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Tuesday, 15 Oct 2002
written by Teresa

Spending four days in the city is a shock to the system after the seclusion and quiet of South Dakota. Sterling's work took us to Denver and a hotel suite with unlimited water, flush toilet and enough space to swing a giraffe.

Alfalfa field

We headed northeast from the metropolis across the autumnal plain bathed in golden sunlight, bleached by the heat of the summer and desiccated by the drought. Fields of regimental rows of feed corn stand to attention defying their wizened appearance while they await harvest and transport to the numerous feedlots or silos dotted along the railway tracks. Now and again the parched land gives way to a patch of deep rich green alfalfa lying in stark contrast to the surrounding pale yellows and gold's. The landscape is spotted with single bales of hay seemingly scattered across fields while stacks of varying construction stand in well-structured geometry or lean precariously. We have been known to speculate that different shapes of bale were a reflection of regional variation but this is blatantly not true out here. Roulades, loaves, traditional bales and beehives all appear with equal frequency. Hay stacked like loaves of bread Every few miles we passed a lorry laden with sugar beets. Now and again we would spy a small hummock on the horizon that proved to be a huge mound of the sweet roots waiting transport to the nearest sugar mill. The cycle of the land is very obvious as we travel and the harvest is clearly underway here in northeast Colorado. A sign outside a John Deere dealership requested the local farmers to "Have a Safe Harvest" and given the grabbing, grinding, gnashing machinery on sale it's not hard to understand the true meaning of the exhortation.

We spent Saturday night just north of the town of Sterling (Yes, he has his own!) overlooking a reservoir that is home to hundreds of migrating white pelicans. There they are, sleeping in large groups on the shore, riding the thermals and fishing out on the water. I have an inexplicable soft spot for pelicans and take a child like pleasure every time Sterling recites the Ogden Nash like rhyme.

What a marvellous bird is the Pelican.
His bill can hold more than his belly can.
He stores in his beak food enough for a week.
But I'm damned if I know how the hell he can.

The water level was extremely low and some bright spark from the state park system had helpfully posted a sign that given the marina was completely dry and the boat ramps some considerable distance from the water's edge, had just a touch of understatement about it. It read: "Water level low. Boat launching difficult."

The Wildcat Hills of western Nebraska Entertaining signs of one sort or another appeared to be the order of the next day also. The off licence in Fort Morgan had the following sign: "Village Liquor - Enjoy in Moderation". While I understand that this demonstrates a commendably high level of awareness about public health, I did wonder how the owners hoped to make a living if everyone took them at their word. We were on the brink of going in and suggesting something along the lines of: "Village Liquor - Get Drunk as a Skunk", but restrained ourselves. In Bridgeport we were silenced by the profundity of both sides of a motel sign: "A book left shut is but a block of wood" backed by "Nature revolves. Man advances".

We continued into Nebraska along a scenic byway. Having lived in the Rockies, our standards in this regard are high and as Dr McCoy would have said, "It's scenic Jim, but not as we know it." Nevertheless it has an empty desolate beauty all of it's own and Wildcat Hills where we spent a couple of nights certainly had some contours to recommend it.

In Scottsbluff we did the rounds of the numerous hardware and auto part shops looking for a particular item for our solar installation. The conversation in the first shop went something like this:

Have you got any ring terminals for six-gauge wire?

Shop Assistant:

Do you know where we could get some?

Shop Assistant: (With incredulous look on face.)
What! Today?!!

Is there a hardware shop in town?

(Prolonged silence while accent and terminology are processed.)

Shop Assistant:
Do you know where the Ford dealer is?

No, we've never been here before.

Shop Assistant:
Well, go along here, get on the freeway and you know where Target is…?

Things went down hill from there.

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