On the Road to Colorado, Day 2

Quote of the Day: “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

Iowa—

America, husked

beneath wide skies.

Morning began early, to the sounds of two Hispanic maids quarreling in the parking lot. Oh dears. Nonetheless, it woke me in time for a good shower and the most important meal of the day: breakfast! Even if said breakfast consisted largely of Cheerios. I might have partaken also of the inn’s crescent rolls but they looked distinctly…more brown and less crescent-y than I would have hoped.

Regardless, breakfast provided the opportunity to meet my fellow guests—an asian couple that quickly departed, a pair of Israeli backpackers (who insisted to me that coffee is the greatest proof of God…alright, I’ll roll with it), and a young Native American family headed to Chicago (and yes, if you’ll note, that means one of these groups snuck in when I wasn’t looking during the night…thus ruining all that cozy space I had! I mean…THREE people in a hotel besides me? Madness. Two is just right.)

But after that breakfast of kings, it was back to the road…

Today’s journey began in Des Moines, Iowa. From there, I traveled 402 miles in 5 ½ hours (Tom Tom and Google both told me it would take 6 ½ – once again, technology is thoroughly walloped by my likely lead foot).

Iowa: There wasn’t a terribly large amount more to see. Lots of Windmills. Some of the flat gave way to trees and hills as rivers loomed. I-80 wound into a riverside city, to become one of the busiest and most congested bits of real estate I’ve seen since the highway through Chicago.  A bridge formed the border (thankfully toll-less) between Iowa and its neighbor, one city flowing effortlessly into another, and Omaha forming the welcoming party on the other side.

To Sum: Nebraska.

Nebraska:

  1. Initial thoughts: wow, look at all the green and the hilly nature of this place…maybe it won’t be at all as people described…
  2. Quickly followed by: Oh God. It flattened. Where did variation go? Where is height? I can see for miles…
  3. Which in turn made me miss and better appreciate the cloudy skies of yesterday. Though I was never hit by any real rain, the wide open spaces, and the stormy nature of the sky allowed me to see great variations in level, character, and color in the sunset-speckled clouds. Today, there was just open blue. The end result was a surge of boredom as everything blended into one another. Blue and flat green…that was my road.
  4. Along the way, I did see  that even here comes the occasional spurt of originality, in the form of a T-Rex Scarecrow guarding a Nebraska Corn Field. And this sucker was a good story tall. Rawr, indeed.
  5. On a whim, I decided to re-engage the radio. 94.1, I discovered, had surrendered itself to a bizarre mix of Katy Perry Pop and Will Smith Hippity Hoppin’. It was amusing, for a while. Then the pop saturated my soul too deeply and had to be expunged.
  6. As bad as that could be, though, what was worse was the lack of gas stations. There were numerous villages along the highway, yet many of them had a motel or dining establishments…but no gas stations. Where do these people get gas? Worse, on hitting central Nebraska, a grievous switcharoo transpires…
  7. The heartlands.

    Unleaded is now “Super” Unleaded. It costs 20 cents more than the unleaded many of you know and love. Unleaded has ethanol in it now, and to boot, I can get real ethanol, which they seem to be encouraging…but it’s all just there to screw with my head I think. Ah, corn country.

  8. By this point, the radio descends into either Radio Static or Country. Neither is optimal for sanity.
  9. Sign of the day: A bumper sticker reading: “honk for my beaver.” This Minnesota man – yes, it was a man, and his plate said Minnesota – is clearly a strange sort.
  10. North Platte looms, and with it, apparently, parks dedicated to Buffalo Bill. Also a fort. And my latest inn…

Quality Inn Bedroom...

North Platte, Nebraska. It has a gorgeous river view, I’ll give it that. Beyond, I would not recommend it to any of you travelers out there. If you do head that way, though, I would recommend somewhere other than the Quality Inn. The wi-fi is shoddy, the view and the room itself are obviously…both less efficient than my previous lodging was. Still, the rooms do come with both a fridge and a microwave, so that’s something at least.

Next stop? The final leg of the trip—on to Golden, Colorado.

Another night, another room view - they're gonna spoil me with these sights, aren't they?

On the Road to Colorado, Day 1

Quote of the Day: “A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” ~ Moslih Eddin Saadi

Rockford, MI

This week the Den is taking a bit of a twist in functionality as all words are twisted into my strange version of a travel log. That’s right, the day has come at last, and I have hit the road for the mountains of Colorado! Presently, I’m actually writing this to you from a nice little hotel in beautiful downtown…Des Moines, Iowa.

I hope you enjoy the peek into my mind and into my little road adventure, but to those of you coming here for poetry…I do hope you’ll forgive me for stepping out for a week or so! Promise I’ll have poems again once this little poet’s all settled in…

Now then, what was there to see? Well, let us reflect…

Today’s journey began in Rockford, Michigan. Hurrah for suburbanite America in all its glory. From there, I traveled 514 miles in 7 ½ hours (Tom Tom and Google both told me it would take 8 ½ – take that technology!). Along the way:

Hour 1: Morale is high, even when 94.1 abruptly changes from its alternative goodness to a firebrand evangelist preacher. Fearing that the Wells Hall preacher from MSU has tracked me down somehow, I quickly turn to 97.9 and don’t look back. Also, something in my back seat is squeaking. A lot. Madness.

Hour 2: 97.9 Turns to country. Twang twang. Scenery is pretty as the squeaking ceases. Sanity stabilizes with the emergence of the i-Pod. All is well.

Indiana: Oh hi Indi—oh? That was Indiana? But I didn’t even…well, that’s gone, I suppose.

Chicago: Chi-town. The windy city. The—OH GOD DID THAT GUY’S HUB CAP JUST BURST OFF ON THE HIGHWAY!? Fortunately, no one is harmed in the resulting evasive swerving of cars. 97.9 has returned from the dead as some sort of classic rock station. I hesitantly listen on. First toll booth—despite slow traffic at points, it’s probably the quickest trip I’ve taken through or around Chicago.

Illinois: Corn. Corn. Hill! Corn. Also a lot of semis. However I did see our…

Sign of the Day: Actually, this one was graffiti, but nonetheless…on a bridge somewhere outside of Chicago read the words, “Jesu rock around yo soul.” Given the prevalence of “He is coming soon!” signs elsewhere in this state, I do hope he shall wield better grammar than his heralds.

And it's all for little ol' me...

Iowa:
1. The great old Mississippi River! (By the way, the Mississippi River actually took me a count of 28 Mississippis to cross. Tsk tsk, false advertising.)
2. Now, I won’t deny it, after that, there was lots of corn, and a lot of flat…expanse. Regardless, I must say any time I’ve seen a river in this state, breathtakingly beautiful scenery has surrounded it. Vibrant trees, hilly dips, flowers, verdant everything…and then of course, more corn.
3. By God. The biggest truck stop in the country!—and all I can think is…Damn, look at all those trucks. Also of note: they did not have the lowest gas price in the state. Don’t give in just because it’s big!
4. Give me curves in the road. A bridge. Anything. BREAK THE MONOTONY.
5. Oh dear, glad I’m not going the other way. That is a semi. Those are a lot of ambulances and cops. And that…oh, that’s an emergency helicopter there to airlift someone out. Eek. Traffic on that side of the road? Backed up 5 miles. Everyone’s out of their cars taking pictures. I don’t fiddle with cameras while driving, so tough noogies to you readers.
6. Des Moines! First thing I notice…factories. Smoke. And an interesting array of clouds that lead me steadily to…

Best Western! See my hotel room? And that’s all for me, because they don’t really vary in their room types.

Best part? I’m apparently one of only three, yes, THREE guests in the entire hotel right now. In the words of the desk manager: “So, you know…don’t get too rowdy, or something.”

Rock on, good sir. Rock on. And right adjacent to my hotel? A gas station, a Cracker Barrel, and a Mexican place. (On which note I must say, Los Tres Amigos, you have been proven woefully deficient. While you charge $9 for your combos, and $2 for your drinks, EL RODEO charged a mere $7 for its combos, and $1 for unlimited refill drinks! I have seen your inferiority exposed!)

And thus ends, day one. Tomorrow? Nebraska. I must store up my courage tonight.

View from my window. What, you thought I was staying IN La Quinta? Goodness, note that sign's in the OTHER parking lot, silly.