Smiles Horses thudding along the old Pony Express from Socorro. Northward I roll to happy honking horns and wide Kansas smiles. Inching my velocity up to the speed limit, a Man Of Purpose, intent on beating dusk. To the joy of traffic backed up behind me. But there was so much to see! Miles and miles of prairie, cattle, wheat, everything!
Monarch Highway Motoring southward, I recall grasslands preserved for butterflies and the generous Kansas rest stop welcome, “Camping Permitted”. This would be a rare planned stop amid our freewheeling northward meander in search of “what was”. Road & wind are our only influences. Stretching out for sleep fits in there as well.
The horizon has yanked itself up above the sun but the birds don’t know it yet. With plenty of light, we roll to a far spot, change into night duds (jeans, fleece top, bandana), and off to a soft spot under the trees. Only a couple of rough blankets and a cushion, but it is heaven! Dozing off to darkening skies, birds chirping … fading … fading … And wake up at first light, a solid unbroken eight hours of sleep! Far better than any motel room, and 100% cheaper! Where’s the tip jar? We owe nature a fat one for lulling us with her perfect Kansas breezes!
The sun rises faster Barely an hour into our morning I notice the Missouri sun seems awfully high in the sky. Time zones aside, surrounded by farmland, I can see why a farmer gets up so early. It is work from sun-up until sun-down; gotta leverage every minute.
The sun also reminds me of another issue: hunger and thirst. Sweet Springs is the first exit after I think of caffeine, so we take it. Eschewing service station coffee, we delve southward and find Downtown. Wow! Jackpot! Sweet Springs, platted in 1838. We park by the Old City Hall c.1891 and smell food. Right up the block, a business for all occasions. The de facto City Hall, maybe? 🙂
Sausage, milk, flour, butter Sausage gravy on biscuits made from scratch every day is a favorite, Parrish tells me. A perfect start. Last Chance Saloon is regular stop from here on out!
Individual Time Grudgingly we re-enter the Interstate. Missouri rolls by. Windows down, crops and soil smell familiar. Long walks amid barns and fields as a kid. Driving Down The Highway. Without radio, plenty of time to think. New ideas. Hmmmmm Individual time: I decide when I want it to be 5am, Noon, 9pm, whatever. My clock is my own and computers figure out how to mesh my life with the world. New songs. New plans for new trips. Missouri farmland smells like childhood. Innocence. Imagination.
OUR WORK DONE, THE 6′ X 12′ U-Haul trailer safely delivered, unloaded, and returned, the American Road Trip continues northward, a streak of joyous abandon. No timetable, almost. Pick a road, any road. The plan? End up in Montana to visit a dying friend. A thousand miles of choices. I decided on less traveled US-89 for scenic beauty and history. Sometimes called the National Park Highway, U.S. 89 links seven national parks across the Mountain West.
I roll into Gardiner MT in a few days to Pete’s small ’30s bungalow tucked against Yellowstone. Found my friend almost blind and eating discount TV dinners but still defiant. No radio or TV, house not cleaned since his stroke 4 years ago. Naturally, I stayed in the extra room. What’s a little dirt among bachelors?
We consume mass quantities, like old times. A ’40s Victrola and a stack of wax from the ’20s thru ’50s made our reunion a party. No wimmin, and he was couch-bound, so I danced with the dog between cranking the Victrola or strumming the guitar. The 1930’s home was rocking to 1930’s music from a period Victrola. The memory will forever bring a tear to my eye.
Leave two days later over the Bear Tooth Highway at 7am; snow and clouds encountered but the view was tremendous. Tremendous! Bear Tooth Highway closes for the year on October 15th at the latest. Bet they close early this year.
AMERICA IS NOT LACKING highway to drive. Anyone want to throw a bag of clothes and the dog in a car? You can motor any direction for a few days. One of my favorite trips takes one through Missouri along I-44, to O.K.C., and west as far as you want to go.
Recently I helped a friend relocate, and made the trip twice in one week. The second trip, pulling 4200 pounds, was at 55 mph. Truly the speed of exploration. Empty highway, rain clouds on the horizon, windows down, what could be better for relaxation and reflection?
Along my leisurely way, following the sage advice of billboards, I sampled some of the local fare. And managed to gather information for a new blog, AmericanLunchbox, soon to go online. Barbecue from two states on two consecutive meals! Yummmmm!!!! Ain’t America great?