Hit the road…The Road Less Traveled. ..The road to a friend’s house is never long…Take the high road…Get this show on the road…Country Roads, Take Me Home…Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road.
As I write on Friday evening before Sunday’s post, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of one set of guests, with the other set arriving in two days. Crossing 1,053 miles of American highways today, they will be here in less than an hour.
They were my guests last year for the July 4th week last year, and the year before, and the year before that, and…
They visit every year. They, too, are sisters. They are dear to me for a very special reason. They were with me in the Swheat Girls Part Two post (July 9th), and they will be featured again next week.
The Sister Lode was conceived on a road trip, one of many my sisters and I took–and continue to take–to Colorado. Contrary to what may have appeared from the trip by air I featured in my first post, The Sister Lode was born on the road.
Our country has thousands of miles of Interstate highways, having been signed into creation by Kansas’ own Dwight D. Eisenhower. Almost every workday, I travel across the very first paved section of Interstate 70 near his boyhood home and final resting place of Abilene, Kansas.
This complex grid of roadways can carry us nearly everywhere we want to go in this great country. As I age, however, I find myself wanting to take the back roads whenever possible, just like our Dad always did. The interstates are too busy for me.
I spend a great deal of work time in my car, mostly traveling between home health appointments. The odometer on my beloved Stella, my buggy that takes me to and from every day, now reads 87,227 miles. I bought her not quite two years ago with 36,453 miles on her gauge.
I drive a considerable amount of my miles in a neighboring county. The beautiful and regionally famous Flint Hills are within my routes, and it has been a natural pleasure to drive through this natural tallgrass prairie.
The tallgrass, as well as the wheat and every other crop, depend upon ample rain–but not too much–in order to flourish. Perhaps that is why one of the roads in this county is named just that: Rain Road. I have noticed the sign at three different intersections:
April of this year, before the cruel winter relented.
May, when Mother Nature finally gave in.
Summer, my absolute favorite season. More rain, please.
Gail, Suzanne and I grew up on country roads that carried us to and from our small hometown five miles away. The first two miles were—and still are—gravel, the last three are paved state highways.
Standing at this intersection on the south end of our hometown, those 3 miles stretch out in front of the camera. The ribbon of white in the distance is our road.
We learned how to drive first on the farm—around and up and down the driveway, then on the roads and finally the highway. The gravel roads provided a challenge in inclement weather, forcing us to learn how to drive in mud and snow. The hills had to be negotiated with any oncoming traffic, which sticks with me to this day: when cresting a hill, get as far to the right as possible and slow down. The roads, just like all our other public spaces, must be shared. The other parties must be respected. We don’t own the road.
The long hill leading to the highway from our farm.
Two weeks ago, I went to the farm for my annual harvest visit. As I approached the last stretch to our farm (above), I recalled the days years ago when these hills were not opened up. The “Rock Hills,” as we called them, were cut into the hills when they were created. In our school years, if a blizzard was setting in, Dad would come to town to pick us up so that we didn’t get snowed out. The hills would easily drift shut, so Dad came to pick us up before that happened. When he showed up in the classroom doorway, we knew we had an automatic “snow day” for the rest of the day and probably the next, even if no one else did. I recall a silent “yes!” as I packed up my books to go home. I’m sure my siblings did the same.
In this part of the country, these roadway negotiations often take place with farm machinery. The gravel/dirt roads and the smaller highways are fair game for tractors and even combines. Whenever I get behind one of these slow-moving behemoths, and I find myself frustrated at my reduced pace, I stop to remember where I came from, and where some of my food comes from.
You may even see them on city streets—in smaller towns, of course.
(The above four pictures were taken randomly, and the fact that all four feature green vs. red machinery is in NO WAY a personal endorsement of the green over the red. Remember, I am an International Harvester girl from an IH farm.)
When I went to the farm, I left Stella in my garage—she’s a beautiful glossy black color, and I had just shined her up—and took my son’s truck. Or, as we say on the farm, pickup. It was a better vehicle to take on the country roads.
The panoramic view opens to the west as I approach the harvest fields.
When I left the wheat field, I decided to take a trip down several different memory lanes that were the country roads of our youth. We used to drive them to get to the best fishing ponds, and I recall many trips on the school bus on some of them.
Just south of our farm, the first hill allows a beautiful view of our hometown.
I was on a quest to drive to the pond another mile south and a bit west that was the scene of our record catch on a fishing trip perhaps 40 years ago—I believe it was 30-some fish. As I approached the pond, I realized it was not in the best interest of my son’s pickup to go any further.
The bank of the record-setting fish-catch pond is to the left.
I backed up and took a turn further south, winding through a better-graveled road. I had to stop to snap this picture, because the roadside wildflowers are an integral part of these warm memories of our country roads.
Suzanne reminded me that Mom would often dig these up and attempt to replant them at home, but I don’t remember them thriving. Wildflowers, I guess, are supposed to remain wild.
I rounded the curve around this Memory Lane, realizing I likely hadn’t been this far southwest of our farm since I babysat for a family who lived a bit further in high school. I kept going southwest until the roads no longer held memories. Then, I turned east to head home.
My family and I are hitting the road later this summer for an approximate 1,450 mile journey. Like Dad loved to do, I want to take the back roads. The fast pace of the Interstate highways leaves less time and space to savor the natural beauty, as well as the man-made wonders and attractions along the way. Given the distance, however, we will likely travel a combination of both. Either way, it will be new ground covered for three of the four of us. We will explore this Land of the Free by car, crossing state lines and going wherever we choose in this Home of the Brave, which is but one more freedom we are privileged to enjoy.
Gail, Suzanne and I will enjoy another road trip this fall, another in an ever-increasing series. We have no intention of ever stopping. Three women traveling wherever we choose in this free country, a country that has never denied the right to drive to any woman. Saudi Arabia recently legalized driving for women, a freedom every American woman–myself included–has likely taken for granted.
This, and every other freedom begs recognition and gratitude during the upcoming Independence Day observation. May yours be enjoyable and safe, and may you keep the spirit of Independence alive within every day of the year.
Happy 242nd birthday, America.
Let Freedom Ring, and thank you to all the men and women who made, and continue to make it free.