I sometimes feel as though Colorado is my second home. I feel alive when I visit there, but since I usually want to have my car when I arrive so that I might drive around viewing the vistas, I have to travel a very long distance from my home. The trip takes somewhere around eighteen to twenty hours depending on the weather and the traffic, and most of is is through the panhandle of Texas heading a bit north and west. Lots of folks consider the journey to be boring for much of the way, but I find it somehow soothing and even a bit interesting.
The route traverses through farm and ranch land that has somehow defied the odds of growing things in a difficult climate. Most of the trees are scrubby and there is a desert-like dryness to the general feel of the land. For the most part the elevations are rather flat with a tiny bit of a roll now and again. The highway traverses through tiny towns with no more than two thousand inhabitants and sometimes fewer than three hundred. Most of the places bear names that speak of a history steeped in the old west when the plains were even wilder than they are today. Main streets have the look of dreams that have died. Nonetheless there is a kind of rough hewn beauty to the determination of each place to survive in a world that seems to have forgotten that these places even exist.
Once in awhile there is a hamlet that not only seems to have survived the modernization of the world, but is also thriving. I always wonder what the difference might have been. Was it an innovative spirit, a community persistence in keeping the town vibrant, or did it simply enjoy the luck of the draw. Such locales are inviting and give a sense that stopping there for a cup or a bite would be an enjoyable experience.
Railroad lines are ever present along the route. Trains are traveling back and forth picking up and delivering grain, coal, lumber, and products upon which we all depend. They are the lifeline for all of us and often the very reason that each little place exists. It’s fun to watch the cars passing and to guess what might be inside the tanks and containers. There’s a whole world of work happening around us that we all too often ignore or simply take for granted. It becomes impossible to miss on the road.
I’m fascinated by the geography and sociology of such places. It is always apparent to me that the people there march to a drumbeat far different than my own. It is slower, more deliberate, perhaps more enjoyable, and yet I do not envy them because I am a city girl through and through. I enjoy the slow pace and quiet of such places for a time, but then I grow antsy and desirous of returning to the fast pace of my metropolis that is the fourth largest in the United States. I crave the excitement and the sounds and always return home again with a sense of relief.
We have so many versions of the American dream and the American nightmare. It’s difficult to imagine a time or a way by which we might bring all of the disparate voices together in an amicable way that guarantees that everyone will feel that there is a fairness in how things run. We tend to do too much judging of one another without ever taking the time to realize how much our differences determine our needs. Too often the laws and rules that we make focus on one group or another or political leanings rather than a consideration of our uniqueness. Somehow driving through the backroads and seeing places so different from my own makes me more aware of the urgency of finding compromises that will ensure good lives for everyone.
I spend a great deal of time just thinking during the long drive that can feel brutal at times because of my aging bones. I always feel so much better about the people of our nation but I also worry a bit because I feel certain that we are leaving people behind no matter where I go. I see the run down factories and blighted homes, the misery of hopelessness in the eyes of those who feel unheard and unloved by the rest of us. It tells me that perhaps we should all be willing to bend a bit in our beliefs and our demands. Each of us needs to take such a journey and really attempt to see what is happening across the land.
It might be boring to drive for such a long time without much change of scenery but instead it is fascinating. I recommend it to everyone. Take the time to really see the variety of our country. Open your eyes and your hearts. It will be a great reward when you do, and you will find yourself suddenly considering points of view that had never before occurred to you. Thinking about your own thinking is an exciting adventure and one that will truly change the way you see the world. Begin in your own backyard and venture outward more and more and more until you finally begin to see.