May 2, 2021

Dateline Grand Island, Nebraska

Grand Island, Nebraska

The headache went away but I still wasn’t feeling great this morning when I headed back down the road. After a few hours, it became clear that my original plan to haul myself all the way to Denver was not the best of ideas as it would require more driving hours than might be good for me and I would rather not fall asleep at the wheel and run off the road if I could avoid it. So, I ticked off the Kansas towns as they went by – Topeka, Junction City, Salina… Looking ahead on I-70 it became pretty clear that by the time I hit the high plains of Western Kansas and Eastern Colorado, there would be a paucity of population centers and Hampton Inns so I turned right at Salina, headed up through Kansas and Nebraska farm land, and stopped early for the night in Grand Island, Nebraska for a nap before dinner and family Zoom night conversation afterwards.

Not much to say about the Prairie. It goes on forever and is very flat. Most of the fields visible from the highway are beige spring stubble giving it all the sepia tone of the Kansas sequences from The Wizard of Oz. I can’t say much about Grand Island other than its the home of the Nebraska State Fair and, was one of the heartland towns that had a terrible Covid outbreak earlier in the pandemic. I’m keeping away from the natives, snuggled up here in my hotel room as it begins to rain, the bolts of lightning vying with the green and red of the Applebee’s sign that dominates my view for the attention of my visual cortex.

I don’t think I’ve got any good stories about driving across the Great Plains. Tommy and I never did it together. Steve and I did it more times than I care to count. Amongst other things, he was a genealogist who kept himself busy tracing all of the Spivey descendants from the three Spivey brothers who originally immigrated to the Ashville, NC area in the 1760s. We would pack up the truck and head out for a couple of weeks in the courthouses of the Midwest and Appalachia looking for clues. He did the driving, I read to him. In later years, when I had routine work in DC, he would come with me and we would rent a car and head south, removing the need to cross the empty quarter of the continent. This was all before GPS and smart phones and there would be any number of fights over the large road Atlas as we tried to figure out the best way to get to some small county seat in Arkansas or Tennessee or Kentucky. During one of these trips, late in the year and I can’t remember where we were going or why, we were driving along I-65 through Kentucky when it began to snow. Steve, having been raised a Southern California boy, had never actually seen snow fall before so we pulled over at the next rest stop so he could caper about and catch snowflakes with his tongue and all of those usual childhood rites of passage that had been denied him until his forties.

More Great Plains tomorrow and then into the Rockies.

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