Going With The Flow Across The Plains

In Travels With Myself on August 1, 2013 at 12:20 am

The laws of simple physics tell me that if I am driving 65 miles an hour, it is irrelevant where I am doing the driving. 65 miles an hour is 65 miles an hour. The somewhat less specific laws of perception, however, allow me to believe that 65 miles an hour is crawling along when I am driving along a long, wide, flat, straight road through miles and miles of ranchland, pasture, and acres of cornfields where even the small towns may be thirty or more miles apart and I am virtually the only moving thing on the road. This contradiction between the laws of physics and the laws of perception are brought suddenly to my attention every time I hit a stretch of road where a strong wind gusts across an open field or the top of a hill, ad every time one of the larger, les streamlined trailer trucks goes cruising by in the opposite direction and my 65 mile an hour RV collides with the truck’s 65 mile per hour wake. Fortunately, the trucks pass no more frequently than any other vehicles and the gusty winds are becoming increasingly rare as I make my way east.
All in all, today was an easy travel day. There aren’t a lot of attractions to call me off the road out here, and I find myself back in a mode of simply enjoying the driving. All of which left me time to notice random sights and events.
Nebraska has some simple, but accurate little blue signs announcing one’s imminent arrival at a roadside turnout. I laughed out loud at the first one I saw today. I was slowing down in anticipation of an area of road work, when I noticed a small, square blue sign sporting a silhouette of a tree with a picnic table siting under it. Beneath the sign was an arrow pointing across the road and the legend “1/4 mile.” I looked up and right there, a quarter of a mile up the road was a large tree with a picnic table under it, exactly as the sign had pictured it. Alas, I was disappointed to discover that all the little blue signs were exactly the same regardless of the actual number of trees and tables or their relationship to each other.
Randolph, NE, the “Honey Capital,” is building a combination motel and laundromat; which sounds like an excellent idea to me. Depending on how they plan to rent the rooms, I could imagine people finding lots more interesting ways to spend their time than reading old copies of People Magazine while their clothes are merrily sloshing around in the washing machines or tumbling in the dryers.
I am happy to be seeing so many trees again. Nothing yet like the forests of the Northeast, but a nice, regular mix of broadleaf and evergreen trees along the road and in small woods off in the distance. I remember that one of the first things I noticed heading west was the gradual disappearance of trees as I crossed the Midwest toward the mountains.
I am getting some really excellent miles per gallon since I crossed the continental divide. The only thing I can think to account for this is that I have been moving steadily along flat straight stretches of good road and generally moving from higher to lower elevations. I have noticed the same effect just driving to the Rhode Island beaches from northeastern Connecticut. I get better mileage as I head toward the coast than I do returning inland.
I have travelled a greater distance than usual today, and am staying the night in the little town of Moville, Iowa, which has one small motel that happened to have a room in spite of the fact that there was a classic car cruise in town today and they just opened the County
Fair. I make sure that I have a full tank of gas every morning, and I was glad to know that I was prepared when I crossed the Iowa state line and found no accommodations for the first 15 miles into the state. This is another conflict between physics and perception. According to physics, 100 miles is a fixed distance; according to perception, it depends on the size and color of the lines on the roadmap and how many little black dots of what size are arrayed along the lines: the big red lines and the even bigger double orange lines, especially when they are spotted with lots of black dots, are shorter than the miles printed alongside them.

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