…from my thinnin’-hair head to the bottom of my gas-pedal shoes. Though I dread the impersonal, thundering girth of a road like I-70, I also appreciate its value, not only for connecting people and cities and states, but also for reminding me of how big this country actually is.
One of my favorite parts of I-70’s 2,173-mile (3,520 km) drive has to be the mileage sign one sees from the Westbound lane after the highway’s origin in Baltimore. “Denver 1700,” it says. Always made me want to say, “It’s 1700 miles to Denver, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.” Never did though.
Hood Ornament Buddha pulls us forward, through rain and shine and rain again, and Glove Compartment 4-Leaf Clover protects us from harm and the law (we get pulled over for speeding once, but the rosy-cheeked teenage cop with a big ‘ole bullet of dip in his maw decides to let us go with a warning: “Watch out for deer up by Vernon”).
I couldn’t tell you a thing about Illinois or Missouri, which we passed without incident, and Kansas just goes on forever, its signs promising a dizzying number of esoteric museums (motorcycle museum, greyhound museum, pioneer museum, rattlesnake museum, Eisenhower museum, and my favorite, the Kansas Czech museum). There are exits for the world’s largest prairie dog, its first helicopter, a live 6-legged steer, and the “boyhood homes” of several senators and astronauts. Finally, Kansas informs us that beef is for dinner, abortion stops a beating heart, and there is only one way to heaven.
Kansas goes on and on, and for most of it we are either slashed by driving rain, horizontal prairie winds, and a spiralling, dark sky, not unlike the black clouds of Mordor, Land of Shadow. It’s that nasty.
Eventually, we pass from underneath the storm and the sun comes out, as it always does. And it goes down. In front of us, and we chase it home.