Summer Experience #2 – Crossing the Country

Interstate America – who says driving isn’t fun?

My recent cross-country journey in late June took me through parts of nine states – and today’s post celebrates nature – including humans – in middle America. 

Driving between Tulsa and Chautauqua, NY was a trip – literally. Over 1200 miles one way in two long driving days. No mishaps, no major weather. Some would say we were lucky. Gas prices ranged from 2.94 (in Tulsa) to 3.54 per gallon (in Ohio), and the temperatures hovered in the 90s, and then dropped in the mountains of West Virginia. Back home in Tulsa, the thermometer hung at more than 100 degrees!

Briefly, here’s what I saw:

Northeastern corner Oklahoma – (Will Rogers Turnpike I-44) – rangelands, horses, cows, abundant trees, flat land

Central Missouri – (I-44) – green trees; some winding highways, slicing through mountains

Southern Illinois – (I-64. I-70) – flatlands, grass and rangeland, evidence of drought (brown grass)

Southern Indiana – (I-64, I-70) – more flatlands, grass and rangeland, some farms, cows, horses, drought

Northern Kentucky – (I-64) – green trees, forests, horse farms, horses

Crossing West Virginia – (I-64, I-79) – forested and mountainous. Beautiful vistas and valleys 

Western Pennsylvania – (1-79, I-86, I-70) return to the flatlands, grass and rangeland, some rolling hills, old farms

Far Western New York – ( I-90, I-86) – rolling countryside, farmland, scattered trees and small lakes

Central Ohio (I-70) – flatlands, grass and farmland, cows, evidence of drought

Nothing too exciting — but what I learned from this experience is how similar much of midAmerica looks. Grasslands stretch through the central part of the country from Texas to Canada. Formerly the tallgrass prairie ecosystem, the tall grasses have given way to pasturelands and farming. It is the grain belt of the United States. Farms are neat and large. Stock animals are plentiful. Many of the species of trees and flowers are the same in each of these states.

Then there were Missouri, Kentucky and West Virginia – all forested, with rolling hills that some consider mountains. Lots of pretty scenery, vistas and green.

Some of these states that I traveled through have much the same landscape from north to south, east to west. As an avid Oklahoma traveller, I can tell you for sure that is not true in Oklahoma!

Variety is the name of the game here, with nine different ecosystems found when criss-crossing the state. We have three types of forests, and nearly half of the state is heavily forested. Oklahoma has 34 species of native trees! 

We have tallgrass prairies, and mixed grass prairies and short-grass prairies. We have mountain ranges; we have swamps with American alligators. We have the foothills of the Rockies in far northwestern Oklahoma. Our state tilts over 5,000 feet from the high spot in the northwest to the low spot in the southeast. 

Diversity is home in Oklahoma. Not surprising then, that what I saw in the other states I visited was really like a memory of home! The old travel slogan, See Oklahoma First!, is a great one. It makes me realize that what we have in this state are bits and pieces of the entire eastern United States! It all adds up to equal lot of beautiful places to visit, and lots of nature to enjoy.

Have a great summer!

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