Monday, October 28, 2013

America: Prairies

Crossing America. We've reached the midway point. Catch the south in this post.

8:45 PM Outside Dallas, Texas: Some BBQ that I want for lunch every day.
I have the strong suspicion that Dallas freeways are the worst in the country. I've driven in a bunch of cities, but I never fail to miss exits here.We were miles outside the city and still the ramps were these huge disorienting clover leaves with only a few cars on them.

9:12 AM Backpacking hostel, Dallas, Texas: What do people do in Texas? Watch Cowboys football all of the time. No, not really? Yes. Really. Maybe. I'm kidding. We were in Texas less than an hour when we walked into a room full of people watching a Cowboys football game. A guy asked me who I was rooting for, and I said, "well, you know I don't really watch football."

He said, "That's what pretentious people from Los Angeles say. When you know they watch it. Everyone watches it."

At that time an Australian guy walked by wearing a shirt with a big Australian flag on the front. I liked it, but to all of the haters who say Americans are the only ones who wear their flag with pride while in other countries, you're wrong.

In the morning, I struck up a conversation with an older sailor who was newly off of a Kibbutz in Israel. He wanted to convince me to start harvesting wild herbs from city lots and even showed me a website to guide me in the pursuit. As we were leaving he shook my hand and said awkwardly, "May you find G-d," then mumbled, "sorry I have to say that."

2:42 PM Moore, Oklahoma: Site of the massive EF5 tornado in May. We literally got off the freeway and this is what we saw, didn't even drive a block. This was once a residential neighborhood. Very sad and very shocking to see first hand.

Most of the houses were abandoned, some were being rebuilt. This stretch of Oklahoma has got to be the most banged up area in the country, the heart of Tornado Alley. Bascially they are hit with major tornadoes every other year, and in 1999 another EF5 with the fastest wind speeds ever recorded (318 mph.) You wonder why people still live here, but I suppose you cannot underestimate the meaning of home.

The tornado this spring caused more casualties than any other this year. There were still signs and donation depots all along the main road. What's crazy, the El Reno tornadoes hit just a little over a week later and only about 30 miles west. Some of the world's best stormchasers were killed in the widest cyclone ever recorded (2.6 miles.) I imagine it just looked like a huge thunderstorm, you couldn't even tell it was spinning.

Striping away the humanity, there is something about tornadoes that is terrible and fascinating at the same time, like rogue waves and swollen waterfalls. I'm not saying I'd be a storm chaser, but I can see why people do.

6:46 PM Kansas Prairies: Miles and miles of Milo. The grain feed for animals

9:03 AM Mentor, Kansas: Catching up with my good buddy Hugo, who I haven't seen since he was a puppy back in Virginia. Corgis are the best.

Gorbet the cat, suspicious at first.

I just woke up, no one told me that my hair was all messed up. Hugo is ashamed to have his photo taken with me. Come on, don't be like that. Catching up with David; I practically lived at their house when I was a teenager. His daughter was my best friend. He and his wife were like my second parents.

10:02 AM Downtown Mentor, Kansas: Random things that happen when you are on the road. Going on Kansas access cable, checking my teeth for bagel.

Catching up with one of the wolfpaks. Remembering the family trip to New Orleans, the one in which David knocked me into the trash can. So good to see old friends.

The Denver folks were giving the prairie a lashing. I imagine it's difficult for young people or any people to live there long term. But we'd never seen this part of the country. I had painted a picture in my head from the Wizard of Oz, what I read of Grapes of Wrath and storm chaser clips from youtube. But actually being in the Breadbasket has been enlightening.

Prairies last forever.

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