When you are about to drive 1,000 miles across America’s heartland, it’s hard not to wonder if you’ll make it or simply fall asleep and drive into a field. Anyone who has driven across the barren nothingness of Nebraska will understand.
I intended to contemplate life along this drive, to process the past six months and to consider what I wanted the future to hold. Instead, I learned that pure monotony can actually help you stay in the present. Apparently the drive through Nebraska is similar to being at a meditation retreat. It is that boring. (No offense to the 10 people who live there.)
Instead of focusing on the monotony, I focused instead on the beauty that the heartland has to offer. Here’s what I came up with. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts.
What’s Great About Nebraska:
1) Entering the western side of the state means you’ve finally exited the dusty eastern plains of Colorado (unfortunately other than the welcome sign, you won’t recognize a difference).
2) I80 is so straight you can actually drive no-handed—pretty certain if it weren’t for other drivers, you could nap and still stay on the road.
3) The fluffy clouds mean you don’t need sunglasses and you can entertain yourself with the what-do-you-see-in-the-clouds? game. Of course, yelling “I see a bunny, no wait, it’s a dragon” isn’t nearly as fun when you’re the only one in the car.
4) The state has plenty of rest areas where you can get out, stretch your legs and slap yourself awake.
5) You have no excuse for unhealthy eating; there is a Subway in every town no matter how small. I combatted my veggie delight by washing my Skittles down with a coffee-Cherry Coke cocktail.
6) Increasing humidity means your contacts don’t dry out even though you must blast the air conditioning.
7) You can pretend those round hay bales are crop circles left by aliens.
8) Cows! Baby ones are adorable—and stinky. (And yes, I know they are called calves, but they seem less stinky if you call them baby cows.)
9) The ’80s are alive and well. I seriously heard Prince followed by Quiet Riot followed by Joan Jett. Musical heaven!!!
10) It’s only 415 miles long.
What’s Great About Iowa:
1) After the flatlands of Nebraska, Iowa’s few hills feel like a rollercoaster. Weeee!!
2) Birthplace of my husband. Good things do come from this state.
3) Speaking of good things. It’s good to know our country will never run out of high fructose corn syrup.
4) You could build a new playground base with all the blown-out semi tires on the side of the road.
5) Unlike in Colorado, you can be outside without sunscreen for 15 minutes and you won’t get third-degree burns.
6) It’s home to the Bridges of Madison County (The best book ever if you are 20 and madly in love with your soul mate, or in my case, the guy who will crash your car, use your charge cards, cheat on you and basically crush your soul. It’s a good thing souls can grow back).
7) The bug guts on your windshield make such a beautiful pattern that you feel sad washing them off.
8) You can actually see the humidity. It was odd to feel my eyelids sweating at 7:30 a.m., but the moisture worked better than Botox for taking years off my face.
9) The wind turbines are awesome to look at, and the tailwind gives you great gas mileage.
10) It’s greener than green. After 13 summers of wildfires, all the trees and grass made me want to weep with joy.
11) More ’80s music! “Rock Me Amadeus” followed by old school REM? That is a musical combo more magical than a unicorn sighting.
12) To get into Wisconsin, all you need to do is cross the mighty Mississippi. Damn, that’s a long bridge.
And that brings me to Wisconsin. For now, only one item is needed on the list: It’s home.
Lessons learned on this trip? First, you can take the girl out of the Midwest but apparently you can’t take the Midwest out of the girl. Second, no matter how far we go in life, our hearts never let us forget where we started. And last, next time fly.