Fast forward

The best part of traveling – perhaps even the reason for doing so – is seeing new things and if you’re on a roadtrip, one of the things to see is landscapes. Most of California strongly reminded me of parts of Spain and Portugal. Driving in Colorado, northeastwards to Denver is a lot like driving around Austria. In fact, in both cases I would prefer their European counterparts for their look, though the American landscapes tend to be a bit more spacious and empty, which has its own charm.

Other states have a look to them that’s less common. Parts of Arizona look a lot like the Saragossa area in the Spanish Aragon region, but it would be fair to say it’s the other way around since Arizona has far more of it, both in sheer quantity and variation (although it is amusing that a number of Western movies was actually shot in Spain, but that’s another story). And then there are parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado that really are one of a kind. So much so that, at times, it felt like driving around on another planet, especially when there are no other vehicles around.

But sometimes this originality is not a good thing, I found in Kansas. Sure, having flat farmland stretch on for hundreds and hundreds of miles is unique. But ‘fun’ or ‘worth seeing’ aren’t phrases I would apply to it, having driven through it. It took almost all of a day to get from Denver to Kansas City (not breaking any laws, though the landscape might such evil deeds prompt). During that day, only the last couple of dozen miles offered some variation and views. The Flint Hills are nothing spectacular, but you feel they are after a 6-hour non-stop ‘nothing but straight interstate’ drive.

I haven’t visited Kansas City, but the rest of the state seems to consist of farmers, salesmen that sell farming implements, truckers that move farmed produce, workers that build farms and preachers that preach to the farmers. I ended up in Topeka, famous only for the lovely ‘God hates fags’ Westbrook Church and otherwise consisting mainly of truck stops and motels.

I got into a chat with a trucker who is from Topeka orginally and, for reasons not entirely clear to himself either, returned here after many years of trucking around the US. He told me about how Topeka at one point had the plan to build a large racing oval, to attract some other people and businesses. That money got siphoned off somehow and nothing has really happened in Topeka since, except for the construction of a large mall.

So, what do truckers do to spend the time? He was more than willing to accommodate me and since beer is not overly expensive, I agreed to go along. Not very surprising, what started out in a burger joint and went by way of a Hooters ended up in a strippers bar just outside of town (I could call it a gentleman’s club, like the establishment did itself, but that seems a bit much). What may be most surprising about these is that they’re not actually filled with truckers and disillusioned married men, but seem to attract a lot of folks of mixed gender who are just looking for a good time. And considering the company they were in, these girls weren’t lesbian either, nor were they there on a pay check, unless their male company liked to roleplay the part of the submissive boyfriend.

I do think it amusing that the state that has the most rabid radio preachers I’ve heard sofar also seems to have the most ‘adult entertainment’ venues – going by what you can see from the road. Makes you wonder what came first and whether there’s some sort of cause and effect thing going on. Of course, it could just be that all states have roughly the same amount of stripper bars and porn shops, but they’re just easier to spot in Kansas, since all that’s there to block your view is grain and farms…

If you’re religious and ever get tired of Christianity, don’t look to other religions for variation. Just come to Kansas, turn on that radio and get a whole new outlook on pretty much every part of the bible. It’s amazing how that millennia old collection of books seems to have been written specifically for this day and age. Makes you wonder what people needed a book that’s about money, oil, cars and radio preachers for in centuries past.

Onwards to St. Louis and they better have something other than farms over there!

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Jaap van der Velde

I live and breathe software, love games and spent many a vacation touring Europe on my motorcycle. Currently diving, riding, hopefully flying and gaining perspective around Oz.

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