This is the first part of our USA adventure, making our way from Illinois to Colorado via Missouri, Kansas, and we briefly skimmed Oklahoma and Texas as well.
Below are my personal impressions of a few of these states. Everyone's experience is different, so if you have been to any of these places and have your own thoughts about it, please comment below or through Facebook to further express the many outlooks we have collectively.
I’m not sure what I thought about Missouri going into it, but the little bit that I’ve seen has made me want to stay.
Cicadas buzz in deciduous forests surrounding trailers and cabins where hunters hang their stuffed prizes on their walls. Quaint homes with blossoming petunias decorate their porches which overlook the rolling green hills where cows roam and grasses whisper in the late summer breezes. Missouri is a hidden gem, but more like a piece of smoky Ozark quartz stuck in the mud, shrouded by the rain, surrounded by moss and insects that fly, crawl, and slither.
Sometimes the place is humming with the wild chorus of a jungle, and sometimes it’s quiet, like lazy summer fields and farms. Peaceful, inviting, its beauty can be found subtly sparkling for those who look for it, while others who just glance, only see the mud.
Flat and windy, the horizons of Kansas stretch out into the distance as I begin to wonder if the road will ever end, or if around the next hill it will turn into yellow bricks. Of course if it does, I probably won’t notice, having been sucked into a sunflower-studded daze by the monotony of the plains. And yet, there is a certain tranquility where fields of freshly-baled hay lie golden in the setting sun, and between the hills, cattle huddle under the trees for shade. It almost feels like a pastoral painting of a bygone time, maybe painted by Monet, maybe Beethoven is playing in the background, until my imaginings are swept away when we see another oil rig bobbing up and down, or a line of wind turbines crowning fields of soy and corn.
As we set up camp near yet another local high school football field, the local drunk reminisces about his bull-riding days, and glorifies his years working on oil rigs. He wears a blue plaid button-down shirt that may have once looked formal at best, but now is just as dusty and faded as everything else here. I thought because of his spitting that he was chewing tobacco, but then on closer inspection I realize that he’s just spitting, like he walked out of a Clint Eastwood movie.
He plants his hands in his jeans, and claims our motorcycle is just a modern version of his traveling cowboy days. And as we head off again under the cloud-speckled blue sky, our belongings strapped tight to our saddle bags, and the bike struggling to make headway against the incessant wind, I have to agree.
Texas: northwest corner near Dalhart
I had never been to Texas, and always wanted to claim that I had, and my single night at a lonesome campground did not disappoint. The winds of the tail end of Hurricane Harvey whipped up the dust to fill the air with flying particles, and the views of the distant horizon became curtained off in a ferocious, yellowish haze. The clouds above shimmered with lightning, and then the gales tried to take away our tent, pick up the bike, and I was afraid for a moment we would be carried along with it all.
So I lay in the tent hoping to hold it down with my weight, but not sure that would work. I was silently praying for the storm to pass, wringing my hands over our phone, and impatiently waiting for the weather page with the doppler to load.
At last it did, and it turned out that we were in a narrow alley between two great arms of torrential fury. The storm passed, we survived the night, and I found that everything certainly is bigger in Texas.
The Switzerland of the United States, Colorado dances to its own tune, always off-step with the rest of the country, or maybe two steps ahead of us, I’m not sure which.
The state has been trademarked and published, as if every road and street sign was carefully planned by a team of expert advertisers. Every little town has been marketed with slogans, logos, stickers, and t-shirts, as if each village is a destination in itself, its trophies are cleverly advertised in billboards and brochures.
And all this marketing must be working, because even in summer off-season, the shops of Telluride are bustling with the blond, rich, and wannabe rich (and wannabe blond) who have traded their down ski jackets for stretch yoga pants and tanning lotion. But these are the foreigners come for envying views and facebook photo-ops. The true people of Colorado are one-of-a-kind, down-to-earth, practical, rooted, and even with their high altitudes and legalized pot, I find their heads are not in the clouds. And though some may be a tad snobby about the glories of their state, maybe they have reason to be.
My relationship of Colorado has been shaped by years of venturing into its valleys and up its peaks, of meeting its unique people, some of whom have become wonderful friends of mine. Though I almost want to hate the state for their clean streets lined with four different types of recycling bins, their perfectly quaint fair-trade coffee shops, their heavenly ranches where grazing horses look just as wild and a part of the landscape as the mountains themselves.
But then we turn a corner and my breath catches in my throat, and I realize that if I lived here, I would be overly-proud, too. Maybe I have also been sucked into the great big commercial that Colorado is, because whatever it is they’re selling, I think I need one.
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