The fifth day of our motorcycle trip from Vermont to Arizona started off cold and gray but the weather forecast promised sunshine and warmer temperatures so we took a chance and packed the raingear. We left Grand Island, Nebraska with the GPS telling us we had 130 miles heading straight west on Route 30 until our first turn.
We amused ourselves on the long, flat road through cornfields and soybeans by counting the cars on the numerous trains that sped by heading east. The longest I counted was 146, or about 1.3 miles long. Mike pumped his arm in the air to encourage the engineers to blow the train whistle, and most of them complied. It reminded me of when I was a little girl and we would take a walk with our grandmother down her dirt road in Indiana farmland to stand on the bridge over the toll road to wave at the truck drivers.
About 3 hours into the ride I felt like someone flipped a switch: the fog lifted, the sun came out in a cloudless blue sky, and the Nebraska landscape changed from lush green fields to rolling grassland. Mike spotted a small yellow cropdusting plane swooping over the fields like a large bird.
Route 30 took us west through the Sand Hills, the largest area of sand dunes in North America. Parts of this ecosystem have never been plowed, and I kept expecting to see a herd of buffalo thundering across the plains.
Mike had the GPS set to show the elevation as we gradually climbed from 1860' in Grand Island, NE to 5430' in Boulder, CO, our destination for the day. Western Nebraska and eastern Colorado are part of the Great Plains that stretch from Canada into Texas east of the Rockies. As we rode west and climbed higher, we watched clouds of dust follow tractors in the brown fields and herds of cattle grazing in the sparse grasslands.
As we kept pushing west, we both scanned the horizon for the first glimpse of the Rockies. I wondered what the pioneers felt as they slowly made their way through the Plains, knowing they had the Rockies to cross. We're looking forward to twisting, curving, steep mountain roads after 3 days of traveling on straight and flat highways, but I'm sure the folks in covered wagons had different thoughts about the Rockies.
We haven't been in a busy city like Boulder yet on this trip, and it was a shock to go from riding lonely miles with the road to ourselves to busy highways.
We're meeting our kids for dinner, looking forward to shooting pool and catching up with their lives. Tomorrow we're continuing our trek west into the Rockies. The flat, straight roads are behind us and the mountains promise a challenging and fun ride.