Monday, July 17, 2006

Crossing Kansas


When people heard I was going to drive cross-country, they kept telling me “Wait until you hit Kansas.” Kansas is a long skinny state that is 430 miles end to end, so I knew we had a long drive across, but I was led to expect to be able to tie a brick to the steering wheel and take a nap.

I get my working definition of flat and straight from driving Florida’s State Road 60 between Brandon and Yeehaw Junction. This road is mostly a two-lane ribbon of concrete. Kansas in the eastern half was gentle rolling prairie with lots of cattle grazing land. As it flattened out in the west, it still kept a gentle rhythm. Perhaps people complain because there is not a lot to look at. I found lots of things to see out the window and here are a few of them:

Grain silos. If you grow a lot of grain in your state you need a place to store it.

Really big grain silos. For when the small ones aren’t big enough.

Rusted farm equipment. This picture is a little unfair. There usually wasn’t this much all at once.

Oil rigs. The beaches in Orange County have oil rigs; no reason not to have them in the middle of wheat fields too.

Dirt roads. If the federal government didn’t pave it, Kansas isn’t going to either. You know you are in the sticks when you have to take a dirt road to a Stuckey’s.

And for the record, as far as scenery goes, eastern Colorado should be called western Kansas. Since Kansas, I have determined that the salt flats west of Salt Lake City are the flattest thing I have ever seen. The stretch of I-10 in New Mexico between the border and Dening is about the most desolate stretch of land anywhere. At least the portion of I-80 to Reno has cattle. New Mexico just had tumbleweeds and train tracks.

So I don’t want to hear any more about boring drives. Yes, I do. Tell me what the most boring trip you’ve ever taken was.

17 comments:

Gypsy said...

Driving through west Texas is a nightmare, especially if you are in a moving truck with no CD player trying to tune in a radio station. It's just acres and acres of uninterrupted nothing.

yellojkt said...

West Texas is next. We are going from El Paso to San Antonio today. Fortunately, we have two fully loaded iPods to listen to. Tuning in remote radio stations is too tricky.

Liz said...

My mom and I drove through the Badlands in the middle of summer without air conditioning. I'm still bitter.....

Library Cat said...

And to think I take all these scenic silos and dirt roads for granted. The most boring trip because of repetition was I-35 from KC to Wichita; not actually too bad but after the 10th time endless rolling prairie gets old. I agree with gypsy, West Texas is the worst and around Amarillo is the flattest land I have ever seen.

Impetua said...

Well, it wasn't boring, but I did get E. coli from a bad, bad hamburger in Dawson Creek, BC on our way to Fairbanks. I don't remember much about most of the drive through the Yukon territory, as I spent it hurling and sleeping, alternately. Further, more undignified digestive complaints mercifully did not set in until we actually got to Fairbanks.

Plain Jane said...

I try not to drive long distances... so, uhhhh... wow, I have nothing to contribute... so, uhhhh... hi. :)

Apricoco said...

Hi! Haven't commented here in quite a while so I thought I would de-lurk once again.

I once drove from west to east lengthwise through Texas. Lemme tell you... NOTHING TO SEE... Now, I live in Florida. I know about flat and boring. I know about scenery that doesn't tend to excite. I have driven through over 30 states... and Texas was by FAR the worst. Not only that, but off the highway in almost every other state, you will find semi-decent cheap accomodations. Not in Texas. All cheap-looking, badly southwesternly painted, smoky rooms that look like a hooker had the place the night before. And we went to the Name-brand places. Days Inn, Holiday Inn, etc. So, I don't recommend driving through Texas, EVER.

Anonymous said...

yello, glad you posted. I thought maybe the heat had gotten you (or that your computer was on the fritz). Most boring - I'd have to say Texas too. When we moved from Houston to Seattle, we drove till we were out of Texas - took almost 24 hours, IIRC. I remember nothing about the scenery, except a bit of Amarillo. New Mexico was Shangri La, comparatively. But the Dakotas (except for the Black Hills and the Badlands) and central Idaho are tough too.

mostlylurking

Mooselet said...

As a teen, our French class took a trip from Boston to Quebec - can't remember if it was Montreal or Quebec City at the time as we went to both places different years - in the middle of winter. Dullsville, especially with the overwhelming shades of New England grey.

More recently has been my trip up to North Queensland (Australia). Miles upon miles of sugar cane, dry scrub and distant mountains. 900+ kilometers of it, more or less, with an occassional town thrown in. Egads!

Karen said...

On our big trip around the country (Tulsa-Brownsville-Denver-Chicago-Boston-Key West--but we didn't try to do it in 17 days!) the most memorable Long Stretch was the drive across Iowa. Straight and flat and CORN as far as the eye can see. For some reason all that corn kept making me laugh. Iowa is just so...corny.

When I was a kid, the family drove across Kansas (south to north) with no air conditioning. We all thought we were gonna die, so we stopped at a public swimming pool and revived ourselves for a couple of hours. That was a good idea (thanks, Mom & Dad!).

The drive I have found most boring is Alligator Alley across Florida. Some people like looking at the Everglades, but I prefer corn.

P.S. I checked out Memphis for you last week--nice city. I did a lot of sightseeing but skipped Graceland, so we can trade information when the time comes...

Wickwire said...

I am not a cross country driving kinda person although I have been to places where driving there took forever and there was nothing to sight see. Three car loads of family and friends, we goofed off with the CB radio's. That passed time.
That rusted equipment picture reminded me of the Grindler brothers from that movie "Deliverance"

Harmonica Man said...

Spent WAY too much time in ND in my old band days. I still shudder at the thought of ever having to drive to Minot (brrr).

Claude said...

Hm. I'd have to say the drive east from Colorado to Baltimore in the summer of 2001, only because an emergency meant that my driving partner couldn't stop for anything except fuel and bathroom breaks. We were going to whip past a bunch of things we wanted to stop and see, so it was a total drag.

Kansas we did at night, and there were some pretty cool thunderstorms going on to our south. The bad news was, the radio kept getting interrupted by the Emergency Alert System because of the storms.

The radio geek in me loves tuning in the distant stations at night. Too bad that the Hi-Def radio subcarrier wave is sucking some of the distance off the signals.

Hope you're having fun.

Flyboy said...

Glad to hear that you and the family are still alive and kicking. We leave for our Alaska trip on Friday. No driving for us. Airplane and cruise ship is the only way to go.

dykewife said...

actually, the large concrete grain set up isn't a silo. silos are grain fermentation units used by cattle ranchers and dairy farmers to create high quality feed for their cattle. i'm not sure what the smaller set up is, but it looks too short to be a silo.

the large concrete set up is a grain terminal. the prairies used to have a grain elevator in every town. however, the grain marketing compaines found that they cost more to maintain and built the large terminals. these are used to transfer grain from grain trucks into the large storage units. those units are then emptied into railway grain cars and hauled to mills or to ports for export.

heh...some useless prairie information from a canadian stubble jumper :) i love prairie. some people find it boring, but there's great beauty and sunsets that can't be beat.

Anonymous said...

Once drove cross ways across Nevada on US 50. Saw enough sage brush to last a lifetime. Every 50 -60 milrs the flatness is broken up by a ridge of mountains to cross over. Eat before you start as there is no place for a bite from border to border. The one tiny town perched on the side of a clift is a MAJOR speed trap. 15 MPG with the town cop parked in front of the court house with his radar as you round a blind turn. Luckly for us the towing service at the bottom of the grade as we entered town had a large sandwich board in the driveway "Speed Trap Ahead". bh

Doug said...

When Kansas was a territory Eastern Colorado was part of that territory. Travel E-W you are crossing Kansas on the path's of least resistance. Travel N-S you cross the paths of our streams and, see more variety yet. Most of the real flat land in Kansas is South of the Arkansas River.