A last minute change of plan. My intention was to travel east this morning, to reach Omaha and cross into Iowa before heading south toward Kansas City. But some late night research suggested another possibility. A fairly straight southward drive would bring us to the little town of Red Cloud, Nebraska, the childhood home of Willa Cather, chronicler of pioneer prairie life, and one of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century. I couldn't resist.
The morning was wet, and a long drive through Nebraska under narrowed skies began. A few distant ranches and grain elevators studded the prairie; a gas station every half an hour; a town or two, barely worthy of the name. This is a land of few people.
It was late afternoon (and considerably drier) by the time we reached Red Cloud, and took a wander along the brick-lined main street, and through the museum. From there, we continued south a few miles, to the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie – more than 600 acres of undeveloped land, full of native plants, birds and insects. It is a beautiful place, humming with sound.
The Kansas state line is just beyond the Memorial Prairie, and as evening set in we continued onward to Manhattan – known as the Little Apple – home of Kansas State University, where we stopped for the night after eleven hours on the road.
I was one of five Scottish writers chosen by Edinburgh International Book Festival to undertake extraordinary journeys across the Americas in spring and summer 2017.
I will be travelling through the United States for three weeks, from north to south, beginning in North Dakota, through Appalachia, and ending in Louisiana. For much of this time I will be accompanied by the novelist Jennifer Haigh.
You can follow my progress on Twitter and Instagram, and keep up-to-date with all the travellers using the hashtag #Outriders.