Monday, August 25, 2008

Main Street America

Last week, my mom and I drove the 600 miles from Denver to Kansas City along the straight stretch of lonely highway known as I-70. The bulk of the trip is the 440 miles across Kansas, and I'm pretty sure the person who originally coined the term "middle of nowhere" had this scenery in mind.

I have to admit, the ride was a little bit discouraging. I was surprised to see that Kansas (my home state, I might add) feels the need to advertise itself constantly to convince people that it doesn't suck as much as they might think. I-70 advertises this little stretch as "Main Street America," a concept that clearly no longer applies here, no matter what Bob Dole may think. The main streets of these towns have long since closed up shop, defeated by the infestations of fast food and truck stops clustered around the exits from the interstate, usually a mile or two away from the old town.

I even tried to find the towns under all that crap! When we stopped for lunch in Goodland, my liberal conscience would not let me give up and eat at a Wendy's and my poor mother, used to putting up with my weird dietary whims, was forced to join me on my quest for a locally-owned restaurant. We finally found Main Street after winding our way around the giant grain elevators, and shells of closed-down businesses, there was almost nothing. I had to go back to the gross exit/fastfood/chain mess with my tail between my legs and my faith in America sufficiently depleted.

(You might be interested to know that Goodland's website says it's a GREAT place to hunt prairie dogs. What?? Since when do people hunt prairie dogs? And how hard can that be?)

So after a whole day of semis, corn fields, truckstops, and billboards adverting tourist traps and the towns we were driving through (soooo desperate), I was sufficiently depressed. But then, I saw something that made me really happy. Like really, wonderfully excited about the world. A wind farm!

Off in the distance I saw these tall, white structures sticking out of the plains--which are quite hilly right there, thank you very much--and as we got closer you could start to make out the blades slowly turning in the wind. And there were hundreds of them! They stretched out for miles along I-70. It was beautiful. It looked like the future.

I felt really really proud of Kansas just then. I felt like someone had finally understood the Kansas's potential--that state is damn windy--to supply this country with clean energy. Move over West Virginia, coal time is over.

Ok, so maybe the corporate, fossil fuel-loving, chain culture won the last battle at the expense of the old model of Kansas small towns. But the next round is going to be a different story. Wind energy is going to do big things for middle America. Big things. (Like turbines. Them things are huge.)

P.S. I didn't take any of those pictures; they're from the internets. I really need to fix my camera.
P.P.S. That was really long. Sorry pants.

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