I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
--Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ulysses
We left at noon, the parents and the high school senior, for roads and states unknown. Leaving work and school commitments behind, we headed north. At first the highway sights and sounds were familiar; we had just driven through Fort Worth on our way to Keller last month, to purchase a French horn for our band player.
Past Keller, though, everything was new to us. We were surprised we crossed the border into Oklahoma so quickly; travelling to Ohio via Arkansas took much longer. But this weekend's destination wasn't my husband's hometown of Cleveland--it was Mount Vernon, Iowa, the site of one of our son's two college choices.
We watched the miles increase and the temperatures decrease. First Oklahoma, then Kansas--we spent the night in Wichita, arriving just after ten. We collapsed in our beds. I did manage to get up earlier than the rest and take advantage of the hotel's fitness room, knowing I'd be sitting the rest of the day.
Back on the road, I was in awe of the wide open spaces, the dull colors of winter in this breadbasket part of the country. Gray barns and silos jutted out of yellow-beige fields gone fallow, silhouetted against pale blue skies. Cows dotted the hills sometimes, like black holes punched through manila paper.
We had packed for snow, and I was afraid we would be disappointed. The small unmelted mounds left on the edges of the sidewalks at the Iowa border looked old and dirty. A few more miles, and there it was--a confectioner's sugar-dusting of far-reaching fields, looking both cold and comforting at the same time. We had no drifts to walk through, but our boots and heavy jackets kept us warm in the wind-chilled teens of temperatures.
A night in Cedar Rapids led to an early alarm to get to Cornell College in time for our son's interview and campus tour. The modern student center sat among nineteenth-century buildings. Students much more accustomed to the cold wandered in for breakfast wearing pajama bottoms and puffy down coats. Snow started falling as we toured the campus, getting inside views of the dorms, the art building that used to be a gym, the geology building that was once a Carnegie library.
After the tour, we drove around Mount Vernon, stopping and shopping in an old high school-turned retail center. One last stop for gas, and we were back on the road.
Pale blue Iowa skies were turning winter gray as we left the state. The night skies were full of stars in the blackness that surrounded the Kansas Turnpike as my husband pushed to reach Wichita again. One more night in hotel beds, one more breakfast buffet, and we returned to Texas in the evening, just four days after we left.
As we hurriedly unloaded the car, I noticed the air didn't feel as chilled as I would have thought a few days ago. Leaving suitcases half unpacked, we all fell asleep quickly, knowing school and work were just a few short hours away.