Even if I managed to get to central Montana and found a pilot willing to skim his airplane along a sinuous river, I’m more accustomed to seeking ground-level views of flora and fauna: better to leave an overview of the landscape to the professionals.
That said, I have this fine Tom Petty song on my road trip playlist, and I know where to find an equally fine landscape. There’s little traffic between here and there, leaving room to do a little flying of my own.
There’s still a world to be enjoyed and explored ~ find a way to do some flying yourself!
Of all the people I meet on the road, motorcyclists tend to be the friendliest and most interesting. Sometimes they’re fairly high on the wackiness scale, like this fellow riding with his club in Arkansas, but wackiness adds spice to life — especially when it arrives wearing a faux-Viking helmet and introducing itself as ‘Leif.’
Increasingly, groups of riders are cruising the Texas countryside, stopping for refreshment in places like the aptly-named Cruisers Ice House outside Santa Fe. Hill Country loops are especially favored; after a run through the famed route known as the ‘Twisted Sisters,’ riders congregate at Medina’s Apple Store, gas up at the Country Store near Lost Maples, visit the Motorcycle Museum near Vanderpool, or head to Camp Wood for burgers and beer.
They’re not alone. Miatas and Corvettes flock to the roads, and occasionally even a prim little sedan can be seen scooting over the hills, taking those curves with perhaps a little too much verve.
From now until March, bridge replacement on a portion of the Twisted Sisters will necessitate a detour, but that’s hardly a reason for concern. Untraveled roads abound; who wouldn’t want to be in the driver’s seat?
Take a ride with the Venice Vintage Motorcycle Club
In 2016, the Missouri Prairie Foundation established National Prairie Day: an effort to educate people about the vast grasslands which once stretched across North America, and to encourage commitment to the conservation and restoration of native prairies. This year, a new alliance of organizations dedicated to the voluntary restoration of native grasses on working lands in the U.S. will launch in conjunction with the celebration, held annually on the first Saturday in June.
Of course, learning about prairies is one thing: coming to love them quite another. I walked my first prairie in 2012. Since then, I’ve spent as much time as possible exploring their wonderful variety, from Texas’s coastal prairies to the tallgrass prairies of the midwest. One day — soon, I hope! — restrictions will be lifted, and I’ll be able to revisit some of my favorites. For now, I’ll celebrate the day devoted to their splendors with some photos from past visits, and my favorite prairie song.
Clean Curve of Hill Against Sky ~ The Tallgrass Express
(If the song won’t play and you’re using Chrome, try another browser)
Chase County, Kansas
As we hop on our ponies to climb up the hill while the morning breeze sleeps and the air is so still, we see up ahead in the early half-light That clean curve of hill against sky.
West of the Bazaar, Kansas cattle pens
Then we’re out in the pasture as far as we’ll go, It rises around us, a giant green bowl, While the sunrise is filling the day up with light On that clean curve of hill against sky.
Diamond Grove Prairie ~ Missouri
The pioneers saw it as they crossed the wide plains til they built up their cities for fortune and fame;
Open range near Wonsevu, Kansas
So there’s few places left now to pleasure the eyes with that clean curve of hill against sky.
Prescribed burn on the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve ~ Strong City, Kansas
Out here we’re still blessed with true darkness at night, our skies are a-glimmer with the Milky Way’s light; if you’re lucky, you might see a star shootin’ by that clean curve of hill against sky.
Konza Prairie ~ Manhattan, Kansas
But there’s more people and buildings and towers all the time ’cause there’s always a reason to put nature aside. Just a few places left now to pleasure the eyes with that clean curve of hill against sky.
Nash Prairie ~ Brazoria County, Texas
Now the hot sun is high and we’re riding on home, Our horses are spent, with their heads hanging low; I turn back my head now for one last goodbye to that clean curve of hill against sky.
The moving company and Comcast willing and the creek don’t rise, tomorrow night I’ll be in my new spot, ready to get reconnected to the internet. Things have gone quite smoothly, although I have envied this brown-headed cowbird a time or two. Were that moving from one home to another were so easy!
Had I seen this image with no explanation and no more context than its leafy background, I suspect I might have found identification difficult, even though I’ve encountered the object in the past under quite different conditions.
But seen from a longer perspective, with its shadow reflected on its well-buffed surface, it would have been unmistakable. Once you’ve seen the trunk of this magnificent tree, you don’t forget it.
The shadow cast across the lawn near the entrance to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was produced by this Roxy Paine sculpture titled Yield. I saw it first in autumn: shadowless, stark against a gray sky, and surrounded by nearly leafless trees.
During my recent visit, it seemed warmer, and more welcoming. The greening grass reflected in its highly polished surface made it seem as though Paine’s tree had itself taken root, and soon would leaf out.
It won’t, of course, but that hardly matters. Shimmering in the early summer sunlight, it stands as a reminder that second, third, or even tenth looks at any piece of art can be as rewarding — and as surprising — as the first.