To best comprehend this vast and underappreciated region in the heart of the US, you need to split up the name. The first word, 'great,' is easy. Great scenery, great tornadoes, great people: all apply. The problem is with 'plains.' 'Humdrum' and 'flat' come to mind. Neither word applies. Amid the endless horizons are cosmopolitan oases like Kansas City, alpine wonders in the Black Hills, and soaring bluffs along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. There are also illuminating tales of comings and goings, from Okies fleeing the Dust Bowl along Route 66 to Lewis and Clark navigating the American frontier and the Five Civilized Tribes marching westward on a Trail of Tears.
Great distances across the beguiling wide-open spaces are the biggest impediment to enjoying this enormous region. Many sights lie near the interstates, but many more are found along the ever-intriguing small roads – the 'blue highways' of lore.