Saturday, October 24, 2009

California to Rhode Island: Five Days in August

After an incredibly truncated visit in California (less than two weeks to visit both Northern and Southern and umpteen friends and relatives), we set off for Rhode Island. I've driven cross-country before, in 1998, but at the time I had no schedule, no deadline, and no real destination - it was a sort of the-journey-is-the-destination-type trip. This time, however, there was a very definite deadline, and an equally definite destination. It was somewhat frustrating to have to hurry through the drive - with the exception of northern Nevada, which I would prefer to spend, oh, NO time in. I can't imagine how any pioneers managed to make it across that stretch without the help of at least an SPF 30 sunblock.

While the climate in Utah was just as hot and arid as the climate in Nevada, the landscape in Utah was a bit more interesting. I mean, have you seen this?

Salt / Train

Bonneville Salt Flats

The Bonneville Salt Flats. I've been to Utah before, but I've never really seen the Salt Flats. It's like the surface of the moon or something (note: I've never seen the surface of the moon). Brad picked up some of the damp clumps of solidified salt, but I chose not to - it had a strange smell, and there was something very alien about it. It was desolate, but not in the same way that Nevada was desolate. In Utah, the land still had an air of life about it, an air of activity. Maybe that's why the Mormons chose it to be their promised land.

Speaking of Mormons:


There's the Temple! Salt Lake City is a very strange place. Here's a weird thing about SLC, for those that haven't been there. A couple blocks northwest of the temple, the street will be called something along the lines of West 300 North Street. Southwest of the temple, the street would be West 200 South Street. Southeast of the temple....but you get the idea. It makes navigation very easy and strangely creepy. And despite the startling cleanliness of the streets, there was a much larger homeless population than I thought there would be. The city, incidentally, has changed a lot since I was there in 1998. Mormonism has grown since then, though, so I guess growth in the city is to be expected. (The interweb tells me that in April 2008, there were about 13.5 million Mormons, up from 12.8 million the year before - and there were supposedly approximately 10 million Mormons when I visited there the last time. I actually thought the growth would have been greater, but maybe I just think that because Mormonism has been so much more noticeable lately, what with Mitt Romney and Big Love. That was a long digression).

We didn't stay in Utah for the night; we continued on to Wyoming for our first night on the road. I breathed a little easier as soon as we got over the WY line, and when we woke up just after dawn the next morning, we found that the land had gotten much more varied. Trees, hills, wind power; it was a nice change from the rock rock rock of Utah. Wyoming was actually a beautiful state to drive through, and there was this incredibly hilarious landmark that I'd never heard of:

Little America, WYLittle America, WY

There were signs for this all along I-80 in Wyoming; it was less impressive than I'd hoped it would be, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

Continuing along. I hate to say it, but we didn't take barely any pictures through Nebraska or Iowa (which was very strange, considering we stopped in Iowa to see two different sections of Brad's family. They took pictures, but we somehow didn't manage. Immediately upon leaving, I wondered how we did that...). I managed to take one picture that might've been Nebraska...or Iowa...or Illinois...or Indiana...or Ohio...oh, disgraceful. Sorry about that. But the picture is at least interesting:

Wind Power

That's how they transport turbines. There were lines of these dotted all along I-80 through the Midwest, and I have to say - those drivers were hauling ass. I was shocked at the way they were bombing down the highway, pushing past drivers already well over the speed limit. It's like an extremely gigantic shark's tooth.

We did stop at the Iowa capitol building in Des Moines, where Brad talked to me about the Iowa Caucasus or something like that. Caucus - Iowa Caucus. The Caucasus are the mountain range separating Russia from Georgia. Apparently the Iowa Caucus "decides everything." There are some qualifications on that statement, but you get the gist.

Iowa Capitol

Despite the fact that I didn't take many pictures through the Midwest, it was actually very pretty. I do have one question, though: why so much corn? Corn corn corn. I was astounded at the corn. Who is eating all that corn? I know, corn syrup requires a lot of corn, and the corn-based ethanol uses up a lot of corn, but sheesh - I really like corn, but I don't eat it that often. Not often enough to devote about 125,000 square miles to corn, at least. Corn plants are sort of lovely, though - nice for movies and hiding from crop dusters, etc. It was calming. And I listened to the album Nebraska while we were driving through Nebraska at dusk; as cliche as it sounds, it really worked.

We pushed our way through Pennsylvania and upstate New York so that we could make it to New England by the evening of the 31st of August, and we actually met our goal. So here we are! The seat of the original 13 colonies! The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, officially, but there's some hubbub about that going on at the moment, apparently. When I get a break from my studies, I'll read up on the founding fathers and all that. It's not really my subject. B really loves this stuff, though. This was very exciting for him:

Newport / Constitution

That's Newport. Rhode Island was actually the last state to ratify the Constitution, making it the 13th state, and this is where they did it. Rhode Island, however, despite being the last state to sign, was the first colony to declare independence from the British, so it's all swings and roundabouts, really.

So here we are in Providence! We've got a great flat, and my program is incredibly rigorous but wonderful. The leaves are changing, the air is getting crisper, and I'm sure we'll be appalled by the New England winter. It was nice for our first few weeks here, though.


And I think that you, dear reader, are all caught up. As things stand at this moment, I'm working on a presentation on Aleksandr Blok and his drama, and will soon dive into an (incredibly harsh) critique of Nabokov's translations of Blok. (I am against Nabokov. I am willing to take a stand on this). I love (most of) what I'm studying, so be prepared to hear about it in the future. Hope autumn is treating everyone well...


Anonymous said...

Corn? Not just corn-on-the-cobb and canned and frozen CORN, but also popCORN...CORNstarch...CORN tortillas...but mostly CORN syrup and the dreaded high fructose CORN syrup found in a bizzillion food products on the store shelves. My personal favorite is CORN chips!

Anonymous said...

oh, and corn meal...(polenta, corn bread, etc)!

silvergirl said...

...Let's not forget corn smut!

Love that photo of the wind turbine-in-transit, Katie... amazing! i would have been frightened beyond compare to have to drive anywhere near that thing.

And when you say you're against Nabokov, do you mean in the general sense, or do you mean you're against his translations? i'm certainly not a rabid fan, but i do think the man has a way with words, sometimes ;)

Also, Nat's fam is from Iowa. We've never been, though. And shame on you for not taking pictures! :P Good luck with the Winterizing,

bird feet said...

Sorry Heather - I am simply against him. I just finished Pnin, and I found that one quite charming, actually, but for the most part I cannot deal with his novels. I appreciate his short stories, and if his novels were short stories, perhaps I would like them better, but as it is, I feel that it's mostly posturing and patting himself on the back. Of course, part of my dislike is based on the way he's taught in schools and universities - I don't know how he wormed his way into the canon. I understand how people like him, I just don't count myself among them.

And yes, the turbines were scary, especially considering the truck drivers were going about 10 mph faster than we were!

Anonymous said...

corn fields? see the documentary "KingCorn" - very enlightening!