The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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!"

Posted at 5:33 PM to World Tour '04

I love your dispatches from the Great American Road. (TM) Keep in touch!

Posted by: Dan at 10:31 PM on 5 July 2004

Woohoo! Montana or bust! Call me when you get close enough to plan lunch and/or dinner: 406-xxx-xxxx.

Posted by: david at 2:24 AM on 6 July 2004

Geez, Dave, why don't you just post your phone number on the Internet or something? :)

(I have edited the heavier stuff out, but if someone caught it earlier, well, I can't help you.)

As it stands, I hit the Land of the Big Sky late Thursday.

Posted by: CGHill at 4:56 PM on 6 July 2004

And just how do they justify Liberal, KS as the home of Ms. Gale? I don't believe that Mr. Baum was that specific. Or are we talking pure entrepeneurialism here?

Posted by: The Proprietor at 7:38 PM on 6 July 2004

Well, the terrain in that area looks vaguely like what was imagined and implemented on that Hollywood back lot sixty-odd years ago, but I suppose they could have put this anywhere in Kansas, except maybe Johnson County. (Too much money there.)

Posted by: CGHill at 8:04 PM on 6 July 2004

Understood, Charles -- I suspected that you would take appropriate action once you memorized the number!

Posted by: David at 9:16 PM on 6 July 2004

Welp, if you're a plane buff, Liberal boasts the Mid-America Aircraft Museum. Not bad and weighted towards the GA side though it does have some warbirds that you can get lots closer to than you can at the Smithsonian.

Posted by: JSAllison at 1:51 PM on 9 July 2004