By Charlie Johnston
I hit the road on Monday to begin the visits in the East. I left Colorado by a parallel route to that with which I entered it on my pilgrimage seven years ago. It is always strange to me when I drive a long stretch of what I walked at the beginning of the decade. I always think, “Man, that was a loooong way.” While it just takes me a good portion of a day to cover what took me weeks to cover on foot, it somehow seems longer when I drive it. I suppose it is because of expectations. When you are walking, you put in your 10-15 miles, find cover, and make camp for the night. The places you come to are always ancillary to the work you do each day – and you never know what delightful people and events you will encounter with the day. You truly savor the moments without much in the way of expectations. Yet if you do it every day, you cover a ton of ground – a whole country’s worth, in time.
A wild storm chased me all the way out of Colorado and into Nebraska. It seemed to be 20 miles behind me all day long. About a half hour after I passed through Ft. Morgan, I got the emergency broadcast that folks there should take immediate cover to protect themselves from ping-pong sized hail, flying debris from the high winds and killer lightning. Same as I passed through Brush, Sterling, and Julesburg. I stopped in Big Springs, Nebraska (on the border of Colorado) to get a sandwich and look at the great, hidden spot where I had taken cover and made camp seven years ago. Although I hang around for a good half hour, when I left, the storm was STILL a half hour behind me. I drove until I got to Kearney, Nebraska and got a room for the night. I watched the storm finally catch up with me from my room around 11 p.m. By then it was just a shadow of itself. I only got three minutes of hail – and it was the size of new peas, not golf balls. There were a couple of forlorn bolts of lightning, but it was just for show: its killing days were clearly over. That vicious wind that was sending debris flying everywhere else apparently had an asthma attack: it was so weak as to almost be apologetic.
Tuesday I got some gentle rain as I drove into Iowa. I kept getting the emergency broadcast telling me of the destructive potency of storms as I headed east…but it stuck to gentle rain wherever I actually was. That was nice – I hope if the storm shadows me throughout this journey, it remains at bay.
I’ll get something substantial up this weekend. Meantime, I will speak at the Frida Kahlo Restaurant in Solon, Iowa at 6:30 this Thursday, May 30. Contact Patty at firstname.lastname@example.org for information or to secure a spot there. On Sunday, June 2, I will speak in Wadena, Iowa at 2 p.m. Contact Gary at email@example.com for information and to secure an invitation.