Across the Heartland

Happy Fourth of July weekend, my fellow Americans. 

Lake Maloney, Nebraska.

Considering the COVID situation, here’s my report of what it was like traveling through thirteen states in two weeks. 5,000 miles. For the record, wearing masks, sanitizing our hands, distancing ourselves, and sleeping in our camper away from people was a mandatory situation.  Map from Meadville, Pennsylvania 16335 to Clarkdale, Arizona

30 h (2,075.9 mi or 3340.83721 km) via I-40, 55, 80, 76, 25, 17

Yesterday, Jim and I drove 800 miles. No, we aren’t masochists. It’s just that by late afternoon, we were in New Mexico and state parks were closed. Any forest road that provided dispersed camping was miles out of our way. We grew tired and cranky; we gave up and parked in the Walmart parking lot outside of Albuquerque, NM. The round trip was shy of 5,000 miles averaging 600 miles a day on the road.

What a difference from the previous night when we found beautiful Lake Maloney, Nebraska. You’d never know there was a pandemic in Nebraska. I stopped in a Walmart to buy stuff. No one wore masks. No one seemed concerned. (That’s a hasty generalization. Forgive me.) Campers stayed away from each other.

New Mexico, on the other hand, had lights blaring on the interstate informing people they would be fined if they didn’t have masks on. Everyone seemed to wear a mask. My point is each state we traveled through had a distinct response to the pandemic.

Can you imagine the memories made today with this pair of brothers learning how to jump in the lake?

We scratched our heads wondering how on earth the pandemic would spread here. It was creepy.

The state of Kansas didn’t want anyone from Arizona passing through, so we rerouted our itinerary and got out of there as fast as possible. We found ourselves on a back road in the middle of nowhere for hours.

Northern Oklahoma surprised me by how pretty it was. Lots of trees, hills, and green grass. We were in the Bible Belt. The towns were manicured and spacious. Half of the people I saw wore masks. That night,  we parked in a monstrous parking lot of the Church of the Nazarene because Ruby would have plenty of space to run in the grass on the compound. We hoped no one would mind and no one did.

Because our travels took us mostly through rural areas, there was no problem self-distancing. Once we arrived at our destinations, Jim stayed in Pennsylvania on his cousin’s 18-acre farm where distancing was easy. Jim’s purpose was to visit his father who was 91 and frail. I stayed indoors in a bubble world with my Mom for a week. We kept our tradition of an afternoon drive with an ice cream cone in hand.

Morning walks around Zearing Park, Princeton, Illinois

This was the first trip I experienced where a situation like the COVID affected my perceptions of America. Like most Americans, we had many discussions in the car about the state of the United States. This was no vacation. The trip was a heavy one.

Traveling through the heart of the country made me appreciate the communities I observed from afar. The towns we passed through and the lives of ordinary people who work hard and take care of their yards. It matters. I respect their gardens. I respect the farmers out on their tractors. I respect those who go to church. I admire the flower pots, the trimmed hedges, the canned vegetables, the sheets hanging on the line. I am thankful for the time my mother has left on this earth. I appreciate my job, my friends, my family, and my country. Even though we are going through a bad patch of dysfunction. I am resolved to stay calm and carry on.

48 thoughts on “Across the Heartland

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  1. I’ve only been to the coasts and when I visited the Deep South, it blew my mind. I love how there are so many unexplored places in the heartland.Yours pics are beautiful

    PS – I really enjoy your writing, and was wondering if you would guest write on my blog. We can have back-links to your blog/business/other websites etc.

    Contact me at


    1. I checked out your blog; we seem to have similar interests, don’t we? I’d be happy to be a guest writer–only now is a busy time. However, feel free to reblog any of my posts on your site!


        1. The North East. yes? Most my life has been spent in the Northern Hemosphere. I’m quite out of my comfort zone, here in AZ. I’m celebrating 8 years here. As much as I live the greenery of Illinois, I love the 9 months of perfect weather. And that big sky. 😉 Happy fourth, Allen!

          Liked by 2 people

  2. What a lovely photograph of your dog. In England,
    Covid spreads where people don’t respect the rules. Social distancing. A mask. Wash your hands. But if you congregate in crowds then it spreads like wildfire. Nobody over here can understand why so many Americans seem not to want to take these most basic of precautions

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t get it either. Seriously. So many of us are, mind you. Usually what’s televised are the radicals and extremists. Most of us respect each other. Put a pint in our hands, forget it. It’s boring to stay home, I get it. Unless you are a homebody like me, it’s not hard at all to social-distance from others. Outdoors and separated.. How hard is that? I feel bad for the ones who choose to live in cities where it’s much harder.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It seems that rediscovering your country by road has helped restore your faith in it too.
    Always fascinating to see the ‘heart of America’ from the point of view of an American.
    Happy 4th of July, Cindy. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, my dear friend. Usually if tourists from outside the states visit American, it’s to a city or famous tourist attraction (just like us!) visiting Europe or wherever. It was good for me to see the heart of the country. You are quite right. It was a grounding, contemplative trip that helped me out emotionally.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. A “bad patch of dysfunction” sums it up nicely! That’s interesting to hear about Kansas and not wanting Arizonians in their state. When we return to AZ in late Sept/early Oct. it’ll be interesting to see if we run into restrictions. We didn’t on our way to northern WI. You did some serious driving and glad to hear you made it back home safely. I’m sure it was a rather emotional trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know how long and contemplative that trip is. Lots of time to think and consider. Miss you and Susan! Hope you are safe and well. Thanks very much for popping by today. Have a great 4th of July.


    1. It was a relaxing activity to do. The open windows, the smells and sounds of the corn growing and the inhabitants in the grass and trees. It isn’t like that in NC Arizona. I love the sensory experience of visiting “home” now.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I can imagine now is a very unusual and interesting time to make a road trip like this. I am glad you got to spend this precious time with family. You final words are very true, people going about their ordinary business are admirable.


  6. This is a great post Cindy. I respect these people too and am glad to see them in good spirits and you and your Mum and Jim and Jim’s Dad. Taking a road trip through America would be a dream come true. It and it’s people are a special place.


  7. Such a variety of scenery when you do the trip around the whole of the US. I can remember aiming for that kind of mileage in a day but soon learned that with two small children in order to do that you better start at 4am so they can sleep in the back of the car and find a motel with swimming pool early afternoon so they can get the travel frustration out of their system in the pool. LOL. Doing that travel in the middle of a pandemic when everyone is jittery would be worse I would imagine. While restrictions here are progressively easing within states we still can’t travel interstate and of course overseas travel in or out is out of the question until mid next year.


  8. Thanks for sharing this Cindy – gorgeous photos and very necessary commentary: we are indeed 50 unique states, each with specific issues – but we are also part of a universal whole…so even if we don’t have a problem, we help our neighbors across the country who do. Both California and Arizona are spiking for similar and different reasons – so a safe escape to see our natural beauty is much needed…hope everyone in Pennsylvania and Illinois are doing as well as possible

    Liked by 1 person

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