*Today’s blog is the last of four chronicling the journey from Tucson to Santa Fe to Kearney to Madison with my father: an adventure of self-discovery, awareness, acknowledgment, and acceptance.
Today would be the final day of our cross-country driving adventure. We stayed at the Ramada Inn in Kearny, Nebraska, which reminded my father of a “mid-fifties, Midwestern convention center.” Early in the morning, the motel chef enthusiastically greeted barely awake visitors for custom-made omelets. It was a positive start at the crack of dawn.
When leaving, the roads were still a challenge and plow trucks dominated the landscape. Traveling slowly on Highway 80, we encountered patrol blocking the right of way. Unfortunately, it was shutdown near the Clay Center exit. Nebraska police closed the on/off ramp gates due to a fatal car crash caused by challenging weather conditions. Went to Love’s truck stop and picked up coffee, tea, Reece’s peanut butter cups, and a rainbow colored scarf to commemorate the occasion.
Navigating on country roads to avoid and bypass the accident, we listened to National Public Radio highlight Robert Bly’s poem Three Kinds of Pleasures:
Sometimes, riding in a car, in Wisconsin
Or Illinois, you notice those dark telephone poles
One by one lift themselves out of the fence line
And slowly leap on the gray sky—
And past them, the snowy fields.
The darkness drifts down like snow on the picked cornfields
In Wisconsin: and on these black trees
Scattered, one by one,
Through the winter fields—
We see stiff weeds and brownish stubble,
And white snow left now only in the wheeltracks of the combine.
It is a pleasure, also, to be driving
Toward Chicago, near dark,
And see the lights in the barns.
The bare trees more dignified than ever,
Like a fierce man on his deathbed,
And the ditches along the road half full of a private snow.
My father recounted that he was a “levitator of other person’s possessions” or commonly known as a “furniture mover with a master degree in English” for 14 years. This career decision “was self imposed.” He shared these memories while entering Iowa with its welcome sign that proudly states the “Field of Opportunities.”
In addition, wind turbines like commercial billboards hailed drivers. From the Iowa Wind Energy Association website: “During 2012, Iowa produced a national record of almost 25% of all the electricity generated in the state from wind turbines…Iowa was also the first state in the nation to exceed 20% of total generation coming from wind energy.” This was impressive to witness during our excursion.
Nightfall was quickly approaching as we were entered the Wisconsin border with rain. Reflecting, common connections such as Dollar Stores, churches, casinos, truck stops, and nature’s beauty appeared in desolate and urban communities. Differences were minor in a landscape of constant humanity.
Reaching Madison, an overwhelming sense of emotion came over me: I truly loved every minute with my father. I’m left with memory photos for life and the true gift of time.
The journey started in Tucson, Arizona where my grandfather resides. He would like to be buried right next to his younger sibling in Oklahoma who drowned as a child in a frozen pond. My grandpa witnessed the incident from a school bus and tried saving him with a broken tree limb. His brother always looked to him for protection and would say: “don’t ever leave me.” My father and I will make that road trip. I traveled only 2675 miles for this one. It doesn’t matter the distance or challenges. I’ll be there now, forever, and in spirit.