This post is from a series of articles chronicling a 2020 cross-country trip with my wife and two daughters and a boyfriend, from California to Ohio (to visit family) and Pennsylvania (to drop off my oldest daughter at grad school), and then back. We spent over five weeks on the road during the pandemic.
Finally, we are out of Kansas, and we are out of eastern Colorado, which is indistinguishable from Kansas.
There’s a fire just past Denver, a big one blocking the highway. On the radio they are talking about all the people who, zombie-like, follow their apps up narrow mountain roads, churning the dirt into mud, thousands of cars in a line creeping over obscure summits, stranding themselves. The state police are trying to block these paths, signs are being set up along the incoming Interstate beseeching people to think about the nature of the shortcuts they are attempting.
We take the highway north into Wyoming. There are strange sights to see. There is a Ted Orland photo, surreally perches atop a hill. There is a train stretched out for miles carrying windmill blades, organic things from some alien spaceship.
Lincoln is there. His head sits atop a stone pedestal, twenty-five feet high. The stone pedestal is proportioned just so, suggesting his body may be imprisoned inside.
A Freedom Shirt family is there, too, the father sharing this solemn moment with his wife and especially with his children, speaking to them, telling them of Lincoln. I’m wearing a too-bright Hawaiian shirt, my California wardrobe though I don’t surf and I’ve never been to Hawaii, and the man notices me but pointedly averts his eyes, quietly resentful. I am intruding.