| By Fred Langa |
In the first of eight columns on my motorcycle tour of the U.S. and Canada, I describe my findings with a reader in the American West.
Unfortunately, this reader had a problem with his Temp folder.
The coast-to-coast motorcycle trek begins
The American West and Midwest were still sweltering under a brutal heat wave when I pulled into Longmont, Colorado, last July. I was there to perform a "Housecall" (a free, day-long PC tune-up and tech session awarded to four Windows Secrets readers on June 7). I’d stitched together a series of Housecalls into a long, looping route across the full width of North America and back again. I was taking a month to ride from Housecall to Housecall on my motorcycle, so I could not only enjoy meeting the readers but also take in the scenery and the experiences along the highways between their locations.
Figure 1. My trusty steed (click photos to enlarge). This was my transportation for the 4-week, 10,355-mile (16,665-km) cross-continental odyssey: a Honda Goldwing loaded to the gills with clothing, food, water, camping gear, and what amounted to an entire portable office. In addition to the normal tools — such as a notebook PC — the high-tech gadgetry also included a GPS to plan and navigate the entire journey and a satellite radio to stay informed even when out of range of terrestrial radio stations.
Figure 2. The Mississippi River. Crossing this psychological halfway mark in a coast-to-coast journey across America really made me feel like I was making progress. When I took this photo, I was about 24 hours into the ride on the morning of the second day and about 1,300 miles (2,100 km) from where I started. I’d just crossed the big river and was standing in Minnesota looking back at Wisconsin.
Flat landscapes are geologically fascinating
I’d plotted my initial GPS route to take me through an area I’d long wanted to explore: the heartland of the continent. Sometimes, when I tell people that, I get a look that says, "So, flat earth really excites you, eh, Fred?" or: "You must really, really like corn."
While I must admit that parts of the region lack immediate visual excitement, there’s lots more than meets the eye. In fact, when you view that planar landscape through the lens of geology, it’s a fascinating place. Let me get just a little geeky on you for a minute to show you why I wanted to see the quiet expanses of North America’s central plains.
Figure 3. A Nebraskan back road. Some might find this landscape monotonous, but I think it has a beauty of its own. Plus, the geology of the area is inherently fascinating to someone like me; I’m familiar with the very different geology of my home region in the "Granite State," New Hampshire.
Badlands reveal stark beauty of bare rock
Sculpted by wind and water, the Badlands of South Dakota are an example of the geological richness present in what might otherwise seem to be a "boring" and featureless plain.