East of Topeka, the landscape opens in long languid rolls like a calm open sea. As we travel west, the trees shrink in size and retract from their proximity to the road and the sky vault lifts high supporting the broad canopy of thick clouds covering the heavens. The smaller neat pocket farms are replaced by sprawling expanses of row crops and grains, and once again we can see from north horizon to south, unobscured except for an occasional grain elevator or church steeple off in the distance. In this openness, even a one hundred car train has no place to hide and we can see from one end to another with no obstructions. It is not until we are within 100 miles of the Colorado border that the gently rolling plain takes on the more flat, high desert pancake we are more accustomed to further north in Nebraska and along the Rt. 80 corridor. Flat like a freshly oiled pancake griddle. Flat like the 4th avenue billiard table. Flat like a fresh pie crust stuck to the bread board.
All day we have been laboring under an oppressive and seamless, thick matt of featureless clouds, then all at once, as the road begins the long climb to the mile high plateau of desert scrub east of Denver, the sky opens into deep blue, with a parade of widely spaced billowy nimbus clouds marching north between us and the front range. We are overcome with the openness of it all, after more than a week of rain, and City streets, overarching deciduous trees, dropping sodden foliage from the water logged canopy and humidity stickiness, and twisty roads with a million stop signs, we are back in the BIG, the OPEN, the western states and their grandeur.
The landscape begins to rise, and swell again after over 300 miles of Kansas flats, and windrows have been planted to deflect the snows and weather which sweeps across the open waist of the country. Corn and soy fields have given way to open grasslands, grazed short revealing small mounds of rocks and outcroppings of crumbling ancient seabed. Small groups of cattle, far off in a field, gathered around the water trough, filled by the slowly spinning windmill with fanned arms facing windward. Another mixed herd, closer to the roadway, with scruffy brown coats and white faces, calfs, nursing mightily from the tolerant cows. And the sun, once again piercing cleanly through transparent atmosphere, not slowed and dispersed by humid mist beams happily over our shoulders - on our left- first time from this aspect in over a month. Happily, no billboards mar the scene - making claims, of the tallest pie in America, or the biggest prairie dog in the mid-west, or the cheapest price in town.