The Big Drive

Day 6 - Byers to Salina, Kansas


Byers, Colorado - Everything's flat! What happened to the mountains!? 9:30 a.m. Leave fleabag. Freeway for a few miles, before exiting to sign postcards. Road doesn't return to I-70. Highway 40 east to Deer Trail. Yet another farming community. Find firehouse. Watch as ambulance leaves, going somewhere "ten forty" (meaning without lights and siren). Photograph amusing "coming soon" sign spray-painted on abandoned trailer.

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10:30 p.m. Freeway again. Eastern Colorado. Flat becomes barely hilly. Slightly rocky, too. Nothing rising in the distance, however. Guess the only other mountains I'm gonna see are the Smokies, though skirting same to the north. Meaning no Asheville Die-Cast. Frown. And today's Saturday, right? I keep not thinking about the day of the week. This has never happened before, but I like it.

Mile-High City - Didn't get to see much of Denver. Saw the west side during daylight and the southwest side during evening rush hour. Everything else was viewed after dark: Broadway, Federal Way, I-25 north to I-70, and I-70 east past the airport. From the many miles of lights, Denver International must be huge. Hafta see it sometime. I love airports. Size-wise, the Big D-and-I-don't-mean-Dallas seems as large as the Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan area. (Where I grew up.) Fabulous nighttime sky-line, too. (Mile-High Stadium, however, was dark.) After dinner and before bolting, I street-parked at a fire station and re-computing my stopping points. Denver has white apparatus. I also observed a firefighter's family pay a social call. With the dog. 

Why Didn't They Name It Uranus? - So what about driving a Saturn station wagon? Well, frankly, it ain't much different than driving a Saturn sedan. Good handling, easy shifting, and gets 30 (or more) mpg on the highway, when averaging 70 miles mph, while operating the air-conditioner. Sucks, though, at accelerating up a mountain. (Like, duh.) Roomy, too. Rear area holds two baby seats and four, count 'em four pieces of luggage. Don't like bucket seats, though. Would rather have what my Taurus has: one long, bench-style seat. Easier to spread crap on. As for this Saturn, it's performed splendidly these 2200 miles. No detectable leaks. No curious smells. Just one odd, occasional "clunk" from somewhere under the front of the car. 

On The Radio Again - Something else I've noticed on this trip is the diversity in radio stations. Such as way more religious programming in Utah and points northwest. Or a couple commercials heard on a Denver station that contained actual innuendo! And during both day and night drives! (Must not be a lot of Southern Baptists around there.) Country stations are common, but not omnipresent. Fewer nationally syndicated talk shows than I expected. (e.g. Don Imus, Bruce Williams, Clark Howard, etc.) Most interesting-- to me, at least-- has been listening to local newscasters and hearing how much subtle editorializing happens. (Slight pause while author recalls radio days in college, when asked not to sound sarcastic when reading names of North Carolina politicians.) 

Number Of Postcards Sent So Far - Twenty-five, including Seattle. Gives me something to do. 10:40 a.m. Mitch Miller and the Gang on repeat. Do that at home, too. 'Cause I'm lazy and 'cause it makes scrutinizing the music much easier. (I have heard that some people play music just to listen to it. Gasp!) Periodic work zones. And the freeway entrance ramps have lower-able barriers. For snow season? 10:43 a.m. Limon, for gas, postcards, post office, and tee-shirt for co-worker who collects tees from different states. (She provided a "wish list.") Also purchase tacky souvenirs. Drive into town. Find firehouse. Also find way cool, outdoor railroad and farm equipment museum. 

Trains Of Thought - Interestingly, it's adjacent to an asphalt helicopter pad that looks like a quartet of parking spaces. A sign notes otherwise. Same is for the medical center across the street. The turn-of-the-century implements, number maybe a hundred, are lined up alongside the railroad tracks. There's also a converted train station, with a trio of train cars. Plus one aged Union Pacific (railroad) snowplow. It may still be in use, however. Vintage hand-drawn fire-hose reel, too. And, a few hundred feet west, the stubby concrete spires of a since-removed railroad bridge. (Low bridge. Maybe six or seven feet.) Shoot a couple rolls, all told. Then ship another box of said rolls home, in parcel marked "warning: contains photographic film and underwear." Can you guess what the padding is? 

You Deserve A Break Today - Lunch in Limon, at a standing room-only McDonald's with a player piano inside and people waiting ten (or more) minutes for their food. (Because the Arby's next door closed without warning, explains the Manager.) Register lines are marked "express," "families/groups," and "busses." A framed picture of the married owners hugging hangs on the wall. Outside is a "map and phone" outbuilding. Never seen that before. Big crowd; long wait. I don't mind, though, as the people watching's great. My favorite is comparing the faces of mothers and their daughters. Nearly all are pale faces, too. The farther east I'm heading, the "whiter" the population is becoming. Keep seeing people that I think I know. Also keep seeing what looks like the same people from city to city. Ah, the amazing narrow diversity of facial features. 

On The Road Again - 12:25. More damn road construction. Fewer state troopers seen, too. Either today or previous days. Maybe they're hiding well. Or busy elsewhere. (In Denver, during rush hour, I had the pleasure of observing an officer administering a roadside sobriety test to a slacker.) Radio discussing "the paganistic concept of evolution." [ Insert own Darwin/Satan joke ] Pass exit for Bovine. Holy cow! Spot corn fields. Must resist temptation to reenact scene from North By Northwest. 1:36. Kansas! So I've crossed the entire length of Colorado. Shouldn't I be given a prize? 1:56. Leave Kansas visitor's center. Feels like a hundred degrees outside. Later weather report notes one hundred and four. Speed limit is a measly 70. Kansas sucks. 2:06 p.m. Goodland Wal-Mart, for the day's supplies: film, water, PayDay candy bars, and an AT&T prepaid phone card. I don't even want to think about next month's phone bill. 3:30 p.m. 

There's No Place Like Home - Pass sign for Mingo. Brain begins creating puns based on "bingo," "lingo," and "Ringo." Interview with film director Robert Altman on radio. (National Public Radio, which I rarely tune to, 'cause it's so damn tame.) Another station has someone called the Gabby Gourmet. Maybe I should start a food show? Call it the Crabby Gourmet... Enter Central Time zone. Only apparent effect of time-travel is warm sensation on skin when exposed to sunlight. 5:31 p.m. Wakeeney, visited as remedy for monotony. Splendid brick-paved main street, the first of several towns with same. The bricks also result in lower speeds. Cunning. Find firehouse. Snap picture. Find Dairy Queen. Ask if they have "crunch cones." (They don't.) Drive around some more. Return to Interstate. 

Bored Senseless - Friends, I can't think of anything more boring than crossing Kansas on I-70. Mile after mile of identical-looking farmland, with nary an unusual sight nor substantial city between the state borders. (The latter's a supposition, mind you, as I have yet to reach the other border.) The road's basically straight, so you just stare ahead, cruise control on, and holding the wheel tight enough so the occasional violent crosswind doesn't flip you over. Lame-assed radio stations, too, at least on a Saturday afternoon. Pity the person-- or at least send them sympathy cards-- who drives this stretch alone, with only their thoughts, their notebook, and a handful of compact discs to keep them company. 6:20 p.m. Hays! A real city! 

Montana Mike's - Standing room-only again, at a reasonably priced steakhouse next to the miniature Hays Mall. (The latter where I walk off "car stiffness" for twenty minutes.) Again don't mind waiting for a table. More people watching and more watching people watching me. (Me: tank-top, short shorts, and metal clamp-and-balsa wood-splinted eyeglasses; Them: sandals, sneakers, halter tops, coveralls, ball caps, and a whole lot of plaid shirts.) Barely glance at menu, though notice a pair of "sharin' steaks." The "Montana 44" and "Three's Company," 44 and 66 ounces, respectively. (And a mere $29 for the three-fer!) I ask what's good, ignore the waiter's recommendation, and order a 10-ounce rib-eye, French fries, side salad, and Diet Coke. Save for the salad, the other items are exceptionally adequate.
 
 
I've Done A Lot Of Dreamin' And I've Traveled Some - Stop at Wal-Mart and purchase Judy Garland compilation. Since I'm in Kansas. Compose new lyrics to the Trolley Song. ("Sucks! Sucks! Sucks! Went the critic...") Also purchase the first volume of a "Ryman Reunion," an all-star, Grand Ol' Opry get-together. Glen Campbell singing "Gentle on My Mind," Crystal Gale "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," Roy Clark "Yesterday When I Was Young," etc. Alas, the recording is too relaxed. Sounds more like a rehearsal. Drive into town. Two-story KFC. Never seen that before. 
 
Downtown Hays is pretty cool. Old buildings galore, from late 1800's to the Thirties and Forties. Shoot a church, movie theater, corner hardware store, and even a dusk-backlit grain silo.Also shoot some visually interesting alleys. Find firehouse as sun is setting. Shoulda stopped and shot inside. Also find fire equipment company, with three older apparatus parked outside! Even a fire drill on Main Street, Chinese-style, with five carloads of teens simultaneously circling. Cute.

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More Minutia - 9:45 p.m. Freeway again. Gonna try to make Salina, 90 miles away. Get a head start on tomorrow and, if need be, have more time in Kansas City, Kansas City here I come. After all, it's not like I'm gonna miss anything driving through Kansas at night... 10:06 p.m. Have thought. 10:07 p.m. See sign for something. 10:08 p.m. Have another thought. 10:09 p.m. See sign for something else. 10:10 p.m. Have thought while seeing sign for something. 10:11 p.m. Scratch self. 10:12 p.m. Scratch self again. 10:15 p.m. Bob Dole's hometown Russell, for gas, ice cream, and restroom. (Mike Legeros has a sweet tooth.) The latter is at a service station with a concrete wall. Inside in the "can," the wall is still warm to the touch from the day's sunlight! 10:30 p.m. Salina! 

Lesbian Wives Who Poison Their Abusive Husbands - The last adventure of the day is the best: an extremely enjoyable, late-night chat in an unnamed hotel lobby, with an unnamed female employee who is, well, a living Jerry Springer show. She's also younger than me! The conversation continues after our chatting at check-in. I bring my notepad; she says "print anything except my name." We talk for two hours, mostly about the colorful circumstances surrounding her marriage, divorce, parenting, and lesbian experiences. Like myself, she's unabashedly open. Brutally so, but not off-putting. Not in the least. She also has a generous sense of humor both about herself and the events she describes. Using poison to condition an abusive husband. Being sexually assaulted by another. Four children born to three fathers. One child's death. Lawsuits. Prison. Cancerous cervical cells (ongoing). Stalkers. Piercings. Tattoos. (The latter two also shown!) The list goes on. Did I mention that she's a lesbian? Her stories are at once comical and heartbreaking; terrific drama and tear-jerking tragedy. Hers' is world more-removed from the mainstream, and, yet, the resulting emotions (in her) are no different than those felt by the rest of us. Mad, glad, happy, sad. You know, great conversation is great, but it's also nice to be reminded that we're human. All of us. Very pleased to meetcha. 

Total mileage today : 377 

Total mileage total: 2263 

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros


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