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I can hear my audiobook about the moon landings chattering away. The hum of the engine.
The thump-thump of the wheels running over tar bumps in the pavement.
I’ve been on the road for ten hours.
Left from Ohio. Now that I’m in Kansas, the sun is setting.
The light is blinding.
There was a gentle roll to the landscape back in Indiana and then Illinois. Dead grass and green trees on either side of the road.
To be honest, they basically looked the same.
Over the giant metal girder bridge over the Mississippi River into Missouri.
Past green signs for Mark Twain National Forest.
And now hours of Kansas with its eternal tracks of farmland.
Dark lines mark the expanse of earth on either side of the highway.
I’m driving west and sun is setting.
The sun sets for hours on end in Kansas. There’s nothing in its way.
The sun visor is worthless. Sunglasses are useless against the blaze.
End to end, the horizon is all the colors you would see in a fireplace.
A fireplace the size of the sky.
Hurts to look at. Must truck straight into it for just under three hours more.
Though the road is so straight you could probably clamp your eyes, hold the wheel in place and do OK. Or wedge the steering wheel in one position with a folded jacket and nap. Elon Musk, I found you a budget cutter.
But no, you can’t really do that. Gentle corrections must always be made on this road that looks straight as a Roman column.
Squinting through purple-green after images. Watery, sun-tired eyes. Watching for cows.
Squint through the sun till your eyebrows & cheeks cramp up.
Blind. Still driving.
And when I can’t see what Kansas looks like anymore, I notice what it smells like.
Often, cow droppings.
But it is better when I pass a wheat farm.
“In wheat, Kansas can beat the world,” as the quote goes.
The Wheat State, it got named that.
Oceans of blonde wheat on either side of the road.
Why wrestle for originality?
Those, on either side of the road, are the amber waves of grain.
Now America the Beautiful is stuck in my head.
I sing it alone in the car. Keeps me awake.
The wheat farms often have a bakery.
The bakeries fill the whole evening with the aroma of baked bread.
To drive west through Kansas in the evening is to squint through a blinding but beautiful sunset, and smell baked bread.
Hours later, sun tears running down my cheeks, I pull up to the house of a childhood friend.
He was the host of countless penny poker nights & basketball games. Pool parties.
We do tequila shots.
I show off Rhodie, the truck.
Friend compliments the squarish body & old-truck-smell of the ’94 vehicle. It was manufactured in the final years before every vehicle on the road was shaped like a muffin.
It’s a workhorse. A couple new parts & it’s trekking across the nation. Haul supplies to a lodge-building project out in the middle of nowhere.
Friend brings out leftover loaded mac n’ cheese to eat. It’s a blessing.
Craft beers & catching up after.
I’m behind schedule. I’ve got hours left to drive.
Night & morning.
We have a Tex-Mex Kansas breakfast. Hot coffee and burritos loaded with scrambled eggs, bacon, salsa, & guac.
Then I’m on the road again.
To be continued