cross-country road trip: part one.

photos + words from my drive cross-country, from Massachusetts to Wyoming, in June. part one of four. 

America is so flat. 

Well, not all of it. But so much of the countryside—endless countryside, which I see outside the car window for days on end—is so goddamn flat. 

It seems funny to say, sad to admit, but I’ve never driven west of Pennsylvania. 22 years in this country, and I’ve hardly stepped foot out of New England—so when we get past Erie, and swing into Cleveland, my nose is pressed up against the glass. Now, the adventure has begun. 

We pass through Ohio in a torturous drive, hours upon hours upon hours of non-descript countryside and endless highways. Indiana flies by in a similar fashion. At one point, starving, we swing up into a tiny town in Michigan, where see a car accident on an empty road and eat McDonald’s in a fancy joint, rain spattering the windows. 

West of Chicago is where everything changes. The scenery is no longer anything remotely recognizable—all of a sudden, it’s flat. And rural. And green. There are barns, and silos, and teensy tiny houses set all the way back in big green fields. 

We cross into Iowa in the middle of a storm. On one side of the highway, the clouds are ominous, black almost—on the other, pieces of sunlight shine through clouds. Mom puts on the Christian radio station—we’ve listened to every station at this point, and something about it seems right. 

In Davenport, we drive into the city and stop at the Mississippi. It’s still raining, a little, and we stare at the sheer width of the river, and ma mutters that she hopes she doesn’t have to drive across it. 

Both of us fall in love with Davenport, spending a couple of days driving around before we leave. By the river, there are bluffs, with falling-down mansions, huge, impressive painted lady Victorians with views to die for. On our way out, we stop at a supermarket in a run-down area for bottles of water and snacks, and we see a different side to the city that’s so impressive and beautiful by the river. 

That day, we stop in Des Moines for lunch. I had read about the city, how it’s ‘the next great city’, and we eat burgers at a zombie-themed restaurant. The neighborhood we’re in, downtown, is hipster, but it’s also strange to me. I’m used to downtown neighborhoods being crowded, narrow little one-way streets teeming with people and cars, where you have to sacrifice your first-born child for a parking spot. In comparison, this place is empty—wide streets, ample parking, buildings new and spread kind of far apart, for city standards, a couple of vacant lots. This is what Western cities look like, I will soon find out, but for now, I’m just intrigued. 

[to be continued]

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