We are back from out West! Iowa-Nebraska-Colorado-Kansas-Iowa in seven days with three kids, including a six-months-old baby!
My, what a trip!
We also stayed at a hotel. I like hotels – they are way cleaner than my house.
I like camping too – it is dirtier than my house and makes me feel good.
I learned something new about the world.
I learned something new about myself.
The trip once again made it plainly clear that we live in one of the best (and also most-affordable) rural areas anywhere, especially on the food end. This is a huge deal when you realize that a Walmart is a shining beacon of hope out on the Plains, and that you have to drive for hours to find one so that you can buy actual ingredients to cook with amidst convenience stores and empty towns with nothing but a grain elevator.
But what a beautiful country this is. See for yourselves:
The desert. Sage brush! Yuccas! This reminded me so much of home.
High up in the Rockies, above the tree line!
Breathtaking in more than one way. Not… enough… air!
Come to think of it, I’ve never climbed a mountain (in a car, that is) with such drastic changes in elevation over such short distances.
The “Garden of the Gods” park near Colorado Springs. Definitely the beginning of the South-West, adobe buildings and all.
And this is me doing my camping laundry for five at a hotel.
Here are a few other highlights:
I saw a wolf.
I woke up next to a herd of elk.
I realized that homemade jerky is incomparably superior to store-bought, especially when made with fine Wisconsin whitetail deer rather than industrial beef.
I brought four quart-sized ziploc bags of it with me on this trip after running my dehydrator day and night and using up the rest of our venison supply.
It lasted to about Nebraska, and that’s with rationing.
Speaking of which, it was on this trip that I actually encountered industrial agriculture for the first time.
I have seen my first feedlot. And second. And third. And tenth. And smelled them, most importantly.
Chicken and pig CAFOs too.
On a different note, I saw birds I haven’t seen before – steller’s jays, gray jays, black-billed magpies, ravens, violet-green swallows, great-tailed grackles, and a Western meadowlark. Being in a place with a different, unfamiliar set of bird songs is unusual and fascinating.
I also crossed the Great Divide twice.
In the end, I found the rugged, severe beauty and vastness of the West both sublime and dwarfing, but it most-certainly isn’t what my husband would describe as “humanly scaled.” Alternating endless prairie and fields all the way to the horizon are a far cry from the Driftless network of rolling hills, coulees, countless small Amish farms, and charming hippie CSAs.
To say this country is enormous would be an understatement. Back in Europe, 2000 miles that we’ve covered on this trip would have taken you through several countries five times over.
Except the borders could be hard to cross.
For the record, this is half the mileage our family drives in an entire year.
But this… this is humanly scaled. And this is why we call it home.
Note: I took 1000+ photos on this trip and will be covering each section of our journey in separate posts in the course of this week.