Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hit return

A good deal of happy sleep and sobering up led to the goodbyes that, inevitable, seemed too soon.
A strong cup of coffee, some meatloaf, and on my way out of the grand city. Took over an hour to navigate the streets of Manhattan and pass into New Jersey. Still felt much better than other times making that trip. Quite an amazing feat that island. So many buildings and infrastructure that books could be written on each street.

Heading back, I heard of the snows hitting parts of the northern states, including Washington. They're still reeling, and the snow keeps falling. I've been lucky enough to find myself running into almost no weather this trip.

Pennsylvania was not as scenic coming back. The moon was not as much in evidence, so it was merely a dark trip back through those mountains which were so enchanting heading into New York.

Passing out of Pennsylvania, it began to rain. A little at first, but then steadily increasing to a deluge. Luckily, not quite freezing rain, but far more of it than I thought made sense for the season. It was as though Ohio were weeping. I would kid myself thinking it was because of me. But Ohio's place in my heart has not gone cold, and it was a bit sad to drive through for the second time without laying down my pack at the home of some friendly acquaintance. Alas.

I slept two hours at a rest stop right near Hwy. 36: one route that will take you quite near the village of Gambier, a place representing over four years of fine memories. I thought momentarily of stopping by, but that was not the purpose of the trip. Just nice to think about it still being there amidst the forest stands and lovely rolling hills of Knox county.

Then back on the road in the daylight. Passing by Columbus, drenched in rain, another town I once called home. It felt oddly like any other town driving through. I feel like that was one place I didn't get a great feel for, somehow. Perhaps it was all of the trips back to Kenyon while I lived there.

I-70 is a bit of a different trip. Illinois looks completely different without Chicago to pass by. Indiana was covered in fog, clearing by the border to the land of Lincoln and now Obama.

I've mentioned before my strange love of the midwest, as it is. The place has an unassuming beauty and an idyllic pastoral nature which I cannot ever quite shake. Surprisingly haunting. It's also the east, which has been occupied by Europeans for so much longer than the west, giving it a bit more history to look at, and, in turns, to feel.

In my mind, the midwest more or less ends in St. Louis. I don't quite know what you would call Missouri. It is decidedly more scenic than a great many states. Granted, the Ozarks are not what I think of when I think of Mountains. They've nothing on the Appalachian range, nor certainly the Cascades or Rocky Mountains (who was in charge of naming those?), but they do serve as a slightly craggier version of the rolling hills of many other states in the region. In the end, it's a pretty scenic place, but not one I have much other feeling for.

Although I did spend a month there at a summer camp in my youth. And though I remember the geography a bit from that, it was mostly populated by people from other states, thus somewhat dampening my understanding of the Missouri population. As I recall, everyone pronounced the name of the state the way the nation outside of Missouri pronounces it. I'm not much good with typing phonetics, suffice to say that if you are from Missouri, you have a tendency to pronounce the name of the state in a way that people from other states do not. Much the same way that people from Pittsburgh pronounce Carnegie differently than anywhere else in the nation.

Most of what I remember from that summer was having trouble reconciling my budding Agnosticism with the nominally born-again fundamentalist Christian population of the camp. It caused me to lean a bit more toward Atheism as a retreat.

But that was 14 years back. Most of the time I drive right through without thinking about it, the abundance of billboards the only thing that gives rise, momentarily, to such thoughts.

On into Kansas, which is decidedly the least scenic portion of I-70 in my opinion. However, I do have to note that it is a bit more interesting than Nebraska. And I drove through entirely at night, which tends to make these sorts of shortcomings a bit less noticeable. Kansas has nice rest stops as well. It does manage to have the only toll road on this run from New York to Denver, however.

I fell into quite a rhythm at this point. Listening to podcasts of NPR, drinking a little coffee about every 10 miles, a sip of water every 20. At a certain point, the car didn't even feel like a car anymore, more like a larger piece of machinery, connected to me, yet disconnected as well. Somewhat like it went where I wanted, but I couldn't tell if it was where I wanted, or where it wanted. This feeling was particularly true when I had the cruise control on. I was a bit loopy.

This was the first time I've ever gone through Kansas without stopping for fuel. I felt a bit proud of myself, getting fuel about 90 miles outside of Kansas City, and making it last through until somewhere about two hours from Denver.

As Kansas is a long state. Back in college, I used to come to Kansas on the way home and think "just one state left!", then come across the wholly disheartening sign saying "Denver: 560", at which point I would realize I was only a little more than half way there.

But time passes. It is its way. And I found myself rolling past the airport around 1:30AM. Got in just after 2, stumbled around, managed not to set off the alarm, and settled myself in a little before passing out without bathing.

Here's to the mile-high city, and my childhood home.
And thanks to all those fine folks who've put me up and put up with me so far. It's been a blast.

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