Day 3: We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, or Darn, States Are Big!

A grain elevator in Tribune, Kansas. Photo: Ed Williams

Today’s post is a bit disjointed. It’s far too late for me to weave it into a cohesive narrative, however, so here it is. =)

The awesome flatness of Kansas. Photo: Jenny Williams

I think when you plan a trip for so long, you feel like you’ve already taken it, and then the trip becomes about everyone else instead, even though you are the one who wanted to go in the first place. It’s like you are a tour guide, even if you’ve never actually been there, either. But if you try to experience it as an unknown, like everyone else in the party gets to, the lack of planning tends to catch up with you. You can’t win.

But on we go. We woke up to the lovely smell of cow manure, the sound of bird song, a blue sky, and green trees. Then, after saying goodbye to the lovely Liu family, we drove along the flat land of western Kansas. It was a whole lot of nothing, and was flat and beautiful. I enjoyed it. It also helped that the Kansas back roads are in really excellent condition. Thanks, Kansas!

The Phillipsburg, Kansas, courthouse.

By driving on the back roads of Kansas today for half of our driving, I definitely saw a different subset of drivers. Instead of the usual army caravans and motorcycle gangs, I saw semis carrying gigantic unidentifiable farm equipment.

And I realized today that I always think of more things to write when I’m driving than when I am otherwise occupied. All there is in rural Kansas on these little roads are just land… and a road. It’s a nice change, and I really love seeing the landscape change so gradually across the country. It also allowed me to me alone with my thoughts, many of which I wrote down.

A Stop in Phillipsburg: There is something about small towns. Kansas is filled with tiny towns that barely have a school. But then you find a small town like Phillipsburg, Kansas, with a town square much like that of my town of Prescott, Arizona. Except smaller. Prescott Lite. Combined with good weather, my (non-existent) soul felt refreshed after a short walk around the place.

The clock tower of the Courthouse. Note the cable all ready for a convenient lightning strike.

My biggest triumph today was being the first person to spot a bus barn. What’s a bus barn you ask? Well, it is what we call the place where all the school buses are parked when they aren’t being driven around. Ever since my older child was young, we played little games in the car, spotting school buses, police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks. If you were the first to spot a bus barn, you got a bonus, not that we kept score. It’s always an extra bonus if you spot one somewhere other than where you live. So in Phillipsburg, far from home, I spotted the bus barn. Go me.

An interesting fact: We were less than 50 miles from the geographic center of the contiguous United States today. If we hadn’t had such a long drive, and we had known about it ahead of time so as to alter our route, we could have gone and probably take a photo of a marker or something.

Our quirky castle-ish hotel. Note the turret, flags, and strange Louvre-ish glass thing.

Another interesting fact: The stoplights seem to still be the on-their-side kind in Nebraska. Not good for the color blind.

We did make some wrong turns, or had missed turns, today because of the faulty directions on the TripTik. But we found our way by using the old fashioned method: the road atlas. Flat states tend to have roads laid out like a grid, so finding an alternate route was cake. We still made it in about 11 hours. But because from yesterday evening until halfway through today’s driving we were nowhere near an interstate, my cell phone service was pretty nonexistent, to the point where two text messages came through this afternoon that had been sent to me two days ago.

Koi in the moat under the drawbridge leading to the hotel check in lobby.

The winds were blowing so strongly today in Iowa that the long wild grasses were blowing around and they looked like plasma. It was quite a sight. And being somewhere green and occasionally rainy and so not Arizona or the west takes me back in time. I have lived in several places before that had such temperature extremes, rain, grass, and trees, but it has been a while. So I am instantly young again when I am surrounded by this kind of nature. For all but about 7 1/2 years of my first 25 years of life, I lived east of the Mississippi. Since then, it’s been all wide open or mountainous spaces.

So much so that I got excited when we finally saw a real river! (Several, actually.) Not the pretend kind that we have in Arizona (the kind that is dirt unless you’re having monsoons), but one with water and everything!

We even ate Fig Newtons as we drove through Newton, Iowa. We sure know how to live it up.

Captions of photos I didn’t take today:
A little dilapidated house on the prairie.
The oil fields of Kansas.
The great windmills of Iowa. (They were so close, and watching them turn with such slow but magnificent power made me want to read more science fiction books.)

Drove: 700 miles

States: Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa

Weather: Though windy much of the day, it was fantastic in the morning, and rainy/drizzly in the evening.

Kids: Angels again. Despite being really bored in the car, they were really good. They slept a lot and mostly quietly played the rest of the time.

Best Parts of the Day: The scenery. People may think completely flat land is boring, but when you live among mountains, it’s a marvel. Also, the surprise apple-y cake-y goodness breakfast by Robyn Liu.

Worst Parts of the Day: Not having had enough sleep for the umteenth night in a row. Tonight will be no different.

Songs Going Through My Head: It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Lola (The Kinks)

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About Jenny Bristol

Jenny Bristol is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, playing board games, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.
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2 Responses to Day 3: We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, or Darn, States Are Big!

  1. Peggy Bair says:

    Jenny – I love reading this stuff!! Love – MOM

  2. Wilhelmena Haynes says:

    Here’s another “game” to play in the plains states. When you see a grain elevator way ahead on the road, have everyone guess (to the tenth of a mile) how far away it is!!

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