A Long, Flat Way

October 20, Lincoln, NE

I used to think of Iowa as flat. That was before I saw Nebraska. Our introduction to the state came when we crossed the border from Iowa on I-80 and the roads immediately became much worse. We didn’t think much about it–Iowa roads had been decidedly better than Illinois or Ohio to the East. The state, I had always thought, had its act together, for instance with higher literacy rates than those around it. Then again, maybe it was the cleverness of making sure Iowa always held the first caucuses of
election season that gave it national attention, brought in national money, and made things generally better.

Past Omaha, the roads got marginally better, although we became used to rolling through construction areas every five miles or so. And each lasted about four miles. At the end, there’d be a sign saying that whatever construction company was responsible for the mess “thanks” you. And then, a mile later, it would start all over again.

We spent a night at a campground in Lincoln and then had breakfast the next day with our friend Mark Miller, his daughter, and 15-month-old granddaughter. And it was out on the road again. Mark had directed us to a wildlife area on the Platte River where huge crowds of migrating cranes rested on their way through at the end of October. Alas, while we are traveling too late in most other respects–too late for the itinerary we originally planned, too late to visit national parks–we were too early for the cranes. We took a pretty walk by the lush river and got on or way.

Endless corn gave way to giant ranches and the occasional feedlot as we progressed west. And finally, as we crossed into Colorado, we began seeing windmills, mile after mile of them. Wind had buffeted us all the way across Nebraska, but, at least from the Interstate, the only windmills to be seen were the old-fashioned well pump kind made only for supplying cattle with water. Too red a state for that danged alternative energy? We couldn’t figure it out.

We drove on through. And finally made it to Denver.

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