Not your average travel blog
Driving across the four principalities of Canada, or the few states across the centre of the USA if we had gone that route must surely be, some of the dullest driving on earth (as well as the M25 in rush hour, but at least you can get out and talk to your fellow, traffic jam inmate); So why do it? Why not fly? Why not start the trip on the Rockies?
This flat farmed land (you know, the hundreds of thousands of square acres in the middle of North America), spanning both sides of the largest, unguarded and unfenced border between two nations in the world, is the reason both modern nations exist. The majority of Britain would fit into any U.S. state, and easily into any of the central Canadian provinces. Imagine Britain, as just three large fields; all flatter than a pool table – now imagine your pool table planted with corn, and it being at least a dozen times the size of Britain – you should now have an image of something similar to what I am travelling across – only without the giant balls. While the driving might be seemingly dull, it is still quite breathtaking. It helps me grasp what we’re capable of as a species, and it conjures an understanding of how both America and Canada are able to function as western societies. Without this landscape, and the agricultural industry which dominates it, North America would likely be a third world region; still highly influenced by and incorporating much native “indian” lifestyle endeavours. Although I’m sure most of us are aware of the influence of modern farming, seeing it, and appreciating its size is a unique experience. I’ve now seen the modernised plains twice and can understand how we operate as westerners a whole lot more. It often fills me with feelings of appreciation but also of uncertainty and sadness, as well as anger. As mind blowing as it is, it’s still an experience that is good to endure as quickly as possible.
Last year I thought I had seen large farm fields across the USA’s northern Midwest.
America, your fields are small (I never thought I would say that). Across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and further west into Alberta, I’ve seen fields of corn (and maybe just grass for hay), easily a couple of thousand acres in size. On occasion, from the highway, some fields appear to stretch to the horizon. I can’t admit to being a fan of such obese farming, but if we ignore the morals and destructive obligations which we have forced upon the people that keep the human race alive (farmers), it is truly a spectacle. When you go somewhere you’ve never been, even somewhere dull, or do something new, every day is a school day.
Much like at sea, when you’re on the plains, the weather doesn’t just appear over a hill or up a valley; you can watch it from 40 miles away. Sometimes it is completely spectacular, or on occasion, devastating. If you’re not in a hurry, you can listen to the emergency storm updates on the radio and time your rest stops, as well as keep your eyes up for some drama in the sky. There is hardly any, or even no light pollution from towns and cities, and seeing the stars in the night sky is simply an experience you just can’t forget. When it is light, I’ve seen hurricanes and dry lightning storms whip up over the hot, dry land, and tornados suck up the dust and move faster than any vehicle. Rain storms are often a mile or two across, and they stalk farm fields from a few miles away like giant, soaking wet black cats, bigger than any mountain. We’ve had visibility so bad during storms, it’s much like running into a waterfall and not knowing if there is a solid rock face, or a dwarf sitting on a pot of gold, spinning wool next to a rainbow on the other side. To date, we haven’t driven into either, but I think I need to reread my fairy tales. Being able to see the weather, and not just be in it, is something we don’t get to appreciate much of in Britain. Our landscape changes so much, that weather can hide behind the curtains and just appear like a tactless, drunk uncle at a surprise party. While travelling across the plains, watching the weather is impressive, and it’s also good to see a tactless drunk relative coming from 40miles away.
Experience is everything, even (and often more so) the difficult and dull times.
Tomorrow, thankfully, I’ll be in the mountains, although after enjoying the flat lands, it’s me that is turning up at my uncles, rather unannounced.