Well, we finally did it: Jim and I took off for that road trip/vacation we've been mentioning to each other for awhile. Wow! If I'd known just what a wonderful 11 days we were going to experience, I would have nagged Jim more often about it over the years.
First of all, the weather graciously blessed us every single day. Moderate temps, cool breezes (okay, sometimes they’d lift your hair straight up), and no downpours obliterating the highway. Just lazy cotton-ball clouds moving slowly across an incredibly blue canopy stretched over us as far as we could see. And speaking of those endless horizons, I had been afraid that Kansas would be boring from the comments of others. Not! Some of the most beautiful skies we enjoyed during our trip were in this state. It's a wonder we didn't wreck, craning our necks so as not to miss one single bit of it. Things at ground level were just as eye-easy: circular fields (hadn’t seen round ones before), some planted in sun-hued wheat, others in green milo (or barley?) with trees in semi-circles around the plantings, seeming to stand guard. Here and there cattle dotted meadows and ponds played with the wind. We couldn’t believe the highway was so vacant; we had it all to ourselves much of the time, producing the narcissistic feeling that this beauty was solely ours!
And then it began. Mountains rising majestically high, silently being, reminded us of the newness of everything else, including ourselves. Why do mountains look wise? Maybe they don’t to anyone else – just to me, with the fanciful imagination. The incredible mounds took center stage at first sight and did not relinquish that position for the next several days. They ringed us ever so long, seeming to move farther away as we drove. Would we never get to them?! Finally, the black, gray, and brown rocky crags and peaks leaned down upon us, taking our breath with their hugeness. We felt diminished, awe-struck, breathless, and humbled before their Maker. In fact that feeling was so strong at one point during our trip that I wrote this in my travel journal:
The mountains … look like old men's faces, leathery and brown, leaning over to gaze at us as we pass by. Do they wonder who we are? Do they wonder if we know the One who made them? Yes, majestic ones, we do.
This article would never end if I told about everything, so here are some snippets and fragments of our journey west: ghostly white, other-worldly windmills clustered together on Kansas prairies – seemingly so out of place; the older lady cashier in financially–depressed Limon, CO, who told us a Readers Digest version of her and her husband’s struggle to raise eight children; the Easter-egg-colored little houses in Idaho Spring, CO, each short street layered higher than the one below, as if on bleachers because of the mountainous terrain. Hair standing on end as the GPS stupidly routed us up a steep, twisty, one-lane logging road –Jim’s hair didn’t recover for the rest of the day.
The names we saw here and there: Gold Diggers High School, Gamble Gulch Rd., Old Stagecoach Trail, Lump Gulch Rd., Phantom Lake, (nothing there!), Wolf Crossing, Knife River, Yellow Bird’s Cafe. A loud-mouthed, lippy crow caught our camera, demanding food from us. A bison ambled inches from our car window, never letting on that he knew we existed. Seeing people and cars clustered on the side of the highway, we stopped and caught the back of a black bear as he or she gobbled berries from a tree. Slipping and sliding down the nearly vertical path to Crawfish Creek to watch kids splashing at the base of the pounding, sparkling waterfall, wishing I could jump in too. Old Faithful burping, sputtering, then spraying; a fat, sleek mama elk munching grass on a church’s lawn (in the middle of town!), stopping for a potty break at a roadside rest stop and reading this sign on the door: Please close the door behind you – snow gets in the restroom.
Open-range cows – loose stock – which we figured might be lunch or supper for a grizzly; presidents’ faces released from the mountain, perpetually staring across rocky terrain (did I hear George ask, Where’s Cary?). Wounded Knee, SD. - desolate, wind-swept grave yard, with two teen boys, a mother and her little girl hopefully displaying trinkets for sale, but then the young men proudly showing us the sign of a warrior with upraised fists as the camera clicked. We drove away with sad hearts.
The trip began to wind down as we crossed into Missouri, sans mountains, and wondered at a sign proclaiming, The St. Joseph Skeptic Society. I decided it had been erected because the members had experienced the local Days Inn and their promise of a pleasant night.
I will carry this trip in my heart forever. Thank You, Lord, for intensifying my wonder and amazement of You, and Your marvelous, marvelous creation.