|Sunset, Rockford, IL copyright MM Sikes|
We just got home from almost two weeks of driving (with five days spent in Alexis Lavine's excellent artist workshop). During that time we drove through 11 states, and I couldn't help but wonder how the first settlers managed as they traveled by covered wagon or horses through the rough Pennsylvania mountains and across vast plains.
As I researched one of my novels, I discovered a series of books, Covered Wagon Women, in which Kenneth L. Holmes compiles letters and diaries written by women making treacherous cross-country journeys. One of the diaries from 1868 describes the journey of a woman who started from Liverpool, England with her family, traveled by boat, train, and then covered wagon. Along the way her young baby died, and she witnessed other tragedies.
Today, it is easy to see why Katharine Bates was inspired to write America the Beautiful following a trip to Pike's Peak in Colorado in 1893. We passed "amber waves of grain" and "purple mountains majesty" all along the way as well as many other majestic sights. In Wisconsin, a giant rock formation caused by a glacier appeared out of nowhere along the edge of the highway. And I discovered why the Wisconsin license plate features a red barn. They were everywhere!
The people of Ohio should be proud of the lovely service plazas located about every 40 miles along I-80. Besides state of the art restrooms, they have attractive food courts with well-landscaped outdoor dining areas featuring attractive round tables. A centrally-located TV monitor provides timely weather information. These plazas make inviting highway rest stops.
And one evening in the middle of our trip, we saw a perfect half-rainbow and then the most glorious sunset followed with the richest colors I have ever viewed. What a wonder to be free to drive across America!
Mary Montague Sikes