There was something different as we rolled into Colorado. As we passed the welcome sign I felt my excitement peak. It was hundreds of miles till Denver, yet we had come so far. It had been a day and a half since we had begun, and we only had few hours left. So much had passed me by as we had traveled across the country. It was funny, thinking that the trip had only just begun. Ten days until we would pack our bags and head East again. We also had many miles yet to go, The Rockies still lay hundreds of miles in front of us.
Suddenly there were signs warning of road construction and orange cones squeezed traffic into one lane. We rolled by slowly. The large equipment was being run by many hands, and the rancid smell of new pavement punched me in the face. The workers and machines went along, leaving a freshly paved road in their wake. As we came out of the construction zone a women smiled at us, nodding as we passed by. Suddenly we were up to 70 miles per hour again, quickly leaving the border behind us.
We headed Southwest, as we had picked up Route 76 at the border. Now we were traveling through the rolling grasslands. To the North of us puffy clouds with dark underbellies floated by. Yet we were in the sun, and I couldn’t help but be happy as we rolled through The Grasslands. Here and there we saw cows grazing in small groups. Yet the majority of the large grassland looked untouched. It was incredible country, and all I wanted to do was stop and take it in. We had been crammed in the car for 28 hours, yet moments like this made it worth it. Looking out at the rolling countryside as we passed it made me happy to be alive.
The sun and clouds created a beautiful contrast that took my breath away. The rolling hills pushed out until they met the horizon. Sagebrush and grass was growing on both sides of the road. The winds were strong as we continued, and I saw Tumbleweeds skitter across the roads. Tumbleweeds were something that I thought only existed in cartoons. Yet I watched as the rolled across my path before disappearing back into The Plains. They were an unexpected little surprise.
To our North the land went out forever. Looking out I could see Thunderstorms crossing the land. The sun shone bright near us, yet to our North you could see unrest. The wind was up and clouds moved across the sky quickly. The grass and sagebrush were buffered by the wind. The dark clouds moved around restlessly, and the air was charged around us. To the North the sky was darker than I had ever seen. From afar I could see sheets of rain tumbling out of the clouds. I couldn’t hear thunder, but lighting snapped out of the clouds ferociously. Its thin arms reached down from the clouds, hitting the ground in quick bursts. I was thankful I was watching it unfold from many mile away.
Then the sky above us darkened. A cloud came over us, and little droplets began to fall. The storm quickly escalated as rain was turning to hail. The tiny ice pellets rapped off the car as we passed underneath the storm. For a moment it was so thick that we could barely see. I tensed, thought I tried not to show this fear outwardly. Then as soon as it started it seemed to slow down. The sky cleared once again and we kept going.
I couldn’t help but think back once again. The entire time, Westward Expansion was never far from my mind. What had happened to the natives that had once called this home? The pioneer trails passed North of where we were, yet this landscape continued far into Wyoming. In our car we were safe from the storms. What had it been like in covered wagons?
There were rolling hills in Iowa and in Nebraska, but these were different. In both States, there had been barns and well manicured fields along the way. The Grasslands of Colorado seemed almost abandoned. Only briefly here and there would a farm or a small town puncture the landscape. Often it was gone before you could blink making you wonder, was it really there at all?
There were only the hills and the sagebrush. The rolling grasslands caught my attention. The way the sun came down through the clouds, hitting the faraway hills was magnificent. I love the intimate surrounding of my youth. Yet the open landscapes of The West are captivating. The wide open land stirred something deep inside me. Its a place where dreams can live. The landscape speaks to both the future and the past. This landscape is timeless.
Then, in the distance a thin string of blue mountains peaked over the horizon. I gazed out, the large peaks rose up, their spine went for hundreds of miles. Many were still snow capped, but you could still see how large they were. We were still surrounded by the rolling grasslands, but in front of me I could finally see The Rockies.
We were approaching Denver. We had made it.