely through Denver traffic. I will be looking forward to driving the wide open spaces of Wyoming and Montana today. Once I can get on I25 in Denver I think I can get out of the city and make it to Cheyenne, my next stop, but yikes! the traffic.
I do enjoy these driving trips. My windshield time is precious to me, except when the windshield has a crack from a rock that hit it somewhere on the North Dakota-South Dakota border and now I am thinking about my insurance deductible. When I left Sioux Falls I headed south to Yankton SD and then into Nebraska. I was on two lane highway the whole way to Grand Island where I joined the interstate and drove on to Kearney, Nebraska. The land through Nebraska is farm country, lots of it. Small rural towns with convenience store gas stations on the edge of town and grain silos everywhere. Spring had already come to the area and the trees were all turning a fuzzy, lime green. Someone was selling fresh asparagus by the side of the road. It started to rain the further south I traveled, the edge of the big snow storm that hit Denver over the week end, but I didn’t have any problems.
Traveling I was reminded of the Great Plains serving as an incubator of notables. In North Dakota I drove through Strausburg, the home of Lawrence Welk. I can remember watching my Grandparents dance a waltz to his music in their parlor at the ranch. Then in Norfolk, Nebraska, I saw a sign that pointed out Johnny Carson’s home. He grew up in Norfolk and graduated from high school there. He was one of the first big late night talk show hosts all the country watched. When I got to Ft. Morgan, Colorado, I learned it was the home of Glenn Miller the Big Band musician who was a favorite of my Dad’s generation. I remember listening to Glenn Miller music all the time I was growing up.
Entering Colorado was rainy, but the land was pretty dry and pretty open. More cowboy country than farming country. Ft. Morgan had acres of irrigated sugar beets right up to the edge of town and a big GW sugar refinery. They also had a Cargill plant I could smell. Sioux Falls has a Morrill packing facility and the smell from that was not pleasant to say the least. But I guess a person would say it all smells like money.
When I was in Sioux Falls my cousin took me past Augustana University where my mother went to school. On the grounds of the university they have relocated the cabin Ole Rolvaag built in Minnesota and where he wrote Giants in the Earth, a classic American immigration novel. That book is pivotal literature in the Great Plains, like Stegner’s Beyond the hundredth meridian. Wonderful reading.
I know airplanes are necessary to get there from here and there are many times you don’t have time to take the slower, scenic route, but it seems to me that is what trips and/or vacations are all about. Visiting those tucked away spots that millions of people call home. Quiet, out of the way places where after church on Sundays people go to the Dairy Queen for dinner, and the place is packed with young and old. Where the young boys hold open a door for a grey haired lady from Montana.
I’ve still got a little ground to cover and I look forward to the adventure.