Maps: The Speeding Tickets of the Homesick

I live in Nebraska.

This is my state.

Quoth the mapmaker, David Imus  (and he is quothed often):

“One of the great rivers of the world, the Missouri sharply defines Nebraska’s eastern boundary. The largely natural Sandhills dominate the landscape just north of center state, and the Platte River flows in sweeping curves as Nebraska drops more than 4,000 feet in elevation between Panorama Point, the state’s highest summit, and Omaha.

On this geographic portrait, Nebraska grows slightly darker as it gains in elevation, an effect that creates the impression that the higher ground to the west is closer to your viewpoint than the lowlands along the Missouri River to the east.”

Covering one-quarter of Nebraska, and often noted for their sublime beauty, the Sandhills are a large island of intact nature in a sea of industrial agriculture. Consisting of grass-covered dunes, most of the Sandhills region is unsuited for agriculture and has never been ploughed. With many small water bodies, this region is heavily used by migratory birds traveling the Central Flyway. Though not physically dramatic, this unique and beautiful area that is rich with biologic and botanic life deserves to become Sandhills National Park.”

I have yet to visit either Panorama Point or the Sandhills – the latter is high on my list of day-or-weekend-trips to take with the family, while the first, well…

Panorama Point

…just on my list.

And I suppose I would not mind being on its list. Or guestbook – that’s a guestbook pictured to the left of the marker indicating the what’s probably the most disappointing highest point in any state in the country. Not that the view, the panorama, wouldn’t be dramatic.

While the namers of this site’s sense of understatement might not be the first jumping-off point for cultivating a sense of the nuance that makes the spatial narrative of Nebraska so alluring, looking back at Imus’s map, Panorama Point is rightly placed right above the indentation of a weighty line of landscape prose.

The map – Nebraska – is pretty amazing: if you find edifying the notion that this state, depicted as a drab flat plank on most maps, could sustain as many long, gloriously convoluted braided streams as it does (and I do find this edifying, yes), then a map that depicts a 4000 foot drop in elevation between Panorama Point and Omaha, over 468 miles apart, whilst depicting the Sandhills region with painstaking fidelity and craft, is the map for you.

Perhaps after some more digging, I’ll post the picture I’m looking for – today I saw a t-shirt with a handsome screenprint of Nebraska, spelled out between silhouettes of Chimney Rock (west) and Omaha (east) in the same typeface as Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska.

This leads me to think…how far is it from New York City to Cleveland, Ohio, along the trunk of Interstate 80?

Using Flushing, New York (my hometown) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in downtown Cleveland) as endpoints, Google Maps yielded this result:

478 miles from New York City to Cleveland, Ohio.

468 miles from Omaha to Panorama Point, on opposite sides of Nebraska.

And how I miss that Jersey shore, that great American Mesopotamia between the Delaware and the North River, here in doubly landlocked triple-sub-Saskatchewan…

Nebraska is a distant orbit, a grass giant warmed by insolation and cooled by high albedo, where the frontage road rent-a-crane lots propose a toast to all passers-by. We are separated by a Rust Belt from terrestrial matters: the rat rocks, neversink gorges, and asphalt-meets-quartzite water gaps.
Put your makeup on fix your hair up pretty and meet me tonight in Atlantic City.


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