A Rumor of Kansas
*Author's note: this entry was originally released 9-2-05; updated 7-31-08; and re-released in April '10, in keeping with the travel humor theme of late*
In a recent post I read, a blogger was in the midst of waxing most favorably about his driving visit to Colorado. Like most good things, it -- the visit -- had to come to an end. Faced with a return to Texas, he opted for the eastern route out of Colorado, and faced that dire dearth of splendor to the east, what he referred to as "the visual equivalent of wiping ones' eyes with sandpaper".
Being a native Iowan, I am accustomed to jokes about my particular state of origin (note: Stephen King's Children of the Corn used Nebraska as a backdrop, not Iowa..nyah nyah). Being a transplant in Colorado, I am accustomed to hearing and making jokes about transplanted Texans (about hunting), Califorlornians (about them having screwed up their state, and now seeking to do the same here), Floridians (about their winter driving and ballot-reading inacumen). And of course, who hasn't heard a joke or two about the great waste of the northern plains, North Dakota, rumored to be one of the last places on Earth that the Ice Age revisits yearly, along with my ex-fiancee, but I digress.
For anyone who's driven across Kansas by accident or design, and survived the sheer boredom of it, well..."ack" doesn't begin to describe it. Travelling east, you leave the splendor of Colorado's mountains and foothills, and emerge into a vast...flatness, relieved only by crossing the border into Misery.
In Colorado, on a clear day you can climb to the top of a mountain, and see for miles in every direction. In Kansas, you can do the same thing using an 8' step ladder.
But the thrill just ain't there.
I once mused that so much of eastern Colorado, from Limon to the border, looked so much like Kansas -- flat and desolate -- that Colorado would eventually declare, fight, and win a border war with Kansas. Then, flush with victory, Colorado would force Kansas to take everything east of Limon.
Misery -- not the state -- loves company.
But I would be most remiss if I didn't acknowledge that there is another side to Kansas, and many a staunch ally who stand up vociferously for that side of Kansas. To them, Kansas is the I-ching. Kansas is an oracle. A temple, a shrine. Indeed, a diety. Kansas is the answer to all things mesocyclonic. Kansas is a paragon of EF* virtue. Kansas isn't Iowa...but it, to this sect of dedicated, devoted, science and meteorologically-oriented, mild-to-madly-insane lunatics, is Heaven.
To them, beholding mesocyclonic supercells on the vast plains of Kansas, is akin to a deeply poignant, intensely moving religious experience. To drive through horizontal rain, and suffer the slings and arrows..er..the dings and pits of golf ball/worse size hail, to get that perfect image of the swirling leviathan from the 'bear cage', is akin to a cigarette after perfect sex, or a score in a karaoke bar that doesn't lose it's luster outside of barlighting.
For them, the miles tallied in Kansas are a badge of honor. It is the Yellow Brick Road of meteorologic reality. And in the midst of what they seek, it's not unlike the interior of a Walmart the day after Xmas. Or Katrina.
And just so's you know, I do know a person or two who resides in Kansas, and do so by choice. Yeah, they do seem pretty sane, and neither one's a storm chaser. And they proudly love it.
It's one of the many rumors that is Kansas.
* Enhanced Fujita Scale, a system of rating the energy/destructive power of a tornado