For the past several days, we have been traveling across America's Heartland, prairies and farmland, heading from Colorado through Nebraska and Iowa. The elites of Manhattan and California derisively call this "Flyover Country", but I think it's part of the bastion of traditional American values. Let me give you a couple of examples. We had stopped in Grand Island, Nebraska, a city along the Platte River, which was founded in the 1800s in the hopes of being a site in the center of the country where the nation's capital could be relocated. (Unfortunately, of course, it never was moved from Washington, DC, but hope springs eternal...) We were walking through a city park and saw this statue with a bronze plate reading, "With the faith and courage of their forefathers, who made possible the freedom of these United States, The Boy Scouts of America dedicate this replica of the Statue of Liberty as a pledge of everlasting fidelity and loyalty." Over 100 of these Miss Liberty Statues are found around the USA, mostly in small towns, all funded by the Boy Scouts themselves in the 1950s. As a former scout, I still identify closely with and support the values and guiding principles of the Boy Scouts, in spite of the ridicule and criticism heaped upon this fine organization.
After leaving Nebraska we were driving up I-35 headed north through Iowa. I called ahead to Clear Lake State Park to arrange a one night stay. On a Thursday it shouldn't have been a problem finding a spot, but the desk clerk said, "I'm so sorry, but we're full. Everyone wants a spot for the 4th of July, so they book two weeks in advance, and even bring their RVs here for the duration. But you could try one of the county parks; there's a nice one in Thornton." We had just passed that exit, so I called the number to find out if they were booked. Another nice lady said, "Oh, there's lots of room; only one other camper there, and it's a very pretty park." We arrived to find one of the most pleasant campsites we've ever enjoyed, right next to a real babbling brook, well-shaded, and for only $12. (I recalled with some consternation the $96 we had to pay in San Francisco...)
After setting up camp, we took a walk through town, and passed houses where a man was in the garage or yard. Each came out and said hello and asked where we were from and how long we were staying in Thornton. Every house we saw was modest, but very well maintained, with closely cropped lawns and nice flower beds. A very high percentage flew American flags out front. One of the interesting people we met was a missionary who had spent 42 years outside the US, part in remote Papua New Guinea and part in the highlands of Thailand. He and his wife now live in Iowa where they care for a parent with dementia and help raise their grandchildren.
This is prime farmland, with corn and soybeans being the principal crops that we passed. On a trip through the Midwest in 2012, a severe drought was underway, and most of the cornfields we saw were stunted and burned brown. Many commentators blamed the drought on global warming. On this trip across the same area, from northern New Mexico through Colorado (image at right) to Nebraska and Iowa, we saw rivers like the Platte at near-record levels, surrounded by some of the greenest fields we've ever seen, and hillsides and mountains covered with wildflowers and lush grass meadows. The image below shows beautifully formed and very green rows of corn, not yet as tall as an elephant's eye, but obviously healthy and not lacking for rain. (Global warming must be concentrating on California for the moment...)
Speaking of corn, we were enjoying some of the local produce recently when I realized that are indeed some glaring differences between men and women. (Where is Ty going with this one, readers are thinking...) We were enjoying our meal when I glanced down and noted that I was eating my corn from left to right, but in a circular pattern, file by file, in military parlance, while My Lovely Bride was going row by row. I pondered on this for several moments, but couldn't come up with a logical reason for either choice; but I knew in my heart that I was eating corn the correct way.
This image requires some explanation, particularly for Loyal Readers from the South. We are looking at a home in northern Iowa which caught my eye because of the dog resting comfortably on the sofa by the window. When I looked more closely, though, I noticed the snow shovel stationed prudently by the front door. A quick glance at the calendar showed me that it was June 25th, but the homeowner clearly was not ready to put the snow shovel away for the three days of summer...
On my recent hike in the mountains above Flagstaff, AZ, the rain came and went four times within an hour, and it was an easy matter to redeploy and fold up the unbrella in a matter of seconds. When not in use, it is carried in a couple of pack loops designed for trekking poles, out of the way but ready for instant use. In fact, it looks like a sword, so might come in handy fending off a hungry grizzly. And then... maybe an aerial escape ala Mary Poppins might be called for. (Observant readers will admire the hiking tee-shirt this handsome backpacker is wearing; the front reads, "Somebody in COON RAPIDS Loves Me"... thank you, Terri of the Frozen North.)
We also enjoyed spending time with (right to left next to MLB) Terri, her partner Pam and friend Joy from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. For those geographically-challenged, Saskatchewan is also known to Minnesnowtans and Coon Rapidians as "The Even More Frozen North". Joy was visiting for a few days in between Saskatonian permafrost eruptions and blizzards, and would attend Suzanne's presentation on Sunday at Unity of Minneapolis. We had an enjoyable evening over wine and tea at the coach, and the next evening had dinner at an Indian restaurant that Terri and Pam frequent.
Speaking of summer, while driving through Maple Plain, we saw this electronic thermometer displaying 31F... my senses told me that it was a humid day in the 80s, but I suppose thermometers here don't often get above freezing, and aren't used to displaying temps that high...
Today Suzanne and I are celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary. It seems like only yesterday that on our wedding night in 1996, after saying she was going to change into a sweet little Victoria's Secret outfit, she sent me out to the car for something. When I returned to our VIP suite at the Naval Academy, I found her in sweatshirt and sweatpants, with cold cream on her face, her hair in rollers, and reading a Reader's Digest. It was one of the funniest moments ever, and she promised then that life with her would never be boring. She has lived up to that promise. We will be going out tonight for a nice dinner at an Italian bistro, a report on which I will save for the next post...