Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Best Western Red Baron Motel - Garden City, Kansas

Finally, a motel stop. A Best Western in Garden City, Kansas. Laundry time.


John Martin Reservoir State Park

I awoke to a soaked tent, inside and out. It had not rained, but the air was so humid, water had condensed everywhere.

I am continually amazed at the psychological transformation that takes place between night and day. There is not a trace of the fear or panic that I sometimes experience at night when still searching for a campsite long after dark. A breezy, sunny day dispels all doubts. The world again seems benign, even welcoming.

By day, I can see this reservoir on the Arkansas River is more a marsh and waterfowl refuge. Kildeers with their mournful cry flit nearby.

Definitely out on the prairie now! John Martin Reservoir State Park, east of Pueblo, Colorado

It has taken a long time to pack up, as I had to lay everything out in the sun to dry before packing it away. (Lesson learned in Central America.)

The Park Ranger truck slowly wanders this lonely terrain covered with wild grasses then rolls up by my campsite. John Merson just stopping by for a chat. After learning where I drove in from, he said, “I’m just a redneck. My cousin moved to San Francisco and became a liberal.”

As I try to get back to the highway, I find the campground is confusing. There's no signage pointing to the exit, no landmarks. Roads curve in all directions.

Set my sights on the Wichita area today, about 350 miles to the east.


Just before the Colorado-Kansas border, I passed through Lamar. The Cowpalace Motel stands just downwind from the sprawling Lamar feed yard. I'm thankful I didn't get too desperate last night in my search for accommodations.

It was noon when I drove into Syracuse, Kansas. An interesting old downtown. There's a feeling of abandonment. I parked on the oddly quiet main business district street to walk a bit. Speakers mounted on lamp posts, broadcast rock music. It created a bizarre, other-worldly atmosphere. “Give me money” and “I can’t stop loving you” were among the songs I heard as I wandered around trying to understand this scene.

Like so many downtown business districts along U.S. 50, this one is Syracuse, Kansas. Eerily unpopulated, speakers up on the light poles broadcast Rock tunes from the 50s and 60s, including "Give me money" and "I can't stop loving you". It reminded me of the "Twilight Zone" TV show.

Entering town, I had noticed K.C.’s Restaurant was doing a pretty good business, and so returned there for lunch. Washed my face and hands in their bathroom (you have to take every opportunity on the road.) Only 70 miles traveled today and my shoulder was already sore and knotted.

After sitting down, I asked for a bottle of Coke, but received a soda fountain Pepsi. Why complain? It's all sugar water. Besides some powdered Gatorade, it’s my first sugary drink in a week or more. (An unusually long stretch for me!) These soda fountains are no different than hummingbird feeders. Just like hummingbirds, we (or at least, some of us) are drawn to the insubstantial and detrimental processed substitutes rather than natural nourishment.

Until I looked at the map, I hadn't even realized I had crossed into Kansas. I don't recall seeing any welcome sign. But just like crossing into Minnesota on an earlier ride, something had changed. The land seemed better-cared for. And perhaps there was a sense of a slightly better economy this side of the border.

My second hot meal in a week. The Mexican food here is pretty mediocre though. The price, $9.28, the same as breakfast in Salina, Utah the other day.

The day was warm, but I continue to wear the Aerostich suit. The memory of being cold lingers well after the weather has changed. The wind shifted from the northwest to the south, providing a stiff cross-current for today's ride.

It’s all about cattle in Kansas. There are feed yards every few miles. Large industrial operations. Perhaps there's a concentration along this interstate and rail corridor, but so far as I can see, it's the theme here.
Across the highway, a big ethanol plant is under construction. Locals expect it will boost the economy.

With my arrival in Garden City, I was already sensing an end to the wide-open spaces, and felt a vague apprehension that everything will grow more expensive in the more densely populated lands to the east.

I was ready for a shower and laundry, so the idea of checking into a motel early was appealing. This one, apparently popular with truckers and contractors, fit the bill without breaking the budget.

Contacted fellow-rider "Scott" in Louisiana via e-mail. He suggested a route to follow over to his "neck of the woods". The thought of contacting some of those people who followed my travels surfaced slowly. I was disappointed in myself that I did not sooner express more of an appreciation for their support.

After two cycles in the dryer, my clothes were still damp. This was rather annoying, since it was actually hot outside. So, I took them outside and draped them over the motorcycle. (There were few guests at this hour, so I figured I wouldn't offend anyone.)

Adjacent to the motel is the Red Baron Restaurant. I went over for some dinner, ordering a Reuben Sandwich. A depressing little place, but the banter between locals and the staff brought some life to the coffee shop.

On the tables, little juke boxes now play CDs. I haven't seen this before. Still, it seems hardly worth the adaptation of these bulky machines, now that thousands more songs can be stored on devices such as an iPod.

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