Traveling to the Desert – Day Two


January 1, 2016.

400 miles done and 1400 miles to drive. Smack dab in the center of Missouri.

New Year’s Day. There’s a new year’s tradition — or is it superstition? — “what you do on New Year’s Day, you’ll do all year long.” Well, there you have it — a year filled with travel!

Crossing Missouri — began by driving across the Mississippi River and drove until we crossed the Missouri River in Kansas City.

I say “mi-zour-ee.” Do you say “mah-zour-ah?”

Small herds of cattle and farms in eastern Missouri; more horses and small ranches driving further west.

I saw an owl, a brown and white barred owl, standing on the side of the highway, as if he were studying the road that stretched in front of me. Ten in the morning. I can only think the owl was a good journey omen. This was not the only encounter on the drive to the desert I had with birds. They accompanied me west in the most extraordinary ways.


500 miles done and 1300 miles to go.

Stopped for barbecue southwest of Kansas City, Kansas.

Oh. Yum. Not in Wisconsin any longer, Dorothy.


600 miles done; 1200 more. A third of the way.

Eastern Kansas. Flint Hills.


700 miles done; still 1100 more. 7-11s. Lucky numbers. Just as the afternoon was getting long, just when I needed a sign… a  gift from the Universe.

A murmuration of starlings. A pulsating cloud of birds, dipping, dancing. The flock expanded, then contracted. Dipped towards the fields, then swooped high into the sky.

A most serendipitous sight.




900 miles done, 900 more to go.

Kansas on the diagonal. Northeast to southwest.

From Wichita to Liberal. The road is straight. The land is flat.

Every small town has a grain elevator. Grain elevators are the most interesting subject for photos in Kansas, at least I think so. especially when driving late afternoon into the night. The light catches the metal containers — some quite ordinary,  but many in unexpected, even spectacular ways.


1000 miles left behind in the rear view mirror. 800 miles still ahead.

Driving into the sunset.

Kansas flat. Horizon orange, deepening into red the color of blood and lingering deep into twilight. A thin red line in the black.


Since driving and arriving are the priority for this trip, all photos are drive by.

Using my iPhone and Hipstamatic filters set on random (though still available for some post processing when desired) add a sense of photo adventure with a modicum of control.


Trucks and Trains Across the Plains

New Mexico, Trucks, and Trains

Trucks and Trains ©2012 Bo Mackison

The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land. ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

When I travel and I am the passenger, not the driver, I jot down a log of the trip. Filled with facts and figures, sure, so I can tabulate the trip costs but also filled with mumblings and questions and observations, and, in capital letters for emphasis, I note the places I would like to explore further.

Then, in an amazing feat of organizational skills typically not found at my level of expertise, I actually return to these notes when I plan another trip. Since there are only a few trusted routes from my Midwestern home to my Tucson home – at least when winter weather can ruin travel plans – we seem to travel some of the same roads.

A few of the highlights, thus far:

Left Illinois at 4:04 am, crossed the Mississippi at 4:08. Wonder what the people who have always lived in the arid west, those who have never seen large rivers but only banks that run dry (except when filled with Monsoon seasonal rains) would think of a wide river like the Mississippi. Always tumbling over itself in order to get to the Gulf of Mexico as fast as it can.

Missouri. First stop: Ayers for coffee. 4:10 am. Didn’t need gas but regular is $3.35.

4:15 am. “I am going on a trip to Arizona and I’m going to pack my ATTITUDE!” My good attitude – that’s half the key to good travel. Maybe more.

Palmyra, MO: Flashing signs on four lane highway. WATCH FOR FARM VEHICLES. HARVEST SEASON. Gas is $3.23.

Orion’s lights are brightly shining, lighting the sky. Rural house/barn lights are flickering on – early morning on the farm.

Monroe City, MO: Birthplace of Mark Twain. I didn’t know that! I’ve been to his boyhood home and all the other Twain sites in Hannibal a dozen times, but never knew his birthplace was another 20 miles away.

South River
North River
Salt River
Mussel Fork
Turkey Creek
Muddy Creek
Locust Creek
Higgin’s Ditch

5:05 am Clouds moving eastward. Stars are disappearing. Windy – the flags, and there are many, are standing straight out (at attention!)

Bevier, MO  Driving past we see that regular gas is $3.14
Ethel, MO No place open for breakfast.
Lingo, MO No place open for breakfast.

Exit to General Pershing’s Boyhood home Hmm.

Exit to Locust Creek Covered Bridge. Too bad it’s still dark.

Hickory Creek
Parsons Creek
Muddy Creek
Medicine Creek
Leeper Creek
Blackwell Creek

billboard: KO THE FAT. What the heck? Oh, Sherpa explains it means “Knock out” the fat. Of course.

In Chillicothe, MO. We try 3 different coffee shops — all either closed or they have disappeared. Get gas and bananas. Gas is $3.10. It is the HOME OF SLICED BREAD. Must Google later. Chillicothe looks like a nice town. There are quite a few murals on buildings of the main streets — still too dark for photos. Sigh!

Raccoon Creek
Grand River
Brushy Creek
Shoal Creek

6:45 am. Dawn and now there is light so we can see. And there’s a place for breakfast just ahead . . . to be continued sometime after breakfast..


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She loves travel logs.