Earthrise, December 1968, Image by Apollo 8

Saturday, October 31, 2015

To Cross the Northern Tier - The Great Plains

Carol Myers bikes across America, May 31 - August 22, 2015. 
2. Logan Pass, Montana to Fargo, North Dakota

Down, down the long descent
down from the snows of Logan Pass
to land-of-the-wind where the wide
empty opens onto arid steppes
and descendants of nomadic tribes
inhabit the shadow of grandeur.

I sail east on a tailwind and fly
by pastures and pea fields, by sleek
turbines lining dry ridges. I wave
to the west-bound Amtrak and roll
through lonely towns with sad taverns
where food is forlorn afterthought.

From Rudyard to Hingham, from Havre
on, faith is a friendly bar in an alien land;
hope is a bathroom around the next bend.
Perhaps the next pantry has lattes and scones,
beef jerky, cheese bits, and trail gorp to go.
And always I go. Day by day I take the road

through open fields of shifting hues that shimmer
in the morning air, then trudge the miles of muted
tones that anchor the afternoon sky-drama.
I go by the goodness of people and swear
by the kindness of strangers. Angels
wander grocery aisles and blessings

leaven the road. An old man hurries
from his home to offer the grace
of water as I pedal through his
reservation, onto rolling green
ridges, into relentless headwinds
and heat. I hew to the backroads

but hop the shoulder of an empty Interstate
when crumbling asphalt of Highway 10
lodges the treads of my tires. I push
by the oil derricks of Dickinson
and manicured lawns of Taylor
to pause in retreat at Assumption Abbey.

As I tack the shifting winds I dream
of shaded oases with lakes and trees —
Minnesota pulls me on. It pulls me
past tall grain towers and beyond
long trains towing tank cars of oil.
It pulls me through the traffic of Bismarck.

The land greens by degrees and earth
unveils her sensuous curves. White
daisies line the roadside. Green
hay carpets the horizon. Distant
depressions tucked in ponds are tiny
puddles in the intimate empty.

You cross the plains by persistence,
pedal stroke by pedal stroke, fueled
by a root beer float, lifted by lattes,
pushed by pretzels and Kit-Kat bars,
stoked by fast food bacon burgers.
You cross a continent meal to meal.

Where did the prairie end?
Was it the cafe in Kindred conjuring
the ways of Lake Wobegon?

It was gone by Fargo. I slept
at a HoJo with hot tub and pool

then slipped away into soft morning rain.

next: Lake Country
previous: The Mountain West
Carol's YouTube slide show: "A Trip through the Great Plains"

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