I woke up contorted in the back of a Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was my first road trip west, heading west towards Colorado. The night before I fell into fitful sleep as we slipped the boundaries of Cleveland. As I awoke, I realized the landscape had changed. The urban sprawl and thick forest had been left behind. In their place was the wide open plains of the Midwest.
I took it in as we sped west on Interstate 80. Slowly the sun breached the horizon on that warm May morning. It’s rays burned through the thick fog that blanketed the fields overnight. Structures began to emerge. Houses sat comfortably on the treeless landscape, with worn barns, or broken old silos attached. There were also new metal silos, glinting in the sun. Other houses were tucked into little groups of trees, an oasis on the flat treeless plains.
Iowa is a vast open state. Countless rolling hills stretched towards the horizon. The patchworks of tilled field are a deep brown, only interrupted by thin patches of green.
Water towers rise above the fields, dotting the landscape. Poles for electricity run into the distance, until they disappeared quietly over the horizon. These are the places where the settlers settled down and planted roots.
It was surprising to me, how drawn I was to the landscape.Not many people value the states that make up our heartland. People tell you that our heartland is boring.They are something that can be easily missed. I think it is that it was that forgotten nature that drew me in. I would eagerly, trade excitement for wide open landscape.
I want to see more of what the settlers had left behind. It is a place where hard people made a life for themselves. Westward expansion changed our country. It is home to our finest triumphs and our deepest shame. It has shaped who we are.
I didn’t have that luxury. We had a rendezvous in Denver to meet,with hundreds of miles to go. There wasn’t any time to stop that day. But I promised myself i would go back. That incredible open landscape lit a fire in my soul. Someday I hope to have a chance to see what lays further down those old dirt roads.