5 July 2004
Plain but not simple
Colby, Kansas 423.7 miles
When George Nigh was Governor of Oklahoma, he envisioned a Northwest Passage, a road that would carry people from the capital all the way into the Panhandle. The question of whether anyone actually wanted to go to the Panhandle for some reason never came up.
But unwilling to do the usual I-35/I-70 two-step on the way into Kansas, I decided to see just what sort of road we wound up with, and it's actually not so bad, though it's a bit confusing when two or three US routes (plus Oklahoma 3, which was the original northwest-to-southeast route) are signed on the same darn road. There's lots of time to think about it, though, because there aren't any distractions by the side of the road. Cattle, crops, more cattle, the occasional natural-gas pipeline this is it through the rolling hills of the High Plains. Until, of course, you get to Kansas and they stop rolling.
Some might consider this landscape sort of bleak, its colors muted almost to greyscale, the sort of Kansas that Dorothy Gale wanted to escape. And indeed, this is where you'll find Dorothy's house, in the grimy industrial burg of Liberal.
And as a city slicker, sort of, and in the absence of Star Trek-style replicators, it's useful for me to remember that if it weren't for people working in those fields, I wouldn't get dinner tonight. It will be a long time before places like this look suburban, and the transition won't be a smooth one; the Burger King in Woodward, Oklahoma sits literally in the shadow of a grain elevator.
Bumper sticker on an 18-wheeler near Watonga, Oklahoma: I WANT TO BE LIKE BARBIE. THAT BITCH HAS EVERYTHING.
And as I passed Poky Feeders in Scott City, Kansas, I admit it: I yelled "Eat, dammit, eat!"