Understand that nothing puts traveling in a Kansan like hot, humid summers. July has the Fourth. Even if you are unpatriotic to the bone, the Independence Day holiday brings you right back into the mainstream. The red, white and blue waving in a hot midday breeze, while you sit curbside on Main Street on a sunny day watching the kids go by in the hometown parade. Eating ice-cold watermelon under the shade of an old beautifully aged oak tree, or the booming colorful fireworks lighting up the night sky — they all tend to keep a body close to home in July.
But then that oppressive August heat and humidity, as it drags on way past Labor Day and the looming back-to-school remembrances of a childhood, tend to lead a grownup to make a precious summer getaway really count for something. Fireflies dancing and crickets singing to a star filled pitch-black sky out in the heartland puts the wanderlust in almost all of us.
An adventure on the open road, the green lushness of some dense and distant place, smooth-faced girls in soft summer dresses. Tall curvy palm trees providing cool shade on a white sand beach, foaming surf and breaking waves of aqua blue water are the dreams of many a Kansan during the dog days of summer.
My Dad, Oklahoma-born and -raised, instilled this wanderlust and this need in me, along with the rest of his Kansas-born brood, as we headed west almost every summer to California. In the family Chrysler we crossed the flatlands of Oklahoma and Texas and through the desert country of New Mexico and Arizona and into the Golden State.
We visited relatives in dusty little places like Modesto, Madera and Bakersfield. We drove the Grapevine through Needles in the Tehachapi Mountain range then down to the beaches of Los Angeles and San Diego. We headed north to the San Francisco Bay and visits to our kinfolk in San Mateo, San Francisco and Oakland before ending our month long summer west coast trek and headed back home to Kansas.
So now summer for me is meant for trekking far and away, to make my summer meaningful before the autumn leaves turn red and gold in September and the winds, rain, and snow come — completing the seasons in of my life.
Brent Berry was born and raised in Kansas City, Kan. He returned to Kansas in 2008 and lives in Olathe.