We started our day with a quick stop at Dunkin Donuts for a nutritious breakfast of donuts and mediocre coffee before heading west into Kansas.
We were back into the heart of the plains, but there were more hills and trees here than up in North Dakota. We travelled along route 36 in northern Kansas, passing through several small farming communities. We turned north on route 281 near Lebanon and then took a quick detour over to the geographical center of the lower 48 states, where we were greeted by a sad, cringing, growly stray dog. We stayed only long enough to snap a few pictures of the desolate place.
Soon after, we entered Nebraska and began driving west, paralleling the Republican River to Holbrook, population 233. Brad’s great grandparents on his mom’s side, the Hansons, emigrated to Holbrook from Sweden in 1891 and his grandmother was born there. It was never a very big town, but like many small farming towns across the plains, it seems to be fading. Although it still has an active grain elevator and a relatively new post office, most of the heart of town has been boarded up and has the look of a ghost town.
After a bit of searching, we managed to find the town cemetery and the gravestone of Brad’s ancestors. It was a different experience than our visits to the Chicago cemeteries. The cemetery in Holbrook is small, with a row of trees along each side. It is on a dirt road a mile or so from town and is surrounded by fields. The only sounds were those of dried grass under our shoes, wind in the trees, and an occasional car in the distance. A wonderful place to stop and reflect.
The remainder of the day was a mad dash into Denver. Just west of Holbrook, we were hit by a strong wind storm which blew dust and tumbleweeds across the road and did its best to blow our car into the other lane. The wind ended as abruptly as it began and we cruised into Colorado in the dark. At one point, we pulled over to the side of the road, got out of the car, and watched the stars. Miles away from the light and pollution of the city, the sight was truly amazing, with the Milky Way stretching across the sky like an eerily illuminated cloud.
We finally arrived in Denver at about 10 pm and were immediately struck by the size of the city. Like many western cities, you just keep on driving through it. We eventually reached the Marriot, which has become our home away from home in Denver.