Have you really seen America?

If you have the time and you want to see America, drive.

Earlier this year I enjoyed a winter trip to Florida and a few days in the sun and watching Phil, the local Alligator, swim in the small lake behind Julie’s (my daughter) house looking for lunch. During the same stay, I watched as NASA launched a rocket into space carrying a communications satellite into orbit. Soon it was time to take a “red eye” flight back to SLC and home to good North Ogden.

As we made our approach into SLC, I was able to see a little bit of Utah and I was struck by the thought that I had traveled nearly 2000 miles across America and had only seen about 100 miles of this country. I wonder how many people who live in this great land of ours have seen it, or even bothered to look at our country. Other than the roads to and from the airport or the designer destinations they paid handsomely for, but do they really see America?

Did they see the little cafe in rural Utah,where you can “eat here, get gas”? The world’s largest ball of rubber bands? Have they seen the old North church, or the site where the “shot heard ‘round the world” was fired? Have they wandered through Valley Forge in the Wintertime? Have they felt the overwhelming sadness of Antietam?

Have they been to Little Rock Candy Mountain or gone fishing on Panguitch Lake? There is so much more to America than the inside of an airplane and free peanuts or cookies. I’m not saying to stop flying, but if you have the time and want to see America, drive.

There is really no excuse (in my opinion)for not driving across this country if you have the time, a good GPS and camera. Put some air in the tires, have Charly, your mechanic, change your oil and do a safety check on your car, buckle up the kids and spouse and head on out. Be prepared for potty stops and hearing the question “are we there yet” several times. Electric car? No problem. There are now several apps that show the nearest charging station. Get out the maps and take a blue road trip across our country.

Why go through all this trouble when you can hop on an airplane and enjoy the speed and convenience of a few hours to your designation, and a rental car with free mileage?

Let me ask a few questions. Do you know how wide the Mississippi River is if you fly over it? You can never understand the vastness of the Great Plains if you only see them from 35000 ft. Can you see the hard work and spiritual roots of rural America at 35000 ft. and 500 MPH? Take time to enjoy a night at the “No Tell Motel.” Enjoy a breakfast or two, over easy, two slabs and two “Jacks” at the grill across the street, served by the owner/server/dishwasher/cook. Do you know how deep Crater Lake is, or how wide the Impact Crater is, without seeing them?

Take the opportunity to drive the “Highway to the Sun.” While you’re there, take a hike up to one of the glaciers in Glacier National Park. Can you really understand how much damage was caused when Mt. St. Helens erupted without seeing it? Take time to drive the El Camino Real along the California coast. Go further east and, if so inclined,stop at a winery. Drive the “Million Dollar” highway from Durango to Silverton. Or better yet, take the narrow-gauge Train along the same route.

You don’t get to know America by clubbing or looking on Wikipedia. America is not all beautiful people dancing and enjoying beverages. Chances are those people have never seen Mt.Rushmore (other than pictures). You can’t understand why America is called the “Worlds Bread Basket” unless you drive by the endless cornfields in Indiana. I marvel at the vast crops of wheat in our country’s mid-section. Drive by the cattle ranches in Montana and see why we have meat, not only for ourselves, but can help other nations feed their people.

Travel up north and see the oil fields and rigs of the Dakotas. On the way there,stop and see the Devil’s Tower. Pause for a moment at the monument showing the last stand of General Custer. Go further west and enjoy the beautiful Yellowstone National Park. Or turn east and see the Land of a Thousand Lakes”.

As you travel these United States, you will not see any red or blue markers, you will only see the United State of America. Take time to enjoy America. Have some ice cream at the Dairy Queen or Frost Top. Have a buffalo burger and a side of onion rings at the Greasy Spoon Cafe. Loosen your belt and order a Raspberry Shake, or fresh limeade, at Bear Lake. Go fishing off the fishing bridge in Yellowstone. Go fly fishing on the rivers in Montana. Try rafting down the Snake River in Wyoming. Go swimming in the Great Salt Lake and get caked with salt. Drive by the Salt Flats and see not only the raceway, but part of the route of the Donner Party took as they traveled west toward tragedy in the Sierra Nevada’s.

Stop at a little roadside stand and buy some fresh produce just picked from the field this morning. If you’re traveling in late summer, go visit the local county fair. Watch the Demolition Derby and Rodeo. Eat a corn dog with plenty of mustard. Have some cotton candy and snow cones. Try a deep-fried twinkie or pickle. Suck it up and have some funnel cake. Stop at the local Rexall, sit at the soda fountain and have a Cherry Coke, or an over the top Chocolate Malt, better yet have a freshly made ice cream sundae or banana split. Go watch a ball game at the local park. Watch a small town 4th of July parade with all the horses, tractors, bands and bicycles all decorated in red, white and blue.

Travel to our Nation’s bad lands and see where Dinosaurs once ruled. Use a little imagination and picture yourself creeping up on a herd of Buffalo, armed with nothing but a bow and arrows,possibly a spear. While you’re there,watch for the hazards of nature: rattlesnakes ground hogs, and things like that.

You cannot know how big the Bingham Copper Mine is unless you see it. Or, why the mountains of South Dakota are called the Black Hills unless you see them. You don’t know how small the town of Sturgis, South Dakota is unless you go there.

You will never appreciate the beauty of the fall season the Northeast part of our nation unless you go there. It will be hard to enjoy the hospitality and food of the south without being there. Want barbecue? Head to Kansas, Texas or Memphis. Go watch a rocket launch in Florida or look for new aircraft in Area 51 of Nevada. Go to the Brick yard in Indianapolis and watch the races. Go to Cheyenne and visit the Rail Museum. Travel to Omaha, Nebraska, and watch the College Baseball World Series.

You can’t get to know America by looking down on it. America is a place that must be experienced to understand.

2 comments

  1. I would add only one suggestion to my friend Jerry’s excellent advice about seeing America: Get off the freeways whenever you can. Driving the Eisenhower Highway system (the Interstate) is almost as bad a flying over America, because you wind up eating at a truck stop instead of the fabled Greasy Spoon, etc., and you never see so many fascinating places to explore as you roar past at 80 MPH, focused on your destination instead of what is between it and home. It takes time, but it’s almost always worth it. For example, “if you’re going to San Francisco,” get off I-80 and cross the Sierras on Highway 50 over Carson Pass then down through Gold Rush country. Stop in Placerville and find out why it used to be called Hangtown. Buy a pan at the local hardware store and head north for Sutter’s Mill at Coloma and see if you can pan a little gold out of the America River.

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