Kansas: not as flat as you’d think

Because of inclement weather in Colorado, I decided to head south as soon as possible. Partly because I can’t be staying in fancy motels more than I have to, and more because I get pretty nervous driving through the mountains, especially during a snow storm.

Last time I drove through the Rocky Mountains, I had been driving for at least 20 hours straight from Mpls; it was dark, my vision was blurry and I was pushing forward trying to make it to a show in San Francisco. I still have nightmares about the oncoming headlights and the winding, precipitous, mountain side roads: at the time, I was sure I was going to die.

This time, there’s no rush, so I’ll hit Denver up from the backside.

Yesterday consisted mostly of mundane details:

-heard an early-favorite of mine on the radio: Disney Pocahontas’ “Colors of the Wind” (sung by Vanessa Williams) on Radio Iowa.

-drove through a lot of crappy weather in western Iowa and northern Nebraska.

-had an amazing egg salad sandwich with mustard and hot sauce for $1.06.

-Read about a National Roller Skating Museum in Lincoln, NE in my map. Went out of the way to get there, and not only was it closed on a Friday afternoon, it was mostly office space (I heard later that day). So disappointing.

To make up for the lack of cultural exposure so far, as I was driving through Beatrice, NE, I saw a sign for the “Homestead National Monument” so I headed to it, ready to be disappointed again: not so.

This was pretty neat as far as American history goes. Daniel Freeman, the first settler who took advantage of the Homestead Act of 1862 settled here, and just up the road was the site of the Freeman School, and his grave.

After that I drove to Salina, KS and stopped at Hobby Lobby to get a curtain rod and some fabric so I could have some privacy sleeping in the van. Turned out the rod was too short, so I just used rope I had instead, which I should’ve done in the first place.

It was getting dark now, and I wanted to find a place I could pull out my new stove/grill and make some dinner. Found a rest stop not too far away and set up camp.

and made spaghetti

Waiting for water to boil in 30 degree weather took forever. And as I was relaxing in my chair next to the stove a police trooper came up to see what I was doing.

“Hello officer…is this illegal?!”
“What are ya doin’ over there?”
“Making spaghetti.”
“Alright, thought you were panhandling.”
(laughing) “nope, just making dinner.”
“Alright, you keep warm” (tip o’ the hat & and a wink, and drove away)

I heard the low was 24 degrees last night, but it wasn’t cold at all in the van with a sleeping bag and three layers of blankets. I woke up surprisingly refreshed and made coffee in the rest stop bathroom with my electric water heater and French press.

On the way to Great Bend, KS, I saw some tiny oil rigs in the field.

Perplexed I stopped at the next little town and asked what they were doing. It seems obvious now that they were pumping oil, but I wanted to make sure. One of the people in the gas station asked if I was gonna stick around in town so I could see the Big oil rig nearby all lit up at night. It was only 10:30am at the time, so I told her I couldn’t stay all day, had to get to warmer weather.

Speaking of which–there is hardly any snow in Kansas right now even though the high is a measly 31 today.

Great Bend, KS was perdy damn cool. I stopped at the raptor center and zoo complex, right by the high school and adjacent to the baseball field. Thinking this was a tourist trap, I walked into the lobby and asked how much. “Free!” said the counter guy, weird, really?

The zoo had lions, leopards, jaguars, a monkey, wolves, bison, and more, and it was all outside. Some of the cages were quite small, but overall it seemed comparable to the Como Zoo in St. Paul, except here you could get within a foot of the lions–and I was the only person there.

I started clucking like a chicken and they piled out of their little door.

More Great Bend:

Clara Barton’s hometown

Tower of Power. Only reason I took a picture of this is because earlier this winter I made a large snow pile named the “tower of power.”

I’m writing this in Dodge City, KS. My uncle (the truck driver) suggested I go see the historic downtown, so I took him up on the tip. Turned out to be not that great. The “downtown” was actually a “museum,” and the “museum” was a fake street you had to pay $8.50 to see when you could clearly see “it” from the sidewalk. What a joke.

One more story of the day: I went to a coffee shop here in Dodge City. Couple people were milling around the counter so I walked up to it, waited a few seconds for the baristas to notice me and ordered a coffee. Some guy who was milling around came up to me and said he was waiting and acknowledged how rude I was.

Flabbergasted, I told him I wasn’t aware he was waiting. We had some back and forth blah, blah. Ended up with me getting my coffee and him saying something to the baristas and stormed out without getting anything. I apologized to the employees for causing a scene, and they said not to worry, he was out-of-line. Ten minutes later the guy comes back in and comes over to my table to apologize, I reciprocated and shook his hand. He came back after getting his coffee and gave me a biscotti as an apology present (wtf). Glad to make amends, I gratefully accepted (even though I don’t really like biscotti, it was a nice gesture).

Supposed to be 13 degrees this evening so I’m gonna get outta Dodge and head toward warmer weather.


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