Thursday, September 14, 2006

Cowley State Fishing Lake, Kansas

Immaculate Conception Church, Danville, Kansas

Camped at this incredible little spot, just east of Arkansas City, Kansas (like Kansas City, Missouri?) It appears that camping here is free of charge! I have the entire lake to myself. The highway is maybe 500 yards off to the north. I can occasionally hear a nearby oil well pumping away.

Just enjoyed a package of Zatarain's New Orleans-style chicken and rice. Not bad. $2.39 for the dinner.

Today has been characterized by sun and wind! Sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph wind (except where obstructed by trees, hills, buildings in towns, etc.) Cirrus clouds sweeping up from Texas. I took quite a battering out on the highway.


In Garden City, I was up at 7:30 (before the sun!) and went over to the Red Baron Restaurant for my complimentary breakfast (up to $4). I splurged and went for the waffle with strawberries. With coffee (not even drinkable), my portion, with tip was still over $4.

Taking ibuprofen daily to suppress the shoulder inflammation.

Used every bit of my allotted occupancy time (up to 11:00 a.m.) to re-pack all my gear. Unfortunately, my clothes were still damp, especially the jeans. (Many travelers advise against cottons for this reason, but nothing seems quite as versatile, comfortable and breathable.)

I contacted Scott “Glowingreen” in Louisiana to take him up on the beer he said he owed me. He wrote right back to say he could meet Saturday near his home in Alexandria (just west of Natchez.) The timing should be close enough to work.

The motel is a big trucker stop. There are cattle trucks everywhere. At the reception desk, I asked for directions to the new ethanol plant, thinking I might stop over for a look. The manager said it's just over the highway, but there's nothing to see; site development is just beginning. She said this is a big deal for Garden City. Currently, their economy relies heavily on two meat-packing plants (the huge Tyson plant at Holcomb and one other.)

A change in the weather today: much cooler, with some cloud.

Passed through Ingalls, then stopped to photograph the feed yard east of town. Back up the road, signs proclaim “eat beef and stay healthy." As beef goes, so goes Kansas. If Americans cease eating beef, this state is in a world of trouble. (I know. There's no chance in hell...)

Ingalls Feed Yard. Across Western Kansas, there's one of these huge operations every few miles.

At a roadside historical marker, I stopped to view the Santa Fe Trail ruts still visible out in the prairie over a century after railways replaced the trail.

M.T. Liggett of Mullinville, Kansas is responsible for a quarter-mile long stretch of metal sculptures along the highway. While I was taking some photos, he pulled up in an old pick-up. I noticed a list of Navy aircraft carriers among the sculptures. They were ships he served aboard. He retired from the Navy a year before I entered, in 1971. For an interesting interview with M.T., see "Day 6 of Red State Road Trip 2".

Actually, there is just so much to see, I found myself stopping nearly every five or ten minutes today, averaging, I think, about 35 miles an hour.

Seed experiments in a Kansas corn field

Dodge City, despite huge National and Excel meat-packing operations, does not appear to be flourishing. The downtown looked mostly frozen in the 50s (or earlier). From the factories emerge a strange steamed or cooked meat aroma.

Downtown Greensburg, Kansas

8/23/09 NOTE:

On May 4, 2007, an F-5 tornado struck Greensburg, destroying 95% of the town. See this link for a photo of the tornado's aftermath. According to Wikipedia, after the tornado, the city council passed a resolution stating that all city building would be built to LEED - platinum standards, making it the first city in the nation to do so. Greensburg is rebuilding as a "green" town, with the help of Greensburg GreenTown, a non-profit organization created to help the residents learn about and implement the green living initiative

Kansas is definitely not what I expected. The small family farms are nowhere to be seen. I expected to find the little produce stands everywhere. Instead, big operations dominate the landscape. Clearly, vast consolidation has occurred. Crossing the state, I’ve noticed one produce stand, and unfortunately that was right after I had succumbed to the "Dillon’s Supermarket" in Pratt, where I bought mostly “junk-type” processed foods: energy bars, pretzels, "Kraft Caramels" and packaged soups.

Kansas communities are proud of their accomplishments. These signs greet visitors to Pratt.

Desperate for some "real coffee", I searched for the Beanz Coffee Company whose advertisement I had seen on the edge of Pratt. Drove from west to east through town, but didn’t see it. Retraced my path and found it on the west side. Their free-standing sign had blown over. A young fellow served me. He was studying when I entered. A large book rack offered an assortment of Christian books and cassettes.

Seattle’s Best coffee served here. I ordered a double cappuccino. It took quite a while to make, and was not very good, but sometimes it doesn't really matter. From the young man, I learned that the owner moved here from San Jose, California and decided to open the shop after hearing people would drive to Wichita (about 75 miles away) for a good cup of coffee. Unfortunately, the local response has not been enthusiastic. But there are the travelers along U.S. 54/400 that do stop in.

He asked about gas prices in California. Here, I’ve seen Regular at $2.24. He says it’s expected to drop below $2.00 by the end of the month. (Do “Red States” get better gas prices, I wonder?)

I asked him “is this George Bush country?”

“He’s a Christian. And this is Christian country, so we pretty much follow him. But politics doesn’t get talked about much around here, except for in some circles.”

Pulled into Attica around 4:45. Another typical downtown with the vacant storefronts and sparse "Main Street" traffic. The economy certainly appears to be distressed here. Where are the people going? (Is the exodus due to the loss of family farms?)

Downtown Attica, Kansas

Modern day Santa Fe Trail

In Winfield, I ran into a throng outside the "Walnut Festival". I would have liked to stop, but the afternoon was slipping way, and I had as yet no prospect for a campsite (and with the influx of festival-goers, including many motorhomes and campers, it would be difficult to find accommodation in Winfield.) Reluctantly, I kept moving.

I jogged south to U.S. 166, which skirts the border with Oklahoma. Just heading into hill country, and with about one hour to sunset, I started thinking about a place to camp. The hilltops were a possibility, if I could find access through a fence line. Or the swales in between (though I much prefer hilltops.)("I’m sure that if I asked at any of these farms, they’d let me pitch a tent on their land, but I’m not ready to do that yet.")

I was riding along, conversing with myself, evaluating my options, when I came upon this quite unexpected, wonderful little park.

Even with the $65 cost of the Garden City motel, thus far during this trip, I’ve spent less than $100 on camping and lodging. That's what I like about the West!

About 250 miles traveled today.


babycondor said...

Wow. What a juxtaposition, the beautiful old church, the trees, the plowed field...and that THING behind them (some agribusiness monstrosity, I guess?)

timtraveler said...

I think the silos are a farmers' cooperative grain storage. I was tempted to stop and learn how these things work. Maybe on my way back west...