Recently, I drove across part of the country. This summer, I traveled to South Dakota State in Brookings, SD to continue working on my M.S. in Chemistry Education. Since I would be living on campus for two weeks, I decided to pack up my car with dorm essentials and make the 1,524 mile trip, passing through 5 states, over three days. It was pretty exciting stuff.
New Mexico is actually kind of pretty territory. There are rocky mesas and vistas filled with desert scrub brush as far as the eye can see. Red rock and sage colored plants everywhere. I passed through Albuquerque with its adobe homes and chili pepper lights and drove to the tiny town of Santa Rosa. Located on Route 66, Santa Rosa is a tourist town with shops and diners located up and down the historic route. There were also a number of boarded-up gas stations and old hotels, making the town look older than it was. But I enjoyed my stay for the night. In the morning, I packed it up and headed back out on the highway.
I only passed through the northern tip of Texas on my drive up north, but it was pretty country. Farms and cows and flat as far as the eye could see. It was fun to watch the desert scrub of New Mexico turn into the prairie of Texas.
Like Texas, I only passed through a small portion of Oklahoma: the panhandle. Also like Texas, it was pretty flat and full of farms and cows.
This part of my trip involved a lot of county roads and two-lane highways all will driving through some pretty farm country. First off, Kansas is not as flat as I would have thought. There are rolling hills and river valleys. Second, Kansas is not all grassland like I pictured. There are groves of deciduous trees that line farms and riverbeds. There were blue skies and road-side cafes and diners. There were also very tiny towns dotted amid the farmland and forests. I even drove through a completely abandoned town where all of the windows were boarded up and the buildings were being taken back by nature. It was a little creepy and a little sad all at the same time. Mostly, though, it was farms and cows and quiet towns. It amazes me that so much of the state seems to be devoted to growing food. Growing up in a desert, I sometimes forget that the rest of the country is green and farmable.
See above. No seriously. I stayed the night in the town of Kearny, NE. It was small and cute and had a lot of hotels and RV parks. It seemed like the type of place one would stop the night as one travels around the country. But it looked much like all of the towns I’d driven through in Kansas, only a little bigger. Nebraska is very much like Kansas. There are farms and grasslands and small forests as I drove across the state on county lanes and two-lane highways. There were rivers and ponds dotting the landscape and the sprinkling of black and brown cow bodies. But the landscape wasn’t that different from that of Kansas. Maybe this is true for most of the country, but I grew up in a state where most of the terrestrial biomes are represented. Arizona has desert, of course, but we also have grasslands and chaparral and deciduous forest and pine forest and tundra. Really, the only thing we are missing is rainforest, but we do have something called a “wet desert” which is kind of in-between a rainforest and a desert. I can drive two hours from my desert home and be at a ski resort on top of a 14,000 ft. mountain. Or I can be in an aspen forest. Or I can be in the grasslands. So to travel across two states and basically not see the landscape change is a little on the weird side for me.
I was in the south eastern part of South Dakota, which looks pretty much like what I describe above. There were also rolling clouds and brief thunderstorms, which was kind of fun. And living in the dorm was a new experience for me as I live off-campus during my undergrad. I got the walk through campus on my way to class, watching fluffy-tailed squirrels and cottontails eat grass and scamper away. I also saw a prairie dog, which was cool as we don’t usually see those just running around in Phoenix.
All told, my cross-country trip was a fun experience. I saw part of the country I wouldn’t have otherwise traveled through. I realized just how much of the country is used to make food. I saw just how small some places can be. I will definitely be taking more road trips in the future.