Summer in the Sandhills

The sandhills are beautiful in early summer, all green, and amazingly immersive. There are hundreds of miles of single-lane blacktop roads to explore. You can drive for hours without seeing another human being.

Arthur and McPherson are two of the least populated counties in the United States. Arthur County has a mere 0.6 people per square mile. In comparison, Omaha, which is only the 40th largest city in the country, has over 3000 people per square mile. 

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It took me years to get those souvenirs

Today's weather was much more manageable as I explored the northwest corner of Kansas while listening to classic country western, baseball, and the NBA playoffs on the radio. I had to skip a few places I had wanted to explore on account of my new-found phobia of muddy gravel roads (see yesterday's post), but it was still a productive day. 

In Bird City, Kansas, a evangelical church on the main street has a digital sign that flashes various messages including "Welcome to Bird City," bible verses, and "Evolution is a lie!" I felt both welcomed and amused.

At Monument Rocks, an unusual geologic formation smack dab in the middle of nowhere, I ran into a younger couple that was far more invested in taking selfies than they were looking around. All of the many takes of each shot looked exhausting.

Tomorrow - US Highway 36 and home.

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Post title: John Prine - Souvenirs

Make me as big and open as the plains

In my travels today, I encountered rain, snow, sleet, and lots and lots of mud.

The day began with a failed attempt to visit what remains of Cornell, Nebraska, southwest of Culbertson. I ended up on what appeared to be a gravel road, but what was actually almost entirely mud. The car sank and turned on its own, and I fought to turn around and get moving again. After a few harrowing moments of spinning tires and nearly sliding into the grass along the road, I managed to get out and back to the safety of pavement. 

In the impossibly tiny town of Parks, Nebraska, I met a couple that had lived there for almost twenty years. And in that twenty years, people have died off one by one and no one has moved in to take their place or attempted to keep up the homes. The result is two very nice people living in the ruins of what once was a town that now has less than ten residents and dilipitated buildings everywhere. In fact, one of the old grain elevators just fell down earlier this week. 

I have wanted to visit northeast Colorado ever since becoming enthralled by the novels of Kent Haruf. His stories take place in the fictional town of Holt, a pseudonym for the real-life town of Yuma, Colorado where he once lived. The books are both beautiful and haunting, a reminder that there is a meanness to life in a small town in the middle of nowhere, despite the myth of the “real America” and the “good old days.” Yuma is much like most other high plains towns, but it was still fun to imagine where the McPheron Brothers would have lived. 

There was blowing snow near Last Chance, Colorado that made the landscape look like it was right out of the movie Fargo. 

Kansas tomorrow!

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Post title: Johnny Cash - Oh, Bury Me Not