Road trips are a good way to change one's perspective. Flying is fast, efficient. But there's something to be said for interacting with the world one lives in. Driving, walking, riding a bike or motorcyle all over more chance for that interaction.
Let's head west from Michigan.
Saturday, March 6
The day began cold, frosty but sunny. The snow, softened by Friday’s sun had refrozen and was bright, white with the morning sun.
It was to be a travel day for us, south to southern Illinois to meet a daughter and son-in-law. Birds were singing as we packed. Sunglasses were required. The birdfeeders filled, house shutdown, the Saturday morning Ludington Daily News grabbed out of the delivery tube, and off we went.
The creep of the coming of spring was easy to see heading south. Even on the U.S. 31 freeway heading south out of Ludington, it wasn’t long before farm fields popped through the snow cover. South-facing hillsides, east and west facing highway banks that captured sun, were brown with the grasses left over from the previous fall.
Winter is losing its grip.
By the time we hit the Indiana-Michigan state line there was little snow on the ground. I-94 and I-80 west were ribbons of pavement through dusty brown fields in need of a rain to freshen them up.
Turning south in Illinois on highway 55, was a drive through farm fields awaiting the spring rains, some drying and the return of farm plows and planters. In some places combines sat near fields of corn not harvested before winter.
The only snow were remnant drifts at the edge of ditches, like left over frosting from a birthday cake consumed except for crumbs.
Sunday, March 7
Aside from the warmth of southern Illinois outside of St. Lois, the notable thing was the amount of robins and robin songs. They were everywhere and they appeared to be seeking nesting spots.
After a long winter in Michigan, to walk in shirtsleeves – 56 degrees feels warm after months of sub-freezing temperatures – it was the lack of snow and the song of the robins that were so notable early this morning.
The other bird we’ve been noticing on this trip is the hawk. Hawks by the score are sitting in trees, fence posts, wires and even once atop a streetlight watching fields, looking for food. Often they soar low across the fields, rising to cross the freeway.
It’s a site we don’t often see played out in this manner in Ludington. Too many trees, too much snow at home. The hawks we see there tend to circle high above openings in the forest, calling their hunting call, hoping to either scare an animal into the open or perhaps freeze one. They swoop down low when something interests them.
In farm country, they often wing just above the grass, hovering over sites of interest.
They’re a lot more fun to look at than billboards.
Of history and the chaining of America
Monday, March 8
Eastbound on I70 through Kansas today after driving across Missouri Sunday heading to Colorado to visit another daughter and son-in-law, the miles of prairie give one pause to think of how vast this nation in. After spending the night in Hays, Kansas, where FortHays once was important in the westward advance of a once-young nation wresting it from the people who lived there – heroic or otherwise, you can decide. But it is a town that once hosted figures such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Gen. George Armstrong Custer and Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickcok – names from the Old West, though that meant Kansas then.
We have a habit of pulling off the freeways where one sees only one side of America. We often sidetrip down back roads or old cross-country routes to take a look at something other than chain restaurants, chain motels, and gas stations that pretty much look the same all across the country. We have chained ourselves out of what once made traveling so much fun: Different cuisines, different practices, different looks that the old ma-and-pa restaurants, motels, stores and service providers once offered.
We have gained consistency, and lost personality and uniqueness of place. Too few of us care about this loss.
At any rate, after one such side trip, at first initiated by storm clouds building black and menacing to the west while the late- morning sun still shone on barns, silos and grain elevators turning them into towers of brilliant white against a threatening landscape, we headed down a backroad, now in Colorado towards Colorado Springs. And the rains let loose. Gray clouds descended. The drama of the approaching storm was drowned in gray. The elevation had been steadily rising, and with it and the passing weather front, the temperatures was falling. Snow mixed with the rain.
The mountains we know we should be seeing were veiled from us.
It wasn’t until we were in Colorado Springs, heading north to the Denver area that they finally broke through. The spring rain of the plains was a cold mountain rain, not hard, just chilly.
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Rocky Mountain National Park
Road trip /Denver
Denver sits at the edge of the Front Range, about an hour from the mountains which dominate the skyline to the west.
Denver is a couple hours to RockyMountainNational Park and the entire splendor that represents. There are great vistas, lots of animals, wonderful skies and clouds, and beautiful mountain lakes and streams.
Denver is a modern city with an enjoyable downtown, great parks, more shopping than you can shake a waiting-to-be-used credit card at and dining options to suit every palate.
Don’t overlook the museums, either. Denver is home to historical museums, art museums and of interest to me a museum of natural history and science.
There one can find beautiful dioramas and exhibits explaining the natural world – flora, fauna, geology and more – of Colorado and beyond. There’s an interesting exhibit of Native American cultures, too, worth a look.
There’s more – an IMAX theater, a planetarium and a 320-acre park adjoining it with two lakes. The smaller lake – DuckLake – hosts a nesting colony of double crested cormorants. And the park, at least on the day we visited, had more Canada geese than athletes, walkers and other human users though that might change on a summer’s day.
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