Mornings in Kansas

(Recounting the morning of June 3 of my roadtrip.)

To get to Monument Rocks we were forced to turn off the main highway three times. After overshooting our destination by 10 miles, Cassie parked the Subaru at the minimart of a rusty gas station and inquired of a man who most assuredly knew more about Kansas that we might, where the turnoff might stand.

She squeezed the car door open, infusing the road-trip stupor with a bit of the vitality of Midwest air and simultaneously declared the attendant nice and our decision wrong.

We u-turned Grinnell, bolted the opposite direction and after exiting the highway, plunged onto a slightly dustier two-laner heading South. We had passed a joint resolution on the first day of our trip declaring our disdain for talkative, newfangled devices that spat out distances and freeway exits and that numbed the brain’s sense of location. The consequence of this vehicle legislation was the over-sized atlas that my left hand gripped as my right hand traced the thick, bold lines that would lead us to our destination.

We cherished our willful revile of modern comfort and toasted to our map-reading capabilities and memorization of the names of major thoroughfares as we roasted our bums in the car and let our eyes relax on the monotony of hills or oaks or cornfields. After a bit, we went left at another sign, right at the next and then after many miles of the comfort of paved roads we were astonished to hear gravel berate the tires.

Although the crackling sound made suspicion easy, the brash and ostentatious Monument Rocks that startled the green fields around them, did not. After winding around confusedly and then assuredly, Cassie determinedly parked the car and we emerged at the park. With the time change, it was late morning and our clothes were already sticky against our backs and dust came up when trudged to the site that we hoped was not affixing itself to us. Cassie pointed the camera in various ways, pleased that the strange edges of the rocks easily lent themselves to attractive and interesting shots.

I observed the swallows diving in and out of their nests which had settled in clusters and which clung to the rocks as the birds fluttered to and from them. I started when a swallow dove over my hand and its business fell to on my open palm as I posed for Cassie but my joy for these birds’ energy did not falter and later I filmed the dozens of them bursting about.

It was easy to be seized by lethargy in the encompassing humidity and I found these rapid bursts of movement challenging me to pull myself away from the status quo of sitting down.

In flimsy sandals, Cassie and I pulled ourselves to the summit of the Monument Rocks and pranced about the unguarded surfaces. She refused to flagrantly approach anything that may have defied her luck, but filmed me when I unsuccessfully attempted to test mine.

We were sweatier when we returned to the car. We had been racing the 10-second camera self-timer for a memorable picture of the two of us with a looming background of the monoliths. We had both failed on several attempts and when we flung open the car doors, pulled them fast in shut, and pulled out, we realized that we had left One Hundred Years of Solitude and The Woman in White wedged under the plastic on the blazing steel roof, and laughed.


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