What a Country!

My Pierre Friends Mel and Jason

Linda Burton posting from Denver, Colorado – It’s my last day in Denver, a day I’ll use to summarize. The Journey Across America is now thirty percent complete! That’s right; fifteen capital cities visited, enjoyed, and lived in. I’ve encountered some surprises that didn’t match my plan, such as temperatures over a hundred degrees – I thought I’d be far enough north to avoid that in August! But the Dakotas did me in: Bismarck 105, Pierre 103. And I didn’t plan for Alex Cat to nearly die on me, or to get sick myself, but hey, our bodies falter, every now and then; we’re better now. I had an interesting thought as I came east across the Continental Divide into Helena, Montana, capital city number eleven. It occurred to me that only nine capital cities lie west of the Divide, and I’ve now been to all of them. I’ve lived in Phoenix, Sacramento, Carson City, Salt Lake City, Boise, Salem, Honolulu, Olympia, and Juneau. And I’m amazed that so much of the land, and the resources, that make up our country is found in a rather small number of states. Think of it.

Think oil: Alaska and North Dakota. Think coal: Montana and Wyoming. Think wheat, and corn, and sunflowers: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota. Think of all the food grown in California’s San Joaquin Valley. I have observed these wonders from the driver’s seat of the Scion. I have visited the great copper mine in Utah and passed through an uncountable number of cities that began with a search for gold. The geography of the west is a geography of ores. And wind; it seems that every high hill in the west is sprouting wind turbines. From my room in Cheyenne I could see three large turbines peeping over the nearest hill. The west is vast all right, vast, and intriguing, and rich. Rich in resources; rich in incredible, mind boggling scenery; rich in pioneering spirit. Today I write from Denver, rich with snow-capped mountains and golden sun; what a country!

Here are the travel stats to date.

  • Miles traveled since I left Brother’s house February 28: 16,307. I have driven 9,133 miles; 2,122 for the last 5 capital cities. I have flown 7,174 miles to Honolulu and Juneau.
  • Days on the road: 235, that is 35.5 weeks. Traveling an average of 69 miles a day.
  • I’ve slept in 27 different cities, crossed the borders of 19 states, and claimed as neighbors 4,539,674 people in the 15 capital cities.

What have I loved about the third five?

(Left) Helena: I loved the mountain called the Sleeping Giant, the thoughtfulness behind the signs in town that help folks find their way, the fun of the city tour on the little train and the bumps of the wagon ride out to the ranch, the art, the humor, and most of all, the charm.

(Right) Bismarck: I loved the no-nonsense simple way of life, the hearty German style and Knoephla soup, the Indian Village on a Slant, the legends and the truths of Sakakawea and Pomp, the golden sunflowers nodding in the sun, the farming and the growing things.

(Left) Pierre: I loved the friendly small-town way of life, the kindness shown, the warm brown hills and sparkling river waters, the fishing and the hunting and the love of life, the pride in the capitol, kept open every day for all to see, the homecoming parade.

(Right) Cheyenne: I loved the Saturday morning bustle of the farmer’s market at Depot Plaza, the message of the painted boots all over town, the western art and talk of rodeo, the cottonwoods hand watered, not there by chance, the bragging of Equality, and Women’s rights.

(Left) Denver: I loved the liveliness of city life, the highrise buildings topping off the town, the light-rail and the well-laid streets, the charming homes of brick on Capitol Hill, the museums and more museums, the 16th Street Pedestrian Mall, plans for the future taking shape.

As to experiences in the third five, I shadowed the Missouri River travels of Lewis and Clark and had Sunday brunch in the house where Esther Hobart Morris once lived. I lunched in a rail car in a city of trains and had cowboy coffee and huckleberry pie out on a ranch. I was serenaded in a city park by a passerby with two guitars and I imagined the Beatles singing as I stood in Red Rocks Amphitheater in the hills. I heard the sound of trains hauling coal through the night and smelled the smoke of relentless forest fires. I counted deer in yards and stopped my car by the side of the road to watch a baby bison nurse. I climbed through the window onto the balcony of a capitol (you guess which) and I walked the plaza through the Flags of States to pose beside the faces of the Mt Rushmore four. I got lost and I got sick; I bought a new GPS and I found a good doctor. I nursed my cat through a week of hell with the help of the greatest vet in the world. I made friends that I will never forget and developed a taste for walleye, the South Dakota fish. Thanks Dode and Dallen, thanks Mel and Jason; what good friends; what a country!

Still love the Scion. It has safely taken me over mountain passes, prairie flats, and city streets, and patiently sits in the parking lot between rides, waiting for a trip to the car wash to get the bugs off its face. It continues to attract attention, whether I’m just driving up (cameras come out and we swap photos beside it) or whether I’m inside my room just looking out the window. Everybody loves the map. Perhaps it inspires wanderlust. For sure folks like to brag about where they live, and invite me to visit their part of the US of A. What a country, indeed.