In Iowa, we sped past infinite hills of corn, the parallel rows lining up with my passenger side window before massing together in the angled distance. The clouds glowed above, giant puffs of white cotton batting that held and shielded the sun. Rare roadside billboards approached slowly, advertising simply: “BEEF” and “Forgiveness.”
In Nebraska, the rolling hills sank and the land fell flat. We drove and drove, clear across the state, past red painted barns and abandoned homesteads, past turnoff towns with cheerful names like Wahoo and Friend, and of course, past more corn.
Lone birds swooped low over the two lane road. A bright yellow prop plane turned circles in the air. The asphalt glittered a watery mirage at the horizon. We were finally headed west.
I haven’t taken many road trips.
As a child, my mom and I would occasionally drive north from Los Angeles to Oakland to visit my sister. On those trips, we’d memorize the names of the small towns along the way – Coalinga, Santa Nella, Los Banos, Tracy — and sang Al Green out loud to pass time between the windmills and the cattle farms. These trips weren’t long, but they made an impression. They taught me to love the blur of the crops on either side of the car, the reflection of the afternoon sun on the dashboard, the lulls and the laughter.
This past spring, my boyfriend and I took a trip downstate, and it whet our appetite for longer adventures. A passing wonder for the summer – what if we roadtripped and camped across Colorado? — turned into a goal. And fast forward to July, that goal became an actual plan. We’d arranged our schedules and crunched through our task lists until there was nothing left to do but go. So that’s what we did.
One hour became four, four stretched out to eight, and eight turned into sixteen. The cruise control got dialed in and the long haul truckers shrank to toy car size in our rear view mirror. After two days of driving through the plains, finally spotting the mountains that hug the western edge of Fort Collins felt like finding an oasis in the desert. Beside the highway, waist high sunflowers sprang up from the dusty soil – proof that we had arrived in Colorado.
The engine pushed on, and we held onto every radio station for as long as we could before it faded into the haze. We had made it out west, and there was still so much farther to go.