Friday, June 7, 2013

775 Miles Sez It All

This roadside sign needs no explanation
Dark and raining is how I entered the Fort De Moise Hotel so I wasn't really thrilled to leave the hotel in the same conditions though I had hope of driving out of the storm that seems to have covered all of America for days now. I forwent my first light of day coffee in lieu of gaining an early start to my marathon drive. Hoping I'd have the stamina to drive the 750 miles to the Denver area I took a deep breath as Des Moise Iowa disappeared in my rear view mirror.

 The rain and wind became relentless through the undulating farmlands, the breadbasket, of our great nation. I'm sounding a little patriotic because this day, Memorial Day, the towns will be filled with trappings of honor to those who gave their lives so our nation can remain free. This is a mixed emotion for me...I am saddened by the tens of thousands of families who lost a loved one in the prime of their lives yet I harbor a flame of disgust for the individuals who profited from such hideous wars. The world wars seemed to have a much purer intent and need but our contemporary conflicts are questionable.

It almost seemed like the storm contained itself along the state lines. Crossing the border from Iowa to Nebraska I drove through Omaha in search of a breakfast stop. Even Minnie, the GPS, couldn't come up with anything open so I ventured a few miles further west to Council Bluffs and though they had an impressive display of bronze sculptures portraying the early settlers in search for a new life, my search for the land of breakfast wasn't fulfilled. Like the pioneers who pulled away from Council Bluffs 150 years ago, I too went west for my quest. Within minutes a mirage like tower with a campfire style coffee pot perched on top appeared on the flat horizon. I slowed as approached my morning mecca yet I was so enthralled by the coffee pot two hundred feet above the ground I missed the exit. The next exit I wiggled my way back using the side roads to the Sapp Brothers Cafe.

With CNN (I requested they change the channel on the screen at the counter) and Fox News on the flat screens competing on who can be more patriotic, I reviewed my map and was happy with my progress. Since the weather was clearing, this allowed me to drift from the ribbon of the most direct route and explore the back roads of Nebraska.
Cheeky running with the Big Dogs

I dedicate this Nebraska barn shot to Maralyce
Tummy full and metabolism jacked up on caffeine I looked across the parking lot and spied Cheeky with a slight grin across her grill. I looked a bit to my right and saw a group of semi trucks lined up perfectly with one empty slot in the middle. Cheeky wants her photo running with the big dogs. I backed into the spot ready for someone to give me some grief but it was early and I pulled off a sweet panorama of a proud little 4Runner among the big 16 wheelers.

I drove down the highway until I spotted church steeple in the distance off to the right. The next rural exit had me driving the dirt roads delineating the farm fields with short arteries leading to homes and barns. I was fascinated with the style of vintage barns in Nebraska unlike any other design I've encountered. After photographing the barns I doubled back towards the sharp steeple. Driving up to the church, an adjacent cemetery with display of the United States flags all unfurled at attention thanks to the constant wind, made a moment for me to contemplate and be thankful. Three to four generation families pulled up into the cemetery, piled out of their suburbans and surrounded grave markers of their loved one.  This sincere rare display of respectful recognition reinforced the hope our society isn't unraveling.

It doesn't get any more Midwest than this
Back to the fast pavement, my focus was to reach the Denver area, camp the night and reach Utah by the next day to visit with friends Daphanie  and Carlos for a couple days. The same time zone issue that plagued me for weeks is now working to my advantage. As I crossed into Colorado, I saved an hour so I adjusted my day's destination to Vail, Colorado which would shorten my next day drive by a couple hours.

Turning south it felt as if my direction was going downhill. The extra hour and the diminishing winds once I entered into the Rocky Mountain passes gave me a deeper strength and endurance. Winding and cutting through the mountains via tunnels gave me hope I would reach Vail before dark though the jagged peaks had only a dash of light highlighting their western tips. Along the way I kept a vigilant look out for a state park to camp at but nothing appeared plus I began to think whether it would be wise for me to camp in these mountains with snow still dotted on the ground. A quick change in weather could lead to a miserable night after a 775 mile drive. OK...I caved and pulled into a Holiday Inn Express in Vail. The young man behind the hotel desk checked me in and then he asked what I was doing for dinner. My mind was caught a bit off guard until he explained the hotel has a sushi restaurant and Mondays are half off night. A perfect end to a long day behind the wheel

Tunnels cut through the mountains save alot of time

Not much daylight left

. I dropped my bag in my room, made an about face, stepped into the restaurant and within minutes was being entertained by the artistry of two Japanese sushi masters. The saki, beer, and miso soup was a great beginning to a fine sushi dinner. Once the sushi was finished...I felt finished and soon was in deep recovery mode for the next day.

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