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Monday, May 6, 2019

A Little of What We Saw in Kansas

We crossed Kansas on the diagonal, from SW to NE, and did it in a single day. That wouldn't be a big deal to many people, but for us it was really making tracks, because we are, in general, pretty pokey travelers. We don't, generally, put in 10-12 hour driving days, and we do a lot of stopping and poking around. In general, that is. Not this time. This time we stuck to business (covering the distance) much more than we usually do, and so most of the photographs I have were taken out the car window -- that is, when it wasn't my turn at the wheel.

The Frida Kahlo cross above was a gift made by our Santa Fe friend. As I looked out the windshield, the brightly wrapped cross and Frida's face lent another dimension to the landscape beyond. We saw many, many long trains.

We saw many instances of the wind being put to work, also, along with inventive ways merchants had to catch the eye of potential customers speeding by.

With my family's railroading background, I can never pass an old train station without pausing -- and mourning the many routes no longer carrying passengers. If it could talk, the old station at Great Bend would no doubt have many stories to tell. And if only the distance a dog is allowed to travel on Amtrak were not limited, we might be crossing the country in leisurely fashion, in old-fashioned style! Freight trains, however, are still going strong west of the Mississippi and Missouri, and all the grain elevators give some idea why this would be so.

We took a short detour off our main road to explore Alma, Kansas, which bills itself as the "city of native stone." Old downtown buildings, as well as some of the older, larger houses, are built of limestone block, very familiar to me from the Illinois town where I grew up. Quite attractive, I always think. Sort of like 19th-century American castles. Sadly, our tour of Alma went by too fast for me to photograph the gorgeous old limestone buildings. 

We did make one stop to get out of the car in Alma, though. See below! My first thought when I saw it was gypsy wagon! David initially thought, houseboat! My second guess, caboose, is the one we finally agreed was most accurate. You can see how a couple of dreamers' eyes would be caught by this old derelict object, can't you?

Sometimes simply stopping for gas, though, was enough reason to employ my camera. I would have liked to see green and yellow in the lineup of semis below, but the billboard to the left (read the bottom part) convinced me to snap to shot, even without the full truck rainbow.

Not exactly photographs the state tourist bureau or any town chamber of commerce would leap to publish, are they? 

I have to tell you that there is a completely different album of photographs in my mind, from New Mexico and through corners of Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and across Kansas and Missouri. One electrifying and unforgettable image I can't show you is of an overturned long-distance hauler that had caught fire -- either before or after it rolled; who knows? -- its blackened hulk lying on the shoulder of the highway, trailer cracked open about midway and spilling piles of green cabbages out onto the side of the road. I'll bet you've never seen that photo anywhere! I can see it right now, in memory. 

The last time we went through Atchison, Kansas, we saw a gorgeous sunset, and that's still what I see in my memory album of the town. The only photos I have to show of Atchison are much more pedestrian, taken under a cloudy, end-of-day sky. 

To paraphrase what a friend says of the piano she plays in the corner of her mind (as contrasted to the one in the corner of the room), if only you could see my mental photograph album of our cross-country trip! I can't help imagining future visits (with camera and tripod and all manner of great lenses and all the time in the world) to all the places I didn't get to photograph, but it's unlikely that will ever happen. All those future visits, like the photographs that didn't get taken, are more mental objects than any part of the public world. As it is, however, I like to think that the images I do have to share of Kansas are not ones you have seen a million times before. If you like any of them at all, which is your favorite? 

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