Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kansas, My As! Or, KISS MY kansAS)

Those of you who have spoken to me recently may have heard that I just got back from a cross (most of the) country trip. It was a great time; I got to spend quality time with a bunch of friends, met some great people and all in all got to pretend that I was an adventurer (which is easier for me when I'm travelling than when the greatest danger I face is that I might go hungry because my natural indecisiveness makes it impossible for me to decide where I want to get food). At the end of the trip, I had a new respect for America, a few new friends, several favors owed and peace of mind. That's not to say the whole trip was wonderful; there were about seven hours of misery that coincided with when my friend and I drove through Kansas.

I don't want to sound like a hater. Honestly, I came into the trip with high expectations for Kansas. The first presentiment I had that it could be less than I had hoped came in Missouri. We were camping in a National Forest and met two Missourians (more on them later, perhaps). As we explained our plans for the next day, one of them interrupted, "Oh, man, you're going through Kansas? That sucks, I only drive through Kansas during night because I don't have to look at it. I feel sorry for whoever's driving that stretch." The next fifteen minutes of the conversation consisted of them explaining the many reasons they hated going through Kansas.

Still, the next day we drove off and after an intimidating storm that forced us to pull over (conveniently near a Waffle House*, I might add), left Missouri. Then we entered Kansas. The first 30 miles were actually beautiful: rolling green hills, pastures, horsies, you know, the usual. Then we passed one turn, at which point almost everything green dropped behind us and slowly disappeared through the rear window as I clawed at the seat and asked desperately to turn around, to no avail. We continued into Kansas, and for the next seven hours, almost everything was the same grey, dusty scenery.
*Actually, a disappointment. Turns out they used aluminum and wood, like most other diners I've seen.

The most exciting portion of Kansas (see? There's a train!)
The strange thing was that it changed as soon as we crossed the border into Colorado. It wasn't a mental thing; it was actually prettier. It was as if whoever made the border decided to bound in a lot of ugly into one state and just get it over with (no offense to any beautiful Kansas folks out there!*)

That being said, I came out of the trip with a new understanding of two things. First, I realized that when Dorothy turns to Toto and says, "Something tells me we're not in Kansas anymore," she's issuing a sigh of relief. I wonder what it was that told her; probably a tree, a lake, a river, or anything remotely beautiful. Secondly, I understood the joke one of the Missourians told us at the campsite, which I will recount for you.

The night before Little Bighorn, General Custer sent out a scout to assess the situation. When the scout returned, he told Custer that he had good news and bad news, and asked the general which he'd like to here first.
"I'll take the bad news first," the General said.
"Sir, I've looked around, and we're not going to make out of here alive," the scout told him dismally.
"Ok," the stoic General replied. "Now what's the good news?"
"Well, Sir," the scout said, brightening up, "we're not going to have to march back across Kansas again!"

I made it out alive, but only thanks to a cheap one-way flight. Thank God.

So, I'm back now, and everything's going well. There are more stories that may get posted as time goes on, but I've also started working, so who knows what quality or length will follow from here on out. Hope that everything is going well with you!