We topped a small rise in western Kansas in Turtle. Morning light cast our shadow down a long straight road ahead of us. The colors were intense, the air sparkled, the land rolled off in wheat stubble and stone fence posts to a horizon uncut by haze. A railroad track led to a lone grain elevator. I took an involuntary deep breath; a gasp almost, of clean dry air. It’s been months since I’ve been able to see that far, months since the air was so clear, blue and white and wheat color, chocolate loam, the sky so big, so big.
I enjoyed our time in the Midwest and East, the Ozarks, Appalachians, Great Smoky Mountains; the bike rides, the friends and family, and the new/old friends of 50 years at my high school reunion. Every bit of it. Except maybe the heat and humidity, the haze and in places the traffic.
I enjoyed the trail rides: Great Allegheny Passage and Greenbrier River Trail, the quiet back road roadbike rides of the hills of Maryland and West Virginia. I didn’t miss the West. I was too busy enjoying what the East and South had to offer.
But when that expanse opened before me, I knew. The West.
It’s hard to explain. I’ve always needed space. The East and South embrace with haze, green matter, round mountains and stringent culture. I enjoy all that. But. I need the other: the dry air, rugged rock strewn plains and high mountains, scrub and cacti, and tall trees, deep blue sky. And wide a wide open culture.
I didn’t come into the West until my mid 30’s. I knew I belonged and I was welcomed.
It’s all America, and I love it all, but the West is my magnet, drawing me back.
A few days more of The Great Plains, then the high passes of the Rockies, the Colorado Plateau of Utah and Arizona, finally in a month, the basin and range of Southern Arizona, desert.
Today and tomorrow a fly-in at a small Western Kansas airport for a little work, then we slow to the pace of the plains and mountains.