The Long and Not So Winding Road-Middle America / by Heidi Geist

Many know the midwestern US as a patchwork of factory evangelism, wheat and corn crops, for the inception of many a fiercely conservative politician and a hub for corporate industry.

To the mountain climber or sailor, when I say “trek across the midwest”, I might receive a cringe, a twinge, or other awkward gesture.

It’s true… the middle of our country is mostly flat, in many ways. Tradition is clung to from fear of the unknown, an aversion to progress. To say there is a plethora of large porn shops, but also churches might be a massive understatement…the very perverted sense of right and wrong here can feel like a foreign concept to anyone living coastally, where plastic straws have been abandoned, where religion is a dying breed, and public restrooms are gender non-existent.

Here’s the thing though…I’d be doing a shameful disservice to this land if I left it all at that.

I love it here…and by “here” I mean all of it. Driving across the prairie, where I can see as far as my near perfect vision will humanly allow, flat, and bleak (right now is winter’s peak), is therapeutic. Wide open spaces show us what we have…allow us to, for a moment, escape the dense woods and cities where we thrive in distraction.

Time to think. Contemplation can be elusive these days, after all.

I, having grown up amongst the farms of the western US, am drawn to these gently rolling wheat fields with all the nostalgia and fond memories. It occurs to me as I’m writing this, that, perhaps this part of our nation is better appreciated as part pf the whole… as one mark on the map of an extensive road trip. To depart the congestion of the east coast, and all the major cities moving west, and breeze across this place is like a sort of rebirth.

Let me also cut through all this babble with some other little known facts. There’s plentiful creativity out here. Art. Music. Food. Drink…. it’s not all Pleasantville. I’ve come across some amazing restaurants that would strike harsh competition in the northeast, breweries are conjuring up some outstanding beer…award-winning. Street art is everywhere and the cultural pockets are happy travel accidents.

There’s much to be explored here…contrary to what major tourism propagates.

Heartland…that’s the nickname, and I can see why.